Saturday, May 30, 2015

1937--The Year in Review

It's a tight race here. Against impossible odds, Walt Disney and his chosen director David Hand spearheaded among the first animated features, and did so perfectly--so much so that they shook film history forever. But French mastermind Jean Renoir contributed the smartest and most emotional anti-war statement ever committed to film (that's at least true for the first half of the 20th century). Meanwhile, the romantic comedy genre got its crown gem with Leo McCarey's The Awful Truth, commanded by a kingly team of Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, who managed to be ridiculously funny, argumentative, and sexy (the film has a GREAT supporting cast, including the hilariously clueless Ralph Bellamy). Still, Bellamy could not brook the contribution of the inimitable Erich Von Stroheim, who stands as one of the most complexly heroic villains in cinema history (so much so that he famously became "The man you love to hate"). Alice Brady fully inhabited the horror of the great Chicago fire, and the animation short prize came to a surprising tie, with both Disney and Oskar Fischinger making terrific strides in that field (I believe Fischinger, with his wonderfully visual translation of musical beats, greatly influenced Disney to later craft the animation milestone Fantasia). And, among live action shorts, a strange and amateur amalgamation of narrative and experimental ideas takes hold and becomes something of immense wonder--it feels like the greatest 48-hour film challenge result ever. Finally, Gregg Toland--later the cinematographer of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane--makes strides with his moody, ahead-of-its-time cinematography for the early crime drama Dead End--a film which would reverberate for years to come in surprising ways.  NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and they are in no way reflective of the choices made by the Oscars.


PICTURE: GRAND ILLUSION (France, Jean Renoir) (2nd: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (US, David Hand and Walt Disney, followed by: The Awful Truth (US, Leo McCarey), Make Way for Tomorrow (US, Leo McCarey), Nothing Sacred (US, William Wellman), Lost Horizon (US, Frank Capra), A Star is Born (US, William Wellman), Stella Dallas (US, King Vidor), Dead End (US, William Wyler), Easy Living (US, Mitchell Leisen), The Life of Emile Zola (US, William Dieterle), Way Out West (US, James Horne)

ACTOR: Cary Grant, THE AWFUL TRUTH (2nd: Victor Moore, Make Way for Tomorrow, followed by: Paul Muni, The Life of Emile Zola; Fredric March, Nothing Sacred; Fredric March, A Star is Born; Jean Gabin, Grand Illusion)



ACTRESS: Irene Dunne, THE AWFUL TRUTH (2nd: Carole Lombard, Nothing Sacred, followed by: Beulah Bondi, Make Way for Tomorrow; Barbara Stanwyck, Stella Dallas; Jean Arthur, Easy Living; Janet Gaynor A Star is Born)


SUPPORTING ACTOR:  Erich Von Stroheim, GRAND ILLUSION (2nd: Ralph Bellemy, The Awful Truth, followed by: Joseph Schildkraut, The Life of Emile Zola; H.B. Warner, Lost Horizon; Roland Young, Topper; Thomas Mitchell, Lost Horizon)


SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Alice Brady, IN OLD CHICAGO (2nd: Eve Arden, Stage Door, followed by: Billie Burke, Topper; Claire Trevor, Dead End; Anne Shirley, Stella Dallas)

DIRECTOR: Jean Renoir, GRAND ILLUSION (2nd: Leo McCarey, The Awful Truth, followed by:
David Hand, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; Leo McCarey, Make Way for Tomorrow; William Wellman, Nothing Sacred; Frank Capra, Lost Horizon) 

SCREENPLAY: Vina Delmar, THE AWFUL TRUTH (2nd: Charles Spaak and Jean Renoir, Grand Illusion, followed by: Vina Delmar, Make Way for Tomorrow; Dorothy Parker, William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, and Alan Campbell, A Star is Born; Ben Hecht, Nothing Sacred; Robert Riskin, Lost Horizon)



LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: EVEN - AS YOU AND I (US, Roger Barlow, Harry Hay, and LeRoy Robbins) (2nd: Calling Mr. Smith (Poland, Stefan Themerson), followed by: Grips, Grunts & Groans (US, Preston Black, The Three Stooges))





ANIMATED SHORT FILM: TIE: THE OLD MILL (US, Wilfred Jackson and Walt Disney) and AN OPTICAL POEM (US, Oskar Fischinger) (2nd: Trade Tattoo (US, Lenny Lye), followed by: Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s 40 Thieves (US, Dave Fleischer); Clock Cleaners (US, Ben Sharpsteen and Walt Disney) '



CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gregg Toland, DEAD END (2nd: Karl Freund, The Good Earth, followed by: Christian Matras, Grand Illusion; W. Howard Greene, Nothing Sacred) 


ART DIRECTION: LOST HORIZON, The Awful Truth, The Prisoner of Zenda, Wee Willie Winkie, In Old Chicago

COSTUME DESIGN: LOST HORIZON, The Awful Truth, The Prisoner of Zenda, Topper, The Hurricane


ORIGINAL SCORE: Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (2nd: Dimitri Tiompkin, LOST HORIZON, followed by: Joseph Kosma, Grand Illusion; Alfred Newman, The Hurricane; Marvin Hatley, Way Out West; Max Steiner, The Life of Emile Zola; Erich Wolfgang Korngold, The Prince and the Pauper)

ORIGINAL SONG: "Whistle While You Work" from SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (Music by Frank Chuchill, lyrics by Larry Morey) (2nd: "Someday My Prince Will Come" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Music by Frank Chuchill, lyrics by Larry Morey), followed by: "They Can't Take That Away From Me" from Shall We Dance (Music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin); "Heigh Ho" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Music by Frank Chuchill, lyrics by Larry Morey); "Whispers in the Dark" from Artists and Models (Music by Frederic Hollander. lyrics by Leo Robin)

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