Thursday, May 3, 2012


WINNER of the First Academy Award for Best Picture (1927/28)!

In celebration of Paramount Pictures’ 100th anniversary, Reel FX Film & Art Study had a screening of the first BEST PICTURE winner...

Wings, on the big screen!!!

The screening was held at the Regal Legacy XD theater in Plano at 7pm for the meticulously restored version that includes the original color tints and recreated Handschiegl color process used for additional visual effects. The restored Wings includes an all NEW recording of the original soundtrack by J.S. Zamecnik and all NEW surround sound from Academy Award winner Ben Burtt & Skywalker Sound.  

Wings originally opened on Jan 15, 1927. The film, completed with a budget of $2 million, was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called "Best Picture, Production") for the film year 1927/1928, and won a second Academy Award for Engineering Effects. Wings is responsible for launching the career of newcomer, Gary Cooper.

Wings was the only silent movie to win the Best Picture Oscar until The Artist won Best Picture in 2012.    

$5 for :15 minutes!!

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the  Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films of 1927 and 1928 and took place on May 16, 1929, at a private dinner held at the Hollywood Rooseveldt Hotel in Hollywood, California. AMPAS president Douglas Fairbanks hosted the show. Tickets cost five dollars, 270 people attended the event and the ceremony lasted fifteen minutes!! Awards were created by Louis B. Mayer, founder of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation (at present merged into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). It is the only Academy Awards ceremony not to be broadcast either on radio or television.

During the ceremony, the AMPAS presented Academy Awards (now commonly referred to as Oscars) in twelve categories. Winners were announced three months before the live event. Some nominations were announced without reference to a specific film, such as for Ralph Hammeras and Nugent Slaughter, who received nominations in the now defunct category of Engineering Effects. Unlike later ceremonies, an actor or director could be awarded for multiple works within a year. Emil Jannings, for example, was given the Best Actor award for his work in both The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command. Moreover, Charlie Chaplin and Warner Brothers each received an Honorary Award.
Winners at the ceremony included Seventh Heaven and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, each receiving three awards, and Wings, receiving two awards. Among its honors, Sunrise won the award for "Unique and Artistic Production," and Wings won the award for "Outstanding Picture, Production." In every subsequent Academy Awards, these two awards categories were eliminated, replaced by a single award to honor the Best Picture of the year, usually seen as the Academy's top prize. In the first year, with no Best Picture award, Sunrise and Wings shared this highest honor, the former for artistic strength, the latter for production quality.
The FIRST Academy Awards ceremony at the Rooseveldt Hotel

Wings was directed by William A. Wellman, with an original orchestral score by John Stepan Zamecnik, which was uncredited. The entire score was written, composed, and recorded using a Wurlitzer Pipe Organ. The movie was shot at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas between September 7, 1926 and April 7, 1927.  A sneak preview was shown on May 19, 1927 at the Texas Theater on Houston Street in San Antonio. The premiere was held at the Criterion Theater, in New York City, on August 12, 1927.

Clara Bow stars as "Mary Preston" with Charles "Buddy" Rogers as "Jack Powell" and Richard Arlen as "David Armstrong":

Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clara Bow & Richard Arlen in "Wings"

Charles Rogers & Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Charles Rogers & Clara Bow

The Story:

Jack works on his sports car and dreams of flying. His neighbor Mary is in love with him but he seems not to notice, having been smitten by the fair Sylvia, but he can't see that Sylvia has eyes only for David (the wealthiest family in town). The distant drums of war beckon, and Jack and David train to be pilots in the Army Air Corp. Their rivalry in basic training soon evolves into camaraderie as they do aerial battle with the Germans in the skies over France. Meanwhile Mary has joined the Women's Motor Corp and despairs that Jack doesn't notice her.

The film was one of the first to depict two men kiss: a fraternal moment during the deathbed finale. It is also one of the first widely released films to show nudity.  Clara Bow's breasts can be seen for a second during the Paris bedroom scene when army men barge in as she is changing her clothes. In the Enlistment Office, nude men undergoing physical exams, can be seen from behind, through an open door, which is opened and closed. This film was released a few months before the MPPDA list of "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" was established.

