Friday, May 18, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: Mrs. Miniver (1942)



Let's talk about war movies for a second.

Wars are generally (and have historically been) fought by men. War movies are generally (and have historically been) about men, not to mention written by men, directed by men, and, please excuse my sexist attitude, enjoyed by men. That is why it is always refreshing to me--as a woman, don't forget!--to find a movie that has a backdrop of war with a female protagonist. Now, I know there are war movies that feature women beyond the roles of mother/wife/girlfriend or nurse, like Courage Under Fire and obviously any movie about Joan of Arc. But that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the home front. How do women survive during war time? Obviously, in these liberated times, women would be perfectly capable of surviving, so I am referring to ye olden days. And, quite obviously, women of yore were able to survive or else we wouldn't be here. But how? Luckily, fiction has presented us with a scattered few examples.*

A mere three years ago in the history of Oscar, we saw how Scarlett O'Hara dealt with those damn Yankees ravaging Georgia and now, in 1942, we watch how another woman copes with an enemy attack on her beloved homeland.


If you happened to catch the first half hour or so of Mrs. Miniver, you wouldn't have the slightest inclination that it's is a war film. It begins much like a 1950's sitcom; The Minivers are an upper-middle class British family living in the suburbs. Kay Miniver (Greer Garson) is a housewife with a fondness for couture hats. She loves her architect husband, Clem (Walter Pidgeon), and he loves her. They have three children, Toby (Christopher Severn), Judy (Clare Sandars), and an elder son Vin (Richard Ney) who has just returned from his first term at Oxford with a intellectual chip on his shoulder. On his first night home, he insults Carol Beldon (Teresa Wright), the pretty, nubile granddaughter of the aristocratic (re: snobbish) Lady Beldon (Dame May Whitty). But the youngsters overcome their differences and fall in love at a dance...and then World War II starts. Vin joins the Royal Air Force. Clem helps with the Dunkirk evacuation. And lovely, glowing Mrs. Miniver--to put it bluntly--deals with it.




Mrs. Miniver is based on a series of newspaper articles written by Jan Struther for the British newspaper, The Times. According the Wikipedia, the articles were about the daily, suburban life of the fictional Mrs. Miniver. However, after the outbreak of WWII, the tone of the articles changed as the heroine was forced to deal with air raids and bomb shelters. And to directly quote Wikipedia, because I am apparently too lazy to paraphrase and have too much a conscience to plagiarize:
The U.S. was still officially neutral, but as war with Nazi Germany intensified in Europe, the tribulations of the Miniver family engaged the sympathy of the American public sufficiently that President Franklin D. Roosevelt credited it for hastening America's involvement in the war.
Just short of 6 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mrs. Miniver was released to the theaters.

So yeah, the film is pretty propaganda-esque: men should go fight, women should do what they can, freedom is worth fighting for, etcetera, etcetera. But should we throw it away? No, there is lots of good stuff here and many memorable scenes, including one where a wounded German pilot breaks in casa de Miniver. I can't help but make a comparison to Gone With the Wind here; in a similar scene, Scarlett boldly shoots the Yankee straggler in the face and takes his money. In MM, Kay is much more diplomatic and calls the police after she takes the passed out Nazi's pistol. Naturally, We want women more like Mrs. Miniver rather than that haughty O'Hara girl. Neither cries in the corner in the face of danger, but one keeps her feminine cool and grace and doesn't violate the sixth commandment. Hmmmm...now what does this say about women during WWII?



Sorry. Didn't mean to go all Feminist Film Theory 101 on you. And sorry to bring up Gone With the Wind again. This isn't about comparing the Best Picture Winners, damn it!

In all honesty, I'm pretty conflicted about Mrs. Miniver. At times I was really enjoying myself and invested in the story and other times I was just annoyed by one thing or another--such as Vin's characterization and horrendous British accent. Yeesh. What I took away from the whole experience was how the war was really happening in England. Duh, you say. Anyone who took U.S. History would know that, you say. Of course I knew that, but my thick American head never really thought about it. Thank you, Mrs. Miniver. If you do nothing else, you've helped me complete a high school history education.

What really baffles me is the film's 1942 release date. 1942. That was only halfway through the war for England. There were three more years of war, and of course, the world had no way of knowing how long it would go on. There is no real conclusion to Mrs. Miniver and how can there be? All though a buttload of stuff has already happened to the family, a buttload more will happen. Perhaps even young Judy and Toby will be sent to live with professor in the country and find a magical portal to another world. But until then, the Minivers and all the people of the Britain, must keep holding on, and not stop believing and fight the good fight until the bitter end.

Ah, Mrs. Miniver. How little I actually wrote about you. Whatever. This isn't one I really care about so you're lucky got this much out of me.

Peace.

Impressions circa 2004
Negative. I really hated this one for reasons I can no longer remember or even guess at.

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - William Wyler 
  • Best Actor - Walter Pidgeon 
  • Best Actress - Greer Garson 
  • Best Supporting Actor - Henry Travers 
  • Best Supporting Actress - Teresa Wright
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 
  • Best Cinematography, Black and White 
  • Best Film Editing 
  • Best Sound Recording 
  • Best Visual Effects 

1942 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)

  • The Invaders 
  • Kings Row 
  • The Magnificent Ambersons 
  • The Pied Piper 
  • The Pride of the Yankees 
  • Random Harvest 
  • The Talk of the Town 
  • Wake Island 
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy 

What I Learned From...Mrs. Miniver
War affects everyone, even women.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: How Green Was My Valley (1941)


OMFG!!!! HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY BEAT CITIZEN KANE FOR BEST PICTURE IN 1941!!!!!

Just thought you all should know.

See, that's pretty much all anyone knows about this film. Instead of dilly-dallying around it, I thought I'd shout it to the internet rooftops just in case you thought I wouldn't address it. Now I've addressed it. And now we can move on because we are not here to compare and contrast two films, we are here to dissect the winner which was How Green Was My Valley, no matter how badly the Academy and fans of the Oscars wishes it wasn't.

