Monday, August 10, 2015

1944--The Year in Review

Film noir didn't begin in 1944, but it sure gained some traction with Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler's Double Indemnity. This shadowy genre would command cinema, really, from hence forth (weathering many changes), but this sultry L.A.-set potboiler starring Barbara Stanwyk as the femme fatale duping goofball insurance investigator Fred MacMurray into nowheresville would remain the noir against which to measure all others. Even though he ventured out into other genres, Wilder remained one of the its stars, and so would his cinematographer, the fiercely creative John Seitz (who also photographed 1944's greatest comedy The Miracle of Morgan's Creek). This same year delivered arguably the most important musical ever made, Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me in St. Louis, a work which transformed its genre in similarly profound ways (for one, it was the first to dramatize a story with its characters breaking out into song OUTSIDE of the stage, ostensibly in real life; it's also among the first of cinema's popular operas, in which songs from past eras are utilized to tell its story--much like 2001's Moulin Rouge would later do, to many moviegoers' disgust and confusion).

Meanwhile, Alfred Hitchcock decided to challenge himself with a film taking place completely on a single set (and with a nearly perfect cast). Lawrence Olivier commanded the screen as producer, director, lead writer and actor of Henry V (for which he won a Special Oscar). Preston Sturges continue his comedy thrills with the hilarious Hail The Conquering Hero, and with the naughtiest of films from this era, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, starring the energetic Betty Hutton as hot-to-trot Trudy Kockenlocker who finds herself pregnant after a one-night-stand with a departing soldier (this is a shockingly bawdy comedy--the equivalent of, say, The Hangover, today). Henry King's Wilson stands as a intelligent and reverent US presidential biography, even if its rarely talked about now. The Oscars, we should note, had overwhelming love for Going My Way, though in my estimation, it barely needs remembering (only its supporting performance from Barry Fitzgerald--forever to remain the only actor to be nominated for both lead and supporting awards for the same film--and its main hit song rings any bells at all today, and even that had much competition from the Meet Me in St. Louis numbers). With the shorts, the live action category brought a stunningly well directed peer into the jazz scene, and the animation slate was nearly completely controlled by the Warner Brothers team. I should NOTE this is the first year I've split the three craft categories of cinematography, art direction, and costume design into SEPARATE categories for black-and-whie and color design (this will remain in place until 1970, when color takes over completely). 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: DOUBLE INDEMNITY (US, Billy Wilder) (2nd: Meet Me in St. Louis (US, Vincente Minnelli, followed by: Lifeboat (US, Alfred Hitchcock); Laura (US, Otto Preminger); Henry V (UK, Laurence Olivier); The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (US, Preston Sturges); Arsenic and Old Lace (US, Frank Capra); Since You Went Away (US, John Cromwell); To Have and Have Not (US, Howard Hawks); Hail the Conquering Hero (US, Preston Sturges); Wilson (US, Henry King); Ministry of Fear (US, Fritz Lang); Murder My Sweet (US, Edward Dmytryk); This Happy Breed (UK, David Lean); The Uninvited (US, Lewis Allen); A Canterbury Tale (UK, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger)Gaslight (US, George Cukor); The Sullivans (US, Lloyd Bacon); Curse of the Cat People (US, Robert Wise, Gunther Von Fritsch); The Suspect (US, Robert Siodmak); The Lodger (US, John Brahm); Mr. Skeffington (US, Vincent Sherman)

ACTOR: Laurence Olivier, HENRY V (2nd: Eddie Bracken, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, followed by: Edward G. Robinson, The Woman in the Window; Cary Grant, Arsenic and Old Lace; Alexander Knox, Wilson; Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity; Charles Boyer, Gaslight;  Dana Andrews, Laura; Laird Cregar, The Lodger; Frederic March, The Adventures of Mark Twain)

ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck, DOUBLE INDEMNITY (2nd: Betty Hutton, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, followed by: Tallulah Bankhead, Lifeboat; Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight; Claudette Colbert, Since You Went Away; Judy Garland, Meet Me in St. Louis; Joan Bennett, The Woman in the Window; Celia Johnson, This Happy Breed; Bette Davis, Mr. Skeffington; Lauren Bacall, To Have and Have Not)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Clifton Webb, LAURA (2nd: Edward G. Robinson, Double Indemnity, followed by: Walter Slezak, Lifeboat; William Demarest, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek; Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way; Dan Duryea, The Woman in the Window; William Bendix, Lifeboat; Claude Rains, Mr. Skeffington; Monte Woolley, Since You Went Away; Raymond Massey, Arsenic and Old Lace)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Margaret O’Brien, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (2nd: Josephine Hull, Arsenic and Old Lace, followed by: Angela Lansbury, Gaslight; Diana Lynn, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek; Jean Adair, Arsenic and Old Lace; Ethel Barrymore, None But the Lonely Heart Agnes Moorehead, Mrs. Parkington; Jennifer Jones, Since You Went Away; Gail Russell, The Uninvited)

