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Home Variety! Newsreels BEST PICTURE OSCAR WINNERS 2.0 (Part 3)

BEST PICTURE OSCAR WINNERS 2.0 (Part 3)

rebecca1

VAV!/March 2, 2012 By John Peurach

Well, don't look now – that is, the four or five of you somewhere out there/in here who may (or may not) have stumbled along so far with what has slowly become something of an extended misguided attempt to reset the here to there and all the way back thank the Academy record, of sorts, with regards to the earliest of all had to be there Best Picture winners of the ever-popular annual, Hollywood-tested/worldwide semi-approved Oscar contest – but, that's right, you guessed it, here we go again.

In other words, this time out the rewind destination of choice is the once upon a wonderful time fantabulous 1940's. Or, at least the first half of them anyway.

Ahh yes, the good old days. Back when there really was a war going on. And, not just whenever it came time for Joan Crawford to go in for a shoulder pad readjustment. But close.

Meanwhile, as far as I know, what went down back then was in all the papers. Back when, apparently, there actually were papers – morning editions, afternoon editions, evening editions, and, whenever possible, special editions – that collectively attempted to keep us otherwise informed at a, more or less, semi-delayed, yet entirely understandable, hot and semi-bothered-like clip, that we could, of course, all catch up with, as needed. As opposed to chasing after whatever it is (and, more often than not, isn't) pretty much incessantly, just because of our seemingly insatiable need to maintain an edge, or two, on any nearby competition of the forever elsewhere online-like kind.

Or, something like that. In still other words, on with the show.

(1940)

*Awarded: February 27, 1941

BEST PICTURE

All This, and Heaven Too

Foreign Correspondent

The Grapes of Wrath

The Great Dictator

Kitty Foyle

The Letter

The Long Voyage Home

Our Town

The Philadelphia Story

*REBECCA

DID WIN: "REBECCA" – It's somewhat strange now to consider that, back when this film won the Oscar, it was viewed mostly as an obvious carry-over triumph (from the previous year's "Gone With The Wind") for then (in full reign – memos and all) producer, David O Selznick. And, only as a side note, of sorts, as a nice bit of tag-a-long work for an all of a sudden new to Hollywood director, recently just imported in from England. Whereas now, it's that director – a soon to be extremely well known chap by the name of Alfred Hitchcock – who is the primary overall dominating (behind the scenes, and, forever in the scenes – what with that whole gothic thing going on in the house with Mrs. Danvers, and the emotional effect they both have on the perpetually scared and altogether innocent Joan Fontaine) influence that raises "Rebecca" to an epic level of intimately designed proportions. Meanwhile, stranger still is the fact that, other than this one, "Foreign Correspondent," "Suspicion," and "Spellbound" (another Selznick Production from 1945), no other film by Hitchcock ever get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. In other words, totally strange, but true. And, as such, yet another reason why so much of the Academy's history should, as always, be taken with not only a grain of salt and/or sand, but also, whenever possible, a double-shot of hooey on the rocks, just for the road, and well, forever thereafter.

SHOULD HAVE WON: "THE PHILADELPHIA STORY" – Talk about cinematic winning combination of the highest-like (should have won) order kind. Heck, all the ingredients are here. The Stars: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart – Never better, and all together for the one and only time. The Director: George Cukor – Always the best at this sort of multi-level, high toned comedy of manners and endlessly entertaining misjudged intentions and expectations. The Producer/The Studio: Joseph L. Mankiewicz at MGM. – Must have totally been fun, even during lunch. The Script: Donald Ogden Stewart (with an uncredited Waldo Salt) – You want to raise the smart as smart bar, with equal parts wit, charm, elegance, grace, and, oh yeah, a funny face? You got it. The Supporting Cast: Ruth Hussey, John Howard, Roland Young, John Halliday, Mary Nash, Henry Daniell, and Virginia Weidler (should have been nominated Best Supporting Actress) as kid sister Dinah – What can I say? Other than, of course, simply outstanding, and, from top to bottom, total pros all the way. And then some.