1941's winner is a simple little film about a simple little family who lives in a simple little mining town in Southern Wales. Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall) is the youngest child of patriarch Gwilym (Donald Crisp) and devoted Beth (Sara Allgood). Huw has five elder brothers who work in the coal mines with their father and one elder sister, Angharad (Maureen O'Hara) who helps her mother. Over the course of the film, the elder Morgan brothers form a union, Huw and his mother become ill, and Angharad falls in love with the new preacher Mr. Gruffyd (Walter Pidgeon). Despite Huw's aptitude for learning, he refuses a scholarship at the university in favor of working in the mines and supporting his brother's widow Bronwyn (Anna Lee).


How Green Was My Valley is a good movie. It is an even better 1940's movie, which is my polite way of saying that it don't age so well. It's just so heartfelt and sincere with it's message of family, religion, and tradition--hallmarks of golden age Hollywood. But there is some darkness and realism here. (It is a John Ford picture and not a Frank Capra one, thank God). Due to the film being narrated by adult Huw who is looking back through the rose colored glasses of that bitch Nostalgia, the darkness and realism seem a bit diluted. Huw's youth and innocence makes everything seem less harsh than it really is. If HGWMV was made in the 1970's, I would say the film suffers for it. But this is 1941. The Hays Code rules the roost and it canít ever get really that dark. But it tries. For 1941 it tries. (That being said, I'm not sure how dark the 1939 Richard Llewellyn novel is in comparison).

Honestly, the best part of the movie for me is Angharad's tragic romance with the preacher, Mr. Gruffyd. And it really is tragic because they can be together. Mr. Gruffyd is not a priest. He can get married but he tells Anharad that he wonít have her living the somber, pinchpenny life of a preacherís wife. She settles for the son of the mine owner and has a miserable existence henceforth. Unfortunately this little romance is just a slice of the HGWMV pie. A small slice that maybe takes up twenty minutes of the running time. I wish it was longer. I wish it was the whole movie.


And that's pretty much all I can say. As I conclude this far too short review, I would like to reiterate what a good film How Green Was My Valley is. It deserves a fair shake. It's not for everybody, myself included. I don't think I'll be watching it again for a loooonnnngggg time. But it is not a bad film and one of the better winners from the first third of Oscar's history. Just give it a chance. At the very least, you can make an educated argument on why Citizen Kane was robbed.

Impressions circa 2004
Meh.

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - John Ford 
  • Best Supporting Actor - Donald Crisp 
  • Best Supporting Actress - Sara Allgood 
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography, Black and White 
  • Best Art Direction, Black and White 
  • Best Film Editing 
  • Best Sound Recording 
  • Best Music, Original Score 

1941 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • Blossoms in the Dust
  • Citizen Kane - The greatest movie of all time? I liked it fine. 
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan 
  • Hold Back the Dawn 
  • The Little Foxes 
  • The Maltese Falcon 
  • One Foot in Heaven 
  • Sergeant York 
  • Suspicion 

What I Learned From...How Green Was My Valley
Ah, the good old days when times were bad...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: Rebecca (1940)


Anything would seem like small beans coming after Gone With the Wind. Anything. But 1939, the reputed greatest year in American cinema, inevitably had to give way to 1940. So here we are at the beginning of a new decade. Oscar is now thirteen years old and the winner is Rebecca, an Alfred Hitchcock helmed picture based on Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel of the same name.

Plot synopsis, like a boss: Joan Fontaine plays an innocent (and never named) young woman who is the paid companion of a wealthy old dowager (Florence Bates). While on vacation in Monte Carlo with said dowager, the young woman meets Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier) a wealthy widower and the owner of the ancient and noble estate of Manderley. The pair marry after a whirlwind courtship and the "second Mrs. de Winter" finds running a large household far more difficult than she imagined. The housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), is devoted to Maxim's first wife, the titular and seemingly perfect Rebecca and makes the second Mrs. de Winter wrestle with her feelings of inadequacy.

I could probably write a very thoughtful and insightful analysis of this film, but not without spoiling it. I won't, despite the fact that Rebecca is, like totally, 72 years old. My review will suffer for it, surely. So here are some what I can mention: I like the film. Best Picture Winners based around females and especially feminine neurosis are exceptionally rare. Off the top of my head, there's Gone With the Wind, Rebecca, All About Eve, and Terms of Endearment, but let's not go down that rabbit hole.

Yes, yes, I liked it even though it had a little bit of a genre identity crises. The first act is sort of like a rom-com with an edge. The second act is full-on gothic romance, and the most interesting part of the movie for me. Overall, I would have preferred an 19th century setting vs. the 30's/40's because...um, who wouldn't? And the last act treads into mystery/detective territory. After the twist is revealed (It's Hitchcock. There's a twist) I sort of lose interest. That isn't to say the twist is boring or unmerited, it just transforms the film from a emotionally/psychologically driven story to an externally conflicted one. And me no so much like external conflict.


Bitch, bitch, bitch. Rebecca is really, pretty good. Notice I said "pretty good" which basically means, good with a "but..." While reading other bloggers' reviews of this one, everyone pretty much likes it but... My "but" is, as stated above, the third act. Others are let down by...stuff? There just seems to be a vague disappointment surrounding Rebecca. Perhaps it's because people expect something more from a Hitchcock film. (Confession: I have only seen Vertigo and Psycho so I'm not sure what they want).

Um...what else?

Oh, yes. Mrs. Danvers.

Mrs. Danvers is an infamous character. One of the "greatest villains of all time" according to the hacks at the American Film Institute. It is strongly suggested that Mrs. Danvers is a lesbian and that she has a big ol' lesbian crush on Rebecca. Gay stereotypes in Hollywood have just as rich of a history as those of blacks and other minorities. Post Hays Code, gays were allowed on screen but usually as villains. It is not Mrs. Danvers' reputed homosexuality that directly makes her a villain, it is her obsessive nature. I feel that Mrs. Danvers would attempt to destroy anyone--man, woman, or child--who attempted to replace her fallen idol--man, woman, or child.*

Another thing: Mrs. Danvers seems strictly Rebecca-sexual and is never seen coming on to other women or our heroine. Food for thought.

