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Wings (William A. Wellmann, 1927)

Two men in love with the same woman, but with very different backgrounds, become friends when they fly during WWI.
Apart from this getting the first Oscar, there were some surprisingly well done stunts - which I think might easily hold up today. However, I read on another website that many fighter pilots were out of luck after WWI and had to make a living performing very dangerous flight acrobatics on cheap machines that they bought for a few hundred bucks from the government. In that sense, those daredevils were in abundance when the film was made.
I thought it might prove interesting to look at the structure of a long silent film - Jack, the protagonist of the film, is in most scenes of the film. His two interests are David - friend and colleague pilot - and Mary - a girl that loves him, but he is in love with Sylvie, who loves David (but is only in the beginning and the end of the film).
The "friendship" story and the "love" story seem to run quite in parallel. David does not play a role in a large chunk in the middle of the film, where we focus entirely on the little rom-com style encounter of Mary and Jack in Paris.
Also, there are a lot of spectacular dog-fights in this movie. The audience who came for the love-story might have been quite bored by this. And vice-versa. But, never-the-less, the film was an enormous success - explained by Wikipedia with the huge amount of fascination with aviation at that particular time (1927).

 Scene vs time breakdown

Statistics of the different scenes (click for full view)

Detailed scene breakdown

Jack watches the plane, fixes his car. His neighbour Mary – clearly in love with him, comes over. But he doesn't want to be disturbed.
First Part - Setup
The car is named shooting star. But he doesn't kiss her as she hoped, but drives away.

David and Sylvia are obviously in love. But Jack has a huge crush on her, making him blind to see her infatuation with David.

Jack and David are in the recruitment office, they both get accepted to the air force.

Sylvia signs a photo to David, but Jack takes it thinking its for him. David is slightly jealous, but Sylvia promises him that she is his.

Jack gives Mary a very cold goodbye, shakes her hand is off. She also gives him a photo.

The goodbye at David's rich parents is way more restricted and formal. But the mother loses her façon and drops the table over. David finds a teddy bear and takes it.

First day at boot camp. Herman is some kind of joker, but a good american.

Training sequence in different forms. David and Jack often squabble. This ends up with a huge fight between both of them. David loses. But they become friends.

Mary decides to volunteer for the army.

Jack and David share the tent with another pilot (G. Cooper) who goes out for training flights. Jack doesn't want to give away to David what his secret mascot is. (Sylvie's photo)
Second Part – Inside the war
The witness an accident. Their tentmate has been killed. But soon after they are called for their first real flight.

The war goes on and on. And the forces are sucked into it. Some amazing montages here.

At their station in Europe now – Jack and David are called for their first flights: a dawn patrol.

The first flight sequence – the bump into the enemy (flying from right to left in the beginning) and a dogfight ensues.

Within the dogfight, David comes under pressure by a German pilot. And Jack has to land where he has to make an emergency landing.

Jack manages to get into one of the Britain trenches that is under strong artillery fire.

Mary has become a driver for ambulances in the war. (Comic insert)

One of the German heavy bombers 'Gotha' takes off escorted by two fighter planes. They are off to bomb Mervale.

Mary is busy in the village of Mervale, a little town where a lot of ammunition is stored.

Mary finds herself alone in Mervale, when the city is bombed. She tries to hide from the bombs under her car. She barely survives.

Jack and Daid attack the Gotha and the other fighters. Jack manages to bring the Gotha down.

Rewards go to Jack, David and the other pilots.


The soldiers are on leave in Paris. They are jubileed by the people there.
Third part - Paris
The army gets orders to get the pilots back.

Mary sees that David and Jack need to be rounded up again. She starts to search for them.

David and Jack party in a Paris nightclub (amazing sequence there with the camera floating over a bunch of tables)
Comical sequence involving bubbles (animated onto the final film)
Mary sees Jack kissing and is disappointed. But she goes to the table to win Jack's heart. Who is too drunk to even recognize her.

Mary cries in the bathroom. The woman working there gives her important advice. She helps her dressing up in a nightgown.

Looking more like a vamp, Mary manages to snatch Jack from the other girl.

They go into a hotel room. But Jack is way too gone to make any advances, nor understand where he actually is. Eventually he passes out.

The M.P.s are roaming the halls of the hotel, cancelling all leaves.

When Mary finds that Jack kept Sylvie's photo as a souvenir, she breaks down crying. As she wants to put on her uniform again the M.P. enter the room. Sexual relations between soldiers are not allowed, so Mary will be sent home.

Jack and David are back on the battlefield. Jack shows David the photo he carries of Sylvie. David tries to hide the writing on the back from Jack and they end up fighting. But they are interrupted for battle. David forgets his mascot.

A scene on the road. A battalion is attacked by a German zeppelin.
Most memorable scene: A sitting soldier dies, still smoking a cigarette.
David tries to support Jack, who is in jeopardy in the air. Jack manages to reach his target, two floating balloons. But David has disappeared in the clouds.

David is injured by a shot and forced to crash land his plane in a river. He survives just to be shot at by the army.

David hides in the night behind eneymy lines – Jack feeling bad about him being lost – The battle reaches its climax. But then the airfield is attacked.
Short sequences.
Main attacker is nobody less than the famous German Kellermann – but he brings a message saying that David was shot down and is dead.

The battle rages on – a large offensive has started. The pilots all fly off together.
Epic scenes, lots of extras. And a load of take-off scenes and formation flights.
Jack flies to the river where David was shot down – to take revenge. He shoots at a regiment building a bridge. During the battle he goes on a bloody revenge rampage.

David is stumbling through a small stream, looking for a way out. He comes unto a German airfield. He steals a machine and flies away under the shots of the surprised Germans.

The Germans are fleeing, while they are mercilessly hunted by the fighter planes.

Jack is heading home when he sees the lonely German plane (with David in it) – in the ensuing dogfight Jack shoots David. His plane crashes into a house.

Jack comes unto the dying pilot and realizes his horrible mistake. They embrace and David dies.

Jack loads his friend's body on a little cart and takes him back to the airfield.

Jack finds the letter that Sylvie has written to David.

Jack, the hero, is welcomed back in his hometown. David's family watches in grief.

Jack comes to David's family. His parents confront him in deadly silence. He returns the teddy bear and the medal. Jack is granted forgiveness.

Jack unveils his old sports car the “Shooting Star”. Mary is on the other side of the hedge. He is happy to see her.

At night, he confesses a confused memory of her somewhere in Paris. They watch the night sky, and after a shooting star falls, they kiss.


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