Sunday, August 30, 2015

1946--The Year in Review

Three stunning tales of fantasy led the film parade in 1946, and the one that should have emerged victorious--a notorious box-office flop by Frank Capra--would still land a number of nominations from the Academy (including a Best Picture nod) but would have to settle, in future years, for an eternal place among the most beloved movies ever made. It's a Wonderful Life is a much darker and cynical picture than many assume (its once-ubitquitous appearance as a Christmas-time TV staple has craftily fooled people into thinking it's a goopy batch of sentimentality, but when they finally really watch it, minds are changed). It is a film, however, that can reduce even the hardest heart to tears, so the sentiment is definitely there. Same goes for the UK's A Matter of Life and Death (known for many years on US shores as Stairway to Heaven); Powell and Pressberger's magical, realm-hopping romance, shot in both black-and-white and color by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff, remains today a philosophically challenging look at mortality and morality. And Jean Cocteau's gorgeous La Belle et la Bete would land as the most dynamic adaptation of that oft-told story (even today, only Disney's animated version from the '90s comes close to besting it, and even then, it's not a close contest). Film noir continued to take hold of cinema with Gilda, The Big Sleep, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Stranger, The Blue Dahlia, and The Killers dominating screens. Even with the myriad of great female leads in those films, it would be The Spiral Staircase's Dorothy McGuire who'd emerge with the most effective showing this year, and without having to utter a sound in Robert Siodmak's suspense classic. The western genre would see two of its landmark offerings, John Ford's exciting My Darling Clementine and King Vidor's wildly hallucinogenic Duel in the Sun. And David Lean would continue his rise to the top of the film world with a ridiculously entertaining adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel, adorned with a superb ensemble cast. As far as the Oscars were concerned, it was all about paying tribute to those who returned home from World War II, and so William Wyler's respectful but slightly ponderous The Best Years of Our Lives took all the top awards. In the shorts categories, Maya Deren contributed another eerie experimental piece in the live-action category, while the animated film industry exploded with the now unhinged work at Warner Brothers' Termite Terrace, where Bugs Bunny continued to reign supreme; this team's output would be so huge that the category could barely contain the limit of ten nominees. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

PICTURE: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (US, Frank Capra) (2nd: A Matter of Life and Death (UK, Michael Powell), followed by: La Belle et la Bete (France, Jean Cocteau); Great Expectations (UK, David Lean); My Darling Clementine (US, John Ford); The Best Years of Our Lives (US, William Wyler); The Big Sleep (US, Howard Hawks); The Postman Always Rings Twice (US, Tay Garnett); Shoeshine (Italy, Vittorio de Sica); Paisàn (Italy, Roberto Rossellini); The Killers (US, Robert Siodmak); Notorious (US, Alfred Hitchcock); Gilda (US, Charles Vidor); Ivan the Terrible Part Two: The Boyars Plot (USSR, Sergei Eisenstein); Green for Danger (UK, Sidney Gilliat); The Spiral Staircase (US, Robert Siodmak); Duel in the Sun (US, King Vidor); The Yearling (US, Clarence Brown); The Stranger (US, Orson Welles); To Each His Own (US, Mitchell Leisen); The Blue Dahlia (US, George Marshall); Anna and the King of Siam (US, John Cromwell)

ACTOR: James Stewart, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (2nd: John Garfield, The Postman Always Rings Twice, followed by: Fredric March, The Best Years of Our Lives; Henry Fonda, My Darling Clementine; Nikolai Cherkassov, Ivan the Terrible Part Two: The Boyars Plot; Alastair Sim, Green for Danger; Humphrey Bogart, The Big Sleep; David Niven, A Matter of Life and Death)

ACTRESS: Dorothy McGuire, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (2nd: Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own, followed by: Myrna Loy, The Best Years of Our Lives; Donna Reed, It's A Wonderful Life; Lana Turner, The Postman Always Rings Twice; Ingrid Bergman, Notorious; Barbara Stanwyck, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers; Rita Hayworth, Gilda)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Finlay Currie, GREAT EXPECTATIONS (2nd: Roger Livesey, A Matter of Life and Death, followed by: Bernard Miles, Great Expectations; Lionel Barrymore, It’s a Wonderful Life; James Baskett, Song of the South; Claude Rains, Notorious; Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives; Victor Mature, My Darling Clementine) 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Martita Hunt, GREAT EXPECTATIONS (2nd: Jean Simmons, Great Expectations, followed by: Lillian Gish, Duel in the Sun; Ethel Barrymore, The Spiral Staircase; Kim Hunter, A Matter of Life and Death; Martha Vickers, The Big Sleep; Rosamund John, Green for Danger; Linda Darnell, My Darling Clementine)

