Sunday, June 5, 2022

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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)...

Best Sound Recording, for instance, had nine nominees, one from each of the studios operating at the time. 

As far as I understand, each studio was automatically nominated, with their studio sound departments and department heads nominated instead of individual mixers/designers/editors. How the studios chose the one film to represent their entire year's body of work, I don't know, but it made for a varied slate of films. In addition to Best Picture nominees Captain Blood, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer and Naughty Marietta (the eventual winner), as well as the thrice-nom'd melodrama The Dark Angel, we have:
  • $1,000 a Minute - a screwball comedy about a broke journalist who could win $10,000 if he spends a wealthy duo's $1,000 a minute for twelve hours. Chaos and laughs, laughs and chaos. A good if dismissable time.
  • The Bride of Frankenstein - while the Monster wanders the country looking for acceptance, a mad scientist convinces Dr. Frankenstein to make a monstrous mate. Great nominee here, for the zap-zap laboratory, the destruction of the windmill, the explosion at the end. Great movie, too.
  • I Dream Too Much - singer falls in love with a composer, she becomes a sensation while he wallows in obscurity. One good number in "The Jockey on the Carousel," but otherwise a not-too-great melodrama. Not sure about this Lily Pons as an actress. Here for the musical numbers, OK.
  • Love Me Forever - A billionaire sacrifices everything for the career of a singer he loves. Terrific sets, all over the place tonally. Here for the musical numbers, obviously, and that's fine.
  • Thanks a Million - An entertainer is chosen to be a dark horse candidate by corrupt politicians who think they can manipulate him. Fun film! Nominated for the musical numbers and big political rallies. 
As for that first point - for the second and last year, the Academy allowed write-in candidates if the voters disagreed with the choice of candidates on their ballot. Such a thing was implemented the previous year when Bette Davis failed to make the official nominations for Of Human Bondage. It was repeated to entice members to vote and attend, as there were multiple guild strikes happening at the time of the awards. For the first time, the accounting firm Price-Waterhouse was hired to tally the votes, and during the ceremony, in addition to the winner, second- and third-place finishers were announced. That's how we know Paul Muni in Black Fury wasn't nominated but still came in second. Even crazier, it led to the only write-in winner in the ceremony's history: A Midsummer Night's Dream for Best Cinematography

The "official" nominees it defeated included Best Picture nominee Les Miserables, plus:
  • Barbary Coast - Edward G. Robinson runs a gambling house and the town of San Francisco thanks to his deep pockets and rough henchmen. Despite all the talent involved, not a very good movie, with everyone acting through gritted teeth. Sets should've been nominated over cinematography.
  • The Crusades - DeMille epic about Richard the Lionhearted joining the Third Crusade against Saladin, wedding Berengaria of Navarre, and facing a conspiracy to depose him and put his brother on England's throne. Historically accurate? Shut up! It's a suspenseful, romantic spectacle, full of great music and great performances! And great cinematography!
Now, as for that first point, the category of Best Dance Direction... Actually, let's get into it tomorrow, when we can look at all the nominees individually: Busby Berkeley (Gold Diggers of 1935), Bobby Connolly (Broadway Hostess, Go Into Your Dance), Dave Gould (Broadway Melody of 1936, Folies Bergère), Sammy Lee (King of Burlesque), Hermes Pan (Top Hat), LeRoy Prinz (All the King's Horses, The Big Broadcast of 1936), and Benjamin Zemach (She).

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