Monday, October 24, 2022

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1946: Screenplay

We're getting to the end of 1946! This is the third writing category, this one honoring works adapted from other works. You notice I don't say other mediums: that's because one of the nominees is not from a short story or play or novel, but from an Original Motion Picture Story. That is to say, it was always meant for the cinema, just that the credited screenwriters weren't all necessarily the original conceivers of the tale. We've covered the distinction before, you get it by now.

The nominees: 

Anna and the King of Siam
Sally Benson and Talbot Jennings
from the book by Margaret Landon
Benson's first and only nomination; Jennings' second and final nomination

This is Anna's story, so yes, the cultural differences are played like we should take for granted that the Siamese ways are backward and uncivilized - at first. What's so rewarding about this story is the mutual learning between our titular protagonists: there's an understanding that develops, little adjustments they make for each other, and they are still very much themselves. Whatever one feels about the casting or the movie itself, the script is, to my eyes, unimpeachable.

The Best Years of Our Lives
Robert E. Sherwood
from the novel Glory For Me by MacKinlay Kantor
second and final nomination

Does not shy away from the difficulties of adjusting to life post-war, and with its blunt depiction of mental and physical afflictions, alcoholism, and society's squeamishness with having to actually adjust, t still manages to leave on a note of...well, not "this too shall pass," but of "we're going to be OK - you're going to be OK." Without coming off as forced or insincere.
Brief Encounter
Anthony Havelock-Allan & David Lean & Ronald Neame
from the play Still Life by Noël Coward
Havelock-Allan's and Neame's first of two writing nominations; Lean's first of three writing nominations

The very subject matter is a risk - what, I'm supposed to root for the romance between two people who are already married to spouses they don't resent? Well, yes, as crazy as it seems, you do root for them. It's an empathic screenplay, one that recognizes its characters' flaws, one that gives voice to heretofore unspoken or unrecognized passions, one that treats them with some dignity. The runner about the teahouse woman and the railway security man is nice, too.
The Killers
Anthony Veiller
from the short story by Ernest Hemingway
second and final nomination

Expands the scope of the source short story by using that as prologue and creating a completely original story for the rest of it, with an insurance investigator piecing together why a man was targeted by gangsters for death. Sad story with one of the most casual femme fatales the genre's seen. It's like one part Citizen Kane, one part a Hammett or Chandler narrative, complete with climactic shootouts (yes, plural). An all right time.

Rome, Open City
Sergio Amidei & Federico Fellini
from an original story by Amidei with additional material by Albert Consiglio and Roberto Rossellini
Amidei's first of four nominations; Fellini's first of seven writing nominations

A vivid assemblage of heroes and villains, shocking (but not for the sake of shock!) plot developments, a moving final scene. And, of course, a tribute to living for something beyond yourself. For Manfredi/Ferraris, it's the liberation of his people from fascism; for Don Pietro, it's that and God. Pain and torture and death are horrible, but they are not the threat the enemy thinks they are: one man believes there is something worth dying for, the other knows that the death is not the end. This is all there, in the writing - and, by the way, so is a lot of humor, a lot of action, and a wicked Nazi lesbian.


Sherwood's screenplay was one of the many wins for The Best Years of Our Lives. My winner is:

as adapted by

Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Supporting Actor: Charles Coburn (The Green Years), William Demarest (The Jolson Story), Claude Rains (Notorious), Harold Russell (The Best Years of Our Lives), and Clifton Webb (The Razor's Edge). 

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