Tuesday, November 1, 2016

'Wings' on Friday, Nov. 4 at the Aviation Museum of N.H.: This time, it's personal

An original poster for 'Wings' (1927).

Because it was the first big drama for which I created live music, 'Wings' (1927) has a special place for me.

So I couldn't be more pleased to be doing music again on Friday, Nov. 4, at a screening to benefit the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire.

The screening will take place in the exhibit hall of the museum, which is housed in the original terminal at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

Talk about a fitting location! The hall resembles a working hanger, and we're hoping a good turnout will fill the place up.

Showtime is 7 p.m.; tickets ($15 for members, $20 for non-members) will be available at the door.

More info about the screening and the film is in the press release at the bottom of this post.

But with 'Wings,' there's another reason the film has special significance to me.

My father, who died back in 1968 when I was just age 4, was a career pilot who flew military (in World War II) and commercial.

He loved aviation from childhood. In fact, he got his first pilot's license before he learned to drive!

I recall my grandmother saying that with his brothers, she'd find pictures of girls until their pillows, but with Jack (my Dad), she'd find pictures of airplanes.

Dad was born way back in 1916, and so would have been 11 years old when 'Wings' swept the nation. (Gad, he'd be 100 years old now, if he was still with us.)

Buddy Rogers and Clara Bow in front of a surprisingly cheesy backdrop to promote 'Wings' (1927).

Well, 11 seems to be just the right age for a boy to be really impressionable about certain things.

And so we'll never know this for sure, but I have a feeling that Dad must have gone to a screening of 'Wings' that late summer of 1927, when the film was in theaters.

And I have this idea that the movie fired his imagination enough to make airplanes and flying a major interest from then on, and eventually his profession and his life's work.

As I said, we'll never know. But something in me feels certain that this took place to some extent.

Absent concrete information, I suppose we're entitled to make up our own myths. And so one of mine involves a young boy in Nashua, N.H. going to the movies on a Saturday afternoon in August, perhaps unwillingly, because it's a "grown-up" drama and a long one to boot.

But once there, he becomes absorbed by the story, and then fascinated by the close-up views of the magical machines that give people to ability to fly through the sky!

When the lights come up, it's all over. His mind is flooded by visions of airplanes, pilots, and flight. He doesn't know it yet, but the course of his life is forever changed.

Well, it's a nice idea, and gives the 'Wings' special significance to me each time I've accompanied it.

And maybe something like my Dad's experience will happen again this Friday at the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire. Bring a pre-teen along and see what happens.

Okay, below is the text of the press release:

* * *

Buddy Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richard Arlen in 'Wings' (1927).

Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Epic silent film 'Wings' (1927) to be shown on Friday, Nov. 4 at Aviation Museum of N.H.

Sprawling story of U.S. aviators in World War I won first-ever 'Best Picture'; benefit screening features live musical accompaniment

LONDONDERRY, N.H.—The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire will go Hollywood this week with a special benefit screening of 'Wings' (1927), an epic adventure film set in World War I that won 'Best Picture' honors at the very first Academy Awards ceremony.

'Wings' will be revived for one showing only on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. in the exhibit space of the museum, which is located at 27 Navigator Road, Londonderry. There will be a cash bar reception starting at 6 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for museum members, and $20 for non-members. Tickets may be purchased online at www.aviationmuseumofnh.org.

The screening will feature live music by New Hampshire-based silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New England based composer who specializes in creating music for silent film presentations.

The show will allow audiences to experience silent film the way its makers originally intended: on the big screen, with live music, and with an audience.

'Wings,' a blockbuster hit in its original release, recounts the adventures of U.S. pilots flying combat missions behind enemy lines at the height of World War I in Europe. 'Wings' stunned audiences with its aerial dogfight footage, vivid and realistic battle scenes, and dramatic love-triangle plot.

'Wings' stars Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, and Richard Arlen. The rarely-seen film also marked one of the first screen appearances of Gary Cooper, who plays a supporting role. Directed by William Wellman, 'Wings' was lauded by critics for its gripping story, superb photography, and technical innovations.

'Wings' is notable as one of the first Hollywood films to take audiences directly into battlefield trenches and vividly depict combat action. Aviation buffs will also enjoy 'Wings' as the film is filled with scenes of vintage aircraft from the early days of flight.

Promotional artwork for 'Wings'.

Seen today, the film also allows contemporary audiences a window into the era of World War I, which was underway in Europe a century ago. The U.S. entered the war in 1917.

" 'Wings' is not only a terrific movie, but seeing it on the big screen is also a great chance to appreciate what earlier generations of servicemen and women endured," accompanist Jeff Rapsis said. "It's a war that has faded somewhat from our collective consciousness, but it defined life in the United States for a big chunk of the 20th century. This film captures how World War I affected the nation, and also shows in detail what it was like to serve one's country a century ago."

Rapsis, a composer who specializes in film music, will create a score for 'Wings' on the spot, improvising the music as the movie unfolds to enhance the on-screen action as well as respond to audience reactions. Rapsis performs the music on a digital synthesizer, which is capable of producing a wide range of theatre organ and orchestral textures.

"Live music was an integral part of the silent film experience," Rapsis said. "At the time, most films weren't released with sheet music or scores. Studios relied on local musicians to come up with an effective score that was different in every theater. At its best, this approach created an energy and a connection that added a great deal to a film's impact. That's what I try to recreate," Rapsis said.

'Wings' is about 2½ hours long. The film is a family-friendly drama but not suitable for very young children due to its length and intense wartime battle scenes.

‘Wings’ will be shown with live music on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Aviation Museum of N.H., 27 Navigator Road, Londonderry. Tickets are $15 for museum members, and $20 for non-members. Tickets may be purchased online at www.aviationmuseumofnh.org. For information, contact the museum at (603) 669-4820.

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