NOT NOMINATED: OK, sure, the 10 films nominated Best Picture this year where indeed a quality bunch. I mean, there's two Ford's ("The Grapes of Wrath" and "The Long Voyage Home"); two Hitchcock's ("Foreign Correspondent"); two Wood's ("Kitty Foyle" and "Our Town"); one Chaplin ("The Great Director"); one Cukor ("The Philadeplhia Story"); a Litvak ("All This, and Heaven Too"; and, better yet, a Wyler ("The Letter"). But, as usual, there was a totally wonderful world of forever memorable movies that never mad the final ballot. In other words: THE CREAM – "The Great McGinty" (Preston Sturges); "His Girl Friday" (Howard Hawks); "The Mortal Storm" (Frank Borzage); "The Shop Around The Corner" (Ernst Lubitsch); and, "Waterloo Bridge" (Mervyn LeRoy); NOT QUITE BUT ALMOST CREAM: "Abe Lincoln In Illinois" (John Cromwell); "The Bank Dick" (Eddie Cline), "Boom Town" (Jack Conway), "Christmas In July" (Preston Sturges), "Down Argentine Way" (Irving Cummings); "My Favorite Wife" (Garson Kanin); "Pinocchio" (Ben Sharpsteen & Hamilton Luske), "They Drive At Night" Raoul Walsh); "The Thief of Bagdad" (Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell & Tim Whelan) "The Westerner" (William Wyler).

PERSONAL CHOICE IN A PERFECT WORLD: "THE PHILADELPHIA STORY" (Or: "The Shop Around The Corner") – In other words, it's flip a coin time again. Meaning, of course, that, as luck and a certain amount of had to be there fate would have it (more or less – but either way it's a win/win), this time it all comes back to James Stewart. In still other words, either the George Cukor directed one in "The Philadelphia Story" (with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant along for the most magical of cinematic rides); or, the Ernst Lubitsch one in "The Shop Around The Corner" (with Margaret Sullavan as the other unintentional half of an in-love heart that will not be denied). Although, truth be told, no matter where you go with this one, it's nothing but net, and aces all around. But, because, Lubitsch and company have steadily become something of a must-see Christmas tradition, the rest of the year choice goes to Cukor and his stars-a-plenty, in their totally fun movie filled to the brim with it's own must-see brand of forever on display "My, it's yar!" love and affection.

************

1941

Awarded: February 26, 1942

BEST PICTURE

Blossoms In The Dust

Citizen Kane

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Hold Back The Dawn

*HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY

The Little Foxes

The Maltese Falcon

One Foot In Heaven

Sergeant York

Suspicion

DID WIN: "HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY" – Sure, on the books, and, seemingly among the top two or three selections featured on pretty much every available short list of greatest films ever made, you'll find "Citizen Kane," Orson Welles' celebrated (No more calls, we have a winner!) debut to end all cinematic debuts. But, at Academy Award time on the 26th of February 1942, the Oscar went to John Ford's sweetly sentimental, yet ever-so stirringly so, "How Green Was My Valley." Not because it was arguably any better than "Kane." Which it definitely wasn't (and still isn't). And, not because it (and essentially every other movie till then) wasn't as in-your-face/look-at-me challenging as "Kane." But hey if the shoe (and or Rosebud) fits, well, that's debatable. What's not debatable is that, a little over two months prior to the actual awards ceremony, the US finally accepted an open invitation (they couldn't refuse) to participate with a whole bunch of other folks in a little thing called World War II. In other words, the ultimate sequel, of sorts, way before Hollywood ever got around to fine tuning such a perpetual game of extended-like additional intellectual property, more or less, built along the lines of whatever backstory was necessary to get to another spot on the when and/or whenever wire. Huh? Yeah well, not in so many words. But, close enough. In still other words, family, home, and community were indeed the areas that collectively where number one in the hearts and minds of the entire nation. And thus, so they were, too, for those in Hollywood with their collective eyes on the prize that would soon be announced once, of course, the last but not least envelope had, yet again, been opened. Or, to put it a little more easier within reach – what better way to reward the way we were (and would forever like to be), as an all for one, one for all family, during a time of need? As opposed to the way we could (and/or, in all likelihood would) seem to become. Once, of course, it's ever completely left up to an individual who believed themselves to be above whatever, if not all, to assume control and lead the way, before they themselves can't help but go dangerously astray. Or, something like that. Which, may or may not explain this. But, at least, went to several places elsewhere instead of hanging around long enough just to do the math.

