Copyright 5 January 1929 by Paramount Famous Lasky Corporation. Presented by Adolph Zukor and Jesse L. Lasky. New York opening of silent version at the Criterion: 12 August 1927. Sound effects and musical score (Movietone) version released 5 January 1929. Originally released in color tints. Portions of the film utilized Magnascope. Sound version is 13 reels, 12,267 feet, 136 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Two aviators are in love with the same girl.
NOTES: Academy Award, Best Picture (defeating The Last Command, The Racket, Seventh Heaven and The Way of All Flesh). Academy Award, Special Engineering Effects, Roy Pomeroy (defeating The Jazz Singer and The Private Life of Helen of Troy).
Despite its Academy Award for Best Picture, Wings did not even place in The Film Daily poll of U.S. film critics for the Ten Best Pictures of the year.
Negative cost: around $2 million. Location filming near San Antonio, Texas.
COMMENT: The madness of war graphically depicted in a $2 million production (the movie would cost at least forty times as much to reproduce today) that grabs all the senses and fully engages mind, heart and soul, "Wings" is perhaps Wellman's finest achievement. Not only is the action staged for real, using a truly staggering number of men and machines, but the story itself comes over with a dramatic urgency, a romantic poignancy, an almost horrifying sensitivity that is only slightly dissipated by the current 2017 prints that fail to incorporate either the red and blue laboratory tints or the big- picture MagnaScope dimensions of the original. (It's also a shame that Zamecnik's specially commissioned music score is not used but instead replaced with a new Wurlitzer score composed and performed by Gaylord Carter).
Contemporary reviewers praised Clara Bow's lively performance but today her over-the-top vivacity seems just a little too forced for comfort. In a cameo role that lasts only a few minutes, it's Gary Cooper (already endowed with his familiar mannerisms) who shines super- bright. Charles "Buddy" Rogers comes over person-ably enough as the hero and really distinguishes himself in a counting bubbles scene in the Folies Bergere. Richard Arlen seems a bit gloomy as "the other man" but contrasts well enough with the continuously effervescent Rogers.
Other roles, aside from Jobyna Ralston's attractive "other girl" (much is made of her in the plot, but she virtually disappears from the action itself and doesn't even figure in the climax), are comparatively small. For a moment there, it looks like El Brendel has been hired for comedy relief, but even he is wiped out for such an extraordinarily long stretch, it comes as a surprise when he suddenly pops back briefly at the climax.
It is the small roles that often make the greatest atmospheric impression: callous Von Hartmann playing himself, Zalla Zarana as the sympathetic attendant who helps Bow into the spangled dress, vampy Arlette Marchal as the zesty Celeste, the slightly menacing Henry B. Walthall as the crippled Armstrong, Wellman's serene-faced wife and daughter as the mother and child at the crash site, and Wellman himself playing the dying soldier who exclaims, "Them buzzards are some good after all!"
Technically, the picture stands up rather well, though long shots are so often employed that you really need the movie's original big- screen MagnaScope to present the numerous aerial dog-fights at their hideously terrifying best. Fortunately, the more intimate moments, such as the Folies Bergere scenes (where Wellman gets into stride with a rapid tracking shot that seems impossible to stage) still glow with a nervously compelling wartime vitality.
Action / Drama / Romance / War
Action / Drama / Romance / War
Two young men from the same town but different social classes end up as fighter pilots in WW1. Jack Preston is a keen auto mechanic, building and modifying cars. David Armstrong comes from a wealthy family. They are both in love with the same woman, Sylvia. Her heart belongs to David but she doesn't let Jack know and plays along with his infatuation. Meanwhile, Jack's neighbour, Mary, is deeply in love with him but he just views her as a friend. WW1 interrupts the romantic entanglements as Jack and David enlist in the US Army Air Service (Air Service of the AEF at the time). They are initially bitter enemies, due to them both vying for Sylvia's affections. Over time, however, they become very good friends. They are both posted to the same fighter squadron in France, where being a fighter pilot means every day could easily be your last.
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