Saturday, June 18, 2022

My Top Ten of 1935

The Academy offered a Top Twelve, and while I toyed with doing so as well, I found that I was having a harder time deciding #11 and #12 than I did #'s 1-10. So let us keep it simple, keep it to a Top Ten, and apologize to the titles I considered for those extra two spots: Call of the Wild, The Crusades, The Devil is a Woman, Gold Diggers of 1935, The Last Days of Pompeii, and Les Misérables.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Monday, June 13, 2022

1935: Marxes and Marxists

What I do when I do these, is I watch all the Oscar nominees available to me, then watch a handful of other filsm released in the United States and qualifying for Oscar contention in the year we're covering. For the films of 1935, these were the first twelve to fit the bill:

Sunday, June 12, 2022

1935: Best Picture

Mutiny on the Bounty was the biggest hit at the box office. It had the most nominations going into the 8th Academy Awards. It should be no surprise that it won - certainly when you see its name under a list of Best Picture titles, you go, "Well, of course, that sounds correct." And yet it came close to not winning - indeed, The Informer seemed to be the favorite that night, despite not being as big a hit. A sigh of relief, I'm sure, when they eventually won the Big Prize:

It was the last time a film would win Best Picture and nothing else.

Twelve films were nominated that year, and so I've decided to do something different from my usual summary-star rating-big reveal at end. I'm gonna rank 'em. Before I do, let's meet the twelve nominees:
  • Alice Adams - A working-class girl is thwarted and embarrassed in her attempts to move up socially by her gauche family and unstable father. Also nominated for Best Actress.
  • Broadway Melody of 1936 - Young producer stages a new Broadway show, but the leading role is desired by both his high school sweetheart and his financier; meanwhile, a gossip columnist tries to knock him down. Won Best Dance Direction, also nominated for Best Original Story.
  • Captain Blood - After treating a rebel against King James II, an Irish doctor is exiled as a slave to Jamaica where he captures a Spanish galleon and becomes the most feared pirate in the Caribbean. Also nominated for Best Sound Recording; a write-in candidate for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Score.
  • David Copperfield - A gentle orphan discovers life and love. Also nominated for Best Film Editing (Robert Kern) and Best Assistant Director (Joseph M. Newman).
  • The Informer - An Irish rebel informs on his friend, then feels doom closing in. Won Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best Score, also nominated for Best Film Editing (George Hively).
  • The Lives of a Bengal Lancer - Three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy - and themselves. Won Best Assistant Director (Clem Beauchamp / Paul Wing), also nominated for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction (Hans Dreier/Roland Anderson), Best Film Editing (Ellsworth Hoagland), and Best Sound Recording.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream - Two couples and a troupe of actors encounter mischievous fairies in the woods. Won Best Cinematography (Hal Mohr, as a write-in) and Best Film Editing (Ralph Dawson), also nominated for Best Assistant Director (Sherry Shourds).
  • Les Misérables - An ex-convict who failed to report for parole is hounded for decades by a relentless policeman. Also nominated for Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland), Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean), and Best Assistant Director (Erin Stacey).
  • Mutiny on the Bounty - First mate Fletcher Christian leads a revolt against his sadistic commander, Captain William Bligh. Won Best Picture, also nominated for Best Director, Best Actor (thrice), Best Screenplay, Best Score, and Best Film Editing (Margaret Booth).
  • Naughty Marietta - Escaping a prearranged marriage, a French princess sheds her identity and escapes to colonial New Orleans, where she finds unexpected love. Won Best Sound Recording.
  • Ruggles of Red Gap - An English valet brought to the American west assimilates into American life.
  • Top Hat - An American dancer romances a model who mistakes him for her best friend's husband. Also nominated for Best Original Song, Best Art Direction, and Best Dance Direction.
And now, starting with my #12 pick...:

Saturday, June 11, 2022

1935: Actress

The New York Critics gave their Best Actress award to Greta Garbo for Anna Karenina. She was not nominated at the Academy Awards (which I think is fine, she's weirdly too self-consciously Garbo in that film), something which surely surprised everyone once they realized a number of ties in the voting process led to six official nominees. No write-ins received enough votes to be mentioned. All there were to mention were these six:

Friday, June 10, 2022

1935: Actor

StinkyLulu, if you don't know, is one of the greatest voices on the internet. His Supporting Actress Smackdown series was, as you can tell, extremely influential not just on me, but on how Oscar races and individual categories were and are discussed. And if it wasn't for this specific category, Best Actor 1935, such work as he has done in that regard would not have been possible.

