Wings: The First Best Picture Oscar Winner

Here is a review of “Wings”, a 1927 film that won the first Academy Award for “Outstanding Picture”, as the Best Picture award was then known. The award ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, at a private dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California, hosted by Douglas Fairbanks who also presented the award to Clara Bow, its female star.

“Wings” was the only silent movie to win the Best Picture Oscar until “The Artist” (2011) won in 2012. Some people dispute this, saying “The Artist” shouldn’t be considered a slient film because it contained dialogue, but that’s like saying “Dreamgirls” (2006) isn’t a musical because it contained dialogue, isn’t it?

Much of the film was based on the experiences of director William A. Wellman as a combat pilot during World War I. The real Battle of Saint-Mihiel took place from from September 12-15 in 1918. The United States Army Air Service (which later became the United States Air Force) played a significant role in the battle.

The other contenders at the 1929 awards were also silent films:

  • “The Racket” (1928), a crime film produced by Howard Hughes,
    directed by Lewis Milestone; and
  • “7th Heaven “(1927), a romance produced by William Fox,
    directed by Frank Borzage.

In this youtube review, the young reviewer says that he, like many people, wasn’t particularly interested in watching silent films, but after becoming acquainted with the work of Charlie Chaplin, he fell in love with the genre.

Now we’re not showing you this to get you to fall in love with silent films. We just want you to know what motion picture won the first Academy Award, and some basic information about it in case you’re watching Jeopardy! or planning to go on the show.

Here are some Jeopardy clues that have mentioned “Wings”:
HISTORY FROM HOLLYWOOD $200: 1927’s “Wings” features great dogfight scenes set in this war.
SILENT MOVIES $500: The 1st film to win an Oscar as “Best Picture”, it starred Clara Bow & featured Hedda Hopper.
THE ROARING ’20s $600: In 1929 this film about 2 WWI fighter pilots in love with the same girl won the first best picture Oscar.
THE SILENT SCREEN $1200: Gary Cooper had a small role as a cadet in this first Best Picture winner about 2 flyers in love with the same girl.

And 3 clues on the film’s director:
IN-FLIGHT MOVIES $600: William Wellman, who’d served in the Lafayette Escadrille Flying Corps, directed this first Best Picture winner
SILENT MOVIES $600: William Wellman, who directed this first Oscar winner, about WWI, was a veteran of aerial combat
SILENT MOVIE DIRECTORS $600: Although best known for his sound films, William Wellman directed this 1st Best Picture winner.

In 2012, Paramount issued a “meticulously restored” version for DVD and Blu-ray if you do want to see it. The film features a brief scene with a topless Clara Bow. Hedda Hopper, by the way, had already been appearing in films since 1916 and did not start writing her gossip column until 1938.

List of Best Picture Oscars (20s-40s)

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