Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Academy Awards: 1937

As we gear up for this years Academy Awards, it's time to take another trip back to previous seasons. Thanks for joining me for the 1937 ceremony, the winners, losers and snubs.

Winner: The Life of Emile Zola, Nominees: The Awful Truth, Captains Courageous, Dead End, The Good Earth, In Old Chicago, Lost Horizon, One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door, A Star is Born

Best Picture winner: "The Life of Emile Zola"

Winner: Spencer Tracy in "Captains Courageous", Nominees: Charles Boyer in "Conquest", Fredric March in "A Star is Born", Robert Montgomery in "Night Must Fall", Paul Muni in "The Life of Emile Zola

Spencer Tracy, Best Actor winner in "Captains Courageous"

Winner: Luise Rainer in "The Good Earth", Nominees: Irene Dunne in "The Awful Truth", Greta Garbo in "Camille", Janet Gaynor in "A Star is Born", Barbara Stanwyck in "Stella Dallas"

Luise Rainer, Best Actress winner in "The Good Earth"

Winner: Joseph Schildkraut in "The Life of Emile Zola", Nominees: Ralph Bellamy in "The Awful Truth", Thomas Mitchell in "The Hurricane", H.B. Warner in "Lost Horizon", Roland Young in "Topper"

Joseph Schildkraut, Best Supporting Actor winner in "The Life of Emile Zola"

Winner: Alice Brady in "In Old Chicago", Nominees: Andrea Leeds in "Stage Door", Ann Shirley in "Stella Dallas", Claire Trevor in "Dead End", May Whitty in "Night Must Fall", 

Alice Brady, Best Supporting Actress winner in "The Awful Truth"

Winner: Leo McCarey for "The Awful Truth", Nominees: William Dieterle for "The Life of Emile Zola", Sidney Franklin for "The Good Earth", Gregory La Cava for "Stage Door", William Wellmann for "A Star is Born"

Leo McCarey, Director winner for "The Awful Truth"

Omissions and Snubs:
Cary Grant in "The Awful Truth" (Comedians always getting the shaft!)
Director Victor Fleming for "Captains Courageous"
"Way Out West"
Busby Berkeley for his finale dance number in "Varsity Show" (Best Dance Direction)
George and Ira Gershwin's They Can't Take That Away From Me, sung by Fred Astaire in "Shall We Dance" (lost out to Bing Crosby's Sweet Leilani)
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in the Best Picture category
Carole Lombard in "Nothing Sacred"
"Camille" for Best Picture or Best Director (George Cukor)
Frank Capra for Best Director "Lost Horizon", Ronald Coleman in "Lost Horizon"
Paul Muni in "The Good Earth"
W.S. Van Dyke, Best Director for "The Prisoner of Zenda"

Honorable Mentions:

The Marx Brothers comedy: "A Day At The Races"

"Topper" Ensemble cast and directing. (In my opinion, Roland Young should have won the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance.) Darn biopics!

"The Hurricane" for it's ground breaking special effects, Mary Astor for her supporting role. 

The cast of "Stage Door", Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Adolphe Menjou

Oscar Trivia:
The award ceremony was held on March 10th, 1938 at the Biltmore Hotel and hosted by Bob Burns. (The ceremony was originally scheduled for March 3rd but due to heavy flooding in Los Angeles it was postponed.

Luise Rainer was the first thespian to win back to back Oscars, winning the year before in "The Great Ziegfeld" She would also be the first to win two Academy Awards. (Spencer Tracy would tie her record the following year) I will say that I agree with Tracy and Rainer's winning.  Luise was phenomenal as O-Lan from Pearl Buck's beautifully written book, the screen adaptation was everything you want a film to be, with Muni in one of his best performances as well. (Now, her win the previous year, well I won't get into that again!)

This would be the last year for the categories, Best Assistant Director and Best Dance Direction. (Sorry Busby Berkeley)

The Life of Emile Zola would receive a record 10 nominations with three wins. It would also be Warner Bro's first Best Picture win.  Warner Bro's, already known for it's biopics pushed heavily for the film to be made with Paul Muni after his Oscar win the previous year in "The Story of Louis Pasteur" 

Walt Disney won his sixth consecutive Oscar in the Short Film category for "The Old Mill"

The Oscar nominated film "The Good Earth" would be the last film Irving Thalberg would work on before his untimely death at 36 at the end of 1936.  Prompting the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award which Darryl F. Zanuck would be the first recipient of during the 1938 ceremony.

