Home > 100 Greatest Scores, Reviews > WINGS – J. S. Zamecnik

WINGS – J. S. Zamecnik

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME
SILENT ERA BONUS SCORE

Original Review by Craig Lysy

John Monk Saunders served in the US Air Corp during WWI as a flight instructor in Florida. He had lifelong regrets that he was never able to serve his country in combat, and so conceived a story, which would allow him to realize that ambition in film. He pitched his idea to producer Jessie Lasky who was unreceptive due to the logistics required to film aerial combat. Yet Saunders would not be denied and secured support from the War Department, which included 220 planes, and airmen, artillery, tanks, trucks and troops. Lasky was impressed and decided to proceed with his Famous Players-Lasky company financing the project and Paramount Studio securing distribution rights. A massive budget of $2 million was budgeted and Louis Lighton and Hope Loring were hired to write the screenplay. Lasky and four others would produce the film, and William Wellman was tasked with directing as he was the only director in Hollywood who had actual combat pilot experience. Securing a cast was an adventure however when Paramount’s greatest star Clara Bow, demanded a rewrite stating “Wings is a man’s picture and I am just the whipped cream on top of the pie”. Her demands were met and the story evolved into a war time romance. She would star as Mary Preston, with Charles “Buddy” Rogers as Jack Powell, Richard Arlen as David Armstrong, Gary Cooper as Cadet White, and Jobyna Ralston as Sylvia Lewis.

The story involves small town rivals Jack Powell and David Armstrong who are both vying for the affections of Sylvia Lewis. Unbeknownst to Jack, Mary Preston, the girl next door, is madly in love with him. When America enters WWI, they both enlist in the Air Corp and Jack bids farewell to Sylvia, who he believes loves him – in reality, she loves David, but chooses not to hurt his feelings. Training and living together serves to turn the men from rivals into best of friends. Following graduation, they ship off to France to join the war. Mary follows them by enlisting as an ambulance driver. Jack gains respect as an ace, yet tragic events follow when Mary is discharged after being mistaken for lewd conduct in Jacks room, and Jack mistakenly shoots down and kills David, who had crashed, and commandeered a German plane. With his last words he forgives Jack and Jack goes on to become a war hero. He returns home to a hero’s welcome, apologizes and is forgiven by David’s parents, and wins the heart of Mary. The film was an astounding success, earning $29 million or nearly 15 times its production costs. The public was reveling in the success of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and Wings tapped into the public’s newfound fascination with flying. It also received critical acclaim for its aerial photography, technical prowess and wartime realism. It secured two Academy Award nominations, winning both for Best Picture and Best Engineering Effects. For many years after Wings served as the gold standard for authenticity and scope involving films featuring aerial combat.

Lasky intended to hire Hugo Reisenfeld given his success with the Ten Commandments 1923 and The Covered Wagons in 1923, but he was not available. As such he turned to another leading composer of the day, John Stepan “J. S.” Zamecnik, who was happy to accept the assignment. He understood that this was a war film in which there were dramatic aerial battles. Inspired flight and battle music would be needed, a love theme to support the romance, and leitmotifs for the principle actors. Zamecnik was originally given eight weeks to compose nearly 150 minutes of original music. Unfortunately, the film’s debut was advanced four weeks and was still actively being edited – a nightmare scenario. As such, he believed that he no longer had sufficient time to provide a completely original score. He made a creative decision out of necessity to also interpolate compositions from classical music composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt, Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, as well as contemporary composers Gaston Borch and Riesenfeld. In addition, the scope and size of the orchestra needed to be adjusted for the variety of scenes and settings as some required a full orchestra, while others only a small chamber ensemble, salon orchestra, solo piano, a dance band for the Paris night club scenes and military bands for military training and parades. For authenticity he understood that he would have to infuse his soundscape with popular tunes to provide a contemporaneous feeling.

