Happy New Year, Classic Film Lovers. I trust that your holiday season was filled with love and joy.
For this month, I wish to remember and pay tribute to the “Father of the Feature Film in America” - Adolph Zukor.
Born in Ricse, Austria-Hungary on January 7, 1873, Zukor was one of the founding fathers of the powerhouse studio known as Paramount Pictures. He and his brother Arthur were orphaned at an early age, having to move in with their Uncle, who expected them to become rabbis. But Adolph had others plans for his life.
At the age of 15, the young man set sail from Hansburg, journeying to the United States, making New York his home. Here, he worked in an upholstery shop, later becoming as an apprentice at a furrier.
In 1903, Zukor entered penny arcade business. From 1904 to 1912, he and his business partner, Marcus Loew, ran a chain of theatres. Zukor then formed his distribution company, Famous Players, where he produced “The Prisoner of Zenda” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” in 1913.
In 1916, Zukor managed a three-way company merger with his Famous Players, The Lasky Company, established by Jesse L. Lasky, and Paramount, owed by W.W. Hodkinson. Zukor was the driving force in making Paramount a success, serving as its president until 1936, when he became chairman of the board of the company. He retired in 1959 and 1964 stepped down as chairman, assuming Chairman Emeritus status until his death on June 10, 1976. He was 103.
During his tenure, Zukor produced several great films including “The Great Gatsby” (1926), starring Warner Baxter, “It” (1927), starring the “It girl” herself, Clara Bow, and “Shanghai Express with Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong. I have chosen “Wings” (1927) as this month’s pick.
Directed by William A. Wellman, this two hour and twenty-two-minute romantic action war film stars Charles Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richard Arlen. This picture would go on to win the first Academy Award for Best Picture in 1929. It was also the only silent film to capture this honor. This masterpiece leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat with high flying aerial battles, orchestrated by Wellman’s adviser, 2d Lt. Clarence S. “Bill” Irvine. This alone is worth the watch.
So, sit back, relax with your favorite cup of bean or herb, and click on “Wings”, which can be seen on YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, and Amazon Prime for $2.99.
Believe me, it’s worth it. Enjoy!