Mack Sennett won an Honorary Award for his lasting contribution to the comedy technique of the screen. Edgar Bergen and cinematographer, W. Howard Greene were also given the Honorary Award that year.

The most egregious Oscar omission for 1938 was Cukor's "Camille" which was far superior to "In Old Chicago" and "One Hundred Men and a Girl" (both Best Picture nominees).  

Best Picture winner, "The Life of Emile Zola" was filmed in reverse, with Muni starting out with his own long beard. It was trimmed and darkened as the film progressed. (I guess in the case, regressed). His makeup took 3 1/2 each morning.

Early in the film "The Life of Emile Zola", there's a scene with Zola in his drafty apartment burning books to keep warm. The real life Emile Zola died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a stopped chimney

Well, that's a wrap for the winners and losers of 1937. I hope you enjoyed my look back and please share your opinion on the winners and snubs, your favorites. Also, take a moment to enjoy the short montage of the winners of 1937 below. Take it away Bing!


Monday, January 23, 2012

The CMBA sponsored Comedy Classics Blogathon: Easy Living (1937)

When I found out our next Blogathon would be on Classic Comedies I was a bit nervous.  How can you snark on a film that's already funny?  Well, after much thought I decided to give it a try. This really is a fun film with Milland and Arthur at their best. I just wish we would have had more interaction between the two. The supporting cast was a riot, just what you want in a screwball comedy.  

My favorite comedy is "Bringing Up Baby" but I couldn't bring myself to snark on it. Although Easy Living is a very good film that I hope everyone has seen. If not, there really aren't any spoilers here but plenty of snark so please forgive me.  

Jean Arthur as Mary Smith
Ray Milland as John Ball Jr.
Edward Arnold as J.B. Ball
Luis Alberni as Louis Louis
Mary Nash as Jenny Ball
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Screenplay by Preston Sturges

We open to a large mansion and lots of staff with strategically placed ladders.

 This Park Ave. mansion belongs to J.B. Ball who's super rich and grouchy. (What kids today would call a 1%er) Let's see your tax returns Mr.!

And uncoordinated apparently. Or the staff has had enough of this turnip throwing his weight around.

No, you don't look guilty at all. I bet that picnic basket is full of silverware.

By the time he reached the bottom step the maid was on her way to sad city.

Things move fast on Park Ave. and if you thought he had a sense of humor, just look at how he described that poor maid.

It's time for breakfast with Richie Rich Jr.  If you look closely, he's on the right behind the tower of silver. This one is clueless and spoiled. He's charged a foreign sports car to daddies account. 

They're all arguing over butter vs lard and finding this snot a job.  Just look at the collar. Who dresses like that for breakfast? The 1%, that's who.

It's all so confusing on Park Avenue. They're still fighting about butter vs lard and by judging the butler I'm guessing he's on team lard.  

More bad news! Mama Ball has been out shopping! (Hide your eyes OWS protesters)

OH, look! She's wearing a fur trimmed robe while rubbing rose water on her precious legs...and who said the idle rich weren't creating jobs?

She's hidden the Sable in the closet in plain sight. (PETA just passed out!) 

This one can't keep his balance.  Should they even be fighting over using butter or maybe a substitute?

With a head start, Mama Ball has managed to get away with the sable.  Barely noticing the vines growing up the wall.  

 Apparently she's found a seldom used hallway where the staff is growing hemlock. 

 They both realize they ran up two flights of stairs when there's a perfectly good elevator.  But back to the sable....(obviously never having set foot in a kitchen, they don't know the difference between thyme and hemlock.)  Revenge of the staff can move forward!

 The sable get's tossed on a bus, landing on the luckiest and dumbest girl in Manhattan. 

 The lucky girl gets off the bus to find the owner.. Not realizing that when dead animals land on your head you keep it movin.  (I read that in National Geographic, Issue 157)

 Richie Rich refuses to take it back and before you know it these two manage to confuse themselves.  Her broken hat has everyone in a trance. 