Ultimately, Rebecca is probably just one of those middling Best Picture Winners. But it's one that I like and look forward to watching again when I inevitably re-rank these movies in the next decade. Having seen only one other BP nominee from this year, I am sort of surprised that Rebecca snagged the Oscar. I mean, it's just sort of girly and I don't understand how all of Hollywood (re: the Academy) could be that taken by it. (I also heard somewhere that the Oscar lobbying for this movie was insane.)

P.S. I want to watch Laurence Olivier act some more.

Impressions circa 2004
Positive. Love triangle with a dead woman? Yes, please.

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - Alfred Hitchcock 
  • Best Actor - Laurence Olivier 
  • Best Actress - Joan Fontaine 
  • Best Supporting Actress - Judith Anderson 
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 
  • Best Cinematography, Black and White 
  • Best Art Direction, Black and White 
  • Best Special Effects 
  • Best Film Editing 
  • Best Music, Original Score 
1940 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • All This and Heaven, Too 
  • Foreign Correspondent 
  • The Grapes of Wrath - Boy, that Depression sure was depressing.
  • The Great Dictator 
  • Kitty Foyle 
  • The Letter 
  • The Long Voyage Home 
  • Our Town 
  • The Philadelphia Story 

What I Learned From...Rebecca
There's always someone before you--for better or worse.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners Decade Wrap-Up: 1928-1939

After a semi-long hiatus, I am semi-back with a semi-vengeance! In honor of finally posting my Gone With the Wind review--the last Best Picture Winner of the 30's--I figured I'd take a look back and offer my Jerry Springer-esque final thoughts on the decade (and the two 1920's winners). I'll also put up some fun (re: boring) statistics as well as my ranking so far.

Thoughts on 1928-1939
Well...it was sort of a mish-mash, wasn't it? That has to be expected. I mean, Oscar was just learning to walk, of course he would stumble a bit. The first five years were particularly jarring, going from pretty good film to bad film to great film to bad film to pretty good film...at least in my opinion. After the "January 1 to December 31" switch, things got a little more steady but I can't point out any definite patterns of this twelve year stretch and so, I don't really have much to say. (Wow, this wasn't really thought out, was it?) I will say this about the decade: it holds some of the very worst winners in Oscar's 84 years and one of the very, very best. Perhaps the best ever? Hmmm...there's still 72 movies to watch. Maybe I shouldn't make judgements yet.






Friday, May 4, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: Gone With the Wind (1939)




Christ, where to start? Where to start? Um, Gone With the Wind is a huge fucking deal. Everything you would ever want to know about it is already out there, floating around in cyberspace. There are thousands, maybe even millions of reviews on this film that discuss its lengthy search for a lead actress, its tumultuous production with multiple directors, and its highest grossing movie adjusted for inflation-ness. And maybe I should write about all that, but frankly my dear, I don't give damn. YOU'VE heard it before and I'M not interested in rehashing common movie knowledge.

Let me state here and now that Gone With the Wind is one of my favorite, favorite movies of all time; easily in my top ten it is. But for this Best Picture winner retrospective I'm going to work my little ass off to not just gush and gush or get sentimental and personal. Therefore, this review might seem a little clinical. But fear not, dear readers, for one day I will write another post for my neglected Jordyn's Favorite Movies series. That will most likely be years in the future so this will have to do for now.

Gone With the Wind is based on Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize winning (our second of four Pulitzer Prize winning source material BP's) and only novel of the same name. Picture it: April 1861. The gorgeous southern cotton plantation of Tara. Raven haired southern belle Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) shamelessly flirts with a pair of twins and learns beloved neighbor boy Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) is going to announce his engagement to his sweet and mousy cousin, Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), at the barbecue the following day. This simply won't do for Scarlett. She decides to confess her long simmering love for Ashley hoping he will redact his marriage agreement with Melanie. He does not. In fact he rejects her outright and dashing rogue Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) overhears the entire episode, much to Scarlett's humiliation. Then the War Between the States is declared and Scarlett marries Melanie's brother Charles (Rand Brooks) to get back at Ashley and tie herself to Melanie.



...it goes on. For twelve years. The important thing to remember is Scarlett loves Ashley who loves Melanie who loves Ashley. However, Ashley is sexually attracted to Scarlett but wants to remain loyal to his wife. Meanwhile Rhett is hot for Scarlett (and loves her too) and she refuses to admit or recognize her mutual feelings for him. She also marries two men she does not love during the course of the film: the aforementioned Charles Hamilton and Frank Kennedy (Carroll Nye), both of who had their own sweethearts...Also, a prostitute named Belle Watling (Ona Munson) is in love with Rhett.

You know what? Here's a graph:



Yep, sort of like an episode of Jerry Springer. Despite all the war and slavery and cotton picking and carpet baggers, at its heart, GWTW is the tale of a love quadrangle...or more accurately, a love nonagan, but for all intents and purposes a quadrangle; two men and two women, hopelessly trapped in a mish-mash of feelings and complicated relationships. (And if you want to get more bare bones, it's the story of a woman loving the wrong man for twelve years...but let's not get into that.)

I could endlessly discuss these relationships: Rhett's hatred towards Ashley, his respect for Melanie. Melanie's blind love to Scarlett and her acceptance of Rhett. Ashley's indifference for Rhett and burning desire for Scarlett. And then Scarlett's misguided "love" for Ashley and utter ignorance towards Rhett and her hatred, respect, adoration, and love for Melanie. As monumental as Gone With the Wind is as technical achievement, I cannot, for the life of me, fathom why anyone would want to watch it if they didn't care about the petty romantic entanglements. Honestly, that is what drives the film. For your sake, dear reader, I will stop here and go onto something less emotional. Besides, I need to save something for my other review.



Gone With the Wind is often accused of romanticizing the Old South and it is, of course, guilty. Hell, even the opening title card wistfully states:
There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind...
But answer me this: What historical film doesn't romanticize its time period?

That rebuttal doesn't suffice, I know, because Gone With the Wind involves issues of RACE.

