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Wings [VHS] (1927)
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Product Description

Wings, the first movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture and the only silent film to win, is still remarkably enjoyable to watch. The story is a fairly conventional one--two flyboys, both in love with the same girl, go off to fight World War I, and male bonding and heartbreak ensue. It's a perfectly serviceable plot, except for the key logical flaw that both young men have inexplicably fallen in love with the boring girl down the street and have somehow failed to notice that Clara Bow is the girl next door. Both male leads really flew their airplanes, and the dogfight footage is still spectacular. The main reason to watch Wings, though, is to see the difference between an actor and a movie star. There are many actors in the film, but only two movie stars. Clara Bow is a treat to watch every minute she's on screen, and young Gary Cooper in a tiny role nearly walks away with the movie, mostly by standing there and looking dreamy. It's well worth sitting through a little cheesy organ music for a movie this much fun. --Ali Davis

Customer Reviews:

  • Holds up exceptionally well.
    Wings (William Wellman, 1927)

    That Wings, the first film ever to receive what we now know as the Best Picture Academy Award, went so long without any sort of domestic home video release is confusing, to say the least. It still, to this day, has not been afforded the treatment such a film rightly commands; as I write this, a new version is on the horizon, but no idea what it will encompass as yet. Thank heaven for TCM and their seeming willingness to settle for showing great films from crappy bootleg imports; that way some of us who otherwise wouldn't at least have the chance to see some neglected classics.

    Wings takes place during World War I (specifically, around the time of the Big Push; the latter half of the movie takes place during that operation). It concerns Jack Powell (Charles Rogers, early in a career that spanned thirty years) and David Armstrong (Richard Arlen; if you've seen more than, say, ten films made in America before 1960, you've probably run across him at some point in his 175-movie career). Both are from the same hometown, and both are in love with the same girl, Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston, who unlike the boys was nearing the end of her film career; she made her last picture just four years later). Adding to the mess is Mary (Clara Bow), Jack's next door neighbor, who's in love with him. Jack and David go off to war, resenting one another over Sylvia; as time goes on, however, the two of them become the best of friends as they go through flight school, and then overseas to fight the Germans in contested French territory. Among the folks they meet: their first bunkmate, Cadet White-- Gary Cooper in one of his earliest credited roles, the one that made him a star.

    While Wings is first and foremost an action flick, in which men are men, women are women, and things blow up, it would certainly be an error to lump it in with the weaker Stallone and Schwarzenegger movies that have defined how we think of the action movie since 1980 or thereabouts. Loring and Lighton's script (their final collaborative effort, as Louis Lighton went on to produce full-time after Wings; Hope Loring gave up the writing business a few years afterward) is just as long on characterization as it is on plot, and even the minor characters, such as White or the comic-relief character Herman Schwimpf (El Brendel), are well-realized and add a great deal to the movie. Perhaps most telling is the leader of the German squadron who are set up as Jack and David's nemeses (Carl von Haartman); in a modern action flick, he'd be, at best, a cardboard cutout, despite being onscreen almost as much as the hero. Here, he gets very little screen time, but what he does get is interesting; we get to know him through his sense of honor as much as through his accuracy with a machine gun. Imagine something like that in a modern action movie.

    Roy Pomeroy's special effects deservedly won the film its other Oscar, and even today in the age of CGI they're quite impressive. (This is, of course, pre-code days, so when people get shot, chocolate syrup appears. And while Clara bow covering her torso-- badly-- with only a sheet is not an effect, it's pretty durned special.) I grant you that Wellman may have been a little overly fond of them himself-- there are at least two scenes of planes spiralling down to their inevitable crashes that could have been a minute shorter apiece (in fact, it may be the same piece of film reused)-- but that's a minor thing. This is a wonderfully put-together movie, and deserves to be rediscovered as so many silent films these days are. ****
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  • A cult silent epic movie!
    This is an exciting silent drama, featuring one of the most emotive aerial sequences for those ages, with superb photography. A true homage to the brave pilots of the WW1. William Wellman' finest film, made with courageous and honor' s sense. The first awarded film makes for you an absolute must-see.
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  • Romance and Danger in the Skies
    This silent film has aged well and soars through the skies for over two hours of action and romantic drama. Ace William "Wild Bill" Wellman helmed this great silent about two young men who can't wait to fly through the skies and the Great War which gives them their chance to live their romantic dreams.

