Tuesday, March 9, 2010


 "Small town 1917 - Youth and dreams of youth."
-Opening Title Card from Wings

I take it all back.  No more silent films!  I actually prefer Sunrise now, after having seen Wings.  Okay, okay, it could have been worse.  The plot did move a lot faster than Sunrise’s did.  There were enough cheap thrills to keep me engaged.  But—I will explain myself.  Picture any generic war movie.  Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Top Gun even Forrest Gump will do.  In particular, I would like to use Pearl Harbor.  So, picture Pearl Harbor.  Now remove all the sound and color. Replace the sound with one continuous score where an organ is the only instrument.  And then, any time there is any narration or dialogue in the script, insert a title card.  Now drag it out for 140 minutes.  I don’t think I’m intellectual enough for this.

The Plot:
We begin in small town America, where two young men are getting ready to enlist in World War I.  Jack, played by Charles “Buddy” Rogers, is eager to leave, having wanted to be a pilot his whole life.  David, played by Richard Arlen, is more somber, but believes this is right thing to do.  Both are in love with the prettiest girl in town, Sylvia, though she has eyes only for David, who is from the wealthiest family in town.  Meanwhile, Jack’s neighbor, Mary, played by Clara Bow, is desperately in love with Jack, though he doesn’t realize it.  Before they leave Sylvia, played by Jobyna Ralston, is preparing to give David a locket with her picture, but Jack gets there first, tells her he loves her, and takes the locket, thinking she meant it for him.  Afterwards, Sylvia apologizes to David and explains that she felt bad for Jack.  But while he may have the locket, David has her heart.  Mary attempts to give her picture to Jack, but is saddened by the way he simply pats her on the head and waves farewell.

Both boys head to training, and though Jack hates David at first, they become best friends after they beat each other up.  Men.  Anyway, the two best friends fly through danger and death, honored with medals and becoming famous pilots.  Meanwhile Mary has joined up as well, and is driving a truck with medical supplies to the various camps in France.  While stopped in Paris, she hears that Jack is there on leave but that all the men are being immediately recalled for one “final push.”  Worried that Jack won’t hear and be court-martialed, Mary searches the bars in Paris until she finds Jack and David, drunk on champagne with their arms around loose women.  Jack doesn’t recognize her (because his vision is blurry and all he sees are bubbles) so Mary decides to change into a sparkly flapper dress and see if that will attract him.  It does and she manages to get him to his room where he passes out.  She unbuttons his shirt and sees the locket with Sylvia’s picture, which upsets her further.  She starts to change behind a screen back into her uniform, but his commanding officers open the door and see her changing, leap to all the wrong conclusions, and cause her to be discharged.

Later, it is the final push for the Allies, and David charges Jack with bringing his things home to his mother, convinced he will not make it.  He tucks letters into his jacket bearing love from Sylvia while Jack insists he is crazy.  Jack then says that he wants to be straight with his friend and shows him the locket, claiming that he and Sylvia are in love.  As he shows the locket, he drops it, and the picture flies out.  David hastily grabs it and asks to put it back in, so that Jack won’t see the inscription to David.  Jack refuses, and David rips it up rather than hurt his friend.  Jack runs out in a rage, angry at David.  They fly, and David is shot down.  Jack is riddled by guilt and sorrow and the next day hunts Germans with a fierce determination.  Unfortunately, he ends up shooting down his best friend, who, having survived his crash, had stolen a German plane and attempted to fly back to safety.  Jack cradles his friend in his arms as David dies telling him not to blame himself.

Jack goes through David’s possesions, realizes the truth about Sylvia, and heads home to deliver his things to David’s parents.  There is a parade in Jack’s honor, but the only thing he cares about is forgiveness from David’s parents, which they grant.  He goes home, finds Mary and realizes he loved her all along.  They stare up at the stars and kiss, planning their future.

