In the beginning...She Blinded Me With Silents (Post 12 of 12)
|Clara Bow in Wings
I just finished reading Bill Bryson's book One Summer: 1927. Bryson pieces together the important events that were happening in the United States at that time: Prohibition, Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge the great Mississipi flood, the Roots of the Great Despression and at the center of it all the young pilot Charles Lindbergh, who became the most famous man on earth that summer.
Bryson also talks about the movies of that year and I realized I hadn't seen the two movies that won the first ever Academy Award that won the best picture Oscar that year. I say two because, William Wellman' Wings won the Best Picture Production Oscar and F. W. Murnau's Sunrise: the Story of Two Humans won the Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production. So there were essentially two Best Picture winners that year and they were very different from each other.
Wings is a high adventure thriller often set in the front of a plane doing battle during World War I. Bryson points out that "to the astonishment of everyone he (Director William Wellman) made one of the most intelligent, moving and thrilling pictures ever made." The movie was big budgeted and seemed like a big gamble, but the story of two American pilots who start as enemies and end up as best friends and battle in the air over the skies of Europe proved to be a huge hit.
'Many people went to Wings to not thrill at the aerial acrobatics, but gaze in admiration at its female lead, Clara Bow."-Bill Bryson
The two buddies are played by Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen, but the top billed star of the production was actually the biggest female star in Hollywood, Clara Bow (Rin Tin Tin the German Shepherd was the biggest male star). You could say that Bow's part of the girlfriend of Buddy Rogers probably should have just been a supporting role. Since she's such the biggest name here, it seems like there are a couple of scenes with Bow that are just thrown in. But I really didn't mind. I found Bow so charismatic, I actually wish she had had more to do. It's easy to see why she was such a big star, even if for only a short time.
|Al Jolson sings for his Mammy in The Jazz Singer.
"The Jazz Singer was by no means the first sound movie. It wasn't even the first talking picture-but that was a nicety lost on its adoring audiences. For most people, The Jazz Singer would be the picture that made talking pictures real."-Bill Bryson
The story is about Jack Robin (Al Jolson) who forsakes singing in the synagogue for his Rabbi father to embark upon a career in show business. Though much clumsier than the other two films listed above, the artistry of any silent picture simply couldn't compete with Al Jolson singing "Toot Toot Tootsie" or "My Gal Sal." It really is a silent movie (very heavy on the cue cards) with a few songs and some dialogue here and there. It's entertaining in an antiquated way and the movie's relationship between Jack and his parents does have some moving moments.
One thing for sure, movies were never the same.