The only logical thing to do is hop in a limo with a perfect stranger and your new coat.  Dating on Park Avenue sure is easy.  Well it could be dating but this is all so confusing that we might be witnessing an abduction. 

Ditzy tries to explain the percentage paid back on a loan on 100 dollar coats which ends up with me wanting to jump out of the car.  

 More arguing and non explaining...even this banker can't explain small loans to Ditzy so the only logical thing to do is....

 Go Shopping!  YAY for the wealthy! But you might want to get her a different hat. One that doesn't have enough fabric to choke her during one of her walks through Central Park.  

 She's happy and he's acting shady on the way out of the boutique. Just wait until Mama Ball get's wind of this! If she can find her way back down ten corridors and twelve rooms to that hemlock, you're toast.

 OH, I hope she doesn't hurt herself with that hat! Anyway, who's up for blackmail?

 Ditzy D. get's dropped off at The Boy's Company.  Gee, it's not even 10 a.m. and she's getting passed around like X-Lax at a model convention. 

 Apparently she works here with the elderly who appreciate a good fur. 

 Nosy Ned doesn't waste any time getting on the horn to spread some rumors.  Everything's so confusing that whoever he's talking to will never get it. Hang up the phone! I can't take it.

Ditzy D has to explain why she's late to work. Which goes something like  "Lard, rode a bus, dangerous hats, the wealthy are fat but nice, broken hats, I rode in a limo and did fancy math, late is okay sometimes if there's a loan but well, I need to sit down, Gee whiz Park Avenue is dangerous but lucky. I mean I think it's lucky and so are sable coats." 

What do you mean my hair is changing into the Shearer flip? And what does that have to do with fat math or sudden good luck on the poor people bus?  

Ditzy D's boss, not believing any of her story besides her changing hair, checks to see if a fur coat was sold.  

 You know what makes this scene fun? Losing your horrible job after catching a $68,000 fur coat.  PETA was right! Fur makes people feisty and troubled.  (It's the guilt!)

 For a Boys Company the ladies sure are unattractive.  Not that I'm judging what the rich go for.

We get the news that Mama Ball is headed to Florida where they don't wear fur coats but you can get some good hemlock to sooth your mind. (wink, wink)  

 Richie Rich has some of the most expensive cardboard backdrop that money can by. Manhattan is approaching two dimensional.

 If you weren't yet convinced of his wealth, the studio has thrown in the "Cleopatra" backgrounds to set you straight.  (That set designer has a sense of humor or a good stash)

 Louis, Louis has just left Richie Rich with the bad news that his loans are due on his fancy hotel. Nosy Ned greets him with some gossip.  (the short and coherent version is they now think Richie Rich is seeing Ditzy D)

 Let's check in with Ditzy D who's managed to find her sad apartment  and some spare change. 

 She finds a note from the landlord who is either kiding, riding or a bad speller. (That's idiot speak for Pay Your Rent!) They've got to be related.

 Even the piggy bank looks sad and over it in this joint. 

 The pig get's it with a shoe! I can't say he didn't deserve it with that attitude but Ditzy finds a telegram. 

 Louis has plans at Hotel Louis...P.S. Bring your brain so I don't have to keep shilling for the man.  

Louis, the smooth operator says "You look exactly like I thought you would but 100 times better." Huh?  Either he was expecting Richie Rich's wife's twin sister or a garbage pail!

 Ditzy D (still trusting and as dumb as she was an hour ago) follows Louis, Louis to a large suite for a tour. I'm starting to understand where 'screwball comedies' got their name. This one is Janet from another planet! She needs a Chaperon and some boundaries.

 The ceramic busts are giving her the side eye and judgmental looks! Know your place ladies but stay alert in case this is a murder scene.

 This suite is Trump Tower tacky!  And Ditzy D doesn't have any money for rent but that's okay. Louis, Louis will rent it for a $1 a day.  No, I can't figure out why he's almost bankrupt either.  She'll take it! (Keep in mind that she didn't accept the coat, hat, a ride, the directions to Louis, Louis either. I don't think Jean Arthur realizes shes even in this film)

 Just look at that bathtub, fountain, tunnel to broken hearts fiasco.  I'm so jealous of the rich right now.