    Wellman's filming of combat in the clouds is still as fresh and exciting as it was when it won the first Academy Award for Best Picture. Sometimes lost, however, when historians talk of this film, is the sweet and innocent romance which frames the film.

    Clara Bow shines with great energy and charisma as the young sweet Mary Preston. Her "girl next door" portrayel of an American girl longing for the love of Jack Powell (Charles "Buddy" Rogers) is endearing. Another often forgotten element is the performance of Jobyna Ralston as the lovely rich girl, Sylvia, both Jack and David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) are in love with.

    Under Wellman's direction, her Sylvia has a tenderness and likability, rather than just the "rich girl standing in the way" she might have been in another film. Bow is lively, cute and sexy, but Ralston's Sylvia has some romantically framed scenes which helps her hold her own.

    For the most part, however, Wellman's film is about males and the bonds often formed during wartime. These flyers are not jaded yet, as in Hawks' "Only Angels Have Wings" and it is that romantic innocence which makes this an engrossing and sentimental masterpiece of a bygone era.

    Mary will join the Women's Motor Core and cross paths with her true love. David and Jack will become closer than brothers, one making the ultimate sacrifice and allowing his friend to go on with his life free of guilt. It is the story which is the star here, rather than the actors. Gary Cooper does, however, exude star power in his brief time as the veteren flyer welcoming the two new recruits with a sobering reminder of war.

    Wellman's famous scenes of open-air planes soaring into battle like graceful wings carrying danger and death are unforgettable. The fact that the two actors actually flew their own planes as this breathtaking footage was shot is astounding. The battles are real and deadly, Wellman showing there was honor in the skies as well as danger.

    Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of director Wellman here is despite the tragedy and danger clearly shown, he still manages to convey the more romantic aspects of war, or at the very least the romantic notions of it. One of the great films of the silent era, "Wings" does not disappoint. An entertaining film which stands on its own, it is also an historical bridge between an innocence which was soon to pass into those cloud filled skies and never return.
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  • This is where it all began.
    This 1927 film is the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, thus beginning a new era of motion pictures. It was also the only silent film to have won this prestigious award.

    I have wanted this DVD for a long time. It is hard to get and currently not available on DVD in this country. I've read other reviews that said how their copy was poor quality. However, the DVD that was given to me by a very dear friend is from Hong Kong and the quality is above average to excellent. You just have to endure the Chinese subtitles as you can't remove them with a flick of a button.

    This film is long, 138 minutes and since it's silent, you can't miss anything. I tend to fall asleep during long films, but this one was so enchanting and I was waiting to see it forever, that I lasted the entire 138 minutes.

    The star, Jack Powell (Charles Rogers) is a young guy that thinks of nothing but flying airplanes and cars. His next door neighbor, Mary (Clara Bow), really loves him, but Jack only sees at her as a friend. Jack wants Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston), but she is in love with a very wealthy guy, David Armstrong (Richard Arlen).

    Jack and David are friends and join the armed services to fight in World War I in France. Their relationship is somewhat strained as they are both in love with Sylvia. Mary joins the Women's Corp, trying to be close to Jack. He hits on another girl in France while partying down, Mary sees this and decides to go back stateside and try and forget him. Jack and David become tight pals, but since this is a war, tragedies happen. After Jack returns, he realizes that Mary is the girl for him.

    The acting was suburb! Clara Bow was cute and convincing. There is even a short scene with a very young Gary Cooper as Cadet White. His character was memorable even if he was only in this film for a couple of minutes. We also see the beginning of special effects with planes and dogfights and "bubbles". It is truly worth watch this to see the start of the hobby we love so much finally getting an award for achievement.

