TopBilled

TopBilled’s Essentials

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Yes, Wilder made up for it the following year with his “no, he’s not gay... he is just an alcoholic with writer’s block” melodrama. In a way, even Bing Crosby should have won something much earlier since he had kept Paramount in the green more than anybody else since Mae West. Even if his boys used his Oscar as a bath tub stopper if we believe the Jack Benny radio shows. Come to think of it, the Jack Benny parody with Ray Milland on the picture that scored Wilder a win was even better than the original.

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3 hours ago, TopBilled said:

though it probably boiled down to studio politics since Paramount's executives had encouraged employees to vote for the feel-good religious picture over this more cynical crime yarn.

 

Sad that politics plays a part in Oscar voting,  but it has and always will.

 

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14 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Sad that politics plays a part in Oscar voting,  but it has and always will.

Yes. It means deserving people are sometimes overlooked. 

I do think the studio politics were different then, because people were under longer contracts and supposed to have more loyalty. When stars and directors began to freelance, that probably changed.

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Was there ever a re-make of "Double Indemnity"?

In the book, Phyllis is a far more terrifying character.

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It's a real shame that Fred MacMurray was not nominated for an Oscar for this role. Apparently Paramount did not back him-instead backing Bing Crosby in Going My Way.  Crosby was Paramount's biggest star and the film was a big hit.  Barry Fitzgerald was up for both Best Actor and Best supporting Actor that yea/  He won in the supporting category.  MacMurray should have had his slot

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Yes. It means deserving people are sometimes overlooked. 

I do think the studio politics were different then, because people were under longer contracts and supposed to have more loyalty. When stars and directors began to freelance, that probably changed.

Clearly a studio would favor an actor under a longer term contract over that of a freelanced actor.   In addition if an actors contract was about to expire,  some studio bosses didn't wish for the actor to win an Oscar since it could lead to what the studio boss believed were unreasonable demands for the renewal.   

I wonder if this occurred with MacMurray?    I did a quick check of the films he made within 5 years after Double Indemnity and he did films for many different studios.     Almost all of the Cosby films done within the same period after Going My Way,  were Paramount films.     

So was MacMurray no longer under contract with Paramount after DI (or maybe a limited contract?).    This might explain why the studio didn't promote him for DI.    But it looks like Paramount didn't promote DI at all for any of its Oscar nominations.    Of course maybe I'm looking for some type of conspiracy when none exist:  i.e. voters just favored a feel-good film over a gritty \ nasty one.   

 

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54 minutes ago, don96 said:

It's a real shame that Fred MacMurray was not nominated for an Oscar for this role. Apparently Paramount did not back him-instead backing Bing Crosby in Going My Way.  Crosby was Paramount's biggest star and the film was a big hit.  Barry Fitzgerald was up for both Best Actor and Best supporting Actor that yea/  He won in the supporting category.  MacMurray should have had his slot

I agree. It seems redundant having Fitzgerald up for awards in two categories for the same role (the Academy soon prohibited this). He won for Supporting; and as you say, his slot for Lead should have been occupied by MacMurray.

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20 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Clearly a studio would favor an actor under a longer term contract over that of a freelanced actor.   In addition if an actors contract was about to expire,  some studio bosses didn't wish for the actor to win an Oscar since it could lead to what the studio boss believed were unreasonable demands for the renewal.   

I wonder if this occurred with MacMurray?    I did a quick check of the films he made within 5 years after Double Indemnity and he did films for many different studios.     Almost all of the Cosby films done within the same period after Going My Way,  were Paramount films.     

So was MacMurray no longer under contract with Paramount after DI (or maybe a limited contract?).    This might explain why the studio didn't promote him for DI.    But it looks like Paramount didn't promote DI at all for any of its Oscar nominations.    Of course maybe I'm looking for some type of conspiracy when none exist:  i.e. voters just favored a feel-good film over a gritty \ nasty one.   

