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article imageOp-Ed: ‘Wings’ soars onto home video

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 24, 2012 in Entertainment
Wings, the first film to ever win an Oscar for best picture and the only silent film to claim the prize, is available on Blu-ray on January 24, 2012.
In 1927, Paramount Pictures embarked on an epic production as a tribute to World War I’s heroes of the sky. Wings went on to win the first Best Picture Academy Award at the 1929 ceremony and is the only silent film to ever receive the honour. The unprecedented $2 million motion picture has been fully restored from a black-and-white dub discovered in the Paramount archive to showcase the magnificence of one of Hollywood’s greatest war movies.
Jack Powell (Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers) is an original speed demon, souping up his early Ford to make it the fastest car on the road – “the shooting star.” Mary Preston (Clara Bow), the girl next door, is all too happy to help, but the first ride goes to the object of Jack’s affections: Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston). But Sylvia is in love with David Armstrong (Richard Arlen), who loves her in return. When the young men enlist to become combat pilots in the Air Service, both leave for training under the impression that they take Sylvia’s heart with them. The rivals eventually work out their differences, becoming best friends before being shipped to France to fight the Germans. The climax of the story comes with the epic Battle of Saint-Mihiel.
Silent films are not everyone’s first choice, but last year’s The Artist showed they can be as engaging as any ‘talkie’ when executed well. At more than two hours, “Wings” can seem a bit daunting, but the captivating story and excellent production value makes it well worth the watch. Rogers and Arlen are outstanding, and silver screen starlet Bow is as charming as expected. Gary Cooper also makes his first feature film appearance in a short-lived role as one of Jack and David’s tent mates.
Director William A. Wellman’s experience as a combat pilot brings an exceptional realism to the dogfights. The quality of the footage captured in the aerial battles is unbelievable for the time period. This was one of the first films in which the actors actually went up in real planes and were able to activate the mounted cameras themselves. It was also one of the few Paramount films not shot on its first-rate studio lot. Instead, it was filmed in San Antonio, Texas with the cooperation of the U.S. Army and access to the country’s largest garrison of troops.
The meticulously restored picture is free of scratches and includes the original tints and effects as detailed in a unique continuity script. The score was also re-recorded with a full orchestra of musicians chosen specifically for their expertise in silent film music; though the original pipe organ score, also available, may be preferred by some purists.
Director: William A. Wellman
Starring: Clara Bow, Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers and Richard Arlen
Special features include: “Wings: Grandeur in the Sky”; “Dogfight!”; and “Restoring the Power and Beauty of Wings.” (Paramount Home Entertainment)
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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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