Anyone who doubts that silent films can be just as engrossing as those newfangled “talkies” needs to see Wings, an early buddies-go-to-war story that still echoes in today’s movies.
Mary (Clara Bow) and Jack (Charles Rogers) grew up next door to each other in small-town America. Mary is hopelessly in love with Jack, but he has eyes only for Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston), sophisticated city girl. Reluctant to break his heart, she doesn’t crush Jack’s belief that she loves him in return — but she’s actually mad for David (Richard Arlen), son of the richest family in town. David has the hots for Sylvia, too, which means that David and Jack are not exactly the best of friends.
But it’s 1917, and America has just joined the Great War. Jack and David head off to the front, eager to become pilots, and surprise themselves by striking up a friendship in ground school. The young, brash Jack and the older, more serious Dave are a perfect team — in fact, despite the girls waiting for them back home, Wings’ biggest romance is between Jack and Dave (think Luke Skywalker and Han Solo), the kind of intense male friendship that movies rarely depict anymore. Dave would probably do anything for Luke — er, I mean, Jack — without jealousy Dave even listens politely to Jack’s gushing over a picture of lovely Sylvia and protects Jack from discovering the truth about Sylvia’s feelings.
The special effects — aerial bombing of a French village, German zeppelins exploding in midair, spectacular crashes of biplanes — would be incredible even today, and you’ll see the influence of Wings’ thrilling dogfights in such movies as Top Gun and Star Wars. The scenes of the Big Push — the combined air and ground battles of the last big Allied offensive — are sure to remind you of The Empire Strikes Back’s Battle of Hoth and much of Saving Private Ryan.
A story of friendship, redemption, love, and the ironies of war, Wings remains just as powerful today as it must have been in 1927.
Oscars Outstanding Picture 1927/28
unforgettable movie moment:
A cameo by Gary Cooper as a pilot, oozing sensuality in his one little scene and just as delicious as he was in later movies.
next Best Picture:
1928/29: The Broadway Melody