 

I think you may be on to something about MacMurray's contract. By the mid-40s he was freelancing. It might also have been a situation where they knew Fitzgerald would probably win for Supporting, so blocking MacMurray from a Lead nomination ensured Crosby's victory. MacMurray in that category could have split the votes and given the trophy to someone from another studio (the other Lead nominees were Cary Grant at RKO; Alexander Knox at Fox; and Charles Boyer at MGM).

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I think another reason it got shut out was that it was a dark film and the Oscar voters wanted to reward a feel good movie like Going My Way especially since the war was still going on.  Once the war ended, more serious films like Lost Weekend would get Oscar attention.

Hindsight being what it is, I would bet nowadays Double Indemnity is considered the more Oscar-worthy movie than Going My Way.

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3 minutes ago, ChristineHoard said:

I think another reason it got shut out was that it was a dark film and the Oscar voters wanted to reward a feel good movie like Going My Way especially since the war was still going on.  Once the war ended, more serious films like Lost Weekend would get Oscar attention.

Hindsight being what it is, I would bet nowadays Double Indemnity is considered the more Oscar-worthy movie than Going My Way.

Well one thing we can say is that Wilder had a longer career as director of big-budget films than McCarey did.

I think THE LOST WEEKEND did well a year later, because Paramount did not want to alienate an A-list writer-director like Wilder and gave him full support the following year.

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On 2/10/2018 at 9:00 PM, TopBilled said:

Well one thing we can say is that Wilder had a longer career as director of big-budget films than McCarey did.

I think THE LOST WEEKEND did well a year later, because Paramount did not want to alienate an A-list writer-director like Wilder and gave him full support the following year.

I don't know if they're big budget flicks, but McCarey did direct DUCK SOUP, THE AWFUL TRUTH, LOVE AFFAIR and AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER in addition to those Bing Crosby movies plus he wrote the script for MY FAVORITE WIFE.  Maybe not the resume' Wilder had but not bad, either.

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5 hours ago, ChristineHoard said:

I don't know if they're big budget flicks, but McCarey did direct DUCK SOUP, THE AWFUL TRUTH, LOVE AFFAIR and AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER in addition to those Bing Crosby movies plus he wrote the script for MY FAVORITE WIFE.  Maybe not the resume' Wilder had but not bad, either.

You're right. I guess what I meant was that when Wilder was winning awards for THE APARTMENT McCarey was no longer as successful. Except for AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, McCarey had experienced several flops-- GOOD SAM; MY SON JOHN and SATAN NEVER SLEEPS.

Wilder continued making highly regarded films until the 1980s.

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When profiling award winners of the 1930s and '40s, it is really difficult to determine "what should have won" simply because both the size and the quality of the menu (pre-TV) was so much wider back then than it is today. Yes, there are a few films today that will be considered classics in the future, although it is hard to determine which ones since tastes change with the times. (For example, how many Best Picture winners of the last two decades have you seen more than once? Many have a "seen it once, time to move on" quality about them.) One problem today is that the bulk of mainstream entertainment (movies, TV and "net" entertainment) has become a "niche" market catering to specific groups, demographics and, since more money is made by Hollywood overseas than domestically, storylines in the more expensive productions have to be more simplistic than in the past so that they can translate better in different languages.

Looking at both the nominees and rejects-but-still-loved American feature productions and British imports of 1947, the only issue is that most of the stars were Caucasian. Yet there was an obvious attempt to entertain as much of the broad population as possible. Therefore, not only is Crossfire a worthy opponent to Gentleman's Agreement (and Hollywood was going through its social message phase in the wake of the Nuremberg trials), but so is Black Narcissus, Boomerang, Miracle On 34th Street, Great Expectations (late '46 release in the UK, but qualified among the nominees this year), Odd Man Out, Out Of The Past, Hue And Cry, Body And Soul, It Always Rains On Sunday and, a couple notches down but still important, Monsieur Verdoux, A Double Life, The Bachelor And The Bobbysoxer, The October Man, Brute Force, The Hucksters, Nicholas Nickleby, The Bishop's Wife, Road To Rio and the guilty pleasure Bill And Coo (please don't be mad at me). Treasure Of The Sierra Madre was previewed by Variety in December but just missed the cut since it went nationwide the following year, so we can only imagine how much tougher the race would have been had it been released earlier. Equally tough had Donald Duck been allowed a nomination for his supporting "performance" in Fun And Fancy Free's "Mickey And the Beanstalk" sequence, the one thing that stands out in that Disney feature besides Charlie McCarthy's wise-cracks.

