AN EPIC OF THE AIR.
When the United States enters World War I, two young men (Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Richard Arlen) from the same small town, one rich and the other poor, join the Air Service as fighter pilots. The first film to win an Oscar was in its day an expensive, celebrated spectacle that aimed to showcase Clara Bow as the star, but ended up being remembered primarily for its technically advanced combat footage, directed by William Wellman, a WWI veteran, who demanded perfection. The film is predictable and melodramatic (with a silly sequence in Paris involving a lot of champagne and bubbles…), but painted on a large canvas and still entertaining.
1927-U.S. Silent. 139 min. B/W. Produced by Lucien Hubbard. Directed by William A. Wellman. Screenplay: Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton. Story: John Monk Saunders. Cinematography: Harry Perry. Cast: Clara Bow (Mary Preston), Charles “Buddy” Rogers (Jack Powell), Richard Arlen (David Armstrong), Jobyna Ralston, Gary Cooper, El Brendel.
Oscars: Best Picture, Engineering Effects.
Last word: “[Wellman] was bugging my grandfather [producer B.P. Schulberg] every day, saying he was the guy to direct this movie. My grandmother said, ‘You’re out of your mind. They’ll never let that happen. This is a big movie. You’re too small.’ He bugged him every day, day in, day out. And part of the reason they thought Bill Wellman was crazy was because when he got shot down, they put a metal plate in his head, and he famously said, ‘I’m the one to direct this movie, and you’ve just got to convince the people in New York that I’m the guy for the job.’ And my grandfather reportedly said, ‘If I tell them you’re the guy to direct this movie, they’re going to think we both have metal plates in our heads.’ But at the end of the day, my grandfather was kind of a gambler and he convinced Paramount to give him a shot.” (K.C. Schulberg, Sarasota Film Festival)