SHOULD HAVE WON: "CITIZEN KANE" – Mainly because it really is that great. Really. And, I'm not just saying that. Even though to be perfectly honest, due to it's anything but warm and cuddly nature, it's not a film one goes back to in order to feel good about anything. Except for maybe that there once upon a time someone/anyone, who you may have only seen once in you're here to there and back lifetime, and have been thinking of, off and on, well, ever since. Sort of like Kane's old buddy Bernstein (Everett Sloan), who confesses as much, when he tells the story about the woman in a white dress he saw years before on a ferry coming in from New Jersey. And well, for me it's a Cal Berkeley coed, circa summer of '68, standing in the middle of whichever street it was there on campus, yelling at someone about something that anyone with eyes – which, at that moment, added up to only me – was well on their way to ignoring, cause, yeah well, the weather was fine, and so was the view. And, well, other than that, there's always Gregg Toland's monumental camerawork; the audacity of Welles himself wearing all the filmmaking hats, so to speak; Joseph Cotton, never better, and that's saying a lot; the Bernard Hermann score; the marriage disintegration at the dining room table of escalating time frames; the way they did the credits; and, oh yeah, that friggin' sled, to, yeah, forever reconsider, and, be like totally impressed with every time you trip and fall into it's totally dynamic-like, when and wherever vicinity. Still, to be even more boldly honest than ever before, pound for pound-wise, I would (and so far always have) preferred to watch "The Maltese Falcon" rather than "Citizen Kane." And, not just because it seems way more like the stuff dreams are made of. But, hey, you got to start and/or end somewhere. So, in summing up, take it, or leave it at that.

NOT NOMINATED: Meanwhile, even though things are now, more or less, technically the same as they were then (10 Best Picture nominees), that's pretty much where any semblance of mutual-like similarity comes to an all too obvious end between the two eras. For the simple reason that coming up with even just 8 quality films today in the Best Picture category is indeed a perpetual tough nut to crack. Whereas back in the used to be day, on account of an otherwise extended level of quality films, adding things up to way above and beyond the ten mark was part of every year's business as usual. Especially, when it was Oscar time and, as always, an almost bottomless pool of potential Best Picture candidates got left on the outside looking in once the nominations were announced. In other words, try these on for size: "Ball of Fire" (Howard Hawks); "Blood and Sand" ( Rouben Mamoulian); "The Great Lie" (Edmund Goulding); "High Sierra" (Raoul Walsh); "The Lady Eve" (Preston Sturges); "Major Barbara" (Gabriel Pascal); "Meet John Doe" (Frank Capra); "Never Give A Sucker An Even Break" ( Edward Cline); "Penny Serenade" (George Stevens); "The Strawberry Blonde" (Raoul Walsh); "Swamp Water" (Jean Renoir); "That Hamilton Woman" (Alexander Korda). All in all, nice work if you can't forget it. And, luckily that's always been the case with film lovers everywhere when it comes to the films of way more back then than just 1941.

PERSONAL CHOICE IN A PERFECT WORLD: "THE MALTESE FALCON" – Well, the sign did say "Perfect World." So, rather than be anything less than truthful, and/or, potentially a lemming-like clone that only follows the shiny object ravings, and endlessly persuasive cinematic leanings issued forth by hardcore academics, fans of boy wonders, and, of course, those with a firmer than usual grasp their own particular sled of choice (or, something just as meaningful), please allow me the seemingly once in a lifetime opportunity to, yeah, beg to differ. And, not just because John Huston's ever-so fine tuned film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's pulp classic is perfectly cast, expertly realized, from start to finish, stylishly presented straight to the head, heart, and gut of all who hop on board for the P.I.-tested, Film Noir-approved ride of their lives, and, when all is said and done, consistently proves to be an infinitely more enjoyable film to sit through, time and time again, but......well, yeah, that's essentially the main out of the gate because why. In other words, in the always have to be there-like reason why, so to speak, this particular legendary Hollywood production gets the nod at this point in the reset program. Plus, it's got Mary Astor in it. And well, I don't care even if she is guilty, and/or, destined to be locked away at Tehachapi until who knows when, or, worse yet, hung by the neck until she gets her story straight, she's still an OK doll in my book. And well, who knows, maybe one day I'll even read one myself. But, until then, let me just enjoy this one (yet again) while I can.