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On 2/16/2018 at 6:24 AM, Jlewis said:

When profiling award winners of the 1930s and '40s, it is really difficult to determine "what should have won" simply because both the size and the quality of the menu (pre-TV) was so much wider back then than it is today. Yes, there are a few films today that will be considered classics in the future, although it is hard to determine which ones since tastes change with the times. (For example, how many Best Picture winners of the last two decades have you seen more than once? Many have a "seen it once, time to move on" quality about them.) One problem today is that the bulk of mainstream entertainment (movies, TV and "net" entertainment) has become a "niche" market catering to specific groups, demographics and, since more money is made by Hollywood overseas than domestically, storylines in the more expensive productions have to be more simplistic than in the past so that they can translate better in different languages.

Looking at both the nominees and rejects-but-still-loved American feature productions and British imports of 1947, the only issue is that most of the stars were Caucasian. Yet there was an obvious attempt to entertain as much of the broad population as possible. Therefore, not only is Crossfire a worthy opponent to Gentleman's Agreement (and Hollywood was going through its social message phase in the wake of the Nuremberg trials), but so is Black Narcissus, Boomerang, Miracle On 34th Street, Great Expectations (late '46 release in the UK, but qualified among the nominees this year), Odd Man Out, Out Of The Past, Hue And Cry, Body And Soul, It Always Rains On Sunday and, a couple notches down but still important, Monsieur Verdoux, A Double Life, The Bachelor And The Bobbysoxer, The October Man, Brute Force, The Hucksters, Nicholas Nickleby, The Bishop's Wife, Road To Rio and the guilty pleasure Bill And Coo (please don't be mad at me). Treasure Of The Sierra Madre was previewed by Variety in December but just missed the cut since it went nationwide the following year, so we can only imagine how much tougher the race would have been had it been released earlier. Equally tough had Donald Duck been allowed a nomination for his supporting "performance" in Fun And Fancy Free's "Mickey And the Beanstalk" sequence, the one thing that stands out in that Disney feature besides Charlie McCarthy's wise-cracks.

Thanks Jlewis. Of course, a lot of it seems subjective. Though given the studio politics, we can probably see why some films did "better" with Academy voters. Because of the power the major studios wielded, the poverty row productions didn't stand a chance in the Oscar races each year and some of them were quite good-- like Monogram's DILLINGER (1945).

I kept the British films off my radar when focusing on nominees from the 40s. That's because the release dates vary (some British films did not get distributed in North America until more than a year after they were screened in England). I figured I could do a theme later on BAFTA winners.

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Yes, I never understood exactly why HENRY V took two years to make US theaters since Laurence Olivier was a big enough box office draw. That would been another competitor to DOUBLE INDEMNITY and GOING MY WAY.

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Essential: CROSSFIRE (1947)

When I was a student at the School of Cinema-Television director Edward Dmytryk spoke to our class one day. The first portion of his lecture focused on having been jailed as part of the Hollywood Ten, as well as the time that followed when he was blacklisted. And the second half of the lecture focused on the making of what he considered his best film.

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Dmytryk enjoyed talking about the film and the techniques he used, such as how he handled close-ups. He felt a director should save a close-up for the greatest dramatic moment-- to give the audience insights into what the characters might be thinking when it counts most. He was very much opposed to directors excessively shooting in close-up, because he felt it was a tool that loses its power if overused. He also spoke about his use of shadows and low-key lighting, which were economical ways to make the film look visually interesting.

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Dmytryk also mentioned the casting of the three Bobs (Robert Young, Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum). Mitchum was not yet a full-fledged star. Ryan was also in the process of achieving stardom. According to Dmytryk Robert Young was the one RKO considered its most bankable star at the time. Young believed in the story so much he lowered his usual fee, which enabled them to get it made within the studio's allotted budget.

