Ninety-four years ago today, the film Wings premiered. It was the very first winner of the Academy Award for best picture and the only silent movie to win the award. Clara Bow and Gary Cooper are strikingly beautiful. You have to see this film.
Directed by: William A. Wellman
Produced by: Lucien Hubbard, Adolph Zukor, Jesse L. Lasky, B. P. Schulberg, Otto Hermann Kahn
Written by: Titles: Julian Johnson
Screenplay by: Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton
Story by: John Monk Saunders
Starring: Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper
Music by: J.S. Zamecnik
Cinematography: Harry Perry
Edited by: E. Lloyd Sheldon Uncredited: Lucien Hubbard
Production Company: Famous Players-Lasky
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: August 12, 1927
Running Time Original release: 111 minutes Restoration: 144 minutes
ACADEMY AWARD Best Picture
ACADEMY AWARD Best Engineering Effects Roy Pomeroy
Jack Powell and David Armstrong are rivals in the same small American town, both vying for the attentions of pretty Sylvia Lewis. Jack fails to realize that “the girl next door”, Mary Preston, is desperately in love with him. The two young men both enlist to become combat pilots in the Air Service. When they leave for training camp, Jack mistakenly believes Sylvia prefers him. She actually prefers David and lets him know about her feelings, but is too kindhearted to turn down Jack’s affection.
Jack and David are billeted together. Their tent mate is Cadet White, but their acquaintance is all too brief; White is killed in an air crash the same day. Undaunted, the two men endure a rigorous training period, where they go from being enemies to best friends. Upon graduating, they are shipped off to France to fight the Germans.
Mary joins the war effort by becoming an ambulance driver. She later learns of Jack’s reputation as the ace known as “The Shooting Star” and encounters him while on leave in Paris. She finds him, but he is too drunk to recognize her. She puts him to bed, but when two military police barge in while she is innocently changing from a borrowed dress back into her uniform in the same room, she is forced to resign and return to the United States.
The climax of the story comes with the epic Battle of Saint-Mihiel. David is shot down and presumed dead. However, he survives the crash landing, steals a German biplane, and heads for the Allied lines. By a tragic stroke of bad luck, Jack spots the enemy aircraft and, bent on avenging his friend, begins an attack. He is successful in downing the aircraft and lands to retrieve a souvenir of his victory. The owner of the land where David’s aircraft crashed urges Jack to come to the dying man’s side. He agrees and becomes distraught when he realizes what he has done. David consoles him and before he dies, forgives his comrade.
At the war’s end, Jack returns home to a hero’s welcome. He visits David’s grieving parents to return his friend’s effects. During the visit he begs their forgiveness for causing David’s death. Mrs. Armstrong says it is not Jack who is responsible for her son’s death, but the war. Then, Jack is reunited with Mary and realizes he loves her.