Thursday, July 9, 2015

1940--The Year in Review

Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca reigned supreme at the Oscars, but its director went home unrewarded (despite Judith Anderson's unforgettable villain, I've always found Du Maurier's story a little dull and quite honestly subpar to Hitch's more exciting Foreign Correspondent released this same year). The Oscars instead wisely gave the Best Director prize to John Ford, whose movie of John Steinbeck's dust bowl saga remains among cinema's finest film-to-novel adaptations (Steinbeck even thought it improved upon his work). Fonda would be nominated for his stirring lead as Tom Joad, and would then escape Academy recognition year after year until the end of his career; but, in fact, this was the assured performance that should have won him the gold. Rosalind Russell's fast-talking reporter gal in Howard Hawks' dizzying His Girl Friday ran rings around her already harried co-stars, and the actress wouldn't find a more energetic character until the 1950s and Auntie Mame. Chaplin popped up again, in his first speaking (double) role as both the oppressed and globe-juggling oppressor, while his fellow Brits behind The Thief of Bagdad garnered much international love for their quirky, vibrantly hued adventure (it was the most visually stunning movie of the year, and the one 1940 production--aside from Tyrone Power swashbuckling through The Mark of Zorro--I'd encourage all present-day genre movie lovers to check out). Yet again, Disney stole the year as the mastermind behind the ambitious two-shot of Fantasia and Pinocchio, both of which still enrapture audiences with their visionary power. In fact, Fantasia would for years stand as a singular blending of sound and image, and no one would approach such chutzpah in that realm until the 1960s. Finally, in the shorts categories, The Three Stooges scored again, and Bugs Bunny--though still unnamed--debuted under Tex Avery's pen to much adoration, although the Academy saw matters in a different way.  NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and they are in no way reflective of the choices made by the Oscars.

PICTURE: THE GRAPES OF WRATH (US, John Ford) (2nd: The Great Dictator (US, Charles Chaplin), followed by: Fantasia (US, Ben Sharpsteen, Walt Disney); The Thief of Bagdad (UK, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan, Ludwig Berger); His Girl Friday (US. Howard Hawks); The Shop Around the Corner (US, Ernst Lubitsch); They Drive by Night (US, Raoul Walsh); Foreign Correspondent (US, Alfred Hitchcock); The Letter (US, William Wyler); Rebecca (US, Alfred Hitchcock); The Sea Hawk (US, Michael Curtiz); Dance, Girl, Dance (US, Dorothy Arzner); Pinocchio (US, Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske, Walt Disney); The Great McGinty (US, Preston Sturges); All This and Heaven, Too (US, Anatole Litvak); The Bank Dick (US, Eddie Cline); Christmas in July (US, Preston Sturges); The Philadelphia Story (US, George Cukor); Abe Lincoln in Illinois (US, John Cromwell); Broadway Melody of 1940 (US, Norman Taurog))

ACTOR: Henry Fonda, THE GRAPES OF WRATH (2nd: W.C. Fields, The Bank Dick, followed by: Charles Chaplin, The Great Dictator; Brian Donlevy, The Great McGinty; Cary Grant, His Girl Friday; Laurence Olivier, Rebecca; Herbert Marshall, The Letter; James Stewart, The Shop Around the Corner; Raymond Massey, Abe Lincoln in Illinois)

ACTRESS: Rosalind Russell, HIS GIRL FRIDAY (2nd: Bette Davis, The Letter, followed by:Joan Fontaine, Rebecca; Margaret Sullivan, The Shop Around the Corner; Ginger Rogers, Kitty Foyle; Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story; Carole Lombard, They Knew What They Wanted; Irene Dunne, My Favorite Wife)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Walter Brennan, THE WESTERNER (2nd: Jack Oakie, The Great Dictator, followed by: Rex Ingram, The Thief of Bagdad; John Carradine, The Grapes of Wrath; Frank Morgan, The Shop Around the Corner; Albert Basserman, Foreign Correspondent; James Stephenson, The Letter; Akim Tamiroff, The Great McGinty)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Judith Anderson, REBECCA (2nd: Jane Darwell, The Grapes of Wrath, followed by: Barbara O’Neil, All This and Heaven, Too; Lucille Ball, Dance Girl Dance; Fay Bainter, Our Town; Ida Lupino, They Drive by Night; Margaret Lockwood, The Stars Look Down; Marjorie Rambeau, Primrose Path)