For his score he provides a multiplicity of themes including; The Flight Theme interpolates Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Midsummer’s Night Dream Opus 21 and serves as a leitmotif for the Allied aviators. This choice was a masterstroke as the music perfectly captures the exhilaration of flying, providing the vital energy for the many aerial combat scenes. Jack’s Theme serves as his identity and emotes with youthful exuberance and I believe some cockiness, which perfectly captures his persona. Mary’s Theme is dance-like in its construct, offering an upbeat, carefree and youthful melody full of the joy of life. Mary has a second identity, the string born unabashed melody of her Love Theme. It is song like in its construct, forthright, major modal and abounding with youthful optimism. Sylvia’s Theme serves as her identity, but also offers the score’s second Love Theme, which contrasts significantly with that of Mary’s. Her theme is also dance-like in its sensibilities, but there the similarities end as we are carried warmly by strings romantico with Mandolin adornment. Herman’s Theme interpolates the song “Little Brown Jug” by Joseph Winner, which perfectly captures the comedy of his truly hapless persona. Two marches support the troops; the Military Theme offers a classic marcia militare in the finest traditions of John Philip Sousa. Its propulsive martial cadence is forthright, confident, and determined. Crusader’s March offers another marcia militare, although with a more pronounced martial aggression and bravado. Lastly, for the villains we have Kellermann’s Theme, which serves as the identity of the dreaded German Ace, and by extension, his fellow German aviators. Dire horn declarations resound and references to the German National Anthem provide the necessary ethnic auras. Lastly, of historical importance, Zamecnik became one of the first in his field to compose a full underscore for a film that would be used in perpetuity, rather than at the whim of a theater music director.

“Overture” opens with a dramatic prelude with statements of Jack’s Theme, which ushers in the Love Theme and sets the stage for the film. At 1:36 the Paramount Studios logo displays and we flow into the “Main Title” atop the foreboding fanfare of the Military Theme. A lone plane flies into view, turns upright and the film title and opening credits display, carried by an uplifting rendering of the Love Theme. At 2:32 we transition atop a waltz into “Knights and Ladies” as the cast credits display. I believe Zamecnik perfectly set the tone of the film with his music. Script appears on the screen with a tribute by Charles Lindberg for the brave aviators who gave their lives in the great war. The “Star Spangled Banner” supports the script. Martial fanfare and snare drums support the film’s dedication, a tribute to America’s young heroes. This music is not found on the album. “A Small Town” takes us in 1917 to the small town where our story begins. Zamecnik bathes us in a carefree, unaffected innocence of small-town America. A bright and confident Jack’s Theme offers classic Americana, which supports Jack daydreaming of flying aloft through the clouds. At 0:56 we flow into “Mary Preston Had Always/Mary Raises Finger” where we see Jack’s neighbor, the classic ‘girl next door’. The playful, dance-like Mary’s Theme introduces us to her as she climbs the fence and joins Jack, who is repairing his car. He is exasperated, but the Love Theme informs us that she is smitten. He names his car “Shooting Star” and Mary responds by painting one on the hood, and is seeking his kiss as reward, but he misses her cue and drives off carried by the Love Theme.

“Sylvia and Dave in the Swing” reveals the two enjoying the swing together carried by a warm rendering of her theme, which perfectly supports their swing’s rhythms. She is playing a mandolin, which Zamecnik incorporates into her theme. At 0:38 the idyllic moment is shattered in “Bon Vivant” by Jack’s arrival. He is carried by a danza spiritoso and sweeps her away from Dave honoring her with the first ride in his new car. Dave is speechless as they drive away. At 1:21 we segue into “Close Up of Mary” as Jack passes Mary’s house. He waves and she is sad that he prefers Sylvia to her. A minor modal rendering of Mary’s Theme by oboe doloroso carries her sadness. “Youth Laughed” offers onscreen script, which informs us of the shadow of war sweeping across the globe. A dire, repeating string figure of doom builds to a frightful horn declared crescendo as the shadow of war flows across the screen. “In Military Camp” Jack and Dave do their patriotic duty and sign up for service in the Air Corp. The marcia militare of the Military Theme carries their sign-up determination and pride. At 0:31 we segue into “Put Your Moniker” where we are introduced to Herman Schwimpf. He is clearly a buffoon, out of place, and Zamecnik introduces him with his comedic Herman’s Theme. When the recruiter challenges his patriotism due to his German surname at 1:19, Herman rips off his jacket to display a “Stars and Strips” tattoo on his arm supported by a quote of the “Star Spangled Banner”. This wins the day and we close the scene on his silly theme. As script informs us of the preparations for war, martial drums, dire strings and trumpets declare the entry of America into the Great War in 1917. The music for this scene is not on the album.

