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Top Ten Oscar Travesties of the Golden Age: #7

The #6 Oscar travesty of the Golden Age: Barry Fitzgerald’s nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role in 1944.

Barry Fitzgerald

“Performances by an actor or actress in any supporting role may be nominated for either the Best Acting Award or the Award for Best Supporting Player.” – the Academy’s official rules circa 1944.

Oh, so you can be lead and second banana?

Barry Fitzgerald wasn’t a man, he was a leprechaun; a wee leprechaun who charmed and enchanted the Academy out of its then-fashionable high-waisted pants. His half-senile, Best Supporting Actor-winning performance as the “lovable” Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way notwithstanding, Barry Fitzgerald could do no wrong in 1944. He was so lucky that he beat a manslaughter rap a month before the Oscar nominations were announced.

But the real travesty lies in that the Academy’s dopey rules prevented 1944’s most deserving Supporting Actor–Clifton Webb in Laura—from taking home the Oscar. The dual nomination also aided his Going My Way co-star, Bing Crosby. Crosby was the odds on favorite, but in case that wasn’t enough, voters could refrain from voting for Fitzgerald for Best Actor, knowing they could award him Best Supporting Actor instead. In a sense, the game was rigged for ol’ Barry, wasn’t it?

Fitzgerald later knocked the head off of his plaster Oscar while practicing his golf swing in his living room, and Paramount paid for its replacement. In a way he received two Oscars anyway. Imagine the horror if Fitzgerald had somehow won the Best Actor award, too? If that happened I doubt we would’ve been treated to Crosby and Fitzy’s subsequent blarney team ups throughout the rest of the ‘40s.

Not only did Fitzgerald’s unfair (but within the flawed rules) dual nomination deny the deliciously catty Webb-as-Waldo Lydecker the Oscar, but his intrusion in the Best Actor category kept some other worthy performer from receiving a nod.

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Top Ten Oscar Travesties of the Golden Age: #8

The #8 Oscar Travesty of the Golden Age: Edith Head fails to win the first Best Costume Design award in 1948.

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It may not seem such a travesty to you, but it most certainly is. Why? Edith Head was the greatest costume designer in movie history, with 35 nominations and eight victories. In terms of total dominance, only Walt Disney compares to Edith Head–in any category. Head is, ahem, Head and shoulders above the rest. With her stunning loss in 1948, even Edith herself could not conceal her disappointment in losing for her film, The Emperor Waltz:

“There was no doubt in my mind that I would win that Oscar. I deserved it—for longevity if nothing else. I had been doing motion pictures before the Oscar even existed. And besides, my picture had the best costumes of any nominated picture. The serious competition [and the only; just two nominees. ~CUALS] was Joan of Arc, designed by Madame Karinska and Dorothy Kenkins. To my mind, there was no way Ingrid Bergman’s sackcloths and suits of armor could win over my Viennese finery. Since I am not very emotional, no one knew that I was in shock. My husband squeezed my hand and we watched the remaining presentations, but I do not remember the rest of the evening.

With the Oscars being the political and business-oriented awards they are, it’s baffling that the Academy did not select Edith Head as its first Best Costume winner. In fact, the result goes against its own unofficial, unspoken policy of rewarding those who’ve “served their time” or “paid their dues.” Head understood this and knew how the Academy and the film industry worked. Yet for some reason, she was not deemed worthy enough to win the category’s first award. It’s baffling, especially considering that clunky armor defeated sophisticated material. It’s like Oscar’s politics only work against the people who deserve the award the most.

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Top Ten Oscar Travesties of the Golden Age: #9

The #9 Oscar Travesty of the Golden Age: Sweet Leilani wins the 1937 Best Song Oscar over They Can’t Take That Away From Me.

Apparently, “they” could AND did…take that away from them, that is.

George GershwinPoor George Gershwin. Not only did the man die at the tragically early age of 38 in July 1937, but to add further insult to this most grievous event, one of his finest compositions, from the Astaire-Rogers musical Shall We DanceThey Can’t Take That Away from Me lost the Best Song Oscar to Harry Owens’ Sweet Leilani. We should all be so lucky as to have a Hawaiian vacation and have a grateful Bing Crosby go to bat for you against a tough Hollywood producer to include your ditty in a most forgettable movie. To be fair, Sweet Leilani must’ve sounded exotic to haole ears in 1937, and Bing Crosby had a huge-selling record with it, so its commercial appeal is also understandable. It still ruffles my feathers, though.

