Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe to Empire!
Save up to 63%
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
We're looking for reporters for the LFF
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Clara Bow
Charles Rogers
Richard Arlen
Jobyna Ralston.
William A Wellman.
Hope Loring
Louis D Lighton .
Running Time
139 minutes

4 Star Empire Rating
2 Star Empire Rating
2 Star Empire Rating
Intern, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Nightmare, The
3 Star Empire Rating

5 Star Empire Rating
Man With A Movie Camera
5 Star Empire Rating
Salt Of The Earth, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Song Of The Sea
5 Star Empire Rating
Look Of Silence, The
5 Star Empire Rating


submit to reddit

Mary Preston loves Jack Powell, despite his infatuation with Sylvia Lewis, who only has eyes for David Armstrong. However, their romantic rivalries pale when they enlist in the Army Air Corps during the First World War.


Having survived being shot down while serving with the Lafayette Esquadrille during the Great War, William A. Wellman was the ideal director for this pioneering aerial combat picture. Although it paid its dues to the contention that `war is hell', this was no pacifist tract like Rex Ingram's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or King Vidor's The Big Parade. Instead, it was a rousing adventure that sought to extoll the gallantry and chivalry of the pilots who had made military history over the trenches.
       In order to convey the viscerality of their derring-do, Wellman had cinematographer Harry Perry lash his cameras to the stunt planes to capture the terrifying perspective of a flyboy involved in a dog-fight, a bombing raid, the strafing of a stronghold or the pursuit and destruction of an enemy vehicle. Moreover, Wellman also employed the Magnascope widescreen process for the aerial sequences, which enhanced their sense of spectacle and realism. The Battle of St Mihiel was also meticulously staged, with Wellman spending 10 days choreographing and rehearsing his 60 planes and 3,500 extras. Indeed, veterans witnessing the first screenings anticipated the awed acclamations of authenticity that helped sell Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan some 70 years later.
       There's no question that these thrilling set-pieces helped Wings  secure the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture, as its storyline was lamentably novelettish and the acting inconsistent. El Brendel was typically embarrassing as the comic relief, while Richard Arlen's awkward inanimation was repeatedly emphasised by Charles `Buddy' Rogers's handsome exuberance.
          Yet Gary Cooper made a name for himself in a moving two-minute cameo, while Clara Bow produced a truly fascinating performance. Despite being top-billed, she essentially took a supporting role that contrasted sharply with the free-spirited flapper she had played in Clarence Badger's It. Yet, although she's mostly seen in sensible frocks and a nurse's uniform, Paramount was keen to cash in on her saucy image and, so, squeezed her into a plunging gown for the scene in which she poses as a Parisian floozie to spring the drunken Rogers from a military police cell.

Clara Bow is mesmerising in this ahead-of-its-tie air force drama.

Reviewed by David Parkinson

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Tomorrowland's Secrets Revealed
Brad Bird gives us an exclusive viewing guide

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

My Movie Life: Justin Kurzel
The Macbeth director on how Rocky changed his life and the worst ever date movie

Life On Mars: Trips To The Red Planet
A dozen of cinema's Martian misadventures

Hallowed Ground: Folk Horror In British Film
Ten tales from our island's dark past

All Hail Macbeth! The Scottish Play On Film
By the pricking of our thumbs, ten adaptations this way come(s)

10 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys You’ll Want To Own
Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)