DIRECTOR: John Ford, THE GRAPES OF WRATH (2nd: Charles Chaplin, The Great Dictator, followed by: Ben Sharpsteen, Fantasia; Michael Powell, Tim Whelan and Ludwig Berger, The Thief of Bagdad; Alfred Hitchcock, Foreign Correspondent; Ernst Lubitsch, The Shop Around the Corner; Raoul Walsh, They Drive by Night)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Charles Chaplin, THE GREAT DICTATOR (2nd: Preston Sturges, The Great McGinty, followed by: W.C. Fields, The Bank Dick; Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison, James Hilton and Robert Benchley, Foreign Correspondent; Preston Sturges, Christmas in July; Tess Slesinger, Frank Davis and Vicki Baum, Dance, Girl, Dance)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Nunnally Johnson, THE GRAPES OF WRATH (2nd; Charles Lederer, His Girl Friday; Samson Raphelson, The Shop Around The Corner; Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison, Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan, Rebecca; Donald Ogden Stuart, The Philadelphia Story; Jerry Wald and Richard Macaulaey, They Drive By Night)

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: A-PLUMBING WE WILL GO (Del Lord; The Three Stooges) (2nd: London Can Take It! (Humphrey Jennings and Harry Watt), followed by: From Nurse to Worse (Jules White; The Three Stooges); Quicker 'N A Wink (George Sidney; Pete Smith); Britain at Bay (Harry Watt); You Nazty Spy (Jules White; The Three Stooges))

ANIMATED SHORT FILM: A WILD HARE (Tex Avery; Bugs Bunny) (2nd: The Milky Way (Rudolph Ising), followed by: Boogie Doodle (Norman McLaren); Swinging the Lambeth Walk (Lenny Lye); Themis (Dwinnel Grant); You Ought To Be in Pictures (Friz Freling); Elmer's Candid Camera (Chuck Jones))

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Georges Perinal, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (2nd: Gregg Toland. The Grapes of Wrath, followed by: George Barnes, Rebecca; Tony Gaudio, The Letter; Arthur Miller and Ray Rennahan, The Blue Bird; Rudolph Mate, Foreign Correspondent; Gregg Toland, The Long Voyage Home; Oliver T. Marsh and Joseph Ruttanberg, Broadway Melody of 1940)

ART DIRECTION: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, The Westerner, Broadway Melody of 1940 

COSTUME DESIGN: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, Broadway Melody of 1940, Bitter Sweet, His Girl Friday, The Blue Bird

FILM EDITING: THE GRAPES OF WRATH, Foreign Correspondent, Rebecca, They Drive By Night, The Letter 

SOUND: FANTASIA, Broadway Melody of 1940, The Grapes of Wrath, The Sea Hawk, Strike Up the Band

ORIGINAL SCORE: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, THE SEA HAWK (2nd: Aaron Copland. Our Town, followed by: Leigh Harline, Paul J.Smith Pinocchio; Miklós Rózsa, The Thief of Bagdad; Franz Waxman, Rebecca; Alfred Newman, The Mark of Zorro; Max Steiner, The Letter)

ORIGINAL SONG: "When You Wish Upon A Star" from PINOCCHIO (Music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington) (2nd: "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio (Music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington), followed by: "I Concentrate on You" from Broadway Melody of 1940 (Music and lyrics by Cole Porter); "Remind Me" from One Night in the Tropics (Music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields); "Down Argentina Way" from Down Argentine Way (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Mack Gordon); "Who Am I?" from Hit Parade of 1941 (music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Walter Bullock); "Love of My Life" from Second Chorus (music by Artie Shaw, lyrics by Johnny Mercer)

SPECIAL EFFECTS: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, The Sea Hawk, Dr. Cyclops, One Million BC

MAKEUP: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, Dr. Cyclops, One Million BC

Finally, I need to add my favorite clip from 1940: the dazzling dance to "Begun the Beguine" shared by Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire in Norman Taurog's Broadway Melody of 1940. This is some serious athleticism here, and I don't think we'll be seeing its like ever in the future. The movie, as a whole, is utter fun and the best out of the Broadway Melody series:


msmariah said...

Great list of 1940 in review. Wow, there were some really great movies that year. Rebecca was my favorite.

Dean Treadway said...

Thanks, and yeah, it was an astounding year.