DIRECTOR: Frank Capra, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (2nd: David Lean, Great Expectations, followed by: Michael Powell, A Matter of Life and Death; Jean Cocteau, La Belle et la Bete; John Ford, My Darling Clementine; Vittorio de Sica, Shoeshine)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, Philip Van Doren Stern, and Frank Capra, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (2nd: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, A Matter of Life and Death, followed by: Ben Hecht, Notorious; Sergio Amidei, Adolfo Franci, Cesare Giulio Viola, and Cesare Zavattini, Shoeshine; Charles Brackett and Jacques Thiery, To Each His Own)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: David Lean, Ronald Neame, Anthony Havelock-Allan, Cecil McGivern, and Kay Walsh, GREAT EXPECTATIONS (2nd: Samuel G. Engel, Winston Miller and Sam Hellman, My Darling Clementine, followed by: Robert E. Sherwood, The Best Years of Our Lives; Anthony Veiller, John Huston, and Richard Brooks, The Killers; Sidney Gilliat and Claude Guerney, Green for Danger)

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: RITUAL IN TRANSFIGURED TIME (Maya Deren) (2nd: A Bird in the Head (Eduard Bernds; The Three Stooges), followed by: Tall Tan and Terrific (Bud Pollard); Rhythm and Weep (Jules White; The Three Stooges); Frontier Frolic (Lewis D. Collins))

ANIMATED SHORT FILM: HARE-RAISING HARE (Chuck Jones; Bugs Bunny) (2nd: Baseball Bugs (Friz Freling; Bugs Bunny), followed by: The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (Bob Clampett; Daffy Duck); Northwest Hounded Police (Tex Avery; Droopy Dog); Peter and the Wolf  (Clyde Geronimi and Walt Disney); Walky Talky Hawky (Robert McKimson; Foghorn Leghorn); Book Revue (Bob Clampett); Rhapsody Rabbit (Friz Freling; Bugs Bunny); Lonesome Lenny (Tex Avery; Screwy Squirrel); John Henry and the Inky Poo (George Pal)

BLACK-AND-WHITE CINEMATOGRAPHY: Henri Alekan, LA BELLE ET LA BETE (2nd: Guy Green, Great Expectations, followed by: Rudolph Maté, Gilda; Nicholas Musuraca, The Spiral Staircase; Arthur Miller, Anna and the King of Siam) 

COLOR CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lee Garmes, Ray Rennahan, and Harold Rosson, DUEL IN THE SUN (2nd: Charles Rosher, Leonard Smith, and Arthur Arling, The Yearling, followed by: Jack Cardiff, A Matter of Life and Death; Andrei Moskvin and Edouard Tisse, Ivan the Terrible Part Two: The Boyars Plot; Eduard Cronjager, Canyon Passage)

BLACK-AND-WHITE ART DIRECTION: GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Beauty and the Beast, Anna and the King of Siam, It's a Wonderful Life, The Spiral Staircase 

COLOR ART DIRECTION: THE YEARLING, Duel in the Sun, Ivan the Terrible Part Two: The Boyars Plot

BLACK-AND-WHITE COSTUME DESIGN: ANNA AND THE KING OF SIAM, Great Expectations, Beauty and the Beast, Gilda, The Spiral Staircase 

COLOR COSTUME DESIGN: CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, Ivan the Terrible Part Two: The Boyars Plot, Duel in the Sun 

FILM EDITING: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, The Killers, My Darling Clementine, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Postman Always Rings Twice 

SOUND: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Jolson Story, Duel in the Sun, Great Expectations 

ORIGINAL SCORE: Dimitri Tiomkin, DUEL IN THE SUN (2nd: Georges Auric, La Belle et la Bete, followed by: Miklós Rózsa, The Killers; Bernard Herrmann, Anna and the King of Siam; Franz Waxman, Humoresque)

ADAPTED OR MUSICAL SCORE: Morris Stoloff, THE JOLSON STORY (2nd: Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner, Night and Day, followed by: Lennie Hayton, The Harvey Girls)