************

(1942)

*Awarded: March 4, 1943

BEST PICTURE

The Invaders

Kings Row

The Magnificent Ambersons

*MRS. MINIVER

The Pied Piper

The Pride of the Yankees

Random Harvest

The Talk of the Town

Wake Island

Yankee Doodle Dandy

DID WIN: "MRS. MINIVER" – William Wyler's much beloved multi-Oscar winner about a British family's world upside down day to day ordeals while a soon to be world war raged all around them. All of which proved to be the perfect kind of cinematic persuader to help get our nation's homefront accustomed to the whole idea that we were now (until whenever) not only in this for the duration, but, even more importantly, suddenly an otherwise altogether necessary part in the new and improved business of home life during war time. And well, of course, it pulled out all the emotional stops, wherever required. All of which become even that much more effective, due to Wyler's unbreakable faith in a less is always more sort of stylistic cinematic credo that enabled whatever emotional-based sentimentality to speak for itself, and, in the end, win over even more hearts and minds in the process. That is, above and beyond the ones in the Academy who responded big time by showering Oscars upon: Greer Garson – MGM's latest Queen of the big screen; Teresa Wright – a fresh new Hollywood face with brains, sensitivity, and plenty of girl next door charm to spare; and, of course, William Wyler – arguably one of the three or four greatest directors whoever said, "Action!" during the Golden Era of the Hollywood studio system. I mean, talk about total master of the craft. In still other words, here's a guy who could definitely do it all – and did, in just about every known genre style: heavy dramas, romantic comedies, westerns, family sagas, Biblical epics, urban melodramas, musicals, psychological thrillers. And, through it all, remained ever-so consistently in possession of the most important style of them all – his own. And because of that, pretty much every corner of the world has been somewhere out in the dark faithfully watching his amazing work ever since.

SHOULD HAVE WON: "THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS" – You sure got to hand it to Orson Welles. I mean, here he is, 26-years old, a year away from taking on the most powerful media baron of the day, and he follows it up with something even more straight to the heart, that goes right to the nearest available underbelly-like soft spot. In other words, nothing less than a whole lot more of whatever it takes to be essentially an otherwise nostalgic, sweet and sour/poison pen cinematic mash note to the whole, would-be progressive US nation itself, at that point in the program when its national sense of purpose, up-to-speed overriding smugness, and, at times, complete obliviousness to anything but its own believed to be superior than thou fortunes, and, more or less, forward way of thinking, needed a certain amount of well needed undressing. If only to pin the blame on something a little more big picture oriented than usual. And, in the process, hopefully, set in motion whatever brand of cross-cultural comeuppance was, for the moment anyway, deemed entirely necessary for whatever wall it could stick to, before being passed all around accordingly. In other words, welcome to the real new and not so improved 20th century, now go home. Which is exactly where the United States wasn't those days, what with a World War taking place in a variety of far out-of-town locales. Hence, the no sort of award-winning Oscar love whatsoever for Hollywood's resident bad boy genius this time around. No matter how remarkable, technically advancing, visionary in reverse, and/or altogether highly regarded his second inside/outside the box Hollywood feature might seem, and/or, would soon prove to be. Despite, of course, being both interfered with, and/or butchered by, the collective taffy pull-like brainwave gang of trust me (Yeah, right!) rag merchants running RKO, who felt the need to assume self-fulfilling prophecy-like damage control of the film before it was fully completed. But, that's another story. And, one that invariably helped put in stop/start/repeat motion the remainder of Welles' sad but true, seldom hit, mostly miss, Hollywood career.

NOT NOMINATED: Oh look, yet another extended batch of quality films to fall by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wayside. Once, of course, a carefully chosen gang of ten had to be there other ones were officially nominated for Best Picture. In other words: "The Black Swan" (Henry King); "The Cat People" (Jacques Tourneur); "Gentleman Jim" (Raoul Walsh); "In This Our Life" (John Huston); "Johnny Eager" (Mervyn LeRoy); "My Sister Eileen" (Alexander Hall); "The Major and the Minor" (Billy Wilder); "Now, Voyager" (Irving Rapper); "The Palm Beach Story" (Preston Sturges); "Roxie Hart" (William Wellman); "Saboteur" (Alfred Hitchcock); "Sullivan's Travels" (Preston Sturges); "This Aboe All" (Anatole Litvak); "To Be Or Not To Be" (Ernst Lubitsch); "Tortilla Flat" (Victor Fleming); "Wake Island" (John Farrow); "Woman of the Year" (George Stevens).

