4 Shots From 4 Inaugural Oscar Winners: Wings, Sunrise, The Last Command, Seventh Heaven


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today is the 90th anniversary of the very first Academy Awards ceremony!

On May 16th, 1929, a private dinner was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California.  The dinner was largely meant to celebrate the establishment of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  The brainchild of Louis B. Mayer, the AMPAS was founded to help mediate labor disputes between the studios and the unions.  As almost an afterthought, it was decided that AMPAS would also give out annual awards to honor the best films of the year.

12 awards were handed out on May 16th, before an audience of 270 people.  The entire awards ceremony took 15 minutes.  That’s quite a contrast to what the Academy eventually became.

In honor of that 15-minute ceremony, here’s….

4 Shots From 4 Films Honored At The Very First Oscar Ceremony

Wings (1927, dir by William Wellman) Won The Outstanding Production Awards

Sunrise (1927, dir by F.W. Murnau) Won Best Unique and Artistic Picture

The Last Command (1928, dir by Josef von Sternberg) Won Best Actor — Emil Jannings

Seventh Heaven (1927, dir by Frank Borzage) Winner Best Actress — Janet Gaynor

Along with her performance in Seventh Heaven, Janet Gaynor was also honored for her work in Street Angel and Sunrise.  Emil Jannings was honored for his work in both The Last Command and The Way of all Flesh,

Here’s what else won at the inaugural Oscar ceremony:

Best Direction, Comedy Picture — Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Knights

Best Direction, Drama Picture — Frank Borzage for Seventh Heaven

Best Original Story — Ben Hecht for Underworld

Best Adaptation — Benjamin Glazer for Seventh Heaven, based on the play by Austin Strong

Best Art Direction — William Cameron Menzies for The Dove and Tempest

Best Cinematography — Charles Rosher and Karl Struss for Sunrise

Best Engineering Effects — Roy Pomeroy for Wings

Best Title Writing — Joseph Farnham for Fair Co-Ed; Laugh, Clown, Laugh; and Telling the World.

4 Shots From 4 Clara Bow Films: It, Wings, Dangerous Curves, Call Her Savage


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Happy birthday to my pre-code role model, the amazing Clara Bow!

4 Shots From 4 Clara Bow Films

It (1927, dir by Clarence G. Badger)

Wings (1928, dir by William Wellman)

Dangerous Curves (1929, dir by Lothar Mendes)

Call Her Savage (1932, dir by John Francis Dillon)

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Dancing Mothers, It, Wings, The Wild Party


Happy birthday, Clara Bow!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dancing Mothers (1926, dir by Herbert Brenon)

It (1927, directed by Clarence Badger)

Wings (1927, dir by William Wellman)

The Wild Party (1929, dir by Dorothy Arzner)

Embracing the Melodrama, Part II: Wings (dir by William Wellman)


Wings

As I mentioned in my previous review, Sunrise may have won the 1927 Oscar for Unique and Artistic Production but the official winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture was the silent World War I romantic melodrama, Wings.  Wings is one of those films that doesn’t seem to get much respect from contemporary critics, many of whom are quick to dismiss the film as being corny and clichéd.  It’s not unusual to see Wings cited as being the first example of the Academy honoring the wrong film.

Wings tells the story of David Armstrong (Richard Arlen) and Jack Powell (Charles “Buddy” Rogers), who both live in the same small town and who are both in love with the pretty but self-centered Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston).  Sylvia, meanwhile, is in love with the wealthy David but, when Jack asks for a picture of her, she gives him one that she had been planning to eventually give to David.  Meanwhile, Mary (Clara Bow), who is literally the girl next door, pines for Jack.

When World War I breaks out, both Jack and David join the Air Force.  At first they’re rivals but, under the pressure of combat and the threat of constant death, they become friends.  When David flies, he has a tiny teddy bear to bring him luck.  Jack, meanwhile, has Sylvia’s picture.  Meanwhile, their tentmate — Cadet White (Gary Cooper) — insists that he doesn’t need any good luck charms and promptly suffers the consequences for upsetting God.

Meanwhile, Mary has joined the war effort and is driving an ambulance around Europe.  Will Mary ever be able to convince Jack that they belong together?  Will David ever catch the legendary German pilot, Kessler?  Perhaps most importantly, will this new bromance be able to survive both war and the charms of Clara Bow?  And finally, will anyone be surprised when all of this leads to a tragic conclusion with an ironic twist?

Wings has got such a bad reputation and is so frequently dismissed as being the first case of the Academy picking spectacle over quality that I was actually shocked when I watched it and discovered that Wings is actually a pretty good movie.  Yes, it is totally predictable.  Every possible war film cliche can be found in Wings.  (From the minute that handsome and confident Gary Cooper announced that he didn’t need any lucky charms, I knew he was doomed.)  And yes, the film does run long and it does feature a totally out-of-place subplot involving a character played by someone named El Brendel (who was apparently a popular comedian at the time).  This is all true but, still, Wings works when taken on its own terms.

