then how come it’s so little remembered or shown today? I don’t watch TCM as much as I used to, but there was a time when I did quite heavily, and I never once saw “Wings” on that channel, nor did they ever mention it, it seemed. Instead, other classic films of the era were usually shown, such as Greed, The Big Parade, early Greta Garbo and Bette Davis films, and similar fare.
What happened ot Wings? Has anyone here seen it? Is it any good?
Yeah, TCM only shows silents on one particular night a week (generally speaking), and they don’t necessarily have rights to all the “greats”.
But Wings is still highly regarded–certainly not in the same realm as Griffith/von Stroheim/Murnau/Chaplin/Vidor, etc., but the flying sequences are still very impressive and it has Clara Bow and a very young Gary Cooper, so it’s still probably better known than 95% of the silents that still are with us.
Nitpick: “Wings” did not win the “Best Picture” award, since that was not a category in the original Academy Awards ceremony. “Wings” won for ‘Most Outstanding Production’, and another film “Sunrise” won for ‘Most Artistic Quality of Production.’ The official first 'Best Picture" award wasn’t given out until the second year of the Awards show, when it went to “the Broadway Melody.” (obligatory wikipedia entry.)
BTW, both “Greed” and “the Big Parade” pre-date the Academy Awards by a couple of years. IMO, had the Academy been handing out Oscars four years earlier, “Greed” would have been the first ‘Best Picture’ (or similar award). But it is undoubtedly a much bigger landmark in film history than “Wings.”
The Academy considers them synonymous. If you look on their official awards database, pulling up the “Best Picture” winners will yield Wings as the first entry (and according to their database, the official category name fluctuated and evolved for years before finally ending up as “Best Picture” in the 1960s).
Wings is a Paramount film, TCM doesn’t have the rights to it.
It was released in the mid '80s on VHS. Unsold and used copies are plentiful on Amazon or eBay or anywhere you can buy old VHS tapes. The picture is okay, though a bit too tightly cropped. It’s accompanied by Gaylord Carter, who was an actual theatre organist during the silent period, so the score is authentic enough. There’s also a Korean DVD of dubious legitimacy available, but as far as I know it’s just transfered from the VHS release and subtitled in Korean.
The aerial scenes are very good, but story-wise, it’s rather thin. I prefer King Vidor’s The Big Parade over Wings, personally, but if it’s flying combat scenes you’re interested in, you might also like The Flying Fleet. I don’t think it’s available on video, but TCM shows it every now and again. It stars Ramon Novarro and Anita Page (who is, remarkably enough, still alive). Like Wings, the story is pretty blah–come to think of it, it’s exactly the same story–but it includes some excellent aerial shots.
I recently found me a copy of Wings; everything’s available in Hong Kong.
It was surprisingly entertaining. The aerial footage was literally awesome, and the emotional power of the performances was more compelling than many films of that era. I recommend it very, very highly.
We must have been in the same audience – the 75-cent-admission gimmick? (Because it was Oscar’s 75th anniversary, I think.) And Dennis James was stuck at an airport somewhere so they had to scramble for a substitute organist at the last minute. I don’t remember who they found, but he had the unenviable task of watching the movie that afternoon, then basically improvising a 3-hour score. The music was adequate, but under those circumstances his performance was amazing.
I don’t think it’s ever played on TCM, but I could be wrong as well. It did air on more than one occation on AMC (back before FMC, when AMC lost the Fox archive and went to pot). TCM does license other films, but the films in their regular rotation tend to be those owned by Time Warner outright (MGM, United Artists, Warner Brothers).
I had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen as well. The theater owner had arranged to have live accompaniment by a gentleman whose name I forget who had been the organist back in 1927. Unfortunately, he was ill the evening of the ahow (He was 87, after all) and we had to make do with a score he had previously recorded.
> If “Wings” was good enough to win the first ever Oscar for Best Picture…
> then how come it’s so little remembered or shown today?
The fact that a film wins Best Picture at the Oscars hardly shows that it was the best movie made that year. Indeed, fairly consistently, it seems to me that the winner for Best Picture in most years is not what most people consider to be the best movie from that year when they look back on that year’s films a couple decades later. My rule of thumb is that the Best Picture winner is probably about the fourth or fifth best film of the year. Occasionally I’ve been surprised to find that it’s actually the best film, but I’ve also thought on occasion that there were a couple dozen better films from that year. The Best Picture winners are chosen for all sorts of extraneous reasons. For instance, they generally have to be middle-brow. If they’re too high-brow, the Academy members tend to think of the film as too hard. If they’re too low-brow, the members think of the film as too populist.