on May 7, 2004
Well, here is exactly the type of silent film that most people do not watch nowadays; it's neither a comedy like the Charlie Chaplin movies, nor a horror film like Nosferatu. This, instead, is a typical American action/drama flick, with ample quantities of both.
It certainly suffers at times for being a silent film; dialogues have to be displayed on the screen, and this happens quite often because the story here is sometimes quite complex. Not only do the characters talk a lot, but the story also often requires some explaining, and some of the explanations can be quite long.
The action sequences are not as "big" as in they would be in movies today, but they are a lot more impressive in their own way. I was just amazed at how they could have shot some of those sequences; I got the impression that the person who was shooting was probably in quite a lot of danger, because I knew that they could not have used special effects in 1927; what I was seeing was the real thing. It was quite exhilirating to see those old, unsafe, WW1 planes in the air. I do not think that any director today would be crazy enough to duplicate something like this with real planes, so this is probably the only chance anyone has to see these planes in action, and feel like you're right in the thick of a dogfight.
That having been said, the film does stretch out for a bit too long sometimes. It never really gets boring, but it never really gets particularly interesting for most of the movie either. Most of the time, it's just entertaining enough to keep you watching it.
The reason I gave it a "4" is because the ending, when it comes, is quite good (don't let anybody spoil it for you; watch for yourself), and also because of the action sequences. The film is also quite funny in a few spots, notably in any scene with the patriotic Dutch aviator (I wish we had seen more of him), and in the Paris "drunken man" scene.
Overall, not a bad movie, and one that I know others may like more than me; so go ahead and see it (don't forget, though; it's 131 minutes)!
Wings(released Aug/27)has always been touted as the winner of the first Best Picture award.Technically this is not the case.When they won their award in 1929 it was for the Most Outstanding Production for 1927/28.It was a year later that a Best Production award was instituted and the Academy decided retrospectively that that was to be the equivalent award.A year after that,this was again changed to Best Picture,whose namesake it has remained to this day.No matter,this was the start of Hollywoodland's(after /49,Hollywood's)self congratulatory back slapping.
Wings has been restored magnificently by Paramount,this their first release in their 100th birthday celebration.The original tinting and length is back.The only thing you won't see,as in the original theatrical release,is one of the early uses of Magnascope,a widescreeen effect used in some sequences.
Starring in this extravaganza is Charles Buddy Rogers,who became better known as a bigband leader and went on to steal Mary Pickford's heart in real life.Richard Arlen was a Paramount contract player at the time and he went on to marry his Wings co-star Jobyna Ralston,well known as a staple in many a Harold Lloyd film.Gary Cooper got his career start in this film,at the time the boyfriend to the star of the picture Clara Bow.Clara eats up the scenery every moment she is in the film.It is a testimony to Clara's emoting and acting skills in general that we get so involved,that we literally want to reach out and dry those tears away from her eyes.To top this,she is in and out of the film throughout its run,with far less screen time than her co stars Arlen and Rogers.But when you think of Wings,Clara is pretty much the first person you think of.
William Wellman of course directs and this is,to my knowledge,one of only two Wellman silents that still exist,which speaks volumes about film preservation.It was the the French Cinemateque that rescued Wings originally and it was the George Eastman House that rescued Wellmans other 1928 classic Beggars of life,starring Wings co star Arlen along with the iconic Louise Brooks.If it was not for these institutions,certainly not Paramount,we would have neither film to view today.A sorry commentary,indeed.
The plot of this film starts out with Rogers as Jack,who longs to be a pilot.He has a secret love in Clara(Mary),who lives next door and is always hanging around him,but is hardly noticed by the car tinkerer.Jack and another richer kid Arlen(David),vie for the affections of Ralston(Sylvia).However it is David that has really stolen the heart of Sylvia.When War comes and both boys volunteer for active duty,Sylvia doesn't have the heart to crush Jacks feelings.Over there,both are accepted into pilot training and become rivals.After a fist fight during training,Jack and David become fast friends and they are inseparable flying buddies from then on.
