I am so far behind on reviewing movies from The Great Movie Ride, but I’m finally going to start catching up with Wings (1927)!
Wings (1927) is a cross between a romance and a war story, and while I’m honestly not sure it does either particularly well, this is definitely an instance where it’s hard to critique a nearly 100-year-old silent film from my 2023 perspective. This film won the first-ever Academy Award for best picture, and while it is well deserved for sure (I’ll get into that shortly), it really isn’t one of the films on the list we’re going through that particularly stuck with me.
The film features several popular stars from the time, including Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, and Richard Arlen, as the three find themselves in what is basically a love triangle set during World War I. The war scenes, particularly as the title suggests, the aerial footage is where Wings truly shines, and I’m sure the biggest factor in it winning the Academy Award along with the popular talent from its time. All of the flight scenes were extremely impressive, some of which are even by today’s standards, and it was truly mindblowing to think of how this film was shot in 1927.
Where the film dragged for me was in its acting, particularly in the male cast, which I guess is kind of disappointing for a movie set during World War I with combat pilots being two of the leads. As far as the acting goes, which I realize again is difficult for me to analyze as I haven’t watched a ton of silent movies until we began going through this list, Clara Bow’s performance is what stood out the most to me.
That being said, Richard Arlen was in the film because he was an actor with military aviation experience, and despite some of the characters falling flat, I do think the film still works well, given all of the action sequences and Bow’s performance.
This was also one of those movies that did not use music to its advantage. Going through this list, I’m learning that that’s a more recent thing, but in the films from this time where the actors aren’t speaking, the music seems to not go with what’s happening at least 50% of the time (with the exception from what I’ve seen so far really being the Chaplin films where the music does go with all of the action). A movie like this with the romance element plus the World War I scenes would have benefited from the right music, and perhaps that’s giving too much weight to the effect music has on film, but I do think when the music is slow and calm but the action is picking up, it makes the story feel like it’s dragging.
Still, Wings is super impressive for 1927, and while not one of the most memorable films on the list to me, I can see why it won the first Academy Award, and I can appreciate how advanced some of the shots seem for the silent era.