Archive for Wings

The Sunday Intertitle: Uncle Oscar

Posted in FILM with tags , , on March 4, 2018 by dcairns

 

There was a vague plan to go round to our chum Nicola’s to watch the Oscars. Which could have worked, as the teacher’s strike means I don’t have to be at work Monday morning. But Nicola has moved to palatial new accommodations in Glasgow, and snow is still general over Scotland, and the idea of staying up all night, even in good company, to watch the self-congratulatory meat parade and then traveling back the next morning… too much ugh.

 

Intertitles are from WINGS, which won Best Picture before that category was invented, as most sources would have it. Clearly, Outstanding Picture means Best Picture, and this is why the Best Picture award goes to a film’s producer/s. Image is from SUNRISE, which won Best Unique and Artistic Picture… and the producer picked that one up too. My interp, arrived at this second, is that both those films should be listed as the first Best Pictures.

You can see why they combined the two awards: each winner might feel slighted. “You mean my picture is Unique and Artistic but not Outstanding?” “What, so my picture is Outstanding, but it’s not Unique and Artistic?”

The Sunday Intertitle: Powder Puff Girl

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2016 by dcairns

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Well, let’s see, we watched SHAUN THE SHEEP – THE MOVIE, which was wordless (apart from song lyrics) but had no intertitles. It was very good, though.

I did a little silent viewing for my work on POW!!! — Origin Story, the talk I’m presenting at Edinburgh International Film Festival on Thursday afternoon. It’s the first event after the opening gala, so no pressure or anything. But I’m kind of saving up any observations on those movies for the talk — I can reuse them here afterwards, perhaps.

Otherwise, WINGS was probably the last silent we watched, having been a tad distracted. So here’s the first intertitle I found, diving into THE SOPHOMORE, a 1929 Leo McCarey college comedy.

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“He’s the prettiest girl on the football team,” was the slogan for this one, owing to the fact that star Eddie Quillan plays ball but also drags up for the college show. The movie was released as a talkie, but only the silent version is known to survive. This didn’t stop the late F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre reviewing the sound version on the IMDb. I guess we’ll never know if ANY of his reviews of lost films were genuine. This one certainly seems like it could be the product of research and guesswork rather than eyewitness analysis.

Bromance of the Skies

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2016 by dcairns

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“Noooooooooo, no, no, silent film, stop!” cried Fiona, at the umpteenth pyrotechnic stunt sequence unspooled in William Wellman’s WINGS — not so much death-defying as death-inviting. Wellman himself spoke about blowing up real people instead of dummies by mistake, and everything we see in his impressive but alarming battle scenes supports the idea that dangerous stuff was going down on location. As James Mason said of the director, “He was a tough bastard but I liked him. He shot real bullets and stuff.”

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Just a little to your left, El Brendel. A little more. A little more.

DIALECT COMEDIAN SLAIN BY PROPELLER BLADE

All this mayhem and they failed to extirpate El Brendel! He has far too much screen time in this one, which is to say you can see him in a non-subliminal fashion. But at least you can’t hear him. And he’s not as cutesy as usual — I guess either Wellman whipped it out of him or he hadn’t acquired all of his bad habits yet (he had scores of them — in El Brendel’s native tongue there are fifty-seven words for “simpering” and forty for “smirking at your own unfunny material”. Incomprehensibly, Wellman had introduced this smug man-imp to the screen in YOU NEVER KNOW WOMEN, which he does his best to ruin, and yet chose to give him employment again. I can only assume he was hoping a stray bullet would do cinema a service.

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Elsewhere, homoeroticism abounds between Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Richard Arlen, with twin beards Clara Bow and the unfortunately-named Jobyna Ralston sidelined so effectively that one disappears completely apart from two shots and a photograph, and the other spends most of the film not catching up with her beau, who is drunk and completely indifferent to her when she does appear. The male kiss and embrace at the end is still pretty surprising, and Wellman seems to have spent the rest of his life disavowing it — his autobiography, A Time for Madness, might as well have been subtitled I Ain’t No Fuckin’ Queer, so constant is the refrain.

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Later, Clara puts on a spangly dress to look sexy — but — she really doesn’t need to.

“It’s a strange mix of glamour and excitement and tragedy,” Fiona observed afterwards, impressed by such harsh details as a boot stomping out a cigarette fallen from a dead man’s lips. “How would you describe it?”

Well, it’s written by one WWI aviator (John Monk Saunders, credited with story) and directed by another. It’s a dazzling Hollywood fantasy made by people who knew the reality. And the reality keeps bleeding through.