“Ode to Spring” reveals Sylvia signing a photo “To David with all my love”, which she places in a locket. A woodwind pastorale supports the tender moment. At 0:32 we segue into “She’s My Girl” where the melody blossoms into a romance for orchestra as Jack enters, mistakes the locket as being a token of Sylvia’s love for him, takes it and departs in ecstasy as Dave walks in. At 1:22 we segue into “If You’d Seen His Look” where Sylvia attempts to explain and placate David, informing her that she did not want to hurt Jack’s feelings, and that she truly loves him. A plaintive rendering of Sylvia’s Theme carries the intimate moment. Jack remains clueless to Mary’s affection and merely shakes her hand to say goodbye as he departs to camp. Her theme is initially exuberant at the sight of him coming to her, but it becomes plaintive to underscore her disappointment. This scene is not supported on the album. In a scene change we see Dave saying goodbye to his parents who counsel him. When his mother knocks a box off the table, he discovers his childhood teddy bear, which he takes with him for good luck. Pianist Frederick Hodges supports the heartfelt parting with a gorgeous interlude for solo piano, which fleshes out the overt and unspoken emotions born by the scene. Regretfully, this music is not included on the album. As the men report for duty and assignment a John Philip Sousa march carries their progress with a reprise of Herman’s Theme and the “Star Spangled Banner” when the Sargent questions Herman’s loyalty. The music supporting this scene is not found on the album. “The Revolving Machine” reveals the men being placed in a revolving machine to build resistance to motion sickness. Cycling strings, percolating woodwinds and blaring horns perfectly support the machine’s revolutions. At 1:19 we segue the um-pah-pah comedy of Herman’s Theme in “Comedian Taken Out” as the hapless Herman gets sick.

In “Hurry #2/You’re Game” the simmering tension between Dave and Jack ignites as they pair off during boxing training. Zamecnik provides a kinetic powerhouse, which propels the fight with vigorous high-octane writing as each man is determined to knock out the other. In the end Jack decks David, yet restores the childhood bond by graciously offering his hand up. “Intermezzo/Chanson/Intermezzo” reveals Dave and Jack meeting tent mate cadet White. The men bond and discus their homes and aspirations. Zamecnik interpolates the very tender and pleasant “Intermezzo” by B. P. Whelpley with interplay from the gentile “Chanson” by Rudolf Frimi to support the interaction. The cello work is warm and a perfect complement to the scene. At 2:26 we segue into “Aviator White/Air Flight” as he departs for aerial training exercises. Trumpets and snare drums carry his departure with the music gaining tension atop pounding drums and dire horns as we see the shadows of two planes colliding, bringing a quick end to White’s career. “Change of Scene” reveals the men waking for dawn patrol. The martial cadence of the Military Theme propels the scene. At 0:50 we segue into “Comedian Seen” atop the hilarious Herman’s Theme as the camp comic rises for duty. We conclude at 1:13 with “Crusaders” as the men set out carried by the martial bravado of the Crusader Military March.

“Allegro Furioso” offers a dire vortex of strings and drums of doom as script informs us of the world being drawn into a maelstrom of destruction. We flow into a scene not provided on the album where we see troops marching to the front carried by a classic marcia militare replete with resounding trumpet declarations. In another scene not provided on the album a classic marcia Americana replete with piccolo support our American airmen housed in an airdrome safely behind the front lines. We see the hapless Herman who has flunked out of the air core enjoying his new role as flight mechanic. His comic theme supports his painting a “Shooting Star” on Jack’s plane. In another scene not provided on the album the Military Theme supports the boys be roused for dawn patrol – their first combat mission. They are ordered to patrol up to Mervale and be on the lookout for ace Captain Kellermann and his corps. We conclude the scene with the Marcia Americana rendered as a waltz as we see the planes line up for take-off. As they soar aloft the wondrous Flight Theme carries them through the cloud swept skies. These scenes were very well scored and it is a shame they were left off the album.