DIRECTOR: Billy Wilder, DOUBLE INDEMNITY (2nd: Vincente Minnelli, Meet Me in St. Louis, followed by: Alfred Hitchcock, Lifeboat; Laurence Olivier, Henry V; Otto Preminger, Laura; Preston Sturges, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek; John Cromwell, Since You Went Away)

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: John Steinbeck and Jo Swerling, LIFEBOAT (2nd: Preston Sturges, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, followed by: Preston Sturges, Hail the Conquering Hero; Edward Doherty, Jules Schermer and Mary C. McCall Jr., The Sullivans; Lamar Trotti, Wilson)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, DOUBLE INDEMNITY (2nd: Jay Dratler, Betty Reinhardt, and Samuel Hoffenstein, Laura; Margaret Buell Wilder and David O. Selznick, Since You Went Away; Irving Brecher and Fred A. Finkelhoffe, Meet Me in St. Louis; Anthony Havelock-Allan, Ronald Neame and David Lean, This Happy Breed)

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: JAMMIN' THE BLUES (Gjon Mili) (2nd: At Land (Maya Deren), followed by: The Yoke's on Me (The Three Stooges; Jules White); The Fuhrer Gives The Jews a City (the only film known to be made by the Nazis inside an operating concentration camp; Kurt Gerron)

ANIMATED SHORT FILM: LITTLE RED RIDING RABBIT (Bugs Bunny; Friz Freling) (2nd: Swooner Crooner (Porky Pig; Frank Tashlin), followed by: How to Play Football (Goofy; Walt Disney); Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (Bugs Bunny; Friz Freling); The Old Grey Hare (Bugs Bunny; Robert Clampett)

BLACK-AND-WHITE CINEMATOGRAPHY: John Seitz, DOUBLE INDEMNITY (2nd: Joseph Lashelle, Laura, followed by: Charles Lang, The Uninvited; Stanley Cortez and Lee Garmes, Since You Went Away; Lucien Ballard, The Lodger)

COLOR CINEMATOGRAPHY: Leon Shamroy, WILSON (2nd: George Folsey, Meet Me in St. Louis, followed by: Allen M. Davey and Rudolph Mate, Cover Girl; Robert Krasker and Jack Hildyard, Henry V; Ray Rennahan, Lady in the Dark)

BLACK-AND-WHITE ART DIRECTION: GASLIGHT, Laura, Since Your Went Away, Mr. Skeffington, The Uninvited

COLOR ART DIRECTION: MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, Wilson, Cover Girl, Lady in the Dark, Kismet

BLACK-AND-WHITE COSTUME DESIGN: GASLIGHT, Mr. Skeffington, The Adventures of Mark Twain, Laura, Since You Went Away

COLOR COSTUME DESIGN: MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, Cover Girl, Kismet, Henry V, Lady in the Dark

FILM EDITING: DOUBLE INDEMNITY, Lifeboat, Since You Went Away, Wilson, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

SOUND: WILSON, Double Indemnity, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Cover Girl, Since You Went Away

ORIGINAL SCORE: David Raksin, LAURA (2nd: Max Steiner, Since You Went Away, followed by: Miklós Rózsa, Double Indemnity, William Walton, Henry V; Franz Waxman, Mr. Skeffington; Dimitri Tiomkin, The Bridge of San Luis Rey; Victor Young, The Uninvited)

ADAPTED OR MUSICAL SCORE: Georgie Stoll, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (2nd: Morris Stoloff and Carmen Dragon, Cover Girl, followed by: Robert Emmett Dolan, Going My Way; Edward H. Plumb, Paul J. Smith, and Charles Walcott, The Three Cabelleros; Ray Heindorf, Hollywood Canteen)

ORIGINAL SONG: "Swinging on a Star" from Going My Way (Music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke) (2nd: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from Meet Me in St. Louis (Music by Ralph Blaine, lyrics by Hugh Martin), followed by: "The Trolley Song" from Meet Me in St. Louis (Music by Ralph Blaine, lyrics by Hugh Martin); "It Could Happen to You" from And The Angels Sing (Music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke); "How Little We Know" from To Have and Have Not (Music by Johnny Mercer, lyrics by Hoagy Carmichael))



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