History

San Antonio Home to Film That Received First-Ever Oscar Awarded for Best Picture

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Texas has a strong history with the film industry. Major cities and small towns alike have hosted Hollywood, whether Texas is in the plot or not. Did you know the first movie to win an Academy Award was filmed in San Antonio?

The name of the flick is “Wings,” and it was shot on location with a budget of $2 million (roughly $27 million in 2017 terms) at Kelly Field between September 1926 and April 1927. While most productions of the day took little more than a month to shoot, “Wings” took approximately nine months to complete in total. The romantic action-war picture is a silent film and involved hundreds of extras and pilots and planes from the United States Army Air Corps. Primary scout aircraft flown in the film were Thomas-Morse MB-3s. “Wings” was acclaimed for its realistic air-combat sequences, and the film soon became a yardstick against which future aviation films were measured. Director William A. Wellman dedicated the film “to those young warriors of the sky whose wings are folded about them forever.”

A sneak preview was shown May 19, 1927, at the Texas Theater on Houston Street in San Antonio, then the premiere was held at the Criterion Theater in New York City, on August 12, 1927, screening for 63 weeks before moving to second-run theaters. Two years after the premiere, on May 16, 1929, the first Academy Award ceremony was held in Hollywood, honoring outstanding film achievements of 1927–1928. “Wings” became the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called “Best Picture, Production”) and Best Engineering Effects. The statuette, not yet known as the “Oscar,” was presented to Clara Bow on behalf of the producers.

Prop plane
Photo: Facebook/San Diego Air & Space Museum

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