Release Date: August 12, 1927
Director: William A. Wellman
Production Company: Famous Players – Lasky
A big budget war epic and romance featuring the biggest star of the era? This movie is totally Oscar bait! Except the Academy Awards didn’t exist when this movie was made and it would win the first Best Picture award at a ceremony in 1929. Clara Bow is the big star of this movie, and while it’s clear that here role is awkwardly shoehorned into an existing story, she’s a delight every time she’s on the screen. I found myself crushing hard on a woman born before my grandparents!
The story focuses on Jack (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) a young man who tinkers with engines and is enthralled with the local beauty Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston). Meanwhile, his neighbor Mary (Bow) is in love with him, but he’s oblivious to her attentions. Sylvia is in fact all but betrothed to David (Richard Arlen). When the war comes, both Jack and David enlist in the Army Air Force, and after some initial tension at training camp they become good friends and ace pilots. Meanwhile, Mary does her part for the war effort as an ambulance driver.
The love “quadrangle” is central to the melodramatic plot of the film. But there’s also quite a bit of humor. El Brendel plays a character named Herman Schwimpf who consistently is challenged on his German name and thus demonstrates his over-the-top pugnacity for the American war effort (but then he disappears about half through, so I guess they ran out of gags for him). In an extended scenes in Paris, Jack gets intoxicated on leave and comically goes on about the bubbles in champagne (which are animated on the screen) while Mary attempts to get him to his room to sleep. But really, this movie is about airplanes flying and shooting and one another, and the scenes of aerial combat are really quite remarkable over 90 years later.