I am pro-GWTW so am totally going to defend it. But first and foremost, just in case there is any confusion: We at Popped Density and all its subsidiaries and affiliates believe slavery is wrong. Subjugation of anyone is wrong. But it happened. That can't be helped now, and I would rather have a movie that presents slavery in all its nastiness than have a movie that ignores it. It's important to note that GWTW is not told from the slaves' perspective, nor is it even about the slaves. It is about Scarlett O'Hara and her endeavors, romantic and non-romantic. I like to think the portrayal of said slaves is how Scarlett would have seen them, for better or worse. But, that is just my little ol' interpretation and perhaps not that of David O. Selznick & Co.


The character of Prissy (Butterfly McQueen) is brought up time and time again, so let's address her, shall we? Prissy, for those of you who haven't seen this movie, is fucking irritating and a perfectly horrendous example of stereotypical 1930's race representation. Earlier in the film, Prissy claims she knows how to assist in childbirth and that she will help Scarlett deliver Melanie's baby. The day comes when Melanie goes into labor and it turns out Prissy "don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies" so Scarlett smacks her.

This scene is always shown or discussed out of context and I am here to defend Scarlett's actions because:
  1. Prissy outright lied for no discernible reason.
  2. This is the 1860's. Childbirth is a matter of life and death. Without proper knowledge of the process, both Melanie her baby could die.
  3. THERE'S A FUCKING WAR GOING ON OUTSIDE!!! ATLANTA IS IN THE MIDST OF A SEIGE!
  4. Scarlett smacks everyone; Ashley, Rhett, her sister Suellen, and she beats that poor horse to death on her way home to Tara.
Sorry for the digression, but I felt the need to delve into that scene a little deeper. Prissy had it coming, young or old, black or white, male or female, I don't care. I would have smacked her too.

ANYWAY, most everyone agrees that Prissy is a dark spot (no pun intended) in the world of Gone With the Wind. On the other hand, people often praise Mammy and specifically the performance of Hattie McDaniel. Once again, I am here to make a rebuttal.

Hattie McDaniel, the first ever minority actor to win an Oscar. For some reason, people lurvvve this performance and I don't understand why. Really. I just don't. To me it is not that special. Unlike Prissy, Mammy has a personality and intelligence and heart. She is a good character, but at the same time, she is a stock character who, thanks to GWTW's epic length, gets a lot of screen time. Before and after GWTW, McDaniel continued to play similar characters including a role in Disney's infamous Song of the South.

1. Mom Beck in The Little Colonel (1935) 
2. Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939) 
3. Aunt Tempy in Song of the South (1946)

I could be off-base with this but I've always seen McDaniel's Oscar win as a way of white Hollywood rewarding a black actress who "knows her place"; playing slaves and maids who's sole purpose is to serve her white superiors with no thoughts of her own unmentioned family. I wouldn't say that's all the Oscar is for. Hattie McDaniel does the best with what she is given but I certainly don't think it's better than Olivia de Havilland's turn as Melanie or even Geraldine Fitzgerald in Wuthering Heights...but that's an argument for another day*.

So, Racism was just a part of 1930's America. Naturally, it would show up in the films of the day. But many ask why and how Gone With the Wind, with its romanticized Old South, can still be so popular in our enlightened, politically correct society?

There is no definitive answer to this, but here's my theory: Before and even after the Civil Rights Movement, Hollywood has made several films/television miniseries that turned the antebellum south into the United States' medieval stand-in. See, American history is just not "romantic" or "regal" in the way European history is. We have no royalty. We have no nobility. America was made up of the descendants of boring puritan stock or rebel upstarts wanting to get away from all that British stuffery. For whatever reason, the South became the site of those wanting to preserve some of the Honor and Finery of Europe. As the North became industrialized and the West remained wild (for a bit), the South represented constancy and civility. Things just weren't changing down there, much like the millennium long stagnancy of the Middle Ages.

Humanity is inherently nostalgic for some reason. As Rhett Butler says, "I've always had a weakness for lost causes once they're really lost." And that's it. The Old South is gone and it will never come back. That's a good thing, all things considered. People just want what they can't have so instead of enslaving an entire race and living off their misery again, we can simply pop in a film and pretend for a few hours. You could also make the argument about the South suffering and rising from the ashes. Because you know how we all love to see Humpty Dumpty fall and try to put himself back together again.


I'll end this review with one last thing that is unrelated to most everything I've written above. Whilst watching GWTW, I was delighted by the whole story being in one movie. That seems like an obvious statement, but in this age of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I couldn't help but be a bit comforted by the simplicity of it all. Oh, to live in a time when they made you stay at the theater for four hours straight...Oh, to live in a time of Overtures, Intermissions, and Exit Music...Oh, to live in a time when you didn't have to wait a whole year to see the conclusion of a movie...Alas, look for it only in old movies, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a format gone with the wind...

My First Time With...Gone With the Wind
I was 10 years old. I had recently moved to lovely Oakesdale, Washington. My dear mother bought it for some reason so I watched it. I loved it immediately and drew pictures of Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler in her green muslin dress instead of doing my fractions.

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - Victor Fleming 
  • Best Actor - Clark Gable 
  • Best Actress - Vivien Leigh
  • Best Supporting Actress - Olivia de Havilland 
  • Best Supporting Actress - Hattie McDaniel 
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 
  • Best Cinematography, Color 
  • Best Film Editing 
  • Best Visual Effects 
  • Best Art Direction 
  • Best Original Score 
  • Best Sound Recording 

1939 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • Dark Victory 
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips 
  • Love Affair 
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 
  • Ninotchka 
  • Of Mice and Men 
  • Stagecoach 
  • The Wizard of Oz - A part of everyone's childhood which transcends Oscar.
  • Wuthering Heights - GWTW's black and white lil' sis. 

What I Learned From...Gone With the Wind
Like minded people should be together.

I know I didn't really get into this lesson, because it's more of a "Jordyn's Favorite Movies" argument, but Scarlett O'Hara would have had a much easier life if she realized the right man was in front of her all along.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Important Note From Your Blogstress

...get it? It's kinda like "mistress" only clever in the way that The Big Bang Theory is clever.

I have good news and bad news!

Good news: I have a job and will be moving out of my parents' basement in June. YAY INDEPENDENCE AND MONEY!!!