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Another thing Dmytrk discussed was the original source material. It was not initially a story about anti-semitism. It was based on Richard Brooks' book 'The Brick Foxhole' about a gay soldier who had been murdered on a military base. But they were not going to be able to get it past the production code office with this theme, so making the murder victim Jewish was substituted for homosexuality. It was a compromise Dmytryk and the producer had to make and probably one that wouldn't have been necessary if the film had been made after the production code ended.

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Today CROSSFIRE is often compared to GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT, another important title from 1947 that tackled anti-semitism. Both productions were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, with A-picture GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT winning instead of B-picture CROSSFIRE. Fox's story was certainly glossier, a star-studded affair on the subject of discrimination against Jews, but not exactly better. It's unfortunate Dmytryk's version did not earn the award, since its unflinching look at the violence associated with such hate crimes was grittier and more realistic.

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Like MADAME CURIE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY, CROSSFIRE was shut out in all categories and did not receive one Oscar. In addition to the nomination for Best Picture, CROSSFIRE earned a nomination for producer Adrian Scott (also blacklisted); a nomination for Dmytryk as director; and supporting noms for Robert Ryan as the killer and Gloria Grahame as a good time girl.

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CROSSFIRE was the last time RKO had a Best Picture nominee. The studio only had one Best Picture winner, when it was honored for CIMARRON in 1931. In the early 1940s KITTY FOYLE, CITIZEN KANE and SUSPICION had also vied for the top prize, but none of them were deemed Best Picture by voters. Sometimes you have to wonder what the members of the Academy were thinking. Bob Ryan certainly tried hard to scare them into seeing things his way.

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CROSSFIRE will air February 18 and March 17 on TCM. Don't miss it!

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I do feel that CROSSFIRE falters somewhat when Robert Young gets too preachy towards the end. Yet you have to consider the era in which it was made. Even the vintage MARCH OF TIME documentaries of the thirties and forties tended to be a trifle preachy instead of merely stating the facts. Movie goers craved sermons on screen. When they didn't go to the movies on Sunday, they went to church to hear sermons as well. Only those of us today who are jaded by sermons saturating all of TV and the internet are tired of it.

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CROSSFIRE is one of my very favorite films.  I would have loved to been in that classroom listening to Dmytrk.  It's much grittier than GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT so no surprise it didn't win Oscars which often go to "safer" (more sanitized) films.  At least it got nominations including one for Robert Ryan, whom I just adore.  One minor correction, TopBilled:  in your paragraph about Gloria, she befriends the accused, not the victim, unless you're referring to Ryan's smear against him.  In that sense he was a victim but not the dead victim.  As for Robert Young's preaching near the end, that was to convince the naive young soldier why it was important to help and explain the ugliness of all discrimination.  This reminds the audience as well that discrimination has affected many groups such as Irish Catholics, Italians, etc. as they made their way into this country.  We're going through this now in our current times.

Wouldn't it have been interesting if Richard Brooks had been able to direct his original plot of THE BRICK FOXHOLE after the Code fell?  Good director as well as writer.

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1 hour ago, ChristineHoard said:

CROSSFIRE is one of my very favorite films.  I would have loved to been in that classroom listening to Dmytrk.  It's much grittier than GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT so no surprise it didn't win Oscars which often go to "safer" (more sanitized) films.  At least it got nominations including one for Robert Ryan, whom I just adore.  One minor correction, TopBilled:  in your paragraph about Gloria, she befriends the accused, not the victim, unless you're referring to Ryan's smear against him.  In that sense he was a victim but not the dead victim.  As for Robert Young's preaching near the end, that was to convince the naive young soldier why it was important to help and explain the ugliness of all discrimination.  This reminds the audience as well that discrimination has affected many groups such as Irish Catholics, Italians, etc. as they made their way into this country.  We're going through this now in our current times.

