Wings is a 1927 American silent war film set during the First World War produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed by William A. Wellman and released by Paramount Pictures. It stars Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen. Gary Cooper appears in a small role which helped launch his career in Hollywood.
The film, a romantic action-war picture, was rewritten by scriptwriters Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton from a story by John Monk Saunders to accommodate Bow, Paramount's biggest star at the time. Wellman was hired as he was the only director in Hollywood at the time who had World War I combat pilot experience, although Richard Arlen and John Monk Saunders had also served in the war as military aviators. The film was shot on location on a budget of $2 million (equivalent to $28.88 million in 2019) at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas, between September 7, 1926 and April 7, 1927. Hundreds of extras and some 300 pilots were involved in the filming, including pilots and planes of the United States Army Air Corps which were brought in for the filming and to provide assistance and supervision. Wellman extensively rehearsed the scenes for the Battle of Saint-Mihiel over ten days with some 3500 infantrymen on a battlefield made for the production on location. Although the cast and crew had much spare time during the filming because of weather delays, shooting conditions were intense, and Wellman frequently conflicted with the military officers brought in to supervise the picture.
Acclaimed for its technical prowess and realism upon release, the film became the yardstick against which future aviation films were measured, mainly because of its realistic air-combat sequences. It went on to win the first Academy Award for Best Picture at the first annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award ceremony in 1929, the only silent film to do so. It also won the Academy Award for Best Engineering Effects (Roy Pomeroy). Wings was one of the first to show two men kissing, and also one of the first widely released films to show nudity. In 1997, Wings was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and the film was re-released to Cinemark theaters to coincide with the 85th Anniversary for a limited run in May 2012. The film was re-released again for its 90th anniversary in 2017. The Academy Film Archive preserved Wings in 2002.
Jack Powell and David Armstrong are rivals in the same small American town, both vying for the attentions of pretty Sylvia Lewis. Jack fails to realize that "the girl next door", Mary Preston, is desperately in love with him. The two young men both enlist to become combat pilots in the Army Air Service. When they leave for training camp, Jack mistakenly believes Sylvia prefers him. She actually prefers David and lets him know about her feelings, but is too kindhearted to turn down Jack's affection.
Jack and David are billeted together. Their tent mate is Cadet White, but their acquaintance is all too brief; White is killed in an air crash the same day. Undaunted, the two men endure a rigorous training period, where they go from being enemies to best friends. Upon graduating, they are shipped off to France to fight against Imperial Germany.
Mary joins the war effort by becoming an ambulance driver. She later learns of Jack's reputation as the ace known as "The Shooting Star" and encounters him while on leave in Paris. She finds him, but he is too drunk to recognize her. She puts him to bed, but when two military police barge in while she is innocently changing from a borrowed dress back into her uniform in the same room, she is forced to resign and return to the United States.
The climax of the story comes with the epic Battle of Saint-Mihiel. David is shot down and presumed dead. However, he survives the crash landing, steals a German biplane, and heads for the Allied lines. By a tragic stroke of bad luck, Jack spots the enemy aircraft and, bent on avenging his friend, begins an attack. He is successful in downing the aircraft and lands to retrieve a souvenir of his victory. The owner of the land where David's aircraft crashed urges Jack to come to the dying man's side. He agrees and becomes distraught when he realizes what he has done. David consoles him, and before he dies, forgives his comrade.
At the war's end, Jack returns home to a hero's welcome. He visits David's grieving parents to return his friend's effects. During the visit he begs their forgiveness for causing David's death. Mrs. Armstrong says it is not Jack who is responsible for her son's death, but the war. Then, Jack is reunited with Mary and realizes he loves her.
Sound Effects Used
- Ben Burtt Punching Sounds (2012 version only.)
- Gateway Records, Dog-Fight - Airplane (2012 version only.)
- H-B EXPLOSION - LARGE EXPLOSION 07 (2012 version only, minus debris.)
- Looney Tunes Explosion Sound 1 (2012 version only; low quality.)
- Looney Tunes Explosion Sound 3 (2012 version only.)
- RICOCHET - LONG WARBLY FALLING RICCO (2012 version only.)
- RICOCHET - RICCO AND WHINE 05 (Heard once in the 2012 version, in slightly lower quality.)
- SKYWALKER, AIRPLANE - AIRPLANE FAST PASS BY 01 (2012 version only.)
- SKYWALKER, AIRPLANE - AIRPLANE FAST PASS BY 02 (2012 version only.)
- SKYWALKER, AIRPLANE - DOGFIGHT, WWII AIRCRAFT, GUNFIRE (2012 version only.)
- SKYWALKER EXPLOSION 01 (2012 version only.)
- SKYWALKER EXPLOSION 07 (variants heard in the 2012 version only.)
- SKYWALKER, EXPLOSION - MEDIUM SET-OFF WITH WHISTLE (Heard once in low volume; 2012 version.)
- SKYWALKER, WHISTLE - MORTAR WHINES (2012 version only.)
- SKYWALKER, WHOOSH - ARTILLERY FALL 01 (2012 version only.)
- SoundDogs, Guns Military, Battles - Small - Unusual Explosions - Use For Land Mines, Phosphorus Bombs Or Electrical Explosions. (2012 version only.)
- Sound Ideas, AIRPLANE, PROP - LONG DIVE 02 (May've been used once, barely audible due to another engine roar-by overlapping, I BigIdeas70258 think, the 2nd time a biplane dives?)
- Sound Ideas, CARTOON, AIRPLANE - PROP PLANE DIVE AND SWOOP BY (Heard occasionally in the 2012 version in a slightly lower pitch.)
- Sound Ideas, GUN, RIFLE - SEVERAL SHOTS, WITH RICOCHET (2012 version only; select riccos in low quality.)
- Sound Ideas, EXPLOSION - HOWITZER EXPLOSION (2012 version only.)
- Sound Ideas, EXPLOSION - LARGE EXPLOSION 01 (H-B) (2012 version only.)
- Sound Ideas, EXPLOSION - LARGE EXPLOSION 03 (H-B) (2012 version in a deeper pitch.)
- Sound Ideas, RICOCHET - CARTOON RICCO 03 (2012 version only.)
- Sound Ideas, RICOCHET - CARTOON RICCO 06 (Heard once in 2012 version only.)
- Sound Ideas, RICOCHET - RICCO AND WHINE 04 (Heard once in the 2012 version only.)
- WB FALL, BODY - BODYFALL WITH GRUNT 01 (2012 version only.)
- WB FIRE HISS/WHOOSH SOUND (Heard for some fire trailing from biplanes in the 2012 version.)
- WB SIREN - STUKA SIREN HOWL (including various processed variants; 2012 version only.)