Bad news: God knows when I will get internet at my new apartment. As you've noticed, I haven't posted anything in a while because I'm getting into the work groove, blah, blah, blah. It bothers me more than it bothers you, I'm sure.

Good news 2.0: I FULLY INTEND on continuing this blog and finishing all of its neglected series and especially my Best Picture Winner one. I have watched Gone With the Wind and have been slaving away (too soon?) on a post that isn't all personal n' junk. It's a huge film. After that one, it gets way easier until the 90's when I will become stalled again with the glorious films of that decade.

Just wanted everyone to know that I am not dead and I haven't joined a cult.

Peace,
Jordyn

Also...


I have a fever and the only prescription is more bow tie.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: You Can't Take It With You (1938)




On this trip through the Best Picture winners, I have made a distinct effort to watch each film with a positive attitude. (It would be a long fucking trip if I didn't). In the past I would dismiss certain films not on whether they were actually good or not but on my own tragically 16-year-old opinion. Luckily my change of heart concerning All Quiet on the Western Front has helped immensely. At this point I may find Lawrence of Arabia to be my new favorite movie*. With other films like The Life of Emile Zola, I can find good points that make the film worth watching. Or sometimes I can get a cheap thrill from the novel badness of a film like with Cimarron and Cavalcade.

I pretty much hit the wall last night with Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You.

Capra...sigh.

I'm sort of at a loss on how to discuss this one. When in doubt, trot out the plot summary: Tony Kirby (James Stewart) is the son of the wealthy banker and is in love with his stenographer Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur). He wishes to marry her even though she's from a lower class eccentric family: "Grandpa" Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) was a businessman but decided he wasn't happy and became a stamp collector. Grandpa's daughter Penny Sycamore (Spring Byington) writes plays while her husband Paul (Samuel S. Hinds) makes fireworks and explosives in their cellar with live-in friend DePinna (Halliwell Hobbes). Alice's sister Essie (Ann Miller) makes candy and trains to be a ballerina under her Russian teacher Boris Kolenkhov (Mischa Auer) as her simple-minded husband Ed (Dub Taylor) sells the candy and plays the xylophone. Then there's the African-American help (Lillian Yarbo and Eddie Anderson).


Are you still with me? God, I'm so sorry.

ANYWAY, Tony and Alice want to get married but his stodgy bank president father Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) and his snobbish wife (Mary Forbes) disapprove of such a match. So Alice invites the Kirbys over to her house to show she's just as good as anyone, but Tony purposefully brings them on the wrong night when everyone is at their peak weirdness. Meanwhile, Tony's papa is working some Big Business Deal (aren't those character always?) but it--naturally--hinges on Gramps Vanderhof selling his beloved house.

So tell me, dear readers, what do you think? Do you think Grandpa will sell his house? Do you think Alice and Tony will get to live happily ever after? Do you think the avaricious Mr. Kirby will learn a valuable lesson on the importance of family and friends over money?

Well, if you're looking for spoilers, you won't find them here.

I have several problems with You Can't Take It With You. First of all, it's so...simple. Simple like it's meant for children. Small children. I feel too smart for this movie. After all, this a message we've heard a million times before and P.S. it was far more compelling with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Seriously, the Moral of the Story is presented so unsubtly and so often that I feel like I'm watching a Sunday morning Bible cartoon. (Although, admittedly, the film is surprisingly sparse on religion so we can be thankful for that).

Second problem: the characters. If you hadn't noticed, the characters are quirky; QUIRKY WITH A CAPITOL ₪. (Yeah, I know what I said.) Mama Sycamore uses a kitten as a paperweight. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Papa Sycamore is going to blow up the house. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Grandpa refuses to pay his income taxes because the government won't know what to do with the money. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Wait, I'm pretty sure that last one is illegal. But it doesn't matter because Grandpa is a lovable old coot! HAHAHAHAHA! Fuck the characters in this movie. Seriously, fuck 'em. (Well, not Jimmy Stewart because Jimmy Stewart is just doing Jimmy Stewart and who doesn't like Jimmy Stewart?)


What a clean, sterile world Capra presents to us. What a sexless world. Ugh. I understand America was still in the midst of the Depression and a world war was just on the horizon so escapism was desired. The problem is you can't ever really escape in the present. That's what the whole fantasy genre is for. That's why The Wizard of Oz did so well the following year. This saccharine representation of America is just a little too unreal for my taste.

And really, that's what it comes down to; I just don't have a taste for Capracorn. (Or should I say Crapacorn? HAHAHAHAHA!) What irritates me is how damn good It Happened One Night was just four years ago. (Although how much of the "sexiness" was owed to Clark Gable's and Claudette Colbert's own fancy is unknown. I like to think all of it.) Capra was one who embraced the Hays Code, it seems. And movies like this one lead right to his, um, masterpiece It's a Wonderful Life. You have to cut your teeth somewhere, I guess.

P.S. You Can't Take It With You is based on a play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937. Think about that. The Pulitzer Prize.

Impressions circa 2004
Negative. Pap! Sentimental pap!

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - Frank Capra 
  • Best Supporting Actress - Spring Byington 
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 
  • Best Cinematography 
  • Best Sound Recording 

1938 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood 
  • Alexander's Ragtime Band 
  • Boys Town 
  • The Citadel 
  • Four Daughters 
  • Grand Illusion 
  • Jezebel 
  • Pygmalion 
  • Test Pilot 

What I Learned From...You Can't Take It With You
Friends and family are more important than money.




...duh.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: The Life of Emile Zola (1937)


Both the title and poster of 1937's Best Picture winner is false. First, the poster makes Emile Zola look like some hard-boiled gangster or handsome private dick. That is not the case. Emile Zola is, in fact, a 19th century French author who looks like this:



Secondly, this film is not a straight up biography as the title suggests. It is, in fact, 35% biography and 65% courtroom drama. The first quarter of the film explores Emile Zola's (Paul Muni) early days as a starving writer and his friendship with Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne (Vladimir Sokoloff). Zola eventually publishes Nana, a novel about a Parisian prostitute, and becomes wealthy and respected.

