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  1. The reviews I've read about "Wings" (1927) justifiably rave about the air sequences, many of which were filmed from *above*. I've now seen this film three times, and I just cannot agree with the critics who dismiss the "land plot" as being maudlin - critics are looking at this groundbreaking motion picture through a modern lens. Yes, it's all been done now thousands of times, but I'd love to transport myself back, 87 years ago, and view the thrill of the audiences watching this motion picture marvel. See the restored 2012 version if you can, unless you're an absolute purist who must listen to Bach's keyboard works only on harpsichord. There are two reasons I've seen this three times: one is my OCD which compels me to watch, in sequence, every single Academy Award winning film (even though the awards themselves mean virtually nothing to me now); the other is that it's just a great movie. A true epic that has it all, and despite its nearly two-and-a-half-hour length, isn't the least bit boring despite being silent - I would advise making it a two-day project unless you're known for patience. It's a misprint to say this movie "stars" Gary Cooper, as he appears on screen for less than three minutes, but you can tell that he has quite a screen presence, even from this tiny sample. Despite Clara Bow's fame, she adds very little to this film except for star power (she was the biggest star in Hollywood at the time), and in fact, my favorite character is a relatively minor contra-antagonist: the German flying ace Count von Kellerman, who only appears in two extremely short scenes - less than a minute each - and yet embodies everything about human decency, chivalry, and respect - this, despite him being a portrait of Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron). It was an incredibly bold, sympathetic portrayal of a man many Americans at the time still detested (after all, the war ended less than ten years before, and von Richthofen registered over eighty (!) kills). Watch it and you'll see what I mean (and if anyone wants to make a case for Richard Arlen being the true star of the movie, you'll get absolutely no argument from me).
  2. I always had a crush on Clara Bow (until I saw her first "talkie"), the "It" Girl, who starred in a film pretty much named after her: "It", a silent film from 1927 (note that Bow also starred in the very 1st Academy Award Winner for Best Picture: "Wings" (also from 1927) - which I've seen twice now, and highly recommend despite its length) - the action scenes in the air are really quite something, and not just for students of film. One funny thing I noticed this evening was in a clip from "It": and I wonder if it's possible that this is the first time anyone ever cursed on the big screen. I'm not sure, but I think maybe. In the very good article, "Scandals of Hollywood: Clara Bow, "˜It' Girl" by Anne Helen Peterson on thehairpin.com, there's a clip about 25% of the way down the page entitled "Clara Bow Dresses For Dinner." At exactly 3:15 in the clip, she gets poked in the shoulder with a pair of scissors, and then, after bouncing up and down a couple times, turns to her right, and seems to say, "Shit!" to the girl who poked her. It's subtle, and you have to watch it a few times in slow motion, but if true (and I think it is), it makes cinematic history for the first time a curse word was captured on screen. At the very least, it makes for a good urban legend. Not to mention that Clara could then be (amiably) called the "Shit Girl." (Readers: I don't care if you reproduce this little mini-scandal - just please link to this post and give me credit for finding it. And if you want to know how I did ... it's probably exactly what I would have said, so that's why I noticed! Cheers, Don Rockwell). Update: I also found the use of profanity in "Wings" (also from 1927). So, whichever one was released first takes home the prize!
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