Sunday, May 15, 2011

Movie Moments: #31

(Click on images to enlarge)

Wings  (1927)

Two men, friends but both in love with the same girl, enlist in the US Air Force during World War 1 and are sent to France for combat. Famed “It Girl” Clara Bow plays another girl, the neighbour of one of the men, who is deeply in love with him, notwithstanding that he is unaware of her love.

British Soldier: Hello Yank, welcome to a very merry little war. And now how about a wee drop for the King and Uncle Sam?

The reason that this film is the subject of today’s Movie Moments is that it chalked up a memorable number of awards and firsts:

• first film to win Best Picture Academy Award

• the only silent film to win Best Picture

• the first movie to depict an onscreen kiss between two men (on the cheek, in a death scene)

• one of the first widely released films to show nudity – Clara Bow’s breasts can be seen for a second during a bedroom scene in which she has put one of the men, who is drunk and incapacitated, to bed, then changes clothes. There is no sexual activity. There is also a scene in which men undergoing physical exams can be seen nude from behind through an open door. The movie came out just before the 1927 Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America “List of Dont’s and Be Carefuls” was released, one of the Don’ts being not to show licentious or suggestive nudity

Clara Bow in Wings

Bonus  Trivia:
Clara Bow (1905-1965) was an American silent film actress and the first American sex symbol of the modern age who came to personify the Roaring Twenties, appearing in 46 silent films and 11 talkies. She was so popular that movies in which she appeared were guaranteed of success. At her peak she was receiving 45,000 fan letters per week.

Bow became known as the “It” Girl from a 1927 movie titled It, in which a character tries to define what “It” is:
"It ... that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes ... a purely virile quality ... belonging to a strong character ... entirely unselfconscious ... full of self-confidence ... indifferent to the effect ... producing and uninfluenced by others". "Beauty is unnecessary". "Conceit or self-consciousness", however, "destroys "It" immediately".
This prompted wit Dorothy Parker to comment "It, hell. She had Those".

Rumours and innuendo of sexual promiscuity, including that she had had sex with the entire 1927 University of California football team, have been established to be urban myths.

Commenting on the revealing costume she wore in her last film, Hoop-la (1933), and the disapproval of her husband Rex, she said:
 "Rex accused me of enjoying showing myself off. Then I got a little sore. He knew darn well I was doing it because we could use a little money these days. Who can't?"

Never comfortable with the talkies and with increasing emotional difficulties, she retired at age 26 to Nevada with her husband, cowboy actor Rex Bell, who she had married in 1931.  After having two children she gained weight which she was unable to lose, contributing to her emotional instability.  She attempted suicide in 1944 and was in and out of sanatoriums, dying in 1965 of a heart attack.

Max Fleisher’s character Betty Boop is based on Clara Bow.

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