Then the film shifts its focus to Alfred Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut), a Jewish captain in the French army. Dreyfus is accused of treason and sentenced to prison on Devil's Island in French Guiana. Despite new evidence surfacing which would clear Dreyfus of all charges, the commanding officers decide to keep it on the down low as to not embarrass themselves and rob the French people of their faith in the army. Dreyfus's wife (Gale Sondergaard) goes to Zola for help since he has spent his life writing of injustice. Zola agrees and writes letter accusing the army of the injustice and cover up. He is accused of libel and brought to court which inevitably opens up the Dreyfus case.



The Life of Emile Zola is enjoyable in a "I-have-to-watch-this-for-Ethics-class" sort of way...well, enjoyable for the weird cinema club kids. There is nothing in this film for Johnny High School. It's so dry. Dry like Bea Arthur's cunny. Don't misunderstand me, I liked it far better this time around, but I cannot imagine why this movie was well liked enough to win Best freakin' Picture.

Frankly the best part of the movie is Joseph Schildkraut as the victimized Alfred Dreyfus. He carried the film for me. I don't think this was the director's intention or else the movie would be called "The Dreyfus Affair" or something. That's unfortunate because I would have much preferred a whole film starring Schildkraut. Paul Muni is particularly hammy as Zola, especially in his later years which, remember, is 65% of the film. Gale Sondergaard was a bit too sensual in her role as weeping wife. (Besides she will always be Tylette from the Shirley Temple movie The Blue Bird for me.) Schildkraut on the other hand is dignified and understated. You feel his pain from his military insignia being stripped from his uniform to his endless, endless days on Devil's Island. Schildkraut definitely deserved his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, although his makeup did not.



The Life of Emile Zola is a "prestige picture". It is made with intent of making you think...but about what?, I ask. The film is not morally ambiguous. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. We know from the very beginning--or at least anyone who's not an idiot knows--that Dreyfus is innocent. He is a victim of anti-Semitism, pure and simple. The army guys barely resist the urge to twirl their waxy mustaches.

Earlier in the film, Zola's book The Downfall exposes the ineptitude of the army during the Franco-Prussian War. (GOD, THIS MOVE IS SO DRY!!!). Dreyfus's innocence is covered up so the army guys don't lose face in front of their already disillusioned public. Plus he's a Jew.

This is a movie about anti-Semitism that doesn't have the balls to be about anti-Semitism. It tap dances around the subject. I don't even think the word "anti-Semitism" is ever uttered. One of the jerkass army guys simply points the finger at Dreyfus because his file denotes him as Jewish. (In fact, "Jewish" is also never uttered). THE WHOLE REASON THIS GUY IS IMPRISONED IS NEVER ADDRESSED. WHAT THE FUCK, MOVIE?

Oh, but wait, this is about the Life of Emile Zola, not Alfred Dreyfus. Okay. That explains everything. But like I said in my review of The Great Ziegfeld, no one cares about the lives of boring people. Zola is boring, at least in the context of this film. The starving writer stuff was interesting but comes to a head pretty quickly. Then we head into Dreyfusland. A far more interesting movie would split the time between Zola and Dreyfus. Or maybe it would have explored the deeper causes of anti-Semitism in Third Republic France. Instead we get a movie where Bad Things Happen but for no discernible reason.

Impressions circa 2004
Negative. SOOOOOOOOO BOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGG.

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - William Dieterle 
  • Best Assistant Director - Anton Grot 
  • Best Actor - Paul Muni 
  • Best Supporting Actor - Joseph Schildkraut 
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 
  • Best Writing, Story 
  • Best Art Direction 
  • Best Music, Score 
  • Best Sound, Recording 

1937 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • The Awful Truth 
  • Captains Courageous 
  • Dead End 
  • The Good Earth 
  • In Old Chicago 
  • Lost Horizon -- Fanciful but needs to be in color. 
  • One Hundred Men and Girl 
  • Stage Door 
  • A Star is Born 

What I Learned From...The Life of Emile Zola
The truth is worth fighting for.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: The Great Ziegfeld (1936)


Ugh. And here we encounter the first of the dreaded Best Picture winning biopic. And our second musical...sort of. In just over three hours (five minutes over to be exact) we are told the life story of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. a relative unknown to us in the 21st century, but a big banana circa 1936. Ziegfeld was a Broadway producer mostly known for his Ziegfeld Follies: extravaganzas of singing, dancing, and girls walking around in lavish, bizarre costumes found in Lady Gaga's wettest dreams.

We meet Ziegfeld aka "Flo" (William Powell) at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The eager young buck spends his days promoting Sandow, the World's Strongest Man, (Nat Pendleton) while competing with his rival and frenemy Jack Billings (Frank Morgan) for business and women. From Billings, Flo learns of a beautiful French singing sensation named Anna Held (Luise Rainer). He promptly charms Anna into signing with him and makes her a respectable star on Broadway and eventually marries her. Flo finds success with his signature Follies, rescues Fanny Brice (playing herself) from Vaudeville, gives Ray Bolger (i.e. the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, also playing himself) his big break, and attempts to make the fictitious and alcoholic Audrey Dane (Virginia Bruce) into a star. Anna becomes frustrated with Flo's "flirtations" and divorces him. He quickly remarries, this time to Billie Burke (Myrna Loy) and finds happiness and success until the stock market crash. He loses everything and dies three years later whilst remembering his greatest shows.


The Great Ziegfeld wears many hats: Biopic, Musical, Backstage Musical, Romance, Epic...but what it comes down to is a biography with some musical scenes in it. And unfortunately, the crux of it all rests on Ziegfeld and whether or not we care about him. Frankly, I don't. Not because he is a huckster and shyster, but because he is boring as a man in his private life. Supposedly, the real Ziegfeld was a notorious womanizer. The film portrays him as a flirt and flatterer, but in the face of temptation, he never falls. (That's the Hays Code shitting on history, by the way.)

The man had vision, that's for sure, and he had drive and ambition. But if we can't see the dirt, who the fuck cares? People want scandals, sex, booze, illegitimate children, drugs, mental illness, bulimia, heartbreak. No one wants see or read biographies on people who lead boring lives no matter what great art they put forth. So even if Taylor Swift is nice as pie and popular as hell, I would find a biopic about Britney Spears far more entertaining*.