The next two cues offer a wonderful score highlight as music and scenes of aerial combat achieve a stunning confluence. “Count Von Kellermann” reveals the American squadron on patrol carried with the soaring energy of the Flight Theme. The cue opens with Kellermann’s Theme as he alerts his fliers of the American squadron below. In “Second Airplane on Fire/Air Flight” the two squadrons engage in a series of one on one dogfights with both sides suffering casualties. Zamecnik propels the aerial combat with an extended vigorous exposition of the Flight Theme. We close with an act of chivalry as Kellermann spares David’s life when he sees that his guns had jammed. “Storm” offers a furious action cue as we see Jack being pursued by two Fokkers who shoot out his motor. In a desperate move Jack dives down to the battlefield hoping air speed will allow him to land without a motor. Zamecnik provides one of the score’s most kinetic cues to empower Jack’s desperation and harrowing escape. As Jack crash lands in “English Trenches” strings furioso launch a ferocious march buttressed by low register horns, which duel against a solo trumpet as Jack evades the hail of bullets from the Fokkers strafing him. A fierce crescendo culminates as he finds safety in nearby English trenches and we close with the English Commander inviting him in for a toast to the King and Uncle Sam.

In a scene not supported on the album, an animated marcia Americana carries Mary’s arrival in camp as an ambulance driver where she becomes a significant distraction to the troops. The roll of score highlights continue with “Giant Gotha; Grandioso” where we see the mightiest of German bombers loaded for its mission against the allied position at Mervale. Zamecnik supports the German mission with an extended rendering of the German Theme. At 1:52 we segue into “Soldiers Marching/Escorted By”, where we see allied troops marching in Mervale and Mary delivering medical supplies. Zamecnik interpolates classic Americana with a wonderful suite, which features the American Civil War tune “Marching through Georgia” by Henry Clay Work and the WWI song “Over There” by George Cohan. We close at 2:44 with a scene of soldiers performing a campy night show act supported by the café song “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” by Shelton Brooks. In a scene not supported on the album, Jack and David race to their planes after being alerted of the Gotha’s approach to Mervale. Strings animato propel and carry them to their planes as they take off. We shift to the Gotha circling Mervale supported by the ominous German Theme as it prepares to unleash Hell. “Close Up of Mary” is supported by a playful rendering of her theme as she blissfully drives into town unaware of the Gotha overhead. At 0:32 we segue into “Germans Seen”, which is supported by a dire phrase of the German Theme as the Gotha is seen approaching.

“Storm/Running Out of Gas” reveals the Gotha dropping its payload with devastating results; the destruction of Mervale, the church steeple falling and nearly crushing Mary, and a building collapsing on the troops. Zamecnik interpolates Leo Kempinski’s “Incidental Symphonies #3” whose snare drums and strings furioso provide the kinetic energy that propel the furious fight above as Jack and David engage the Germans. Dave has shot down a Fokker and sent the other fleeing, while Jack has taken out the Gotha. “Right after Crash/Say That’s the Shooting Star” reveals the men and troops below reveling in their victory, which is supports with a joyous rendering of the Flight Theme. In “French General Kisses” a French General bestows to David and Jack the Medal of Valor to honor their bravery and heroism. Regal fanfare ushers in statements of the English, French and American Anthems (not on the album). Zamecnik infuses the pomp and circumstance of the moment with a traditional marcia di onore. In three scenes not supported by the album we see the boys riding through the streets of Paris carried by a festive little ditty. Back at the front, script informs us that with the arrival of the American Expeditionary force a decisive attack would be launched to breech the German lines and end the war. All leaves are cancelled and commanders are ordered to account for, and ready their troops. Zamecnik interpolates Les Marseillaies, which introduces a festive marcia militare to support the scene. Returning to Paris we see Mary arrive carried spritely by a dance-like rendering of her theme. She reads a communiqué from Command that orders all leaves cancelled and the men to return to their posts or face court martial. Martial horns and a marcia militare support the drama. We close on her theme as she goes in search of the boys.

In “Cabaret Capers” our heroes are enjoying leave to Paris. Zamecnik captures the festive ambiance of the cabaret with a small ensemble, which interpolates “Cabaret Capers” by Thomas Allen and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” by John Kellette and Jaan Kenbrovin. “Mary Walks to the Table” reveals Mary, who has come to inform Jack and Dave that their leave has been cancelled, however they are very drunk and blow her off as they fail to recognize her. We are graced with a sumptuous full rendering of the Love Theme which speaks from Mary’s perspective. A percussive bridge launches “No War Drinking Song” at 1:27, which interpolates the song “When Yankee Doodle Learned to Parlez-Vous” by Ed Nelson and Will Hart. Her heart is broken as they toss champagne in her face. A Scottish tune enters at 1:42 as a man in a kilts staggers in and causes a café stampede carrying Mary away as the military police enter. Classic “Can Can” music supports the exit. At 2:13 we segue into “Mary Enters/I Understand/They Turn Away” Mary is distraught in the Café restroom, where she confides to its matron Celeste that she is having trouble with her boy. Zamecnik supports the tender moment with the intimacy of Hodges solo piano playing a plaintive rendering of the Love Theme. At 3:41 we segue into “Dress to Impress” where Celeste has the perfect answer and loans her a sparkling dancer’s dress with jewelry to win back her man. The piano melody livens and becomes playful and festive as Mary dresses to win back her man.

