This played in theaters for 63 weeks upon initial release. One of the reasons why it was such a resounding success was that the public had become obsessed with aviation following Charles Lindbergh's successful transatlantic flight.
According to biographer David Stenn, Clara Bow did not like her military uniform, as it did not show off her figure. She kept fighting with the costumers to let her wear a tight belt and show off her curves.
In contrast to co-star Richard Arlen, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers did not know how to fly a plane when production began, but learned how to by the end of it. During filming, Rogers' flight instructor and sometime backup pilot was Lt. Hoyt Vandenberg (aka "Van"), an Army Air Corps pilot at California's March Field (Vandenberg later became a four-star general, commanding the 9th Air Force in World War II, and served as the US Air Force's first official chief of staff after the war, when the Air Force was made a separate branch of the military). For close-up scenes where Jack and David (and other characters) are flying, the actors are actually working the planes themselves. To shoot these scenes, a camera was strapped to the engine cowling. The actors had to get the plane up in the air, keep it up, fly it so that clouds or German fighter planes could be seen in the background, operate the (motorized) camera and land the plane-and act at the same time. During Rogers' early flights, Vandenberg would hide in the back seat of the plane and operate the controls while Rogers gave his performance.
Much of the film was based on the experiences of director William A. Wellman as a combat pilot during World War I. While stationed in France, he joined the French Foreign Legion's Lafayette Flying Corps, N.87, les Chats Noir (Black Cat Group). The plane he flew was a Nieuport 24 fighter, which he named "Celia" after his mother. He was credited with three recorded "kills" of enemy aircraft, plus five probable kills. Wellman was shot down in combat and survived the crash, but walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He received the Croix du Guerre for his service. After the war, he returned home and joined the US Army Air Corps for two years, where he taught combat tactics to new pilots at Rockwell Field in San Diego.
Paramount Pictures was keen to exploit the presence and reputation of Clara Bow by inserting a scene that required her to be topless. Although she was mainly seen from the back, she was briefly glimpsed by the camera from the front.
Director William A. Wellman appears in the film, in what today could be called a "cameo" (although he does "speak"). During the final battle scene Wellman, portraying a doughboy, is shot and exclaims "Atta boy. Them buzzards are some good after all."
As a former pilot, director William A. Wellman knew how vital it was to have clouds for the dogfights, but the skies over Texas were clear for the first four weeks of production so no aerial scenes had been shot. When executives at Paramount Pictures questioned him about the delay, he explained that without clouds the audience would get no sense of speed or even movement--clouds gave audiences a sense of perspective, speed and direction, and without them planes flying around in a clear sky would just look like a swarm of flies.
The only movie to ever win an Academy Award for Best Production. In the Oscars' first year of existence, two "Best Picture"-type awards were given: This film was awarded Best Production and Sunrise (1927) was awarded Best Artistic Quality of Production. Both awards were discontinued the following year and replaced by the modern Best Picture Oscar; Best Production is usually thought of as that award's equivalent.
While many believe that this was the first movie to incorporate product placement, it not true. The earliest known occurrence of product placement in a film was that of Red Crown gasoline in the short film, The Garage (1920).
With the thousands of extras battling on the ground, dozens of airplanes flying around in the sky and hundreds of explosions going off everywhere, only two injuries on the entire picture were incurred. One was by veteran stunt pilot Dick Grace. A plane he was crashing was supposed to completely turn over, but it only turned partly over. Instead of being thrown clear of the plane, which was the plan, Grace was hurled against part of the fuselage and broke his neck. He returned to the company after six weeks in the hospital. The other injury was to one of the army pilots helping out on the shoot. Unfortunately, he was killed, and director William A. Wellman feared it would shut down production, but the army held the pilot, not the director, responsible.
In 1925 and 1926, Byron Morgan sent ideas for a story about air service in World War I to Famous Players Lasky Corporation. The company agreed when he brought this to their attention, and settled with him for $3750 which included his waiving claims to all rights to his material.