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In his opinion: What Should've Won Best Picture Oscar - 1930-39 ?


cinecrazydc
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Well, it seems the cat is out of the bag on the author of these posts (Nolte) - so let's continue with the TCM critiques for the 1930s !

Nolte: What Should’ve Won the Best Picture Oscar – 1931 to 1939

American actor Clark Gable (1901 - 1960) in his role as Rhett Butler kissing the hand of a tearful Scarlett O'Hara, played by Vivien Leigh in 'Gone With The Wind'. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

Yesterday we looked at the very first years of Best Picture winners, 1927 to 1930. Today, as we march through the decades, we look at 1931 to 1939.

Let’s begin…

1931/1932

  • What Did Win: Grand Hotel

Hard to argue with a picture that proves, once again, that MGM did indeed have more stars than were found in Heaven: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, a gorgeous Joan Crawford (who steals the movie), Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, and so on…

It’s all elegant and melodramatic and more than little stagey, but nearly 90 years later, outside of some draggy parts, it still entertains.

This is the movie where Garbo launched decades of imitators with her famous line, “I want to be alone.”

When I rewatch this, it’s primarily for Crawford, who is timeless.

  • What Should’ve Won: The Sign of the Cross

Because of the odd eligibility dates for the early Oscars, it could very well be that Cecil B. DeMille’s Biblical epic didn’t exactly qualify to compete with Grand Hotel. But as I said yesterday, let’s not get pedantic about these things. We’re here to talk movies.

Sign of the Cross is most famous for its scene of Claudette Colbert bathing in milk – which is quite something, but outside of the Ten Commandments (1956), it’s my favorite DeMille picture. Frederic March plays a Roman Centurion in the time of Nero (Charles Laughton). He falls for a Christian woman and everyone goes to the lions. The runtime of 121 minutes was epic in its day, and every one of those minutes flies by.

1932/1933

What Did Win: Cavalcade

Cavalvcade is certainly worth a look, a lavish production that examines changing values over four decades and a massive box office hit in its day. Unfortunately, although still moving at times, it’s bogged down by bathos and an episodic structure. I’ve seen it once. That was plenty.

  • What Should’ve Won: I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang

We have another tie…

Fugitive has lost none of its power over the decades and is still the 19th greatest movie ever made. Muni is a knockout as a man wrongly convicted of a crime who escapes a terrible chain gang and lives on the run.

The final line still chills.

  • What Also Should’ve Won: King Kong

My personal (#15) is an 88-year-old movie no remake has ever touched.

1934

  • What Did Win: It Happened One Night

Director Frank Capra directs what is still one of the best romantic comedies ever made, one full of iconic scenes (hitchhiking, Walls of Jericho) and huge laughs. Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable are perfectly cast (both won Oscars) in a movie they were both sure was an act of slumming over at what was then a B-movie factory called Columbia.

A total delight from beginning to end.

  • What Should’ve Won: It Happened One Night

Oscar got this one right.

1935

  • What Did Win: Mutiny on the Bounty

Still one of the greatest adventure movies ever made (#36) and so timeless that two blockbusters remakes – one with Marlon Brando, the other with Mel Gibson – should not have bothered. MGM moviemaking at its very best.

  • What Should’ve Won: Mutiny on the Bounty

Oscar gets two in a row right.

Let me also recommend Top Hat, Bride of Frankenstein, The Informer, Captain Blood, and most especially A Night at the Opera (#6).

You might be wondering why I would award the Oscar to Mutiny on the Bounty when I rank A Night at the Opera higher… All I can say is that a Best Picture choice feels like a different thing.

1936

  • What Did Win: The Great Ziegfeld

Oh, my, what a bloated, overlong stinker.

  • What Should’ve Won: Dodsworth

It’s nice to see, after all these years of me hyping it, others finally catching on to this heart-wrenching drama about a middle-aged Captain of Industry who retires to the simple life and then loses his wife, a spoiled and vain woman who relishes the affectation of wealth and status.

What a movie. A few years ago I ranked it #153. It would be higher today.

1937

  • What Did Win: The Life of Emile Zola

Paul Muni’s many biopics are largely and unjustly forgotten, including this one, which tells the story of the notorious Dreyfus Affair. Stories of injustice and antisemitism are timeless, and so is Zola.