 We get a glimpse of the exercise room and how the Uber Wealthy stay so fit.  They vibrate their guts out on mechanical horses.

We get our second glimpse of how the wealthy stay fit. (I won't judge but at least I have eggs and a bottle of hot chili sauce for guests)

 D.D. finds her way down to the closest Automat without a map or being summoned so she's making progress.  It's like a canteen truck but for the wealthy.  

 And look who's working here. Richie Jr.  With double shifts he should be able to pay his father back by 1972.

 They've got a chocolate fountain set in marble! But she's broke so she better get creative or stand around for 5 seconds until someone offers her a steak, the Queen Mary and a Cartier watch. (She's got it, I just don't know what "It" is!)

 Just like clockwork (meaning the writers) she waits a few seconds for R.R Jr. to sidle up and offer her the world.  Okay, not the world but a hot pie at window 10.

 Hot pie for the clueless at window 10! (I had to stop and call up Goodwill to see if they have any sable coats...I got laughed at then hung up on...guess I'll go to work tomorrow) This film it making me do weird things out of jealousy.  

 R.R. Jr. is busted! And like anyone who helps out the needy he offers up an explanation.

 Which ends in fighting and a screen grab of Milland's backside.  Sometimes you should just run!  During the scuffle the lever to the food windows gets switched.  ('screwball' alert)

Over caffeinating the poor is always a bit risky unless you have a truckload of furs handy.

 This scene wasn't predictable at all!  

Richie Rich Jr. and his new girlfriend (she doesn't know it yet and guessing she never will!) manage to escape. He let's her know that he doesn't want to work twenty years just to end up standing behind a nut salad.  Well, good news! You worked 3 hours and ended up beside a nut salad. 

Never meeting a stranger that she doesn't trust, Ditzy D invites him up to her suite. (She wouldn't survive a week on Craigslist!)  This is her explaining the coat, lard, bus rides, sad pigs, Louis, Louis, dollar rent and how Columbus sailed to Cambodia on a wooden raft.  (Okay, not the last part but this clueless hottie zoned out at sad pigs.)

They try to figure out how the bathtub works which is pointless.  Just throw some coins in it and wait for the Taj Mahal to be delivered to your suite.  

Lacking brain cells but never giving in when they focus really hard, they manage to get the water to work.  These kids really should get married and go back and finish fifth grade!

 Either they've summoned a novice cross dresser or Nosy Ned is back to deliver more furs.  (Being mistaken for the mistress of Daddy Warbucks really does pay off) Now, if only they realized why they keep getting all this stuff. I'm sure this simpleton would be satisfied with a kitten and a yo-yo.

 Down in the lobby, Papa Ball has checked in after being left by his wife and son.  

Twenty yards of tulle and crazy exits the elevator just in time to greet Big Papa. It's all so confusing to Louis, Louis when they don't interact.  Ditzy has food on her mind.

 A reporter notices the two from afar so within an hour all of Manhattan will think something tawdry is going down at Hotel Louis.

 Ditzy D.: "Does this tulle make me look stupid?"  R. R. Jr.: "Only the last five yards of it!" 

 After eating everything on the hotel menu that was ordered up by Daddy Rich, they need a nap. (Just to clarify, Daddy Rich didn't know he was feeding his son who doesn't know Ditzy is there because Daddy Rich gave her a coat, which led to sad pigs, the dollar suite, fat dresses and the jobless rate in Manhattan going up 2% because of her) You're welcome!

 D.D.  "Are you sleepy?"  R.R. Jr.: "No, I just noticed the back of your hair. It's the Shearer flip!"  D.D. "NOOO! Wait..if I wave out the window I bet someone will show up with some rollers, a mobile salon and two ticket to The Follies Bergere."   R.R. Jr. "Isn't that in Las Vegas in 1992?"  D.D: "This is a screwball comedy...with a huge budget!"

 Time for things to get crazy!

 D.D. does her best to work phones. Obviously for her safety they need break away cords.

 She has a new car being delivered with two chauffeurs.  (Boy, mistresses were treated differently in those days. Now they just grow helmet hair and convince their husbands to run for President.)