Wouldn't it have been interesting if Richard Brooks had been able to direct his original plot of THE BRICK FOXHOLE after the Code fell?  Good director as well as writer.

Thanks CH for the comment about the victims in the story. I went back and edited that part of the review. I agree this is something Brooks probably wished he had been able to film himself.

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Essential: THE HEIRESS (1949)

The main character may not be marriageable. And because of this she turns from sweet, innocent and naive to embittered and isolated, giving Best Actress Olivia De Havilland a chance to demonstrate her dramatic range. Throw in young handsome Montgomery Clift as a scoundrel suitor, Miriam Hopkins as an over the top doting aunt, and Ralph Richardson as a stern father-- and what do you have? The film that should have been named the Best Picture of 1949.

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Paramount purchased the rights to the stage play based on Henry James' novel at De Havilland's urging. She had recently earned an Oscar at the studio for TO EACH HIS OWN, and after seeing Wendy Hiller play Catherine Sloper on Broadway, she was determined to star in the film version with William Wyler directing. In addition to her win in the lead actress category, the production earned Oscars for art direction, costumes, and score. It was nominated for Best Picture and had nominations for Wyler, Richardson and for its cinematography. Scene stealing Hopkins received a Golden Globe nomination as supporting actress.

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Hopkins hadn't made a film in several years. She was now taking character roles and has a memorable turn as Lavinia Penniman, a woman obsessed with the idea of finding a suitable match for her niece. She mistakenly thinks Clift's character is just such a catch. Clift has an unusual entrance as Morris Townsend. At first we hear his voice and only see him from the back during a party. Then he eventually sits down and joins the others. Given how gorgeous Morris is, it's hard to believe women weren't leaving their partners to dance with him.

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Catherine's father finds it hard to believe Morris would choose to spend time with her. After the party Morris starts calling at the Sloper home in Washington Square. He makes a visit each day, and Catherine becomes increasingly enchanted. This culminates in a scene where Morris and Catherine share their first kiss and leads to his sudden proposal of marriage. It's poignant, awkward and strangely romantic. These moments are aided by Aaron Copland's score.

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Catherine's family seems to want what is best for her, but they go about it in the wrong way. It's nice to see how protective the aunt is towards Catherine. The father is not written as too villainous. Certainly not as villainous as old man Barrett in THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET. We also have Morris' sister in one key scene, and like Catherine's family, she wants what is best for the young couple. But she and Catherine's father have different approaches. This is followed by some tense verbal psychological warfare between Dr. Sloper and Morris about the young man's intentions.

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Most of the time the characters are transparent with their feelings. But the best moments are the ones without such obvious dialogue. In the middle of the film there's a farewell scene on a ship when the Slopers decide to travel abroad. Morris and aunty both show up to wish Catherine and her father a safe voyage. In this scene Hopkins has no lines, but her facial expressions speak volumes.

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Visually the film is full of rich images. When Catherine returns from Europe, she reunites with Morris in the rain. It's emotional, especially because of her father's continuing disapproval of them as a couple. In the second half of the story there are different levels of trust and betrayal going on among the main characters. Catherine defiantly chooses Morris and disinherits herself from her father; but ironically disinherits herself from Morris' "love." He then fails to elope with her. This leads Catherine to reject her father when he dies, and to reject Morris when he later begs forgiveness. She faces life on her own, but it will be embroidered with no more foolish beguilement.

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THE HEIRESS airs on TCM occasionally.

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March 2018: Bringing Them to Justice

March 3: THE SNIPER (1952)

Can Adolphe Menjou and Gerald Mohr bring Arthur Franz to justice before he kills someone else?

March 10: THE HANGMAN (1959)

Robert Taylor needs Tina Louise's help to convict Jack Lord of a crime.

March 17: ONE FOOT IN HELL (1960)

Alan Ladd takes the law into his own hands when his wife dies.

March 24: THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974)

Goldie Hawn evades the police, but for how long?

March 31: LITTLE BOY BLUE (2017)

A British suburb is turned upside down when a child is shot on his way home from soccer practice.

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