WINGS (1927; Clara Bow, Gary Cooper, Buddy Rogers, Richard Arlen; directed by William Wellman; film is widely available)
For my first-ever viewing of William Wellman’s 1927 silent, Wings, I couldn’t have chosen a better place: the 2012 TCM Classic Movie Festival, in Hollywood, at Graumann’s Chinese Multiplex Theater #1. I didn’t know what to expect; I thought the film might be way too melodramatic (as silents sometimes are, to me) and the effects very primitive. But, although the story got slightly corny in parts, I really, really loved the film. I was glued to my seat and found the aerial battles truly amazing (some scenes in this black-and-white film are color-enhanced, to excellent effect). Adding to the experience was a memorable musical score–a new recording of the original music. I think Star Wars fans will find the basis for their film in Wings.
Preceding the screening, Paramount Pictures legend A.C. Lyles (who turns 94 years old today) spoke briefly about his career (he literally forced his way into a job at Paramount through sheer will power, and some ingeniously bold and hilariously inspiring tactics) and also about Gary Cooper, who, in Wings, has a brief but truly unforgettable cameo. Another added bonus for me was that during the TCM Festival I was staying at the famed Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, where Wings was presented Oscars for Most Outstanding Production, Best Effects and Engineering Effects, at the Academy’s very first awards presentation. (Wings has just been released on Blu-Ray.)