PERSONAL CHOICE IN A PERFECT WORLD: (TIE) "SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS" and "TO BE OR NOT TO BE" – Well, considering there was a war going on, I can certainly understand why, at that point in fight the good fight time, comedies would not necessarily be the stuff anyone's Oscar dreams would be made of. Even if said comedies were so expertly put together by the likes of such legendary on-screen comedic giants as Preston Sturges and Ernst Lubitsch. And, OK sure, both of these films now seem like total no-brainers from today's, perpetually with it, yuck-fest perspective. What with their duel action, roundabout cockeyed views of both the Hollywood dream factory and the Third Reich's equally unsafe at any speed slant on what they felt was a definite to be and meant to be, new order way of the world to come. With, of course, a heavy accent not on fun. But, even so, something tells me that, despite the unavoidable laughs therein remaining essentially the same, during such a strategic time that there was, no matter what sort of ultra-high level of funny these two films were able to soar off into, neither of the them were enough to cure the ills of what was ailing the whole wide world, and all its warring-like people back in that particular day. No matter how hard the filmmakers tried, and/or their certifiable banquet of stars (Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake in one, Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, and Robert Stack in the other, along their respective go-to stock companies) tried even harder. Which, may or may not be why they're both so treasured in the present tense-like here and now a day. But, since the most obvious neither is still remains back there, as opposed to here (so far), I'm more than just inclined to package them up as the absolute best for that there year of 1942, with the idea of returning, time and time again, say when, to whatever it was they both were so busy selling so well and above all the others.

************

(1943)

*Awarded: March 2, 1944

(BEST PICTURE)

*CASABLANCA

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Heaven Can Wait

The Human Comedy

In Which We Serve

Madame Curie

The More the Merrier

The Ox-Bow Incident

The Song Of Bernadette

Watch on the Rhine

DID WIN: "CASABLANCA" – Sure, it might seem like a total – Duh! – sort of choice now. But, back in this particular used to be day, winning the Best Picture Oscar wasn't anything close to being the slam dunk it would seem now. Even if you were a soon to be ultra-iconic, forever film classic, that (along with "Gone With The Wind" and "Citizen Kane") would go on to consistently be ranked among the two or three most beloved and continually referred to films ever to come out of the Hollywood studio system during its legendary 1930's/40's Golden Era heyday. In other words, time has a way of changing the perspective on so much of this stuff. Probably not as much as having Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the lead rolls, rather than say, the rumored duo that was initially under consideration – Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan, fresh off their thumbs up starring stint in "Kings Row." But still, timing does factor in there somewhere. Back then because the real life Casablanca was in the middle of some major World War II news. And, well, ever since the Cult of Bogie got hot wired into high gear in the late 1950's – due in no small part to being the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts running Bogart's pictures like mad (especially "Casablanca") during finals week at Harvard – the undeniable aura surrounding both him, and primarily his film, have each become way more than just firmly established. All of which has insured that everyone everywhere has collectively gotten in on way more than just lookin' at these two kids have perhaps the most beautiful of all cinematic friendships. And well, in the end, isn't that what Best Picture Oscar winners are supposed to be all about, along with being forever made of? Well, they are if they're this one, that's for sure.

