Wings

William Wellman, USA, 1927, 139 minutes

On 19th May 1929 the first ever Academy Award ceremony was held and the film chosen as Best Picture was Paramount Pictures' Wings.

Director William Wellman had been an ambulance driver in the French Foreign Legion, before flying with the Lafayette Escadrille. His plane was shot down, leading to a medal and a broken back, and it is doubtless these experiences which make Wings more believable and more memorable than other WWI films.

The plot itself is nothing to be proud of, it's the old romantic triangle: Jack Powell (Buddy Rogers) loves sophisticated Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston) who in turn loves David Armstrong (Richard Arlen). Enthusiastle flapper Mary Preston (Clara Bow) is infatuated with Jack, and the affections of tile characters switch back and forth till everyone is too confused to care. It becomes a 'buddy' picture, with the friendship of Jack and David becoming the most important 'romance'.

But more important than the tenuous plot are the action sequences of war-torn France, focusing on the US air corps supporting the cast-of-thousands down in the trenches. The dog-fights and large-scale raids make the picture a leader in its genre. In no way is it a gung-ho celebration of war; beneath the camaraderie is a 'war is hell' message, although it can't be described as the Platoon of its day.

A huge star at the time, Clara Bow got top billing although her part in the film is relatively small. It was a refreshing change for her and her fans from films with titles like Mantrap, Dancing Mothers and My Lady of Whims. A young Gary Cooper has a small role as Cadet White. Jack's mother is played by Hedda Hopper, who went on to become the most famous columnist in America.

Review by Martin Hunt
Taken from EUFS Programme 1992-93