"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Academy Award inspired art

"The Crisis," 18" x 24", pen and ink, March, 1931, by Terrence M. Clark
Flipping through channels the other night, I came across the old black and white silent movie,"Wings." I'd heard about it, but never watched it, but was immediately grabbed by the footage of WWI planes in combat. What a treasure met my eyes, both the footage and watching real acting--where actors' expressions told stories, not special effects.
And as I watched the combat scenes, including planes falling out of the sky, I suddenly knew where much of my father's school boy art came from...watching this movie that came out in 1927 when he was 13 years old. He had to have seen it, this poor boy from Comanche, Oklahoma.
grew up getting in trouble in school for drawing WWII aircraft and submarines in class. For Dad, WWI was recent, not history. The movie "Wings" must have enthralled him. I've written about this before, and other examples of his wartime art are posted in 2010. Here's the link: http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2010/10/forbidden-art-from-long-ago.html
One of the drawings that's been around as long as I can remember is his pen and ink battle scene, "The Crisis," which was pinned to my studio room wall, rescued recently from a box in the garage. It's yellow and brittle, with stains from water and the years, but still alive, as the Brits and Huns clash on a broken battlefield. And in the sky, there are the biplanes, falling out of the sky, just as they were shown in "Wings."
Planes falling out of the sky
With the next Academy Awards approaching, I figured out why the film was being aired. It is the only silent movie to win an academy award, and it won the very first Academy Award for best picture in 1929, two years before my Dad drew this picture. 

The film is about two WWI fighter pilot films, both involved with the same woman. It starred Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Roberts, and Richard Arlen. Gary Cooper appeared in a roll that helped launch his career, and an affair with Clara Bow. 
It was rewritten to accommodate Clara Bow, as she was Paramount's biggest star, but wasn't happy about her part: "(Wings is)..a man's picture and I'm just the whipped cream on top of the pie," she said. 
This has become a personal part of history for me, trying to imagine my Dad watching it in a theater in Comanche or nearby Duncan, inspiring him to go home and draw. 

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