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Road Trip, day ten
Mar 15, 2012
So I know things have been a bit slow here at the My Year With Oscar project lately. My computer totally crapped out, and it's kinda hard to type things and post them on the net with no computer. I've had to dig out my old Toshiba, which seems absolutely old school, so in keeping with the old school nature we turn to the very first Oscar winner, Wings.
In the idyllic days before American entry into The War to End all Wars, Mary loves Jack, who owns a really fast car. Jack loves Sylvia who is from a big city. Sylvia is in love with David, the rich guy in town, and as far as we know, he feels the same about her.
When they sign up and head off to basic training, David and Jack dislike each other at first, but eventually grow to like each other. After ground school and flight school, they get to Europe and get into battle, with David's gun jamming on him and Jack's fuel line shot out. Things go better the next time around as Jack and David hop into their biplanes to stop an attack from a bomber. For that they get decorated and get leave in Paris, where they get rip roaring drunk, and run into Mary, who is driving an ambulance. Jack doesn't know it's Mary. He just knows that he's seeing bubbles, and he likes bubbles. Eventually MP's show up and see Mary in a state of undress in a hotel room with a passed out Jack, so she is shipped back to the States, while he is shipped back to the front for a major Allied offensive.
During an attack on a German scout balloon the next day, Dave is shot down, but not killed. Everyone thinks he is though, and Jack goes out the next morning and leaves the formation to go all Rambo on a German regiment advancing towards the front. Meanwhile Dave is all right, though behind enemy lines, and stumbles across the German airfield where he steals a German plane and goes all Rambo on the Luftwaffe. This does not end well, however, as Jack sees the German markings on the plane Dave is flying and shoots him down, killing him.
Don't be scared away by the fact that this is a silent movie. The fact that the producers couldn't rely on dialogue meant they had to rely on action, and there is plenty of it. The dog fighting scenes are well done, although it can get confusing as to who's German and who's American up in the air. A lot of the shooting onboard the planes was done by mechanized cameras mounted in front of the actors who actually were flying, which makes things very realistic. To help matters, Richard Arlen, who played Dave, actually was a World War I pilot. Charles Rogers played Jack (not that Charles Rogers) and though he didn't know how to fly a plane when shooting began, he learned. Clara Bow plays Mary, and even though she never actually had an orgy with the entire USC football team, she was coming off the immense popularity of It and had the biggest name of anyone in the cast. Her character here is far more innocent than the rumors of her off-screen life, and the scene in the hotel room with Jack comes about because she is trying to sober him up enough to report for duty, not because she wants to get in his pants. The misconception the MP's have about the situation however might be a sly joke about the difference between the real Bow and what the general public thought. It's also a good scene because Jack waxes poetic about the beauty of bubbles, and lends quite a humorous diversion to the proceedings.
In their first shot at handing out awards, the Academy didn't quite know what to do. There were three movies that stood out, and Oscars were given to each of them. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans won for Unique and Artistic Production, Wings won for Best Production, and Jazz Singer won an honorary award for changing everything about movies. The Academy didn't think it was possible to differentiate between these movies, and though they seem to not be as shy about that type of thing now, had they tried to make a choice, I'm not sure Wings is the one they should have gone with. Jazz Singer was going to make waves because it was a talkie, but it's a great movie on top of that. The advent of sound is incorporated wonderfully into the storyline, as it is actually a silent movie, until Al Jolson's character, Jack, steps onto the stage and belts out a song, then tells the audience "You aint heard nothing yet." Jazz Singer is legitimately good, and though Wings is quite good as well, Jazz Singer is a bit better.