ORIGINAL SONG: "You Make Me Feel So Young" from THREE LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE (Music by Josef Myrow, lyrics by Mack Gordon) (2nd: "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah: from Song of the South (Music by Allie Wrubel, lyrics by Ray Gilbert), followed by: "Put The Blame on Mame" from Gilda (Music by Allan Roberts, lyrics by Doris Fisher); "Personality" from Road to Utopia (Music by Jimmy Van Heausen, lyrics by Johnny Burke); "On The Acheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe" from The Harvey Girls (Music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Johnny Mercer))

MAKEUP: LA BELLE ET LA BETE, Great Expectations, Ivan the Terrible Part Two: The Boyars Plot

Sunday, August 16, 2015

1945--The Year in Review

The American film industry relaxed in 1945 while the rest of the world took a life-giving, newly post-war breath. In fact, this period informed the world of a fully vibrant cinematic cosmos outside of the US studio system (even though, really, on American screens, many of the year's best films wouldn't be seen for years to come). But, for the purposes of this and all subsequent and previous overviews, time and space have been equaled--in other words, we're going by ORIGINAL release years in this ongoing series of articles, regardless of WHERE these movies were first seen. In 1945, Marcel Carne's devastating, gorgeously romantic French epic would outclass nearly equally supreme works from British directors David Lean and Michael Powell, Russian auteur Sergei Eisenstein, and Italy's Roberto Rossellini, whose intimate wartime tale would propel its dynamic star Anna Magnani into the stratosphere. This would also be the first year that no American actors (in my estimation) deserve the top accolades. Britain's Boris Karloff is finally recognized, this time for his eerie, villainous performance in The Body Snatcher. Similarly, Michael Redgrave--the great patriarch of Britain's luminous acting family--is noted for his show as a ventriloquist possessed by his alter ego in the benchmark horror anthology Dead of Night. David Lean's Brief Encounter was a tense but cherished look into a chancy wartime affair, with Trevor Howard and the superb Celia Johnson as leads, while Michael Powell's "I Know Where I'm Going!" further deepened the UK's continually essential contribution to movies. As far as the Oscars were concerned, Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend prevailed (in my opinion, this was a make-up award for not giving due to Double Indemnity the year before). Even so, The Lost Weekend was the first film to attack the scourge of alcoholism overtaking many World War II veterans (this is why, I think, the film won as many accolades as it did). Still, as far as American cinema is concerned, John Ford's complicated, downbeat war drama They Were Expendable is the most mature and elaborate US selection of the year--it's a war film unlike any other. But there's no way it could compete with the developing, enveloping brilliance of world cinema. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

PICTURE: CHILDREN OF PARADISE (France, Marcel Carné) (2nd: Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni (USSR, Sergei Eisenstein), followed by: Brief Encounter (UK, David Lean); They Were Expendable (US, John Ford); Rome: Open City (Italy, Roberto Rossellini); "I Know Where I’m Going!" (UK, Michael Powell); Detour (US, Edgar G. Ulmer); Scarlet Street (US, Fritz Lang); Leave Her to Heaven (US, John M. Stahl); The Lost Weekend (US, Billy Wilder); Spellbound (US, Alfred Hitchcock); Mildred Pierce (US, Michael Curtiz); The Southerner (US, Jean Renoir); Dead of Night (UK, Robert Hamer, Alberto Cavalcanti, Basil Dearden, and Charles Crichton); The Picture of Dorian Gray (US, Albert Lewin); The Body Snatcher (US, Robert Wise); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (US, Elia Kazan); Blithe Spirit (UK…David Lean); And Then There Were None (US, René Clair); Anchors Aweigh (US, George Sidney); Christmas in Connecticut (US, Peter Godfrey); The Clock (US, Vincente Minnelli); A Walk in the Sun (US, Lewis Milestone))

ACTOR: Boris Karloff, THE BODY SNATCHER (2nd: Nikolai Cherkassov, Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni, followed by: Jean-Louis Barrault, Children of Paradise; Edward G. Robinson, Scarlet Street; Trevor Howard, Brief Encounter; Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend; James Mason, The Seventh Veil; Rex Harrison, Blithe Spirit)