From the 1st Academy Awards through to the 8th, there were only two acting categories: Best Actor and Best Actress. The supporting categories would not be introduced until the next year honoring the films of 1936, and it is generally assumed and accepted that the three-peat of Mutiny on the Bounty is the reason why. Franchot Tone was certainly a leading man in films at the time, but neither his character in the film nor his status against his co-stars (1934 Best Actor winner Clark Gable and 1932-33 Best Actor winner Charles Laughton) would have made his Best Actor nomination a given in a world where supporting is an option. Personally, I feel any nomination for this guy is a stretch, but we'll get into that. In fact...let's:

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

1935: Writing & Directing

We're doing all the nominees for both the writing awards as well as Best Director today. It made sense to me: there are only six movies to discuss. See, at the time, ballots were supposed to be limited to three nominees per category - categories made up of seven, six, or twelve were the result of ties in the voting stage. Nowadays, there are rules to prevent that from happening, just as the Academy no longer allows write-in candidates. With the exception of said write-ins - the FBI propaganda thriller "G" Men in Original Story, Captain Blood in both Screenplay and Director - the writing and directing nominees kept it to three per, with Screenplay and Director lining up perfectly.

There weren't as many "precursors" back in this time, mostly just the New York Film Critics Circle. Like the Academy, they named John Ford the Best Director of the year for The Informer, but they did cite another filmmaker as runner-up, an already notable British director whose latest works were enough to achieve breakthrough success in the United States: Alfred Hitchcock, for The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps. It would be another five years before he came to Hollywood and was formally welcomed into the club of Academy Award Nominees, with Rebecca. But that's a story for another day.

Beginning with Best Original Story, the nominees are:

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

1935: Music

Times were different then. Generally true, but also very much a fact with regards to Oscars Past. In the early days of the Academy Awards, it was not the individual craftsman whose contributions were recognized, but his boss...unless he was the boss, in which follow.

A long way to say that for Best Original Score, no matter the composer, the nomination itself went to the head of the music department. Meanwhile, Best Original Song was, as it is now, the domain of the actual songwriters.

As mentioned the other day, the Academy accepted write-in candidates for all categories, with the results of all voting announced during the show. Despite not receiving an official nomination, write-ins guaranteed a third-place spot to Captain Blood. Composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold would win three years later - legitimately when the rules changed - for The Adventures of Robin Hood, but department head Leo F. Forbstein got the honors for the Captain Blood write-in. Let's listen.

How groovy! But not an official nominee. Those would be after the jump:

Monday, June 6, 2022

1935: Dance Direction

In 1927, The Jazz Singer made sound - and the movie musical - into big business, receiving an Honorary Award at the First Academy Awards in 1929. In 1930, The Broadway Melody became the first musical to win the Best Picture Oscar at the Second Academy Awards. In 1934, Best Original Song was introduced as a category. And in 1935, the domination of the movie musical was further recognized with a brand new category: Best Dance Direction.

The category was short-lived - it was only given out thrice - but it's stuck in the minds of Oscar Heads for decades, often misremembered as a Best Choreography category. It's understandable, of course, but the difference is cinematic: beyond the steps, the great dance directors conceived of numbers that went beyond the proscenium, taking full advantage of edits, cinematography, dubbing, to make for the most transcendent musical experiences since Ziegfeld's tableaux.

There were seven nominees this first year, most of them cited for two musical numbers - sometimes from two different films, sometimes two numbers from one. And yes, we've video. Let us entertain you:

Sunday, June 5, 2022

1935: An Introduction

It's only been one week since we closed the books on 1950 but, here we are, ready to journey through the films of 1935! A year where the short-lived category of Best Dance Direction was introduced (bring it back!), one winner wasn't even nominated (huh?), and the number of nominees per category could be anywhere from three (as with Best Song) to twelve (as with Best Picture)...