Wings with France’s Prima Vista Quartet
Commemorating the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I, the Webster U. Film Series, the Centre Francophone, and Cinema St. Louis present the classic silent film “Wings” with live musical accompaniment by France’s Prima Vista Quartet. The winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture — it shared the honor with “Sunrise” — “Wings” ranks among the last great films of the silent era.
A story of friendship, love, brotherhood, and heroism set against the backdrop of World War I, “Wings” expertly mixes intimate melodrama and grand spectacle, with its battle scenes and aerial choreography lending the film a genuine epic scope. “Wings” became the yardstick against which future aviation films were measured. Director William A. Wellman (“The Public Enemy,” “Nothing Sacred,” “A Star Is Born”) — who was himself a World War I combat aviator — employed some 300 pilots in the filming, and the climactic re-creation of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel was staged over 10 days with some 3,500 infantrymen.
The film features a quartet of mismatched lovers: Mary Preston (“It Girl” Clara Bow) pines for neighbor Jack Powell (Charles “Buddy” Rogers), a car mechanic, but he’s smitten with Sylvia (Jobyna Ralston), who in turn longs for wealthy David Armstrong (Richard Arlen). When the United States enters World War I, Jack and David transform from romantic rivals into close friends after becoming pilots in the Army Air Force, with Mary — still in pursuit of Jack — boldly joining the pair in France as a member of the Women's Motor Corps.
“Wings” is accompanied by the Prima Vista Quartet, which during its 15-year existence has become a benchmark in the world of cine-concerts. Variety’s Lisa Nesselson declared that the quartet offered “the best silent film accompaniment I’ve heard.” For this special performance, the group — composer and violist Baudime Jam, violinists Elzbieta Gladys and Amélie Paradis, and cellist Frédéric Deville — is supplemented by Matthias Champon on trumpet and Cédric Barbier on percussion.
the Jane M. & Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Chicago & New York, and Centre Francophone at Webster University