1928 • Wings

Wings 1928As of Sunday, February 20, 2011, Lauren and I had three movies left on our Best Picture project… 2009’s Hurt Locker, 1933’s hard-to-find Cavalcade, and 1928’s silent Wings. If there was ever a day to watch the 14 ten-minute segments of Wings on YouTube, Sunday’s 15-inch blizzard was the day. A 1.75 of Windsor, a 2-liter of Coke, a homemade Thai pizza, and YouTube via the PS3 and 47″ HD bigscreen were all we needed to get through the second record-setting blizzard of this hellish winter.

Wings is the first Best Picture winner, though some also say Sunrise is considered to be its equal. Sunrise won in 1928 for Most Artistic Quality of Production, the one and only year that award was given. It’s up for debate, I suppose, but Wikipedia tells us that Wings is the true Best Picture.

Wings, for obvious reasons, really takes me back to the first Best Picture winner we watched, 1929’s Broadway Melody. It’s hard to take it seriously! Though serious in nature, dealing with World War I, the movie comes off today as comical, perhaps due to the organ music playing throughout. The organ music never sounds particularly grim even in the most dire of circumstances. To think that just a few years later in 1930, All Quiet on the Western Front rattled me. I guess replacing happy organs with actual sounds makes quite the difference.

Wings reminded us somewhat of the modern-day Pearl Harbor. Two guys from the same hometown, Jack and David, go off to war and are involved with two women. They start off enemies but by war’s end are best friends. After surviving a crash, David winds up stealing a German plane and attempts to fly to safety, but in a tragic stroke of bad luck, is shot down by Jack who mistakes him for the enemy.

I must give credit to the filmmakers. From what I understand, this was one of most difficult shoots of its time. Any shot that appeared as though it happened in the air actually did. This was the first time for many such aerial shots in movies.

The titles–not subtitles–gave Lauren and me and chance to read the dialogue aloud and do a ton of stupidly funny voices. I recorded some of it and may have to find a use for it someday. There were also some really funny moments in some drunken scenes in Paris with fake champagne bubbles floating through the air.

Wings was far from the worst of the Best Pictures, silent or not. The lack of audio actually helped its cause, probably, because it gave us a chance to interact with the movie. I wonder if the actors had lines to memorize or not… they mouthed a lot of things but it was hard to tell if they were in fact just mouthing or reading from a script.

Technically the only Best Picture we’ve never seen is Cavalcade. We already saw Hurt Locker but not as part of this project. So close!


  1. […] • Speaking of the Best Pictures, Lauren and I have only one remaining Best Picture winner to see before our project is complete, and that is 1933′s hard-to-find Cavalcade, which is the lone winner never to be released on DVD. I found a copy on VHS on eBay for $5.99 and may have to buy it if we want to finish our project. Sunday we actually made it through 1928′s winner, the silent film Wings. […]

  2. A good score is necessary when watching silent film. I just saw Wings on TCM this week and found it exciting, moving, and funny.

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