Richie Jr. finds his way back to the suite with more gifts. Not once has he had a light bulb moment where he figures out none of this makes any sense. (Stay in school and know being middle class is okay kids!)

 Louis, Louis let's Papa Rich know that his old lady is on her way back from Florida after hearing the news of his affair. (He still has no idea who he's having an affair with. Well he's not actually having an affair nor is anyone else but...Oh, nevermind) 

D.D. tries to explain her situation using horses and chickens in a bizarre analogy. Richie Jr. just nods like he understands. He's just happy to have another day or two to figure out how the bathtub works.  

Thinking she's the mistress of the great J.B. Ball, a stockbroker shows up wanting stock tips. Would someone please sit this woman down and listen to her for a few minutes before she does something dangerous without knowing it? She's like one misunderstanding away from becoming the Ambassador of Leprechaunia.

Richie Jr. finds it all amusing and tells her to sell steel low...It's all funny when it's not your money.  (Guessing this is how Wall Street crashed in 1929.)  Rich jokesters!

Once the market goes into chaos, Richie Rich and a few other 1%er's gather to meltdown and figure out how to fix things by buying up a lot of steel.

He's losing money like mad and I bet they're on their way to repo his skyline.

In the meantime Ditzy Dee is getting the Pretty Woman treatment up in her suite except there are no thigh high boots or a john, when she gets a call that she has made $18,000 on her stock. (I'm sure with her own money she'll be more frugal.)

Down on Wall Street the floor is in total chaos as the rich lose their shirts. (You're welcome middle class!)

I was just sitting here thinking, if I had $18,000 I would get a couple of sheep dogs, some birds and a bowl of fish.  Guessing the dinosaur bones and the six person gondola are on back order.

 Mama Bell has shown up and boy is she aware of their situation.  Just look at that sad coat! She can only afford fur sleeves and a collar. Times are rough uptown.

 Realizing what a mess he's made, trust fund baby shows up to straighten things out.  Only, he doesn't know that everyone is having a freak out over his prank nor that he's been shacking up with the woman who's shut down Manhattan with a wink and a smile.   

 Ditzy D. and her dogs show up at the bank which causes people to fall down, scream and get all twisted up.  (Who wouldn't love this mess and offer her the world on borrowed silver?)

 Everyone does their best to figure out how all of this started in the first place which would take less time if we had a two hour sequel in braille. 

  I feel like Manhattan is closing in on me! (Nope! They're just repossessing the backdrop so stand away from the window.)  He gets the bright idea to call up the stockbroker with another tip. (Find a sofa, the genius is going to need a nap.)

 D.D.: "Hello, I've got two sheep dogs that I'll trade for Austria and a snow cone."  Daddy Rich: "Just tell them steel is selling HIGH!"  

Ditzy D. tells Prince Charming that she shouldn't have been a smarty when trying to explain how she got the coat."  Huh?  

Not getting to the bottom of anything with less than five minutes left, she takes off to Austria, not realizing she doesn't own it or a snow cone.  I have no idea what happened to the birds or fish but if we can get a wide shot I'm betting they're on top of a water tower or the taxi roof.  She's just adorable!

 Who summoned Eric Von Stroheim, who's obviously stolen Norma Desmond's car?  They're being chased by the cops. 

 Hey, how did those fish get up there?  

 I can't bear it! Here goes the coat.

 I guess when you're wealthy its less embarrassing to toss furs over the railing than return them.

 Just do yourself a favor and throw it in the trash then run to the closest PETA safe house.

These two look happy. Well, I think they're happy but who can tell. Find yourselves a safe place and don't talk to anyone! (Oh, on a side note, the Easy Living poster shows these two Rhodes Scholars in a passionate kiss but I didn't see them kiss even once! Perhaps they were under an avalanche of chocolate, behind a tower of silver or I was just distracted by that bathtub. For whatever reason, I feel a bit jipped!)

Thanks for joining me for my contribution to the Comedy Classics Blogathon.  If you haven't seen this film it's available in it's entirety on Youtube.  I give it a 9 out of 10 sheep dogs!

For a full list of the films being reviewed by our fellow members just click HERE.  There are some great reviews up already, with more to come all week. So please stop by and give everyone your support.

See you in the funny papers,