The War is a bitter pill to swallow at times as they see some of their closest friends get killed,and every mission could be their last.Mary in the meantime has also joined as an ambulance driver and is wandering the small towns of the French countryside,helping where she's needed.She herself gets into some close scrapes,such as coming into a town which is seemingly deserted,only because the troops have taken shelter from an incoming German bomber.She dives under her truck narrowly escaping death.Out of the sky comes Jack who has made quite a rep for himself in the air and on the ground.One of the soldiers recognizes the shooting star logo on the side of his plane;the exact same one Mary drew on his car back home.Mary instantly shouts up to Jack,who of course flies off unawares.
On a furlough in Paris Jack and David live it up to the max.David gets lucky while Jack never quite gets there(though he will always think he did),as he is just too drunk;seeing bubbles in everything.Mary happens to find Jack,tempts him away from a pretty French mademoiselle,and gets him to bed to sleep it off.However some MPs burst in on the two while Mary is changing back to her uniform and Mary is summarily sent back home.
The war continues and one day David is having a premonition that he is not coming back from their next mission alive.Jack poo-poos it and during a subsequent conversation,the two get into an argument over a picture of Sylvia Jack carries in his locket.They fly into the skies not speaking to each other.While airborne the two get separated when David ends up taking on a squadron of German planes by himself,while Jack carries on to the target of some observation balloons and destroys them.David gets wounded and is shot down and goes on the run behind German lines.Jack is devastated and when a German plane drops a note saying David was shot down and seemingly dead,Jack goes on a path of revenge for his buddy.Meanwhile David manages to steal a German plane and escape towards American lines.Jack who has been on the prowl shooting up everything he sees that is enemy,spies this plane going towards his lines.He pursues the plane and shoots it down.Landing to get the insignia off the plane rear rudder,he finds out it is David who he shot down,and who is dying before his eyes.They have a tearful and heartfelt last few moments together,as David tries to assuage Jacks guilt.
The War ends and Jack returns a hero.However the inevitable meeting with Davids parents comes and he is in tears.Realizing Jacks grief and remorse the two grieving parents reconcile their feelings towards the man who killed their son.Jack returns home and Mary,of course,is there still waiting;a little older and a little more reticent than her younger self.However Mary's undying love for Jack has never waned and Jack finally realizes that his true love was just across the fence all the time.
Wellman put great effort into his spectacular flying sequences and it certainly shows.I think the pictures main failing is that the sub stories of the relationships between the men and the men and women,never quite gets the same loving attention.Wellman also brought in comic El Brendel as Herman Scwimpf,the colourful "foreigner" who washes out in pilot training,but he was superfluous.There was enough comedy in the plot already,especially when Clara was on the scene.Having said that,there is no doubt the film packs a wallop even today.It has everything from drama,to comedy,to pathos and everything in between.While the film may seem a little uneven,it is still over all a well crafted picture and deserves the many laurels it has received over time and its place in cinematic history.
Technically speaking the film has been restored beautifully and the picture,while showing its age from time to time,is generally crisp and amazingly clear.The only extra(and this for Paramount's first 100th anniversary release at that!)is a featurette about the film's history and making by some "experts".
All in all this a film must have for every film buff out there.It has been restored to pristine condition and its story pulls you in almost from the start.All the stars do a great job but Clara is simply amazing to behold and it is fitting that she should have been in the first film to get the Most Outstanding Picture award(later to become Best Picture).While I would like to think this may be a trend to further restoration and release of more silent film titles(I would love to see a restored Beggars of Life,Paramount!),I am not holding my breath.
on October 28, 2014
The Paramount / Warner Home Video DVD of Wings is superb. It features what appears to be the full original 1927 film (complete with the introductory and intermission music). The whole thing runs 144 minutes including the modern revised end credits for the DVD edition (the film itself ends at about 142 minutes).
