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The Best Picture Project 1st Annual Academy Awards
Review Best Picture Nominees 1927/1928
This is my journey through Academy Award® history. It is my intent to try to find and watch every Best Picture nominee and share that experience with you. Let’s start…
7th Heaven – Fox
The Racket – The Caddo Company
Wings - Paramount *
Quite different from the 3 hour plus event we see on television today the first Oscar® Ceremony was at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood in the hotel’s Blossom Room. It was a private banquet that took place on May 16, 1929. They were held by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in order to honor outstanding film achievements for films released between August 1, 1927 – August 1, 1928. There were only 270 people in attendance and the ticket price was $5. There were 15 awards presented by academy president Douglas Fairbanks that day. The post awards party was held at the Mayfair Hotel. Another big difference was that the award nominees and winners were actually announced to the press 3 months earlier.
There were only 3 films nominated that year for Best Picture. This was also the only year where all Best Picture nominees were silent films. They were 7th Heaven produced by Fox, The Racket produced by The Caddo Company and, the winner, Wings produced by Paramount. So, now I go on my journey to seek out these 3 movies to watch and review them. I am surprised at how hard it is to find some of the oldest Oscar nominees. Admittedly I should not be, knowing that more than half of the movies produced before 1950 have been lost.
First up is:
7th Heaven – Fox
Released in 1927 it was the most nominated film of the awards having been nominated for Best Picture, Best Art Direction, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director Dramatic Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It won in 3 of those categories. Janet Gaynor won for Best Actress in a Leading Role*. Benjamin Glazer won for Best Adapted Screenplay. And Frank Borzage won for Best Director Dramatic Picture.
Artistically this was probably the best of the 3 and very deserving of the win. It was my favorite of them as well. I was able to find it used on Amazon.
It is a story of 2 down on their luck strangers that meet in the streets of Paris. After they meet under auspicious circumstances and are forced to live together to get past some trouble with the law their luck starts to change and love blossoms. Nothing can keep them from each other. Not even a World War. The story proves the power of love and faith is strong. (Chico-Diane-Heaven)
The Racket – The Caddo Company
Directed by Lewis Milestone and released in 1928 that year it was only nominated for Best picture. The film was based on a Broadway play that opened in 1927 and lasted 119 performances. The play starred Edward G. Robinson, Romaine Callender, and G. Pat Collins (who is also in the movie). This was the hardest one to find and ultimately I had to watch it on YouTube.
I found The Racket entertaining and well made. It is your basic gangster story. Cop against the odds of a corrupt system ends taking down a powerful gangster. It is a story that has been told a thousand times.
This one must have been the long shot of the pack. In the end I did like it.
Last but not least…
Wings – Paramount
Charles 'Buddy' Rogers
The winner that night of the first Best Picture prize, Wings came out in 1927 and was nominated for 2 awards that night, Best Picture and Best Effects, Engineering Effects, it won both. This was the easiest one of the 3 to find. It is available for rent or to buy. I think it is probably because it was the winner and holds a place in history as the first movie to win the Academy Award® for best picture.
I have to say I was surprised at how long this movie is. I do not know why, but in my mind I had the impression that silent films would be a lot shorter. This clocks in at over 2 hours.
I can see how the audience back then would be downright amazed at the aerial scenes they witnessed from this movie on the silver screen. I cannot imagine what a technical feat that was then. Even now to get actual footage of planes in a dogfight and not CGI would be unheard of.
I would say that Wings is about the ultimate bond between friends. Two young men from the same town are first bonded by the fact that they are in love with the same girl. War breaks out and they are both called on by their country. They train together to become fighter pilots and form an everlasting bond.
I liked the movie. For the time I can see why everyone was so taken with it. Wings was an audience favorite and the people who made it were well regarded by the Academy. There is little wonder why it won even if it was not the best artistically.
Out of the 3 that were up for the award, I can see how Wings one. I would have like to have scene 7th Heaven win, but I cannot say it was robbed. Wings was deserving. I encourage everyone to try to seek these movies out and judge for yourself.
*Janet Gaynor won Best Actress for her performances in 7th Heaven, Sunrise and Street Angel that year. Was one of the only years where actors won for their work in several films.