    Please enjoy this film...and thank you Clint for finding it for me....more info
  • And The First Best Picture Oscar Goes To...
    ...WINGS. That was way back in 1927. It remains one of the great anti-war films even though the war is World War I. It also marks the apex of the careers of its three stars: Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and Richard Arlen. Buddy Rogers would later marry Mary Pickford and concentrate on Big Band music while Clara Bow made only a few sound films which have long been unavailable. Richard Arlen is best remembered today as the hero of 1932's THE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS with Charles Laughton. The director William Wellman would go on to quite a distinguished career making such films as THE PUBLIC ENEMY with James Cagney, the 1937 A STAR IS BORN and 1943's THE OX-BOW INCIDENT.

    Wellman had actually flown planes during the Great War and so he wanted to make sure that this film captured what it was like to fly and to engage in combat up in the skies. One of the film's great strengths is the outstanding aerial photography which Howard Hughes would copy for HELL'S ANGELS three years later. Another strength, surprisingly, is the story itself. While basically one of the first buddy films, WINGS manages not only to capture the horrors of war (as THE BIG PARADE with John Gilbert had two years earlier) but the innocence of pre-WWI America as personified by the three main characters. Clara Bow in particular gives a truly outstanding performance showing that she was more than just a 1920's sex symbol when given a good script and placed in the hands of a capable director like Wellman. By the time the film is over you long for its beginning and the stability and security of small town America. The final scenes in particular are among the most powerful in all of silent film with an ending that you have waited the whole movie for.

    Officially Paramount (who made and owns the rights to WINGS) has yet to issue the film on DVD. What is currently available are used copies of the 1989 VHS version which was once available on laserdisc. The picture quality is above average for a silent film on videotape but falls short of a restoration. It does come with a rousing Gaylord Carter organ score as did the other 8 Paramount silent titles first released at about the same time. I keep hoping that someday Paramount will release an official DVD edition as they did with the 1923 THE TEN COMMANDMENTS that will contain extra features and inserts. The film is an American classic and deserves to be treated as such. Until that time this remains the only version you can currently lay your hands on.
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  • Talented Charles "Buddy" Rogers
    Yes, I am a fan of Charles "Buddy" Rogers, the clean cut hero in the film who I first watched in "My Best Girl" (1927). He's charming and makes this movie shine.

    Plus, the young Gary Cooper (is this his first movie ever?) and Clara Bow are in this too.

    It's a wonderful silent movie, well done. No wonder it won the first Academy Award....more info
  • During the aerial dogfights....
    one has to keep reminding oneself that this is REAL flying, not something pasted together to make it look like pilots of one-man planes are actually flying them. The ground really IS thousands of feet below, and Charles "Buddy" Rodgers and Richard Arlen--though they don't do all of the flying, do fly their own planes, and, unlike the director, Wellman, had never flown a plane before they started preparing for this movie!

    Clara Bow, whom I had never seen before, is cute as a button, and it's very unfortunate that she made so few talkies (I'm told that she had emotional problems which kept her out of them). She plays the perfect "girl next door," even though she's quite beautiful.
    Isn't it odd that Jack is so self-centered at the beginning of the film that he never notices that she's in love with him, but realizes it immediately when he gets home. What do you suppose causes that, Jack?

    In spite of the length of the film, I never get bored. For one thing, there are various diversions, like Jack getting so drunk he sees bubbles coming out of everything (including Clara Bow, who, as a Women's Motor Transport driver, has been asked to round up all the soldiers whooping it up in Paris because the big push is about to start), the "gallent German" captain, Kellerman, the training scenes, the mistaken identity...

    Another reason I never get bored is that I'm waiting for...MY FAVORITE LOVE SCENE, FROM ANY MOVIE, FROM ANYWHERE, FROM ANY TIME. (It doesn't hurt that the director's beautiful wife is standing in the doorway watching it--it's the only movie she ever appeared in.)

    So there.

    February 10, 2009: My favorite movie love scene has changed. There's nobody in it at all. Just a pair of sandals, vanishing while the snow falls. ("Kwaidan," --The Woman of the Snow)....more info