The Great Ziegfeld is, really, just a chance for Louis B. Mayer to show poor, depression-era Americans how much money he can waste on sequins and feathers. It is a movie about spectacle which I guess is in tune with Ziegfeld himself; all style and no substance. The middle section of the film is very heavy on this. During the long, long, long tracking shot of "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" I had forgotten all about Ziegfeld and his personal life. We enter an entirely different movie for about 40 minutes...or at least it seems like 40 minutes.



All right, what else is there? Luise Rainer won Best Actress for her portrayal of Anna Held. She is an irritatingly, coquettish prima donna and I...for some reason...like her. No matter what the real Anna was like, this Anna is a precursor for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl if she liked orchids and diamonds instead of rainbows and unicorn stickers. Many will find this performance irritating, as I did at times, but at least I felt something during her scenes.

On the other side of the "love triangle" is Myrna Loy's portrayal of Billie Burke. Saint Billie is down to earth and just as worshipful of her husband, but without the expensive tastes. She offers a nice alternative to the floozies that surround Ziegfeld day in and day out. Granted, Billie Burke served as a consultant on the film so...



All right, I've seriously run out of things to say about The Great Ziegfeld. It is what it is and you like bombastic musical numbers than I suggest watching it. If you don't...stay away. I'm done. Insert quippy wrap-up here.

Impressions circa 2004
Negative. Over long and pointless.

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - Robert Z. Leonard 
  • Best Actress - Luise Rainer
  • Best Original Screenplay 
  • Best Art Direction 
  • Best Film Editing 
  • Best Dance Direction - Seymour Felix for "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody"

1936 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • Anthony Adverse 
  • Dodsworth 
  • Libeled Lady 
  • Mr. Deeds Goes to Town 
  • Romeo and Juliet 
  • San Francisco 
  • The Story of Louis Pasteur 
  • A Tale of Two Cities 
  • Three Smart Girls 

What I Learned From...The Great Ziegfeld
You gotta dream big to make it big.

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)




In 1787, the HMS Bounty, a ship in the British Royal Navy, sets sail for Tahiti to gather breadfruit pods to be sent to West Indies as cheap food for slaves. The virile and handsome Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) serves as master's mate to Lieutenant William Bligh (Charles Laughton), the perpetually scowling captain. Also aboard is Midshipman Roger Byam (Franchot Tone) a friendly man with aspirations to make an English-Tahitian dictionary. En route to Tahiti, Captain Bligh proves to be cruel and abusive tyrant; he accuses his men of theft, works them past exhaustion, and punishes them severely, sometimes fatally, for insubordination. Eventually the Bounty lands in Tahiti where Christian falls in love with a young native woman (Mamo Clark). After five months of living on an island paradise, the Bounty heads back to England. One final act of tyranny by Bligh leads Christian and eighteen other men to the titular mutiny.

It's very likely that you have some notion of this epic true story because it has been adapted for the screen no less than five times. This particular version is based on the 1932 novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordoff and James Norman Hall. What you might not realize--as I didn't until there was ten minutes left in my most recent viewing--is that BP #8 is the first in a long line of winners "based on true events". It's amazing how far we got into this before it happened considering the stiffie Oscar gets for biopics these days. But there you go.




The trouble with a "true story" is the audience has a pretty good chance of knowing what happens and finds watching a cinematic version a waste of their time. I remember this being a common joke floating around on late 90's sitcoms. When faced with the prospect of seeing Titanic, some snarker would quip "But I already know how it ends!!" [canned laughter]. So yes, even if the film-goer knows nothing of history, he at least knows there will be mutiny aboard the Bounty because it's in the freakin' title.

A film like Mutiny on the Bounty is more about the how and why versus the what. Why was a 22-year-old man driven to commit mutiny against captain and crown? How in the hell did he succeed? The film presents a theory. What we must remember about this particular telling of The Legend of the Bounty is that it's based on a novel written some 150 years after the fact instead of being based the true events themselves. To make it work as a story one man must be made the shining hero and one the dastardly villain.

There aren't many more dastardly villains that Charles Laughton's Captain Bligh. The character even makes "AFI's 100 Years....100 Heroes and Villains" list as bad guy #19. I hate these lists, but that's beside the point. Here Bligh is represented as a Grade A sadistic, control freak asshole with not one sympathetic characteristic. He is greedy, under handed and, my apologies to Charles Laughton, completely unpleasant to look at. Those thick, frowning lips just give me the heebie-jeebies. Bligh is not a villain we are meant to sympathize with or even a villain are suppose to "love to hate"; we are just meant to HATE him. Bligh is a genius with navigation as we see when he and his loyal men are cast adrift. But there is more to being a good captain than knowing how to steer a boat.



On the other side we have Fletcher Christian whom Clark Gable makes dead sexy. Cocksure and headstrong, cockstrong and headsure, Fletcher Christian is a MAN. Fluttery pirate shirts and tri-corn hats...sigh. Okay. Let's get serious. In the context of this film, Christian is the hero, the one who declares independence on a despotic dickhead. But what makes the story/novel/film so interesting is not everyone aboard the Bounty agreed with the mutiny. In fact 22 men sided with Bligh while only 18 sided with Christian. 4 men loyal to Bligh were forced to stay aboard the Bounty and head back to Tahiti.

One of these men was Peter Heywood who, for some reason, is given the new name of Roger Byam in the novel and film. Franchot Tone's character represents the middle ground; a man who completely disagrees with Bligh's cruelty but cannot bring himself to betray his captain, his navy or his country. To make matters worse, Byam was friends with Christian which implicates him when he eventually returns to England as is court-martialed as a mutineer. Both Heywood and Byam were pardoned by King George III.

The more I research the real mutiny on the Bounty for this stupid little entry, the more disillusioned about this film I become. When it comes right down to it, it's just a story of he said-he said. Since the mutineers stayed in Tahiti, there wasn't any direct testimony from them. Bligh really could have been a miserable cur but it's also possible 18 men were simply tired rampant buggery and wanted to live on beautiful tropical island with girls who cover their ta-tas with floppy necklaces of flowers. So who the fuck knows.