The History:
Wings won Academy Awards for “Best Picture, Production,” and for “Best Engineering Effects.”  It is one of only three films in the history of the Academy Awards to win for “Best Picture” but not even be nominated for “Best Director.”  It was a major box office success at the time, largely because of a fad for aviation perpetuated by Charles Lindbergh.  The movie was praised for its realistic aviation scenes, and actually both actors flew their own planes in the movie.  Richard Arlen was a real pilot in World War I, but when he flew for the movie he and Buddy Rogers had to fly, act and operate the camera all at the same time.  Richard Arlen met and ended up marrying his onscreen love interest, Jobyna Ralston, in 1927.  Despite the number of air crafts in the air, there were only two incidents, one involving the injury of a stuntman and the other a fatal injury for a United States Army Air Corps consultant.  Wings has faded very far into the past, and is actually one of two “Best Picture” films that is still not on DVD.  Though it is now considered the sole winner of the “Best Picture” award of 1927 by most critics and historians, it is mainly remembered for launching the career of film star, Clara Bow.  The movie is also notable for its first onscreen male-on-male kiss (albeit in friendship) and for its nudity (you can see Clara Bow’s breasts for an instant while she’s changing.)

The Verdict?

Like Sunrise, I had to watch this film in 10 minute clips on YouTube.com.  Yes, someone actually found a way to upload Wings onto YouTube.  I would like to meet this person.  So that in itself is a little irritating.  On the positive side, the plot did move a lot faster than Sunrise.  I was slightly more interested in the plot line, and the love triangle was fun.  So was Clara Bow, and it was interesting to see one of the biggest sex symbols of the 1920s play the girl next door.  I can also appreciate, if you were in the audience in 1927, how exciting it would be to see actual planes flying.  It’s still exciting to realize that there are no green screens or computer effects, and the shots of the actors flying planes are real.


This movie was over two hours long.  That’s over two hours of an organ playing.  Two hours of title cards instead of dialogue.  And this is also coming from the girl who fast forwarded through the battle scenes in Braveheart.  I’m not extremely interested in battle scenes.  In Sunrise, I believe that the silent film aspect actually added to the film itself.  I couldn’t imagine a talking version, or if I could, there just wouldn’t be that much dialogue.  But this movie would be so much easier to watch if there was actual sound.  I mean, picture a war movie without even sound effects!  But at least I have become very good at reading lips.  And the guys were cute.  So I guess that’s something.  But that’s it!  No more silent films.  My next movies with have sound.  And no organs.  Can’t stand the organs.

The bright side would be the food I got to make for this movie…

PS:  And this is a side note:  Can anyone else who's seen this movie comment on whether you thought the bro-love was a little intense?   I mean I understand David is dying, but the mouth on mouth was a little much.  And look at that picture up there.  Don't just think the two guys have the best chemistry over all?  Just saying.
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  1. Hi! My name is Tato and I'm from Brazil. Have 31 yo and love movies. I'm writing a blog with a chalenge just like yours: see and write about all the movies that had won for Best Picture till now. I'm trying to write one per week, but that's hard! The only difference about my blog and yours is the food! I'm really enjoying your recipes, and I'll try some of them, for sure!
    I don't get any comments on my blog, and I'm seeing that you are in the same situation. So, let me comment about the movies I already saw.
    Let's talk about Wings! My opinion is very much alike yours, hated the soundtrack (whatahell is that f*cking organ??) and I was amazed with the aerial scenes. How come those actors accepted to do such a thing? I read that Buddy was always sick because HE WAS AFRAID TO FLY!!! That's really a passion for acting LOL... Finally, about the kiss, I don't know if they were trying to get atention for the movie or something, but it was REALLY too much lol...
    Unfortunately (or not) my blog is in portuguese, so you won't be able to read my texts, but I'll try to comment yours, if that's ok to you. My next ones are "You can't take it with you"(I already saw but didn't write about it yet) and "Gone with the wind"... Finally some colour! LOL
    Hugs from Brazil

  2. Hi!
    I'm so stoked someone else is doing the same Oscar-watching challenge as me, how much fun is it?
    Loving reading your reviews so far!
    I enjoyed Wings...though I had moved in to a new place and didn't realise my flatmate had hooked the DVD via the stereo, so I literally watched the film in silence not realising there was an organ track.