The picture is beautiful on the closeups, somewhat grainy in the longer shots, but still overall very clear and good. There is the usual tinting typical of the era, including some red tinting (which according to the documentary was original) for the flames from burning WW I planes.
The only special feature is a 32-minute documentary on the making and marketing of the film. It is excellent, very informative. A commentary on the whole film would have been welcome, but this documentary has more substantive contents than many a DVD commentary does, so it is a welcome consolation prize.
Two scores accompany the film. The first is an orchestral score, which, as far as I can tell, is a modern rearrangement of the original orchestral score employed on the film's road show. (The road show went to many cities, bringing its own orchestra with it, according to the commentary.) The list of musical pieces used in the orchestral score is given in the end credits. It's an effective score, balancing the serious and the playful in accord with the contents of the film. The other score is an organ score by Gaylord Carter, which I haven't listened to yet, but Carter does wonderful things with silent films, so it is probably very good as well.
The film has one of the first substantive roles for Gary Cooper. He isn't one of the stars of the film, but his moments on screen are worth seeing, both in themselves and as an indicator of what he was destined to become later on.
Clara Bow is effective in her role, as are several of the minor players, but the story is really about Richard Arlen and Charles Rogers, as two romantic rivals who become close friends as WWI fighter pilots. Both of them are excellent in their roles.
The battle scenes and flying scenes are convincing, and, as the experts in the documentary indicate, amazing even by modern standards, let alone by the standards of the time. Director William Wellman and his team had to invent a vast array of techniques to get this magic onto film.
This is a truly great war epic, that is still absorbing today.
This DVD is still available at a good price, and anyone who is a fan of epic silent films, or of war films, or of aviation films, or of Gary Cooper or any of the lead actors, or of director William Wellman, will want it in his or her collection.
on September 2, 2002
WINGS has most of the virtues and only a few of the vices of the silent movie. The lack of speech requires the audience to pay close attention to subtle nuances of facial expression and scene change. Director William Wellman managed to create an impressive recreation of a war that was silent on the screen but not in the mind. The plot, though thin, still carries the movie to the point where the real stars come in--the exciting dogfights that still resonate with visual power. Clara Bow is the marquee star but she disappears after the first half, only to reappear minutes before the closing credits. Charles Rogers, who bears a stunning resemblance to Robert Downey Jr., plays Jack, the object of her love, who in turn loves Sylvia, played by Jobyna Ralston. Richard Arlen is David, who also loves Sylvia. Mary (Bow) loves Jack (Rogers) but confusingly tells David that she loves him. The love quadrangle becomes even more tangled when Jack effortlessly and conveniently switches affection from Sylvia to Mary. Once, however, the viewer rolls with the numerous romantic plot twists, he can see that the aerial fight scenes form the collective real star of the film. And beyond them lies an anti-war subtext in whose carnal viciousness prefigures the much later graphic killing fields of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. To appreciate WINGS, one must view it as contemporary audiences did. To them, WINGS was a movie whose plot was secondary to the then state of the arts special effects. The result was a convincing and viscerally effective film that is worth the while to view, even after nearly seventy-five years.
on October 13, 2001
Although silent goddess Clara Bow headlines the cast, I was surprised how limited her role in this movie was. The plot she is tied to is very weak and I don't think the conclusion helps it too much (Clara's character leaving the war and her love interest changing his affections so effortlessly once he returned home). Her sexy image is really toned down as well. One scene has her luring her drunken boyfriend (a very funny drunken boyfriend) from a Paris night club in a skimpy number. The dress didn't fit the character's girl-next-door image at all.
The real storyline is between pals Jack Powell and David Armstrong (played expertly by Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen). Anyone interested in the First World War will find this film a real treat! The training scenes I found particularly interesting. Then there are the many aerial fighting scenes. They are so well done they look like documentary footage. Scenes shot from the pilot's point of view put the viewer right into the action! Scenes like these make the "two guys in love with the same girl" plot seem so insignificant.