In the café Jack is leaving with his French girl when Mary confronts them. She manages to win him back earning the ire of the other gal. Zamecnik interpolates “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” again and gives it a French twist by adding an accordion to support the scene, which is not found on the album. In “Another Close Up of Mary” she takes Jack back to his hotel room and puts him to bed as he is very drunk. He is not a gentleman and finally passes out. The song “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” supports the scene. When she discovers a locket around his neck, she believes her photo resides in it and a flashback to her giving him the photo is supported by the Love Theme. Yet when she opens it and finds Sylvia’s photo, the music sours, and a sad rendering of the Love Theme carries her decision to leave him. Music which supported these scenes is not found on the album. On the album music enters as she changes back to her uniform and the Military Police barge into the room and find her undressed. Zamecnik interpolates playful, comic music from the opera “The Cobbler and the Fairy” by Luigi and Federico Ricci”. When she is informed that her behavior is improper and that she will be sent home, she is devastated and we close on a plaintive rendering of the Love Theme.

“It’s Sylvia I Love” opens with the Military Theme (not on the album) as their commander briefs them on the coming offensive. Dave is pensive and asks Jack to take his belongs and give them to his mother as he believes he will not make it back. Jack reassures him and as Dave proceeds to read a letter from Sylvia her theme graces us for a splendid exposition by cello and mandolin. Mary’s Theme intrudes as Jack reads that she is being sent home. We segue at 1:43 into “Jack Stoops Down” atop the Mary’s Theme, which is overcome by tense aggression as Jack defends her from Cameron’s slights. The album cue ends here, but in the film the Love Theme joins as Dave asks him if he loves Mary. When he says he loves Sylvia all is laid bare between them. He shows Dave the locket, but the message on the flip side offers love to David. He tears up the photo rather than reveal the truth, which enrages Jack. An aggressive and combative rendering of Jack’s Theme crests as a fight is imminent, but the Commander intervenes and orders them to stations. Unfortunately, the music for this crucial scene was truncated.

The boys head off to their planes carried by the fanfare and bravado of the Military Theme. As Herman arrives at Dave’s tent, he finds his good luck teddy bear left behind – an allusion to Dave’s fate. His comic theme supports the discovery. This music is not found on the album. Pensive strings support the take-off preparations and launch “Incidental Symphonies #5” where Zamecnik again interpolates the martial drum propelled fury of Kempinski. Music for an interlude of troops marching to the front carried by the marcia Americano, the German Theme supporting the approach of observational Zeppelins and a marcia funebre as we see a soldier call “Red” die from a shrapnel wound are not found on the album. We return aloft carried by strings furioso of the Flight Theme, which propel the aerial combat. The theme swells with heroism as Dave challenges and shoots down two Fokkers to protect Jack. The furious interplay of the Kempinski piece and the Flight Theme support’s Jack shooting down two observation balloons. He decides to head home, unable to locate David. Most of this inspired action music was not included on the album. In “Behind the Enemy” Dave is wounded and has crashed in a lake. He swims and finds cover in the reeds to elude the Germans. A dramatic rendering of the Military Theme supports his crash and harrowing escape. A quote of Jack’s Theme (not on the album) informs us of Dave’s thoughts. Les Marseillaies (not on the album) supports French troops advancing to the front. The album cue resumes with a tense rendering of the Military Theme as Dave hides from passing German troops. We close on Jack’s Theme as we see Dave thinking of his friend. In a scene not supported on the album Kellermann attacks the Aerodrome and drops a note declaring that they had shot down and killed a pilot for resisting. The dire horns of Kellermann’s Theme support his attack, with the scene ending with a religioso elegy as Jack grieves for Dave. We return to the album at 0:47 for “Daybreak/Battle Music” where Zamecnik interpolates music by Hugo Riesenfeld, a powerfully martial piece, which supports the fierce allied ground assault.