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Perhaps Gershwin’s masterwork lost because of his prolonged journey into “highbrow” music. Or maybe it was due to the fact that an Astaire song—The Way You Look Tonight—deservedly won the Best Song Oscar in 1936. Politics always played a part with the Oscars, and this has been proven over the course of many decades. However, to show what a restrained, stand-up blogger I am, this will be the only music-related travesty on the top ten list.

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Top Ten Oscar Travesties of the Golden Age: #10

Leading up to the 87th Academy Awards on February 22, 2015, I thought I’d scratch out my own personal list of Top Ten Oscar Travesties. However, before the series commences, I’d better lay down the ground rules:

Only the Golden Age: For the purposes of this series, let’s just say it’s 1933 to 1959, just to make things simple.

Snubs: While this qualifies as a travesty in itself, this countdown won’t have me moaning and wailing over Myrna Loy’s zero nominations. More importantly, the list will not discuss “should’ve been nominated” performers, directors, writers, and technical personnel, mostly because, I feel that there are way too many of those. The travesties will only include the actual nominees of a given year.

Just One Person’s View: Remember, it’s just how I see it. I’m sure everyone out there has their own strongly-held opinions about Oscar’s greatest travesties, and believe me; I can’t wait to read what you consider the best/worst omissions and inclusions.

Now let’s begin the countdown…

The #10 Oscar Travesty of the Golden Age: Luise Rainer wins Best Actress Oscars in 1936 and 1937. 

luise3Luise Rainer’s consecutive Oscar wins were a blight on an otherwise glorious era of cinema. I honestly don’t have much to vent about her win for The Great Ziegfeld. Yes, it’s melodramatic and painful to watch, but to me the other nominees’ performances weren’t exactly Oscar-worthy, with the exception of Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey. It doesn’t make me as angry as when Rainier won the next year’s award, for The Good Earth. That is when we’ve entered travesty territory! The travesty is that the other nominees she bested all gave career-defining or near-career defining performances. Her winning a second time denied more-deserving actresses two years in a row. It’s one thing for an actress to win along with a film’s Oscar sweep, but to have it happen two years running is where my incredulity begins.  It’s especially disheartening when you realize the calibre of performers that she defeated among that year’s Best Actress nominees:

Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth
Greta Garbo in Camille
Janet Gaynor in A Star Is Born
Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas

To make matters worse, Rainer split from Hollywood at the peak of her stardom, making an appraisal of what “could have been” impossible. God bless her for fighting the system, kicking the moguls to the curb before they could do the same to her, and living a long life, but Luise Rainer had no business winning Academy Awards; and certainly not two in a row. Her back-to-back wins exist only as the answer to a trivia question and to serve as a reason to shake one’s head in disbelief.


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Review: I Love You Again (1940)

Myrna Loy and William Powell were one of Hollywood’s great screen teams, starring in 14 films together. With the exception of the six THIN MAN films, my favorite Loy-Powell starring vehicle happens to be so similar to those movies, it might as well be another in the THIN MAN picture minus the solving a mystery, since it features the two stars and is directed by W.S. Van Dyke who helmed the first three THIN MAN pictures. The familiar wit and charm are certainly there, though. It’s another comedy, the hilariously unrealistic I LOVE YOU AGAIN, released in 1940.

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Thanks to TCM’s Summer Under the Stars, I’m able t discover new films and re-discover old favorites such as this. I caught it last week when the channel celebrated the debonair William Powell and it was just as funny and adorable as I remembered. This is a truly hilarious film, with a wonderful script and first rate gag lines, with plenty of opportunities for laughing out loud.