The Motion Picture Production Code list of “Don’t and Be Carefuls” (1928):

"Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated":

  1. Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words "God," "Lord," "Jesus," "Christ" (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), "hell," "damn," "Gawd," and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
  2. Any licentious or suggestive nudity-in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
  3. The illegal traffic in drugs;
  4. Any inference of sex perversion;
  5. White slavery;
  6. Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
  7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
  8. Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
  9. Children's sex organs;
  10. Ridicule of the clergy;
  11. Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;

"And be it further resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized":

  1. The use of the flag;
  2. International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country's religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
  3. Arson;
  4. The use of firearms;
  5. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
  6. Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
  7. Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
  8. Methods of smuggling;
  9. Third-degree methods;
  10. Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
  11. Sympathy for criminals;
  12. Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
  13. Sedition;
  14. Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
  15. Branding of people or animals;
  16. The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
  17. Rape or attempted rape;
  18. First-night scenes;
  19. Man and woman in bed together;
  20. Deliberate seduction of girls;
  21. The institution of marriage;
  22. Surgical operations;
  23. The use of drugs;
  24. Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
  25. Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a "heavy."
Wings is also significant for launching the career of, then newcomer, Gary Cooper, who appears briefly (but memorably) in one scene.

Richard Arlen & Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper in "Wings"
Wings producer, Lucien Hubbard hired director, Wellman, because of his World War I aviator experience. Actors: Arlen, Wellman, and John Monk Saunders had all served in World War I as military aviators. Arlen was able to do his own flying in the film and Rogers, a non-pilot, underwent flight training during the course of the production, so that, like Arlen, Rogers could also be filmed in closeup in the air. Lucien Hubbard offered flying lessons to all, and despite the number of aircraft in the air, only two incidents occurred, one involving Dick Grace, a stunt pilot and the other was a fatal crash of a United States Army Air Corps pilot.

The Airplanes of Wings:

Primary scout aircraft flown in the film were the Thomas-Morse MB3 and Curtiss PW-8.

The Handschiegl Process:

The original Paramount release of Wings was color tinted and had some sequences in an early widescreen process known as Magnascope, also used in the Paramount film Old Ironsides (1926). The original release also had the aerial scenes use the Handschiegl color process used for flames and explosions. Some prints had synchronized sound effects and music, using the General Electric Kinegraphone (later RCA Photophone) sound-on-film process.  

The Handschiegl process was invented in 1916 for Cecil B. DeMille's production of Joan the Woman (1917) by engraver Max Handschiegl and partner Alvin W. Wyckoff, with assistance from Loren Taylor. All three were technicians at the studio where the film was shot, Famous Players-Lasky, later Paramount Studios. The system was originally advertised as the "Wyckoff" process, and later referred to in publicity as the "DeMille-Wyckoff" process.

Color tinted effects in "Wings"

For a time, the process was strictly used for Paramount releases, but when Handschiegl and Wyckoff left Famous Players-Lasky, the process became known as the Handschiegl Color Process. Aside from Pathé's stencil process Pathéchrome, the Handschiegl process was the most widely used form of artificial coloring in motion pictures of the 1920s.

Handschiegl described the invention as such: A separate, black-and-white print for each color to be applied was made. Using an opaque paint, portions of the image where color was to be applied were blocked out. A duplicate negative was made from the painted print, developed in a tanning developer which hardened the gelatine layer where it had been exposed and developed. Those areas corresponding to the blocked out areas on the print remained relatively soft, and capable of taking up dye. This dyed matrix film was brought into contact, in accurate register, with a positive print, to which the dye transferred in the appropriate areas. The print made several passes through the dye transfer machines, in contact with a separate matrix for each color. Usually, three colors were applied at the most.

Wings was an immediate success, premiering on August 12, 1927 at the Criterion Theatre in New York and playing 63 weeks before being moved to second-run theaters. One of the reasons for its resounding popularity was the public infatuation with aviation in the wake of Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight. The critical response was equally enthusiastic as the critic of the New York Times noted that the realism of the flying scenes was impressive. Of course!! The pilots really flew their own airplanes!!

Wings was written by John Monk Saunders, Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton and directed by William A. Wellman.

Not Rated (Later rated PG-13), 141 min. Silent/Dolby Digital Sound FX & Music, B&W/Tint, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio.

Posters and Lobby Cards from Wings (1927):


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