SHOULD HAVE WON: "CASABLANCA – I suppose a case could be made for any number of other nominees to slip past "Casablanca" as the Academy's official winner this year. Since, well, all of them boasted totally must-see credentials that would seem appropriate enough to secure some, as long as they were there, Oscar glory. In other words, besides the award-winning performances all present and account for in: a wartime homefront drama ("Watch on the Rhine"), a personal quest/divine time drama ("The Song of Bernadette"), a wartime homefront comedy ("The More the Merrier"), and, an epic wartime romance/drama ("For Whom The Bell Tolls), there was yet another wartime homefront drama ("The Human Comedy"), a front line you are there drama ("In Which We Serve"), a carefully constructed, tried and true, bio pic ("Madame Curie"), a comedy fantasy with a lesson well worth learning ("Heaven Can Wait"), and, as an indirect echo of the then present day world's state of out of control affairs, a heartbreakingly sad reminder of mob rule and the sort of tragic frontier-like justice that can only result from such an altogether misguided point of view ("The Ox-Bow Incident"). Meanwhile, sitting mighty pretty at the top of this all-star heap is "Casablanca," way busier than ever thought to be and/or otherwise imagined, essentially combining the best time honored whatever special elements of all these other films, under one had to be there cinematic roof, so to speak. All of which, when combined with the extra-added fact that it was undoubtedly populated with a wide variety of semi-recently exiled European performers, quickly turned its altogether timely take on the then present state of the world, and the collateral damage brought down on the international community, into something worth holding onto. And, oh yeah, along the way, awarding accordingly, when it finally was in a position to, at long last, be so. Hence the fact that, in what sort of seems like only one of never too many, the Academy finally went the right way, and figured out how to get at least one of these Best Picture awards handed out to the real woulda shoulda.

NOT NOMINATED: Meanwhile, as an otherwise continuing indication as to the high quality level at which Hollywood found itself working, even in wartime, consider if you will the top shelf roster of films left out in the cold, once things heated up for real with the lucky ten that received Best Picture nominations. In other words: "Air Force" (Howard Hawks); "Bataan" (Tay Garnett); "Cabin In The Sky" (Vincente Minnelli); "The Constant Nymph" (Edmund Goulding); "The Gang's All Here" (Busby Berkeley); A Guy Named Joe" (Victor Fleming); "Hangman Also Die" (Fritz Lang); "The Hard Way" (Vincent Sherman); "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger); "Mr. Lucky" (H.C. Potter); "Old Acquaintance" (Vincent Sherman) ; "Sahara" (Zoltan Korda); "The Seventh Victim" (Mark Robson); "Shadow of a Doubt" (Alfred Hitchcock); "So Proudly We Hail" (Mark Sandrich).

PERSONAL CHOICE IN A PERFECT WORLD: "CASABLANCA" – What? You thought that after all that, I'd figure out a way pull a better, more deserving film out of my hat? (Or, the nearest available something or other that, may or may not, resemble a hat, but fits pretty much the same, especially following a much needed haircut, but that's another story.) Not a chance. As in, no way, no how. All of which seems entirely the way it should be for a film that – well, according to longtime Village Voice film scribe Andrew Sarris (somewhat reluctantly) in his seminal book of homegrown film criticism, "The American Cinema" – was "the happiest of happy accidents, and the most decisive exception to the auteur theory." Uhh, OK sure, whatever he said. But, for legal purposes only, in areas of from here to eternity like recognition of must-see (again and again) cinematic achievement of the highest order kind, 1943 Best Picture Oscar winner sums it up just fine, and, as always, good enough for everyone out there in the dark to pretty much take it the rest of the way from there.

************

(1944)

*Awarded: March 15,1945

BEST PICTURE

Double Indemnity

Gaslight

*GOING MY WAY

Since You Went Away

Wilson

DID WIN: "GOING MY WAY" – For whatever reason, following a thirteen year run of a ten or more Best Picture nominees, the Academy reduced its annual total back to five. And, as much as this move, more than likely, irritated the hell out of the studios, along with tons of producers therein, the lower number couldn't help but make it even more of a special prize to otherwise top off what would certainly be a totally great year for whichever film was lucky enough to find itself in amongst the final five. And, as an otherwise indication that something else was going on, only one of the five ("Since You Went Away") had anything directly to do with what had been the overriding story of the era (WWII) at least domestically, for the last three years, or so. While the remaining four fanned out in directions that covered a little bit of everything. Something old: a traditional bio-pic of historical importance ("Wilson"). Something borrowed: a British-based mystery thriller ("Gaslight"). Something black & white and oh so blue: a film noir extraordinaire ("Double Indemnity"). And, something so sentimentally fun, easy to love, and, hard to resist (considering what the real world had just fought and seen it's way through), it's no wonder it proved to be the ultimate winner of this year's Oscar for Best Picture. In other words, veteran Hollywood funny man Leo McCarey's religious-based musical comedy-drama "Going My Way" starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald as a pair of young and old priests taking different roads to the same sort of heart warming conclusion. All of which found them being equally rewarded with Oscars for their lead and supporting on-screen jobs well done, as well. In still other words, there's nothing like playing the schmaltz card when it comes to stuff like this. And, given the pedigree skill set of all those involved, it was indeed, the right kind of high minded entertainment America certainly craved at the time, and for, well, for oh so many more years to come.