c395edf0d1004526a35b5c8e50b0245eThe story itself is, or at least seems, flimsy, nonsensical, and downright complicated. Larry Wilson (William Powell) is a bland, penny-pinching, teetotaler, businessman from a small town. While rescuing a drunk who fell overboard while on a cruise, Larry gets knocked on the head, wiping out the last nine years of his memory. He now remembers that he is George Carey, a slick con man. In an incredibly unique twist and a brilliant start to the film, he doesn’t undergo the effects of amnesia, but rather comes out of it. It turns out that nine years back, George suffered a similar blow, causing him to lose memory; he started a whole new life as Larry Wilson, eventually doing very well for himself. The man he rescued is another con man, ‘Doc’ Ryan (Frank McHugh), and the two realize they can turn this amnesia thing into a master swindle (pause) after all, George is already Larry, so now he just has to keep playing it up as the rich man he already is but can’t remember. The other con man will pose as a Annex - Loy, Myrna (I Love You Again)_NRFPT_02respectable doctor looking after Larry’s mental state. Larry is happy to discover he’s married to the gorgeous Kay (Myrna Loy), but it turns out that she is divorcing him because he is so boring and clearly did not pay any attention to her. She also happens to be engaged to someone else, a man named Herbert (Donald Douglas). Once Larry realizes what a keeper Kay is, he must try to convince her to fall in love with him all over again, this time not as the stuffy old Larry, but as the new happy-go-lucky Larry. This leads to all sorts of comedic escapades and because he now finds Myrna Loy irresistible, and Powell sets about wooing her all over again.

I LOVE YOU AGAIN works so well because of the magical spark between its stars, which chiefly owes its magic to Powell’s remarkable and humorous personality and the unique response to it which seems to have emerged spontaneously from Myrna Loy from the moment they appeared in their first film together. Theirs was a cinematic matching made in heaven. The two of them together really are so amazing that one ceases to pay any attention to what the film is about or if it makes any sense, and one just watches, mesmerized, as they interact with one another. 

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Lauren Bacall

Hello everyone. I know it’s been…geeze, almost a year… Almost a year. I updated the blog last on September 19 of last year and here I am and it’s August. So it’s almost been an entire year that I have not made a post. I know I’m an absolutely horrible person for creating this blog and abandoning it. I really wanted to keep up with it but other things got in the way, and yeah, I know that’s a bad excuse. While this post does not necessarily mean I’m coming back, I just wanted to write a little something in tribute to one of my very favorite actresses and someone whose public and personal life was a great inspiration to me, the incredible Lauren Bacall.

Bogie & BacallWhile I know everyone is grieving, I feel like I’m taking this really hard, harder than a lot people in the classic Hollywood fandom, honestly. But Lauren Bacall meant so much to me. She was a person I’ve always strived to be more like. She was one of the very first classic film actresses I adored and whose work I actively sought out. Her autobiography is one of my favorites and her love story with Humphrey Bogart was so touching, sweet, happy, sad, romantic…everything a love story should be, and it gave me hope. They were always my favorite on-screen pairing. I wrote to her a few years ago and the photo she autographed for me is till sitting on the table proudly beside my bed. Betty was strong and beautiful and truly an inspiration. thankful for everything she has contributed and her legacy will live on. She will never, ever be forgotten, at least not by me. It’s weird how you can feel such a connection to someone you’ve never met, and yesterday I was pretty much inconsolable but it gives me some comfort to know that at least she’s with Bogie again.

Lauren Bacall

“I’m not ashamed of what I am – of how I pass through this life. What I am has given me the strength to do it. At my lowest ebb I have never contemplated suicide. I value what is here too much. I have a contribution to make. I am not just taking up space in this life. I can add something to the lives I touch. I don’t like everything I know about myself, and I’ll never be satisfied, but nobody’s perfect. I’m not sure where the next years will take me – what they will hold – but I’m open to suggestions.”

– Lauren Bacall

September 16, 1924 – August 12, 2014


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On The Big Screen: Niagara (1953)

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Last month, I had the fabulous opportunity to see one of my favorite films on the big screen. The Film Noir Foundation’s annual event Noir City has come to Chicago in the past few years, and since I live relatively near there, I’ve had the great fortune to be able to attend a few screenings. I saw one of Humphrey Bogart’s (another favorite of mine!) films a few years ago, and this year I saw my favorite Marilyn Monroe movie, which also happens to co-star the great Joseph Cotten, the 1953 technicolor noir thriller Niagara.

Let me just say that it was one amazing experience. As if seeing a great classic film in a beautiful historic 1930s theatre with an appreciative audience wasn’t enough, the event included a great introduction by Eddie Muller and the restored print of the film was absolutely fantastic! It looked excellent on the big screen and everything looked so clear; it was stunning.

Seeing classic films on the big screen as they were meant to be seen is a real treat, as I’m sure all those who have experienced this can attest to. If you ever have the opportunity to see a classic at the theater, I highly recommend it.

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