If Oscar buzz is any indicator, Hollywood is on the brink of making Academy Award history. For the first time, silent films might bookend the best-picture category.
The first film -- and only non-talkie -- to win the academy's top prize was director William A. Wellman's high-flying 1927 drama, "Wings," starring Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen.
Now, the 2011 silent film "The Artist" is gathering serious award-season momentum as a best picture favorite at the 84th annual Oscar ceremony on Feb. 26. The silent-period Valentine from French director Michel Hazanavicius has won many honors, including best comedy or musical at the Golden Globes.
Meanwhile, in a touch of silent symmetry, an extensively restored version of "Wings" thrilled celebrities and regular folks alike last week at special screenings sponsored by the academy. On Tuesday, the restored "Wings" will be released on DVD and Blu-ray.
"I know my father would be clapping," said William Wellman Jr. at a screening at the academy's Beverly Hills headquarters. The son of the "Wings" director is author of "The Man and His Wings: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture."
In reality, it's pure coincidence that the "Wings" restoration and DVD release come at the same time as "The Artist's" mounting recognition on the awards circuit.
Nevertheless, "there's such a nice tribute to the history of cinema in ['The Artist'], that I'm thrilled about it," said Andrea Kalas, a Paramount archivist who oversaw the "Wings" restoration. "And the fact that 'Wings' gets mentioned in its context doesn't upset me in the least."