  • What Should’ve Won: The Good Earth

This is a legitimately tough year. There’s also Dead End, Lost Horizon, The Good Earth (#16), and Captains Courageous; all of which are still favorites of mine and superior to Zola.

But I have to go with The Good Earth, which also starred Muni. Epic filmmaking, adult themes, and heartbreaking.

1938

  • What Did Win: You Can’t Take it With You

Frank Capra takes home another Best Picture Oscar for what is basically a well-filmed stage play. It’s plenty entertaining, but you can see what’s coming from a mile away. Worth a look for the cast: Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, and Lionel Barrymore.

  • What Should’ve Won: The Adventures of Robin Hood

This one is as easy as they come…

The adventure movie of all adventure movies, the Errol Flynn movie of all Errol Flynn movies, and still the fourth greatest movie ever made.

1939

  • What Did Win: Gone with the Wind

When you look at other movies produced this same year, you can hardly believe Gone with the Wind (#17) was possible. Not just technically with its bright Technicolor and special effects, but how timeless the performances and themes are.

Still the number-one box office of all time, and deservedly so. Every one of its 221 minutes fly by; a grand piece of moviemaking.

  • What Should’ve Won: Gone with the Wind

Duh.

The year 1939 is widely and correctly seen as Hollywood’s greatest year, the year of The Wizard of Oz, Ninotchka, Dark Victory, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights, Gunga Din, Stagecoach, Only Angels Have Wings, Drums Along the Mohawk, and Destry Rides Again… Each are Oscar-worthy, but Gone with the Wind is still a no-brainer.

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Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-12-19%2Bat%2B1.42.2

My list:
1. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
2. THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931)
3. EMMA (1932)
4. 42ND STREET (1933)
5. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)
6. LES MISERABLES (1935)
7. SAN FRANCISCO (1936)
8. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
9. EN KVINNAS ANSIKTE (1938) 
10. OF MICE AND MEN (1939)

Screen Shot 2021-04-20 at 4.43.46 PM

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2 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Screen%2Bshot%2B2015-12-19%2Bat%2B1.42.2

My list:
1. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
2. THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931)
3. EMMA (1932)
4. 42ND STREET (1933)
5. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)
6. LES MISERABLES (1935)
7. SAN FRANCISCO (1936)
8. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
9. EN KVINNAS ANSIKTE (1938) 
10. OF MICE AND MEN (1939)

 

Like I said earlier, TB, you are locked and loaded on all these decades !!!  😄  Some excellent choices, too.   Also went outside Hollywood for the Swedish angle in 1938 !!  

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1 minute ago, cinecrazydc said:

Like I said earlier, TB, you are locked and loaded on all these decades !!!  😄  Some excellent choices, too.   Also went outside Hollywood for the Swedish angle in 1938 !!  

Thanks.

So what are your choices?

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2 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Thanks.

So what are your choices?

** Please note that it may have been quite a while since I saw a given 1930s picture on TCM, so I'm going from memory on a lot of these, and these days my memory ain't so great !!☺️

1931 - All Quiet on the Western Front (just completed a biography of Lewis Milestone, so this was already on my radar !)

1932 -  The Sign of the Cross (in line with Nolte's pick)

1933 - King Kong - again, one of Nolte's possible winners

1934 - It Happened One Night (no brainer there !)

1935- Mutiny on the Bounty (I grew up with the 1962 version, but Osborne preferred this one, and it does have its merits)

1936- The Informer (Victor McLaglen won for best actor, and I like the story)

1937- The Good Earth (saw the late Luise Rainer at the TCM festival and really liked the film)

1938 - Adventures of Robin Hood (my favorite Errol Flynn movie) 

1939- Gone With the Wind (probably the original "block buster" )

Thanks for asking !

