BRATTLEBORO — The first winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, Wings (1927, 180 minutes) will be shown at Epsilon Spires on Friday, Nov. 10; doors open at 7 p.m. This screening will feature live organ accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a renowned New England silent film accompanist, on Epsilon Spires's historic Estey pipe organ. There will be one intermission.
Wings tells the story of two World War I flying aces (Charles "Buddy" Rogers and Richard Arlen) who are rivals over the same woman (silent film superstar Clara Bow). It was one of the biggest productions of 1927, with a $2-million budget and aerial sequences that reportedly thrilled a public made aviation-conscious by Lindbergh's nonstop transatlantic solo flight - completed just three months before the film's premiere.
The film was the first big assignment for 30-year-old director William Augustus Wellman, who flew with the French Foreign Legion's famed Lafayette Flying Corps at the age of 19. Wellman, who suffered a near-fatal crash that broke his back in two places, insisted on extreme realism in the battle depictions, which led to technical innovations and effects that changed filmmaking forever and continue to mesmerize audiences today.
Almost all the aerial dogfights and battle sequences were done practically, with trench assaults featuring thousands of U.S. Army personnel as extras, Army attack planes in aerial shots, and live explosions simulating the effects of mortars and bombshells. Stunt pilots flew planes in convincing dives that trailed smoke and but did not actually crash. As the lead actors, Rogers and Arlen had to pilot airplanes, operate cameras, and act, all at the same time.
Released less than a decade after World War I ended, Wings offers a glimpse into the harrowing battles of the war and the resiliency of those who fought.
Rapsis is a writer/editor, educator, and composer, and specializes in creating live musical scores for silent film screenings. He has accompanied silent film programs in venues throughout New England since 2007.
He creates a set of original music in advance for each film, then improvises a score based on this material as the screening takes place. Outside New England, he has accompanied films at the New York Public Library's "Meet the Musicmakers" series and the Kansas Silent Film Festival. Rapsis has also provided original music for several silent film DVD releases and scored the independent feature film Dangerous Crosswinds (2005).
Tickets for this event are by sliding scale, $10 to $20, with free admission for veterans. Tickets are available for purchase at epsilonspires.org. Popcorn and refreshments(1) are included in the ticket price.
This The Arts item was submitted to The Commons.