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Curator's Choice Video Collection

Cradle of Aviation Museum Historian and Curator, Josh Stoff, curates interesting short YouTube videos and provides commentary.

Virtual Museum Home > Curator's Choice > Wings ‘Dogfight’

Wings ‘Dogfight’
YouTube Channel: S&N Editor, posted Sept 27, 2014

Wings was a 1927 American silent war film starring Clara Bow and Buddy Rogers. The film, a romantic action-war picture, was directed by William Wellman, as he had combat experience as a pilot in World War One. Filmed at Kelly Field in Texas, over the course of nine months, the film had a huge budget for its time ($2 million) and featured thousands of extras and up to 300 pilots. The Army Air Service supported the film and supplied most of the aircraft seen.

Acclaimed for its technical prowess and realism upon release, the film became the yardstick against which future aviation films were measured, mainly because of its realistic air combat scenes. Wings was an immediate success upon release and went on to win the first Academy Award for Best Picture, the only silent film to do so.

For many years Wings was considered a ‘lost film’ until 1992 when a print was found in a French film archive and quickly copied from original nitrate film to safety film and later digital. In 1997, Wings was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally and aesthetically significant’. 

Fortunately for us, this film was made so long ago that only actual aircraft were used, unlike modern aviation films that rely almost entirely on digital creations. In this scene, the ‘German’ aircraft are Curtiss P-1 Hawks, an Army fighter designed and first produced in Garden City, NY, and based at Mitchel Field in the late 1920s. The original aircraft hangars at Mitchel Field are now home to the Cradle of Aviation Museum,

Now let's have a look at this thrilling scene from the best picture of 1927 – Wings.