 

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1930 : All Quiet on the Western Front

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1931: City Lights

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1932 (The Year Talkies Found Their Footing): Shanghai Express

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1933: King Kong

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1934: It Happened One Night

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1935: Mutiny on the Bounty tied with Captain Blood

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1936: Modern Times

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1937: Lost Horizon

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1938: Adventures of Robin Hood

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1939: Gone With The Wind

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1.  All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

2.  City Lights (1931)

3.  Scarface (1932)

4.  King Kong (1933)

5.  Twentieth Century (1934)

6.  A Night at the Opera (1935)

7.  Modern Times (1936)

8.  Grand Illusion (1937) 

9.  The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

10.  The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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53 minutes ago, Bogie56 said:

5.  Twentieth Century (1934)

While I picked It Happened One Night as the best of 1934, my best actor Oscar would have gone to John Barrymore's magnificent performance in this film. The Capra film turned out to be box office magic (after a slow buildup) for Columbia while 20th Century tanked for the same studio. Therefore Harry Cohn promoted the Capra film at Oscar time and Barrymore, delivering what some might regard as the last great performance of his career, wasn't even nominated. That is a crime.

Having said that, I like Gable very much in the Capra film, one of the actor's most likeable and down to earth performances.

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1930 - All Quiet on The Western Front

1931 - City Lights

1932 - Trouble In Paradise

1933 - Gold Diggers of 1933

1934 - It Happened One Night

1935 - A Night at the Opera

1936 - Dodsworth

1937 - Make Way for Tomorrow

1938 - Adventures of Robin Hood

1939 - Gone With the Wind

Notes -  It looks like we are all jettisoning the weird half year Oscar  rules that were in place until 1934. Silent films were ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931, but City Lights was the best picture anyways. 

 

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I am using the actual nominees for my choices again, I didn't see too many in the early years.

1930-1931: Cimarron 

1931-1932:  Five Star Final

1932-1933:  She Done Him Wrong

1934: The Thin Man

1935: Mutiny On The Bounty

1936: The Great Ziegfeld

1937: Dead End

1938: The Adventures Of Robin Hood

1939: Gone With The Wind

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Due to it being a long time personal favorite and it's utilization of what(at the time) were groundbreaking special effects,  and a top notch score by Stothart and  Arlen  with a  highly skilled and talented cast at their best I thought THE WIZARD OF OZ did deserve the "Best Picture" statuette as well as the movie's score.   Or at least, the SCORE should have won over the score for GWTW, which was (to me) basically  ambient mundane and largely schmaltz.   More to the point;  Musical sorghum.

All the other choices are good 'uns, as far as my being familiar with most '30's movies go.  After all, I haven't seen every movie from that decade. 

Sepiatone

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On 4/20/2021 at 7:15 PM, cinecrazydc said:

** Please note that it may have been quite a while since I saw a given 1930s picture on TCM, so I'm going from memory on a lot of these, and these days my memory ain't so great !!☺️

1931 - All Quiet on the Western Front (just completed a biography of Lewis Milestone, so this was already on my radar !)

1932 -  The Sign of the Cross (in line with Nolte's pick)

1933 - King Kong - again, one of Nolte's possible winners

1934 - It Happened One Night (no brainer there !)

1935- Mutiny on the Bounty (I grew up with the 1962 version, but Osborne preferred this one, and it does have its merits)

1936- The Informer (Victor McLaglen won for best actor, and I like the story)

1937- The Good Earth (saw the late Luise Rainer at the TCM festival and really liked the film)

1938 - Adventures of Robin Hood (my favorite Errol Flynn movie) 

1939- Gone With the Wind (probably the original "block buster" )

Thanks for asking !

 

My Aunt (now deceased) was an attorney who defended Lewis Milestone's will contest. She called on Robert Blake and Norman Lloyd (both still alive) as witnesses.

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1 hour ago, johnpressman said:

My Aunt (now deceased) was an attorney who defended Lewis Milestone's will contest. She called on Robert Blake and Norman Lloyd (both still alive) as witnesses.

Wow- very interesting !  The author of the book I'm reading on Milestone also interviewed Norman Lloyd.  Don't recall him (the author) saying anything about a will, but will look again in case I missed something.  It was mainly focused on his film career.   

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My picks:

1932 Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, USA)
1933 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, USA)
1934 L'Atalante (Jean Vigo, France)
1935 The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, USA)
1936 Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, USA)
1937 Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, USA)
1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, USA)
1939 Stagecoach (John Ford, USA)
 

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