The Catalina Island Museum`s Silent Film Benefit will celebrate its 25th, or ``silver," anniversary on Saturday, May 12.
To help its fans enjoy the occasion and help the museum continue its work, the benefit will include a viewing of one of the silver screen`s most famous gems and Hollywood`s first blockbuster, the silent film classic "Wings."
"The museum is thrilled to be showcasing Paramount`s beautifully restored print of "Wings," said Gail Fornasiere, the museum`s Director of Operations. "It was the very first film shown for our Silent Film Benefit with live accompaniment by the legendary Gaylord Carter. One of the film`s stars, Buddy Rogers, was even in attendance. This year we honor our 25th anniversary by showing "Wings" once again.
The Silent movie is famous not only for its production accolades, but also for launching the career of Gary Cooper and the performance of Clara Bow, who was said to have "it" during the silent film era. Unfortunately for Bow, when the "talkies` came along, what she had was a thick Brooklyn accent and "it" was the beginning of the end of her film career.
Director William Wellman`s career took flight with the release of "Wings." The film, set on the front lines of World War I, won the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929. Much of its success is credited to Wellman`s seemingly fanatical desire for reality. Howard Hughes would only later approach such attention to realism in his 1930 film "Hell`s Angels," and later by David O. Selznick`s production of "Gone With The Wind."
According to his son and biographer, William Wellman, Jr., "He didn`t want any fakery." He told his two male stars Richard Arlen and Buddy Rogers, "I`m gonna do this right...You`re gonna take flying lessons and you`re gonna fly the planes while your being photographed."
It`s said that Wellman wanted it right because he had served as a fighter pilot during WWI. With barely a few hours training, and a button to activate a mounted camera, the actors were up in the sky, creating their ever so real "performances."
The strict attention to detail resulted in thrilling scenes of aerial dogfights and won praise for what was astonishing film footage for its time. Considering so many of modern action films contain special effects, "Wings" still has the power to create sensations of awe.
"Wings" had an unusually long first run and helped usher in the era of the blockbuster. However, time marches on and takes its toll on everyone and everything. The original footage of "Wings," like many of its day, did not fare well over time. It fell victim to nitrate stock decomposition.
Thanks to advances in digital restoration, "Wings" was restored as part of Paramount`s 100-year anniversary celebration. The damage was pretty severe, according to Andrea Kalas, a Paramount archivist. "On screen, things were starting to disappear in a cloudy way. We only wanted clouds in the sky," she said.
Guests who attend the screening will be among the first to see the newly released, fully restored version of "Wings."
According to the Catalina Island Museum, "Paramount Pictures has breathed new life into the silent era`s most epic adventure, with colorized special effects not seen since the film was originally screened."
The screening and museum benefit will be at 1 p.m. in the Avalon Theater. Pipe organ master Robert D. Salisbury, will accompany the film with an original score.
Director Wellman was a legendary Hollywood personality known for his rugged individualism and passionate quest for adventure.
The Catalina Island Museum has arranged for rare personal appearances by William Wellman, Jr. and Cissy Wellman before the showing of their father`s famous film. They will be on hand after the screening of "Wings," in the museum`s Harbor Room.
They will sign copies of William Wellman, Jr.`s best-selling book about his father`s early life, "The Man and His Wings," which are on sale in the Catalina Island Museum Store.
For more information, call the Catalina Island Museum at (310) 510-2414.