My Top 10:

The Academy sometimes gets it right. Casablanca is easily the best film of 1943.

  1. Casablanca
  2. Shadow of a Doubt
  3. In Which We Serve
  4. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  5. The Ox-Bow Incident
  6. This Land is Mine
  7. Five Graves to Cairo
  8. Heaven Can Wait
  9. Watch on the Rhine
  10. The More the Merrier

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Casablanca
  • Best Director:  Casablanca
  • Best Actor:  Paul Lukas  (Watch on the Rhine)
  • Best Actress:  Jennifer Jones  (The Song of Bernadette)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Charles Coburn  (The More the Merrier)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Katina Paxinou  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  • Best Screenplay:  Casablanca  (from the play Everybody Goes to Rick’s)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Princess O’Rourke
  • Best Original Story:  The Human Comedy

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  In Which We Serve
  • Best Director:  George Stevens  (The More the Merrier)
  • Best Actor:  Paul Lukas  (Watch on the Rhine)
  • Best Actress:  Jennifer Jones  (Song of Bernadette)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Akim Tamiroff  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Katina Paxinou  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Top 5 Films  (Top 1000):

  • Casablanca – #15
  • Shadow of a Doubt – #330
  • I Walked with a Zombie – #488
  • Fires were Started – #590
  • Heaven Can Wait – #944

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. The Song of Bernadette – 688
  2. Watch on the Rhine – 416
  3. Casablanca – 410
  4. For Whom the Bell Tolls – 401
  5. The More the Merrier – 360

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Casablanca – #2  (1998) /  #3  (2007)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Nighthawk (and Oscar) winner Katina Paxinou and Nighthawk winner (and Oscar nominee) Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)

  • Best Picture:  Casablanca
  • Best Director:  Michael Curtiz (Casablanca)
  • Best Actor:  Humphrey Bogart  (Casablanca)
  • Best Actress:  Ingrid Bergman  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Claude Rains  (Casablanca)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Katina Paxinou  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Casablanca (from the play Everybody Goes to Rick’s)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Shadow of a Doubt
  • Best Foreign Film:  Sanshiro Sugata

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Casablanca
  • Best Scene:  Singing of “La Marseillaise” in Casablanca
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “My health.  I came to Casablanca for the waters.”  “But we are in the middle of the desert.”  “I was misinformed.”  (Casablanca – Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”  (Casablanca – Humphrey Bogart)
  • Best Ending:  Casablanca

Ebert Great Films:

  • Casablanca

What would 1943 be as a Year in Film if Casablanca had been released in L.A. in November of 1942 like it was in New York?  There is Hitchcock’s favorite of his films and Noel Coward co-directing with David Lean (Lean’s first directorial effort) In Which We Serve but neither did great at the Oscars (Serve gets a Best Picture nomination but only 1 other while Doubt gets nominated only for its story).  The more successful films at the Oscars (The Song of Bernadette, The More the Merrier, For Whom the Bell Tolls) have not aged as well.  Fewer nominations go to solid films from exiled European directors Billy Wilder (Five Graves to Cairo), Fritz Lang (Hangman Also Die) and Jean Renoir (This Land is Mine).  There is no year where there is a more distinct drop after the top 5 than this one.  Casablanca is one of the greatest films ever made, then #2 through #5 are mid range **** films, but after that there is a precipitous drop, with my #6 film in the lower ***.5 range.

Film History: The Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association (later known as the Hollywood Foreign Press) is founded and awards the first Golden Globes.  While Frank Capra is beginning the Why We Fight series and war films begin to dominate the box office, Howard Hughes fights his war to focus on the breasts of Jane Russell.  Two big directors of the thirties, Max Reinhardt and W.S. Van Dyke, both die.  Leslie Howard is killed in a plane crash while working for the British government.  Akira Kurosawa directs his first film, Sanshiro Sugata.  One of the great marriages in film history (both in length and in artistic collaboration) takes place on 30 October between Federico Fellini and Giuletta Masina.

