Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Classic Movie Review - "Wings"

Trivia buffs and old movie buffs all know thew answer to this question:  What movie won the very first Oscar for Best Picture of the year?

The answer, of course, is "Wings", released in 1927, directed by William Wellman, and starring Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rodgers, Richard Arlen, and Jobyna Ralston. It is a story about fighter pilots in World War I, a mistaken love triangle, and small town girl who enlists as an ambulance driver so she can track down the man she loves.

Turner Classic Movies showed this move a week or so ago. Like many silent movies of that era, "Wings" was deteriorating, but it was restored and saved, and the restored film is what TCM showed.  

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was surprised at how good it was and how well the movie - a silent movie - holds up almost ninety years after it was made.  It is a movie that depicts the horrors of war every bit as well as any current day director has done in any number of movies released in recent years.  It also shows the need for soldiers to decompress from what they have experienced in a scene of Rodgers and fellow soldiers on leave in Paris.  And the battle scenes of the airplane dogfights are remarkable, considering that there were no green screens and CGI back in 1927!  When a plane was shot down the flames of the explosion was in color.  I thought that this colorization was something that was done when the movie was restored, but not so. I learned that the flames in the film were hand-tinted in the production process.  I can only imagine the effect that this must have had on movie goers in 1927.  No wonder it won that first Oscar!

I have written about Clara Bow before, and she was certainly delightful in this movie.  In doing a Google Images search for a picture to accompany this post, I was surprised to see how all of the contemporary posters and pictures for this movie featured Miss Bow and gave her the top billing for this movie. I have read a little bit about Clara Bow, and plan to do more, but I don't think that we, from the vantage point of 2015, have any idea of the magnitude of the Stardom with a capital "S" that surrounded Clara Bow back in her day.

I also thought it was interesting that Rodgers was billed as "Charles 'Buddy' Rodgers", even IMDB references him like this.

Anyway, pretty good movie.  Well worth seeking out and watching.

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