You also get two brief but excellent performances by a very young Gary Cooper and an aged Henry B. Walthall from Birth of A Nation fame. Although only 49 in this film, Walthall does an amazing job portraying a crippled old man grieving the departure of his son.
on February 24, 2000
I keep running across critics badmouthing this film, and I can't for the life of me understand why. Everyone seems to agree, at least, that the flight sequences are amazing --- some of the best ever filmed. Wellman held up production so that the skies would look just right behind the planes. Quite striking... If you're a Clara Bow fan, she's not really in this quite enough, but she is certainly adorable and looks great in her uniform. One complaint I've heard about this film is that Buddy Rogers isn't a compelling enough actor. This is hogwash, I think, and I can't understand why I keep reading it. He's perfectly charming, and very moving, in a couple of scenes in particular. Adding to the enjoyment are a few unique directorial choices --- the bizarre bubbles floating all around in the drunk scene and some very strange camera movements for example. It's nice to see Gary Cooper (VERY briefly) so young, too. Apparently he "stole" the scene he was in, and had everyone talking about him. Really, he just sort of pops in for a minute and looks handsome and sweet, but it's nice to see him nonetheless... All in all, I'd rank this as one of my favorite Academy Award winners.
on July 27, 2000
This is the first picture to win the best picture Academy Award, and, of course, the only silent film to do so. If you've never watched a silent film before, it will take some effort, since if you take your eyes off the screen, you will not "hear" what the actors are saying, that is, you may miss a dialogue box. Also, at two hours and 19 minutes, the film tends to be long. However, the combat flying sequences are still some of the best ever filmed, and are well worth the effort.
Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen certainly perform well. Clara Bow is at her most beatutiful; however, in terms of actual screen time, hers tends to be more of a supporting role. The short Gary Cooper scene is a bonus and presages the great career to follow.
The film is interesting both substantively and in terms of its significance in film history; it is worh the investment in time.
This film really blew me away. Like, REALLY blew me away.
Admittedly, I'm not the biggest silent movie fan - they usually tend to bore me and I end up shutting them off after only half an hour. But this one kept me glued to the TV for over two hours! Paramount's restoration is unbelievable and I give it full credit for making me fall in love with this film. The picture was so sharp and vivid and the effects were awesome (for a movie as old as this one, that's incredible).
Wings has already gone down as one of my absolute favourite classic films! The story is an emotional one that will leave you in tears (yup, I was sobbing at one point). The cast was flawless and performed very well together (keep your eye out for a four-minute appearance by a young, virile Gary Cooper), and the battle scenes were flawless.
Well worth it to add this cinematic gem to your collection!
on November 7, 2015
Talk about going all out.
This silent film from 1927 was the first film to win the Oscar for best picture. It has been meticulously restored for this bluray presentation.
Set during WWI it tells the story of of 2 young men who go off to become pilots in the war and the girl they leave behind. Beautifully filmed with actual WWI footage seamlessly edited into the film, Land battles and Aerial dogfights galore.
The restoration is shear breathtaking. a newly recorded soundtrack based on the original score, with new sound effects added in. Plus the bluray comes with the option of turning off the sound effects. Colour tinted to help tell the different stages of the film.
Wings: Grandeur in the sky (HD)
Restoring the power and beauty of Wings (HD)
5.1 DTS Master Audio
2.0 stereo Dolby Digital
1080p high definition
on July 30, 2000
Wings, while certainly having some spots where the plot drags in its 2 hour 19 minute length, is worth at least one viewing by any movie fan. The aerial combat, still considered among the best footage of its kind in movie history, will have you shaking your head in disbelief and amazement that this was done in 1927. I also think that the relationship between the characters of Jack and David could have been the prototype for any "buddy movie", and was truly one of the highlights, along with Gary Cooper's cameo as the ill-fated pilot. This movie was WAY ahead of its time in so many ways, and the digitally recorded organ music composed for this version adds to that. This movie is worth the money.