Academy Awards: In the last year of 10 Best Picture nominees, The Ox-Bow Incident becomes the last film to get nominated for Best Picture and receive no other nominations.  Bette Davis is not nominated for Best Actress for the first time since 1937.  Ingrid Bergman, Greer Garson and Jennifer Jones are all nominated for the first of 3 consecutive years (though Jones’ nomination in 1944 will be for Supporting Actress).  Harold Arlen is nominated three times in the same category (Best Song) and loses all three.  For the second year in a row, Greer Garson is Oscar nominated for the title character of a film (Mrs. Miniver and Madame Curie) and Walter Pidgeon is nominated for playing her husband.  Casablanca becomes the last film until 1974 to win the Oscar without winning another major movie award (one of the main critics, the Golden Globe or the BAFTA).  The only film since to do this are The Godfather Part II and Braveheart.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Original Screenplay for Princess O’Rourke
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Director for The Human Comedy
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Editing for In Which We Serve
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Thank Your Lucky Stars
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Song
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Interior Decoration – Color

Awards: In Which We Serve, nominated for Best Picture, had won both the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review the year before.  For 1943, the NYFC goes with Watch on the Rhine (which they also give Best Actor) and the NBR goes with The Ox-Bow Incident.  While Paul Lukas goes on to win the Oscar, Ida Lupino becomes the first actress since Greta Garbo in 1935 to win the NYFC and fail to get an Oscar nomination.  George Stevens comes from behind to win Best Director on the seventh ballot after trailing William Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident) and Fritz Lang.

Golden Globes: This was the first year of the Golden Globes and the big winner was The Song of Bernadette (this, combined with its 12 Oscar nominations is why it finished first in points) which took Best Picture and Best Actress.  Paul Lukas made it a clean sweep of Best Actor to go with his Oscar and NYFC Award.  The two supporting awards went to Akim Tamiroff and Katina Paxinou as the rebels in For Whom the Bell Tolls.  All of the initial Golden Globe winners received Oscar nominations (or wins), something that would continue until 1950 when the lead acting roles were divided by genre.  If there were nominees, their names are lost to time as the HFPA shows no record of anyone other than the winners all the way up until 1948.

Donald Duck and Joe Carioca in Saludos Amigos (1943)

Under-appreciated Film of 1943:

Saludos Amigos

I’m very much the champion of the second hero.  I don’t have a particular interest in Superman, Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse.  But damn, am I ever a fan of Batman, Daffy Duck and Donald Duck.  There are few scenes in all of film history I enjoy as much as the piano duel between Daffy and Donald in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  So it’s odd that it took me so long to finally get around to watching this as I was finishing up the list of official Disney Animated features back in 2006.

When people think of the Disney list, they think of the original bunch of brilliant animated films (Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi) and then jump ahead to the literary adaptations of the 50’s (Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Lady and the Tramp) and they always seem to forget that Disney did make animated feature films throughout the 40’s.  It just that they were a different kind of film, often a mish-mash of various stories thrown together, anthologies of short films put together as longer films for feature release that have been given short-shrift, not only by critics and film historians, but by Disney itself.

Just think about it.  How many of the following have you seen: Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, Fun and Fancy Free and Melody Time?  Certainly Disney has tried to forget Song of the South, though it is no more politically incorrect than Gone with the Wind, but the others just seem to disappear with it.  But they are good films.  They’re not great and certainly none of them would belong among the peak films of the early era, the 50’s or the 1989-1994 rebirth, but they are very good, fun to watch and enjoyable.  They’re as good, if not better than a lot of other Disney “classics” like The Jungle Book, The Aristocats or The Fox and the Hound.

The key to Saludos Amigos, which might be the best of the bunch, is the presence of Donald Duck.  Yes, he is only part of the film and there is a good Goofy segment and the interesting segment with Pedro the plane, but Donald is the key.  The adventures that he has in South America with Joe Carioca are the impetus for the follow-up, The Three Caballeros (probably the weakest of the five) and when he doesn’t have to play second fiddle to Mickey we get to enjoy him for who he is, a very irritable but funny duck who is amazingly difficult to understand.

Is this not the most persuasive review?  Well, think about this.  As I write this, Monsters vs. Aliens and Ice Age 3 are the #6 and 7 biggest films of the year.  Do you really want to own those?  Is there much originality or even quality in them?  Even in this year of 5 Oscar nominees for Best Animated Film neither is likely to be nominated.  You could do much worse than to settle for an old, quirky Disney film with Donald as its star.

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