Directed by: William A. Wellman
Starring: Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen, El Brendel, Gary Cooper, Roscoe Karns
I had the interesting experience of seeing William A. Wellman’s Wings (1927) back to back this week with his A Star Is Born (1937)—one of those occurrences that make you think maybe it’d be a really good idea to rethink your position on a filmmaker. At least it was that way for me. Wellman is a director I generally don’t gravitate toward, but I’m inclined right now to think I might be wrong, because these are two terrific movies. Wings is getting a lot of attention right now, because it’s not only the first-ever Best Picture Oscar winner, but it’s been dusted off, cleaned up and brought out in a fantastic DVD to help celebrate (or sell-abrate) the 100th anniversary of Paramount Pictures. (That’s proving a tricky proposition for a studio who sold off most of its best movies to Universal—or MCA—back in the late 1950s.) And it’s a stunning disc of an equally stunning movie. It may not really have been the best picture of 1927 (frankly, I rate Frank Borzage’s 7th Heaven higher and F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise higher than both), but it’s a gigantic, sprawling epic of a movie that works on nearly every level. Yes, it’s a war movie—and ultimately an anti-war movie—but it’s a war movie with surprisingly well-defined characters and a solid story. Oh, you get all the sweep and excitement you could ask for, but you also get a lot more than that. (And, no, I don’t just mean a flash of Clara Bow’s breasts.) You get a wonderfully human story—and some amazing filmmaking of the kind that marked the late silent era. Ironically, probably the most astonishing shot in the film isn’t in the flying or battle scenes, but in Paris when the boys are on leave. (You’ll know it when you see it.) A truly marvelous film.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Wings at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 4, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.