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The Importance of Wings

At one time, it was believed that "Wings" (1927) had met the same unfortunate fate as so many silent films - the prints either destroyed or lost forever. Fortunately, this was found not to be true. But what is so important about "Wings"? Could it be that it is an extraordinary piece of film history itself?

"Wings" (1927) was directed by William A. Wellman, starring "It" girl Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen. It is a war drama as the story unfolds about two neighborhood boys, Jack and David, who join the Army in order to win a girl's affection (who is not Clara Bow). "Mary" (Bow), whose affections is being ignored by Jack, joins the army as an ambulance driver.

The famous co-star of "Wings" being Clara Bow, this is a film being one of the few of hers that still exist and it is a perfect example of who she was onscreen. She is expressive, lovable, every bit of the "Jazz Baby" she was supposed to project to the audience. This is also the film that film that catapulted Gary Cooper into stardom with his mere 2-minute cameo. Besides his striking looks, his character's purpose is truly thought-provoking, showing that a serviceman truly walks the line between life and death. The film also furthers this point with brief but bloody sequences of injured soldiers and pilots.

What is more captivating about "Wings" is not just it's message but its action sequences as well. Hailed as one of the best aviation films ever, the aerial sequences shown in the surviving prints are actual stunts not done in a studio lot or faked in any way. Filmed on a Camp Stanley in Texas, it was the first big-budget film to mount cameras on top of the planes as they flew through the air. The sequences with the crashing planes were real as well, oftentimes the pilots and stuntmen had to escape for their lives. As a result, it is reported that one stuntman died while another broke his neck but later recovered. And the stuntmen were not regular stuntmen, all were trained pilots, some served in the army themselves.

"Wings" was the first and only silent film to have ever won an Academy Award for "Best Picture: Production" at the first Academy Awards. Wings can be seen on Turner Classic Movies channel during their 31 Days of Oscar event.

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