The Home of the Creative Mind

Welcome to PooBahSpiel, the online voice and home of the creative mind of Mark Monlux, Illustrator Extraordinaire. Prepare yourself for an endless regaling of art directly from the hand of this stellar artist. And brace yourself against his mighty wind of pontification. Updates are kinda weekly and show daily sketches, current projects, and other really nifty stuff.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Comic Critic Reviews Wings

One of the reasons Wings beat out The Racket and Seventh Heaven for Best Picture was due in part to Charles Lindberg’s successful crossing of the Atlantic in the Spirit of Saint Louis, rekindling the public’s interest in aviation. This enthusiasm resulted in longer ticket lines and kept Wings in the theater longer. It’s also the only truly silent movie to win Best Picture as rapid innovation introduced sound to film. Wings, with brief nudity and men kissing men, also came in under the wire before the industry began imposing self-censorship.

I had a very hard time writing the script for this strip. The story is pretty basic. I needed a way to differentiate it from other war movies while also putting the movie in its place in history. Should I mention Lindberg? Should I make fun of a silent movie? (You might notice that there are no voice bubbles or onomatopoeia used in the strip.) I was distracted by the fact that it won the first Best Picture Academy Award. Once I embraced the notion that I should dedicate more than a small caption mentioning the award, various ideas I had for the remaining frames reshuffled and finally fell into place.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has always been a bit of a snobbish affair. The brainchild of Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM (Metro-Goldman-Mayer), it didn’t start with an awards ceremony in mind. Rather, Mayer wanted to resolve labor disputes in a way that wouldn’t tarnish the public’s perception of the film industry. Keep in mind the timing. The Great Depression was just beginning. The labor movement would soon be backed by a previously unimagined horde of the destitute and unemployed. Folks went to the movies to escape their worries, not to be reminded of them. So, Mayer gathered the heads of his various departments to talk about creating a group to handle arbitration quietly (while maintaining a public face of “peers striving for excellence”). It’s not surprising that producers, directors, actors, writers, and technicians each wanted their interests represented. They also wanted to be selective; the group would be by invitation only. The idea of giving awards was mentioned, but that took a back seat to the organization’s primary goal. That’s why it took a couple of years before the awards ceremony jelled. But once the organization realized that the awards ceremony could serve as a fantastic public relations tool, it wasn’t long before a dinner party at a hotel turned into a grand red-carpet spectacle. Still, the first evening of awards was a pretty simple affair with a lot of concern over the state of the union and affairs at home. It’s not all surprising that overseas productions weren’t even on the docket.