SHOULD HAVE WON: "DOUBLE INDEMNITY" – Sure, Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray aren't the typical fun/illicit loving/husband killing/insurance company cheating couple most folks would either want, or feel the need, to write home about. But, because ultra-witty, cut straight to the chase of way more than typically meets even the most cynical cause why writer/director Billy Wilder knows exactly how to make this hell bent on something sick and evil duo just so dang entertaining, we're right there with them, front and center, for the whole, all in ride to film noir hell, with no hope of ever catching the last train back. Not only while they remain alive and oh so not swell, up their you know what's in business as unusual. But, even more so, once any and all cats are out of bag and these two big kids run smack dab into more trouble than each is worth, both separately, and, more importantly, all together, baby, straight down the line. Wilder, of course, doesn't do it alone, as he's got ace P.I. pulp novelist, Raymond Chandler, assisting him with a gem of a script. And, to help keep their collective voice of ever-so wise, sage proof all-knowing, all-seeing, the bitterer the truth the better reasoning, on-screen where it has to be in order to create the ideal balancing act, of sorts, there's the ideal, ultimate old pro, Edward G. Robinson (should have been nominated for – and won – Best Supporting Actor for this, for sure) feeling it all in his gut, while remaining miles ahead of any curve, both in the middle, and, of course, at the beginning of way more and just the had to be there end. Meanwhile, considering that this was only Wilder's third film that he directed, it was obvious a new sheriff was in town. And, as much as he would wind being the following year's primary Oscar go-to guy, it was here, with his expert adaptation and realization of "Double Indemnity" that those in the Academy started to really take notice, and forever reward him in kind.

NOT NOMINATED: Meanwhile, due to the now additional backlog of films not making the final Best Picture ballot, the new and improved also rans suddenly became something of a major who's who of amazingly qualified have to be not there's. In other words, a little something for everyone to chew on: "Cover Girl" (Charles Vidor); "Dragon Seed" (Jack Conway); "Hail To The Conquering Hero" (Preston Sturges); "Laura" (Otto Preminger); "Lifeboat" (Alfred Hitchcock); "The Lodger" (John Brahm); "Meet Me In Sl Louis" (Vincente Minnelli); "Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang); "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (Preston Sturges); "Mr. Skeffington" (Vincent Sherman); "Mrs. Parkington" (Tay Garnett); "Murder, My Sweet" (Edward Dmytryk); "None But The Lonely Heart" (Clifford Odets); "Phantom Lady" (Robert Siodmak); "The Seventh Cross" (Fred Zinnemann); "To Have and Have Not" (Howard Hawks).

PERSONAL CHOICE IN A PERFECT WORLD: "DOUBLE INDEMNITY" – And well, not just because Billy Wilder, Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson, Raymond Chandler, Directory of Photography John F. Seitz, film score composer Miklos Rozsa, and both the real and made-up City of Los Angeles itself somehow otherwise all conspired to create perhaps the most perfect of all film noirs to forever take our collective breath away via its forever unique way of making us sit up, take notice, and fall in the trap of sort of actually caring for an on screen couple who may have gotten away with murder, but were soon enough doomed to never get away from each other until it was too late....oh, who am I kidding, that's exactly why, and, when all is said and done, the primary reason this particular film has the power to compel us somewhere out in the dark types all these many years later between then and now, and, yeah, then some. And, oh yeah, besides all that, there's also Barbara Stanwyck's wig to consider, as well. If only cause, well, despite it's way less than attractive appearance, it still makes her totally prime and oh so ready to die for, but, only if she goes first.

************

Meanwhile, thanks to anyone and everyone who've made it this far. Not sure if this will continue, as is, or perhaps spin off into another direction. But, because it's always semi-sort of Oscar season, at least out here in this end of the yard, chances are more or this sort of stuff will show up from time to time, with the idea being to stick around for even more of what remains of such a here to there and back, little bit of a while.

Or, something like that.

And well, now that's a wrap what is a wrap.

Cut! Print it!


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 24 February 2013 08:24 )  

 

 

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