Year 1927

Wings, a First World War drama that dominated the movie world in 1927, opened at the Criterion Theater in New York City on August 12, 1927. Tickets cost $2, an unheard-of admission price. The standard rate was $0.25 a ticket.

May 16, 1929 witnessed the first Academy Awards. The winners, from movies released in 1927 and 1928, were known well in advance. There was little fanfare and little media attention as the winners were announced:

Best Production: Wings

Best Artistic Quality: Sunrise

Best Actor: Emil Jannings 

Best Actress: Janet Gaynor

Best Director: Frank Borzage 

Notable Debuts

Claudette Colbert as Mary in For the Love of Mike

(she starred on her debut)

A unique range of assets helped Claudette Colbert to achieve stardom – her round face, big eyes, curly hair, slender body, elegant voice, aristocratic manner, relaxed acting style, tongue-in-cheek vivacity, intelligence, comedic timing and ladylike charm. 

At home in light comedy and emotional drama, Claudette Colbert’s versatility led to her becoming one of the best-paid actresses of the 1930s and 1940s and, in 1938 and 1942, the highest-paid. She starred in more than 60 movies, with Fred MacMurray, seven films, being her most frequently co-star.

Barbara Stanwyck in Broadway Nights

Barbara Stanwyck played an uncredited fan dancer in her only silent movie. Sylvia Sidney and Ann Sothern also made their debuts in this movie. Its star, Lois Wilson, appeared in 150 movies including the role of Daisy Buchanan in the 1926 silent film version of The Great Gatsby.

Highest Grossing Movies

#3 The Jazz Singer

A musical drama, The Jazz Singer was the first feature-length motion picture with a synchronised recorded score, and lip-synchronous singing and speech. The Jazz Singer effectively marked the end of the silent movie era, and finished many careers. 

A phrase uttered by Al Jolson, the star of the movie, was very prescient: “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”

#2 The King of Kings

The second movie in Cecil B. DeMille’s Biblical trilogy – The Ten Commandments preceded it and The Sign of the Cross followed it – The King of Kings depicted the last weeks of Jesus’ life with H.B. Warner, pictured, in the lead role. 

The opening and resurrection scenes were filmed in two-colour Technicolor. Sets from the film were reused in King Kong, 1933, Gone With the Wind, 1939, and Elvis Presley’ Harum Scarum, 1965.

#1 Wings

The first Academy Award winner for best picture, Wings, with its realistic flying sequences and daring stunts, set the standard for future aviation films. The movie starred Clara Bow and Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers. Clara didn’t rate her part – she regarded it as just the froth in a man’s movie, while Buddy Rogers became a band leader and Mary Pickford’s third husband.

Wings also gained notoriety for a male-male kissing scene (pictured), partial nudity, and the antics of the cast at the movie’s location hotel.

Clara Bow’s other big hit of 1927 was It (ranked #6 on the highest grossing chart), the movie that defined her career and, arguably, the 1920s.

1920s – 1960s