“Airplanes Start” offers a score highlight with inspired action writing. It reveals the launch of the Allied and German squadrons, each supporting their ground forces fighting below. Horns dramatico launch martial aggression as we see the Americans sweeping all opposition before them. We flow into “Les Preludes”, which sustains images of the brutal carnage being wage as the Americans reach the German trenches. Zamecnik continues the martial aggression by interpolating music from Franz Liszt, the symphonic poem “Les Preludes”. In “The Tempest/Battle Music” we see fierce fighting as the Americans continue to advance and begin to overrun the German positions. Zamecnik interpolates “Sicilian Vespers” 1855 by Giuseppe Verdi to drive the narrative. In the film (not on the album) we shift aloft as Jack singlehandedly takes on the German reserves heading for the front, strafing their columns and even killing a general. A vigorous and inspiring extended rendering of the Flight Theme supports his efforts. At 2:41 we segue into “Far in the Enemy/Dave Crawls on Ground/Storm/Soldiers Run” where we see Dave making a desperate stealth approach to a German Aerodrome. Zamecnik sows’ tension and carries Dave’s progress with the Military Theme. At 3:35 an accelerando carries Dave to a Fokker, which he manages to steal. Zamecnik propels his audacious theft and escape with frenzied action writing. During the escape he kills Kellermann as he attempts to take off. In scenes not supported with music on the album, script informs us the Germans have been routed and are retreating in disarray, being strafed by allied planes. Zamecnik reprises the aggressive battle music of the previous cue, providing interplay with the Flight Theme.

In “One Plane/Jack! Jack!/Jack Shooting” Jack comes upon a lone Fokker, which he moves in to kill, unaware that it is the escaping Dave. Horns dramatico empower an aggressive hunting motif, which carries Jack into a kill position. Dave yells Jack desperately, but to no avail. We build atop a tortured crescendo, which crests at 1:38 with a dire rendering of the Military Theme as Dave is mortally wounded. Aching strings affanato carry an elegy of pain as we see Dave descend and crash into a farm house as a jubilant Jack circles to find a place to land, so he may claim his trophy. Repeated statements of a triumphant Jack’s Theme (not on the album) carries his landing and cutting of the German iron cross from the fuselage. We now enter the album cue “After Crash/Change of Scene/Disperazione/Don’t Go” offers the film’s most heart wrenching scene as Jack enters to find it was Dave, not a German who he has killed. Dire statements of the German Theme resound to support the revelation. Jack rushes to hold Dave in his arms and they reconcile as Dave forgives him. We see tenderness and affection as Jack kisses Dave and Zamecnik’s music speaks to this tenderness, not the pathos of loss. As Dave passes to tolling bells at 4:32, Jack carries his body to a cart to take back to camp and we conclude tenderly with the song “My Buddy” by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn. In a scene not supported on the album, Jack reads a letter from Sylvia to Dave where her love for him is made clear. A sad rendering of Sylvia’s Theme supports the revelation.

In “The Flying Ace” Jack has returned home a hero and a classic marcis trionfale carries his progress and the jubilation of his town in a home town welcoming parade. Jack goes to the Armstrong house to pay his respects and as he waits in the parlor, he sees a photo of Dave, and has a flashback to his gravesite. An aggrieved rendering of his theme (not on the album) supports his regrets. In “Romanza Senza Parole” and the next cue the score reaches its emotional apogee as the Armstrongs and Jack meet. He apologizes, asks for forgiveness, and then returns Dave’s Medal of Valor and teddy bear. Zamecnik interpolates the classical piece “Romanza Senza Parole” by Enrique Soro, whose impassioned notes supports the moment. At 1:23 we segue atop aching strings affanoto into “Mother Close Up” where Zamecnik provides great sorrow and the score’s most evocative music as a tearful and grieving Jack buries his head in Dave’s mother’s lap as he begs for forgiveness. As she consents, a great burden is lifted from the two of them. At 3:32 we segue into “Mary Seen at Fence” as Jack has returned home and sees his car – “Shooting Star”. Mary’s Theme supports the moment and his recognition of her at the fence. As he rushes to her and confesses his love, we are graced by the Love Theme, which unfolds and blossoms as they embrace and observe a shooting star. We culminate wondrously as they kiss, ending the film with a refulgent flourish! In the film the “End Credits” are supported by a suite of Mary’s and Jack’s and the Love Themes. The album however concludes with a horn sextet arrangement of “Jack’s Theme”, which was believed to add some “1920s” colors.