So Mutiny on the Bounty is also the first in a long line of historically inaccurate Best Picture winners. I don't think it's as bad as Braveheart (can't wait!) but...if you want a more accurate/in color/modern/sympathetic-towards-Bligh version check out 1984's The Bounty starring Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins. My mom likes it. Or if you want something faster and a little more low-brow, The Simpsons did a parody in the episode "The Wettest Stories Ever Told".

...and that's all I have to say about that.

Impressions circa 2004
Positive. Clark Gable in a pirate shirt...yes, please!

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - Frank Lloyd 
  • Best Actor - Clark Gable 
  • Best Actor - Charles Laughton 
  • Best Actor - Franchot Tone 
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 
  • Best Score 
  • Best Film Editing 

1935 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • Alice Adams 
  • Broadway Melody of 1936 
  • Captain Blood 
  • David Copperfield 
  • The Informer 
  • Les Miserables 
  • The Lives of a Bengal Lancer - It sure took place in India, didn't it?
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream 
  • Naughty Marietta 
  • Ruggles of Red Gap 
  • Top Hat 

What I Learned From...Mutiny on the Bounty
It never pays to be loyal to a tyrant.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jordyn Does the Best Picture Winners: It Happened One Night (1934)


1934 was a year of change for film. After 30+ years of uncensored bliss, here comes the Hays Code to stifle swears, violence, sex and all the other things that make Life worth living. It Happened One Night would be the last Best Picture winner to not suffer this oppression until the MPAA ratings system came to be in 1968.

1934 was also the first year Oscar switched to a calendar year plan. Maybe you noticed all the previous BP's covered two years (i.e. 1930-31). Originally the eligibility window arbitrarily spanned from August to July. In 1933, the Academy changed the dates to January 1 to December 31. (By the way, this means there was 17 months to choose a BP for 1932-33 and Cavalcade won.)

All right, let's get to the movie at hand. It Happened One Night is based on the short story "Night Bus" by Samuel Hopkins Adams. Claudette Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, a spoilt socialite who elopes with probable gold-digger King Westley (Jameson Thomas). Ellie's father (Walter Connelly) disapproves on the marriages and insists on an annulment. Ellie runs away and boards a bus to New York City to be reunited with King. En route, she meets a chivalrous but snarky journalist named Peter Warne (Clark Gable). When Ellie runs out of money, Peter offers to pay her way to New York as long as he gets the scoop on her "runaway heiress" story. If she refuses, Peter will hand Ellie over to her father and collect the reward money. Ellie agrees to travel with Peter and along the way the pair falls in love.



It Happened One Night is often called the first "screwball comedy". I've always found that genre name a little off-putting. I always picture dames in floppy hats tripping in their high heels, bickering with our hero before justly falling into a punch bowl or fountain.

What's this? A clip from The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement!?




Ugh. Yeah, that's the stuff. Shame on you, Chris Pine.

Thankfully Gable and Colbert are far too sophisticated to fall in a fountain. While some "screwball comedies" contain elements of farce, It Happened One Night focuses more on the petty arguments and debates between the leads. This lays the groundwork for most future "road-to-romance" movies: Romancing the Stone, The Sure Thing, Anastasia, Shrek, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Rio*. Much of the couple's squabbling arises from their class differences. Peter finds Ellie's wastrel ways irritating and firmly teaches her humility.

Some of the best moments in the film are the "Seinfeldian" conversations about nothing; things like what makes a good piggy back ride, how to dunk a donut in coffee, and the multiple varieties of hitchhiking. The best is when Peter explains his routine of undressing and how every man does it differently. These discussions feel real and are comforting in their charming inconsequentiality. Later rom-coms would get caught up in the deception, overused pop music, chases to the airport and friggin' Matthew McConaughey.

Even if It Happened One Night beat the Hays Code by four months, Peter and Ellie still deny their carnal desires for one another. They sleep in separate beds with a blanket suspended on a rope between them, christened "the Walls of Jericho". And what's sexier than boning? Not boning. The film positively crackles with sexual tension. (In fact, I haven't seen this much sexual tension since Wings...tee-hee-hee). Peter and Ellie touch a lot...and sometimes no attention is brought to it, which completely shoves their unresolved tension in the audience's face. And God, it is so unsatisfying in a very, very good way.




However after Peter and Ellie finally get together--it's a rom-com! I've spoiled nothing!--there isn't really a pay off. The BIG MISUNDERSTANDING leads Ellie to consent to remarry King Westley with her father's "blessing" (he learned a lesson along the way, too). She learns the TRUTH and runs from the wedding. She does not sprint breathlessly into Peter's arms and kiss him in a heated frenzy. Instead we see we see the Walls of Jericho blanket falling to the floor on the honeymoon. That's right. No kiss and worse, no "I'm sorry"s. I don't really mind that we don't see Ellie and Peter get down tonight, but it feels like the original ending was replaced with another scene that Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert were unavailable to film.

A small quibble in the big picture. It Happened One Night is the first BP in this little retrospective that I genuinely like and one I have watched for fun. There aren't many rom-coms in our future, unsurprisingly, so cherish this one. In fact, can you imagine something like the similarly themed Leap Year winning the top prize? Good God! I don't want to live in a world like that...

Impressions circa 2004
Positive. Like I said in my BP intro, this is the one that started my interest in the Academy Awards!

Other Nominations and Wins
(bold represents win)
  • Best Director - Frank Capra 
  • Best Actress - Claudette Colbert 
  • Best Actor - Clark Gable 
  • Best Adapted Screenplay 

1934 Best Picture Nominees
(bold represents films I have seen...followed by my opinion in 10 words or less.)
  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street 
  • Cleopatra 
  • Flirtation Walk 
  • The Gay Divorcee 
  • Here Comes the Navy 
  • The House of Rothschild 
  • Imitation of Life 
  • One Night of Love 
  • The Thin Man - Enjoyable quippy married couple solves a mystery. Sure.
  • Viva Villa! 
  • The White Parade 

What I Learned From...It Happened One Night
Opposites attract when forced to travel together.