Plot Development: 3 stars
Character Development: 3 stars
Cinematography: 4 stars
Costuming: 4 stars
Overall Rating: 3 stars
As WINGS begins, Jack (Charles 'Buddy' Rogers) and David (Richard Arlen) are two young men pining after the same woman, Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston). Smitten by Sylvia's charms, Jack is oblivious to his next door neighbor, Mary Preston (Clara Bow), who is pining after him. Jack and David leave these ladies behind as they head off to serve as pilots in World War I. In their experiences, they are stripped of their youth and forced to deal with the realities of friendship, love, and war.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, there were times while watching this picture that I would have traded a thousand pictures for one word! I should start by saying that I didn't know this was a silent film. My husband watched this one with me and we were both a bit puzzled when the talking didn't start in with the action. But once we got over that fact, we enjoyed this flick for the treasure that it is.
The plot itself was engaging if predictable. The film attempted to engage a lot of emotions, mingling funny scenes with serious ones in a quirky way that, for the most part, worked. But there were a few scenes (including one with cartoonish white "bubbles" that a drunken Jack sees coming out of his champagne bottle) that just seemed out of place for war drama.
The organ's musical theme (composed and performed by Gaylord Carter) tied the random scenes together, and gave the movie a melodramatic feel.
As far as the characters were concerned, I really enjoyed Clara Bow's role. There is no reason to wonder why she was a popular Twenties "It" girl. I found myself looking forward to when she was going to be on the screen. On the other hand, Richard Arlen's performance as David was overly stoic and rigid which made it hard to believe that he was the same age as his headstrong, lighthearted peer, Jack.
As my ratings above indicate, I felt that the cinematography in this film was very advanced for the time. I was continually amazed at the different camera angles that they were able to achieve. Especially the aerial battle sequences -- they put you right in the action with Jack and David!
There is no doubt that it is an old movie and to a modern eye, used to the movies of today's Hollywood, the imperfections of this film do not go unnoticed. At times, these hiccups interrupted the continuity of the film and were a bit distracting.
Overall, this film gives a great picture (pun intended) of what America was like during World War I, and what movie making was like before sound. If you are looking for a flick with complex interweavings of characters and plot, this isn't it. However, if you are in the mood for a timepiece deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress, pick up a copy of WINGS and enjoy a glimpse of America's movie-making past.
- This was the only silent film that ever won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Actually, if we are being technical, this film didn't win the award for Best Picture, as in 1929, they called it "Best Picture, Production."
- Gary Cooper has a brief cameo in this film.
- According to Wikipedia, it is the first known film to feature a male-on-male kiss, a fraternal one, between the two main characters, pilots and good friends Jack and David.
Keep checking in, soon I'll be reviewing Sunrise!
-- Critic Fix