ACTRESS: Celia Johnson, BRIEF ENCOUNTER (2nd: Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce, followed by: Wendy Hiller, "I Know Where I’m Going!"; Joan Bennett, Scarlet Street; Ingrid Bergman, Spellbound; Arletty, Children of Paradise; Gene Tierney, Leave Her to Heaven; Judy Garland, The Clock)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Michael Redgrave, DEAD OF NIGHT (2nd: James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, followed by: Barry Fitzgerald, And Then There Were None; George Sanders, The Picture of Dorian Gray; Michael Chekhov, Spellbound; Robert Mitchum, The Story of G.I Joe; Frank Faylen, The Lost Weekend)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anna Magnani, ROME: OPEN CITY (2nd: Eve Arden, Mildred Pierce, followed by: Angela Lansbury, The Picture of Dorian Gray; Ann Blyth, Mildred Pierce; Peggy Ann Garner, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn;  Margaret Rutherford, Blithe Spirit; Anne Revere, National Velvet)

DIRECTOR: Marcel Carné, CHILDREN OF PARADISE (2nd: Sergei Eisenstein, Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni, followed by: Michael Powell, "I Know Where I’m Going!"; David Lean, Brief Encounter; Roberto Rossellini, Rome: Open City; John Ford, They Were Expendable; Edgar G. Ulmer, Detour; Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, "I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING!" (2nd: Sergio Amedei and Federico Fellini, Rome: Open City, followed by: Martin Goldsmith, Detour; Jacques Prevert, Children of Paradise; Sergei Eisenstein, Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Noel Coward, Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean and Ronald Neame, BRIEF ENCOUNTER (2nd: Frank Wead, They Were Expendable, followed by: Ranald McDougall, Mildred Pierce; Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; Dudley Nichols, And Then There Were None)

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (Mervyn Le Roy) (2nd: A Story in Choreography for Camera (Maya Deren); Micro-Phonies (The Three Stooges; Eduard Bernds); If a Body Meets a Body (The Three Stooges; Jules White)

ANIMATED SHORT FILM: Quiet Please! (Tom and Jerry; William Hanna and Joseph Barbera) (Hare Tonic (Bugs Bunny; Chuck Jones), The Bashful Buzzard (Robert Clampett), Life With Feathers (Friz Freling))

BLACK-AND-WHITE CINEMATOGRAPHY: John Seitz, THE LOST WEEKEND (2nd: Andrei Moskvin and Eduard Tisse, Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni, followed by: Harry Stradling, The Portrait of Dorian Gray; Roger Hubert, Children of Paradise; Robert Krasker, "I Know Where I'm Going!")

COLOR CINEMATOGRAPHY: Leon Shamroy, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (2nd: Leonard Smith, National Velvet, followed by: Robert Plank and Charles Boyle, Anchors Aweigh)

BLACK-AND-WHITE ART DIRECTION: THE PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY, Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni, Children of Paradise, "I Know Where I'm Going!", Mildred Pierce

COLOR ART DIRECTION: LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, National Velvet, A Thousand and One Nights

BLACK-AND-WHITE COSTUME DESIGN: CHILDREN OF PARADISE, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni, Mildred Pierce, Blithe Spirit

COLOR COSTUME DESIGN: A SONG TO REMEMBER, Leave Her to Heaven, Wonder Man, A Thousand and One Nights

FILM EDITING: BRIEF ENCOUNTER, They Were Expendable, Rome: Open City, The Lost Weekend, Children of Paradise 

SOUND: THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, Wonder Man, Spellbound, Leave Her to Heaven, The Southerner

ORIGINAL SCORE: Miklos Rosza, SPELLBOUND (2nd: Miklos Rosza, The Lost Weekend, followed by: Sergei Prokoviev, Ivan the Terrible, Part One: Ivan Grozyni; Max Steiner, Mildred Pierce; Victor Young, Love Letters)

ADAPTED OR MUSICAL SCORE: Georgie Stoll, ANCHORS AWEIGH (2nd: Miklos Rosza and Morris Stoloff, A Song to Remember, followed by: Alfred Newman and Charles Henderson, State Fair; Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner, Rhapsody in Blue; Ray Heindorf and Lou Forbes, Wonder Man)

ORIGINAL SONG: “Ac-cen-tu-ate The Positive” from HERE COME THE WAVES (Music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer) (2nd: "It Might as Well Be Spring" from State Fair (Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II), followed by: "I Fall in Love Too Easily" from Anchors Aweigh  (Music by Jule Stein, lyrics by Sammy Cahn); "Love Letters" from Love Letters  (Music by Victor Young, lyrics by Eddie Heyman); "I'll Buy That Dream" from Sing Your Way Home (Music by Allie Wrubel, lyrics by Herb Magidson))

MAKEUP: IVAN THE TERRIBLE, PART ONE: IVAN GROZYNI, Children of Paradise, The Body Snatcher