I would like to thank Dan Goldwasser and MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys of La La Land Records for this magnificent restoration and rerecording of J. S. Zamecnik’s masterpiece “Wings”. The score reconstruction was exceptional, well-conceived and long coveted by film score lovers. The recording and digital mastering is exemplary and provides an excellent listening experience. Zamecnik was originally given eight weeks to compose nearly 150 minutes of original music. Unfortunately, the film’s debut was advanced four weeks and was still actively being edited – a nightmare scenario. As such, he believed that he no longer had sufficient time to provide a completely original score and made a creative decision out of necessity to also interpolate compositions from classical and contemporary composers. The end product offers a testament to the mastery of his craft. Nine themes were created and often were afforded inspired interplay. He infused his score with national anthems, bold military marches, a theme for our hero and a wonderful love theme. Given the innate limitations of silent films, the composer is challenged to flesh out much more of the film’s narrative, filling the void from the lack of dialogue. Zamecnik rose to the challenge and in scene after scene we see a perfect confluence of film narrative, cinematography and music. The conception and execution of this score offers one of the finest of the Silent Film Era. The La La Land restoration is a remarkable achievement, which is invaluable and is to be commended. I highly recommend your purchase of this magnificent score for your collection

Buy the Wings soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Overture/Main Title/Love Theme Wings/Knights and Ladies (2:53)
  • A Small Town/Mary Preston Had Always/Mary Raises Finger (2:10)
  • Sylvia and Dave in the Swing/Bon Vivant/Close Up of Mary (1:32)
  • Youth Laughed (0:24)
  • In Military Camp/Put Your Moniker (1:40)
  • Ode to Spring/She’s My Girl/If You’d Seen His Look (2:27)
  • The Revolving Machine/Comedian Taken Out (0:41)
  • Hurry #2/You’re Game (1:37)
  • Intermezzo/Chanson/Intermezzo/Aviator White/Air Flight (2:52)
  • Change of Scene/Comedian Seen/Crusaders (1:58)
  • Allegro Furioso (0:32)
  • Count Von Kellermann/L’Istesso Tempo/A Midsummer Night’s Dream/Second Airplane on Fire/Air Flight (4:07)
  • Storm/English Trenches (3:08)
  • Giant Gotha/Grandioso/Soldiers Marching/Escorted By/Over There/Darktown Strutters’ Ball (3:05)
  • Close Up of Mary/Germans Seen (0:42)
  • Storm/Incidental Symphonies #3/Running Out of Gas (3:24)
  • Right After Crash/A Midsummer Night’s Dream/Say That’s the Shooting Star (0:45)
  • French General Kisses (1:20)
  • Cabaret Capers/I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles/Cabaret Capers (2:58)
  • Mary Walks to the Table/No War Drinking Song/When Yankee Doodle Learned to Parlez-Vous/Mary Enters/I Understand/They Turn Away/Dress to Impress (4:39)
  • The Cobbler and the Fairy/Another Close Up of Mary (1:22)
  • It’s Sylvia I Love/Jack Stoops Down (2:15)
  • Incidental Symphonies #5 (1:22)
  • Behind the Enemy/Daybreak/Battle Music (1:57)
  • Airplanes Start (1:50)
  • Les Preludes (1:22)
  • The Tempest/Sicilian Vespers/Battle Music/Far in the Enemy/Dave Crawls on Ground/Storm/Soldiers Run (5:03)
  • One Plane/Jack! Jack!/Jack Shooting (2:44)
  • After Crash/Change of Scene/Disperazione/Don’t Go/My Buddy (6:12)
  • The Flying Ace (1:12)
  • Romanza Senza Parole/Mother Close Up/Mary Seen at Fence (6:10)
  • Jack’s Theme (1:03)

Running Time: 76 minutes 27 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD-2106 (1927/2012)

Music composed by J. S. Zamecnik. Conducted by Peter Boyer and Ira Hearshen. Original orchestrations by J. S. Zamecnik. New arrangements and orchestrations by Dominik Hauser. Recorded and mixed by Vinton Vernon. Score produced by J. S. Zamecnik. Album produced by Dan Goldwasser and Jeannie Gayle Poole.

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