Here’s the thing with Wings: the aerial footage is still impressive (all the more so for being filmed without the benefit of CGI) and both Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Richard Arlen are handsome and appealing in a 1927 silent film sort of way.  In fact, the entire film is appealing in a 1927 silent film sort of way.  This is a time capsule, one that shows what films were like in the 20s and, as a result of the combat scenes, also provides a hint of what lay in the future for the film industry.  Most importantly, Wings features Clara Bow, who has been my silent film girl crush ever since I first saw It.  Whether she’s attempting to flirt with the clueless Rogers or hiding underneath her ambulance and shouting curses at the Germans flying above her, Clara brings a lot of life to every scene in which she appears.

If you’re a film historian, Wings is one of those films that you simply have to see and, fortunately for you, it’s actually better than you may have been led to think.

It’s currently available on Netflix.

 

James Bond Review: Live and Let Die (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


One year and one day ago the very first James Bond film to star Sir Roger Moore, Live and Let Die, in the title role was reviewed by Lisa Marie, and now it’s time to revisit the eight official film in the series.

With the previous Bond entry, Diamonds Are Forever, we finally see Sean Connery run out of gas when it came to playing the title role of James Bond. Yet, despite the obvious boredom Connery was having in the film the producers of the series were still wanting him to come back for another Bond film. Maybe it was his experience during the production of Diamonds Are Forever or Connery finally decided it was truly time to go the series’ producers didn’t get their wish and were in a rush to find someone new to wear the mantle o Agent 007.

They finally found their new James Bond in the form of English-actor Roger Moore and production on Live and Let Die began soon after.

Roger Moore, for me, has always been the start of the less serious, but much more fun era of the James Bond franchise. His films still had the intrigue and action of the Connery-era, but the writers and producers of the series put in more one-liners and humor in the story. We begin to see the start of this in the previous Bond film (not handled as well and came off as awkward at times), but it was in Live and Let Die and in Roger Moore that this change in the series’ tone finally hit it’s stride.

The film dials back the global domination attempts by the series of villians both SPECTRE and not. This time around Bond must investigate the deaths of three MI6 agents who had been investigating one Dr. Kananga, the despot of the fictitious Caribbean island of San Monique. Kananga (played by Yaphet Kotto) also has an alter-ego in the form of Mr. Big who runs a series of soul food restaurants as a front for his drug business. Every Bond film always tries to out-elaborate the previous one with it’s villains plans. There’s no attempts by Kananga/Big to dominate the world. His plans are pretty capitalistic in a ruthless sort of way. He wants to corner the drug market in the US by flooding the illegal drug market with his own heroin which he plans to give away for free thus bankrupting the other crime lords and drug dealers.

This plan by Kananga actually looks to be very sound and it helps that he has the beautiful seer Solitaire (played by a young and beautiful Jane Seymour) to help him outwit ad stay ahead of his competitors and the law. His plan would’ve succeeded if not for the meddling of one British super-spy named James Bond.

Live and Let Die might not have been as serious about it’s story as the early Connery films, but it definitely had a much more faster pace with more action to distinguish Moore from Connery. One particular famous action sequence involves Bond escaping from Kananga’s drug farm in the Louisiana Bayou country being chased not just by Kananga’s henchmen but by the local police in the form of Sheriff J.W. Pepper who plays the role of fool and comedy relief in the film. Even the smaller action scenes in the film had more life and fun to them like Bond escaping a gator pit by timing a run across the backs of a line of gators to safety.

Where the previous bond film’s attempt at injecting humor and more action into the story were more failures than successes in this film Roger Moore Bond film they worked in due part to Moore’s playful delivery of the one-liners and bon mots the role has become known for of late. Any trepidation that audiences and producers might have had about  Moore taking on the role that had been made famous by Connery  soon went away as this film played out.

Live and Let Die still remains my favorite of all the Roger Moore Bond films and saw it as the highlight of his time playing the character. While the follow-up films were good in their own right it was this initial Moore entry in the series where the writers, Moore and veteran Bond filmmaker Guy Hamilton were able to find the perfect balance of thrilling action and humor that the rest of the Moore-era films couldn’t replicate.

Next up for James Bond…The Man with the Golden Gun.

Song of the Day: Live and Let Die (by Paul McCartney and Wings)


Lisa Marie recently wrote up her very unique review of the James Bond film Live and Let Die and I’ve decided to use that review as the springboard for the latest “Song of the Day” entry. It’s easy enough to figure out that the latest choice is the similarly titled song from the film by Paul McCartney: “Live and Let Die”.

This song remains one of the most recognizable songs made specifically for a film. Most songs that become part of a film’s appeal tend to be pre-existing licensed songs and music. Live and Let Die would be the first James Bond film that would introduce Roger Moore as the British superspy and 007 agent. The song itself, written by Paul McCartney and his wife Linda, would become even more popular than the film through the years.

While the song has been covered by many bands and groups through the years it would be the cover by Guns N’ Roses in 1991 as part of their Use Your Illusion I album that many consider the best cover. I consider both favorite songs of mine, but I must pick McCartney’s original over the GnR cover by the smallest of margins.

Live and Let Die

When you were young
and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
you know you did
you know you did
you know you did
But if this ever changin’ world
in which we live in
Makes you give in and cry
Say live and let die
Live and let die

What does it matter to ya
When ya got a job to do
Ya got to do it well
You got to give the other fella hell

You used to say live and let live
you know you did
you know you did
you know you did
But if this ever changin’ world
in which we live in
Makes you give in and cry
Say live and let die
Live and let die