NosferatuShadowYou can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  There are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category.  Films in blue were nominated.  But remember, there were only a handful of Oscar categories in this, the second year of the Oscars (and, in fact, several fewer than the year before).

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Nosferatu
  2. The Wind
  3. Steamboat Bill Jr
  4. L’Argent
  5. Lonesome

Analysis:  What does it say about this year that a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t seen two of those top 5.  In fact, of my Top 10 (the rest are October, Napoleon, The Docks of New York, The Fall of the House of Usher and Show People), 4 of them I hadn’t seen when I originally did my Year in Film and one of them got re-rated considerably higher.  But also look at the list and notice this is a terrible year for American film.  And an even worse year for the first full year of talkies.  Of my Top 10, five of them are foreign films (two of which are older films just making it to the states).  Of the five American films, three of them are directed by European directors, two of whom wouldn’t last long in America in the Sound Era.  And of the 10, 8 of them are completely silent, with two of them only having partial sound (though both of those use the sound to great effect).  It perhaps says everything about the second Academy Awards that the two best American films (by far), The Wind and Steamboat Bill Jr, weren’t nominated for any Oscars.

  • More astute observes may notice this is actually John Malkovich playing F.W. Murnau.

    More astute observes may notice this is actually John Malkovich playing F.W. Murnau.

    Best Director

  1. F.W. Murnau  (Nosferatu)
  2. Victor Sjöström  (The Wind)
  3. Abel Gance  (Napoleon)
  4. Pál Fejös  (Lonesome)
  5. Sergei Eisenstein  (October)

Analysis:  As opposed to the first year, where there were four American films but only one American director, here we only have two American films and no American director.  In order, we have a German film (from 1922), an American film directed by a Swede (one of his last before going back to Sweden), a French film (from 1927), an American film directed by a Hungarian (one of his last before going back to Europe) and a Soviet film.  To get to an American director, you have to go down to Buster Keaton at #8 and to get a second one, you have to go to Frank Borzage at #11.  Of the actual Oscar nominees, three of them were American, none of whom belonged anywhere near the nomination list, one was Lubitsch (whose film is lost) and the winner, Frank Lloyd, was Scottish.

  1. Nosferatu
  2. L’Argent
  3. The Wind
  4. The Docks of New York
  5. Street Angel
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Steamboat Bill Jr
  2. Lonesome
  3. Spite Marriage
  4. The Wedding March
  5. Show People
  • Best Actor:
  1. Albert Dieudonne  (Napoleon)
  2. Pierre Alcover  (L’Argent)
  3. Lon Chaney  (West of Zanzibar)
  4. Erich von Stroheim  (The Wedding March)
  5. Buster Keaton  (Steamboat Bill Jr)

Analysis:  This is a big change from what I had before.  I have always had Max Schreck easily winning the Nighthawk for Best Actor.  But going back to Nosferatu again, I was struck by how little he actually is in the film – how late he appears for the first time, and how often he isn’t there.  So, while he has a great impact, he didn’t seem like he could possibly be the lead.  So I have moved him to supporting and instead of a German actor, we have a French actor here.  We also have the 10th overall (and final) nomination for Lon Chaney.  Of the five actual Oscar nominees, one of them isn’t worth noting (Chester Morris), the winner can’t quite break into my top 5 in the weakest year of the category (Warner Baxter), one of them is in a lost film (Lewis Stone) and the other two are in the films that might as well be lost given their availability (George Bancroft and Paul Muni).

  • Best Actress
  1. Lilian Gish  (The Wind)
  2. Janet Gaynor  (Street Angel)
  3. Louise Brooks  (Pandora’s Box)
  4. Jeanne Eagles  (The Letter)
  5. Greta Garbo  (A Woman of Affairs)

Analysis:  This was definitely the best of the categories at the Oscars this year.  How can I say that when there is only one nominee among my nominees, plus the winner from the year before?  (As mentioned in the previous year, since Janet Gaynor won her Oscar for three films and Street Angel earned Oscar nominations in two other categories in this year, I moved the whole film to this year).  Because this is the only category in which any “nominee” makes my list (and nominee Bessie Love comes in 7th and winner Mary Pickford in 8th).  In most categories, the Oscar nominees come nowhere near my list of nominees.  Gish easily wins this award by the way, with the best performance of her career.

  • Nosferatu Kino 2Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Max Schreck  (Nosferatu)
  2. Carl Goetz  (Pandora’s Box)
  3. Clyde Cook  (The Docks of New York)
  4. William Orlamond  (The Wind)
  5. Lewis Stone  (A Woman of Affairs)

Analysis:  As mentioned above, Schreck, for a long time was my easy winner for Best Actor.  But I have moved him here and he easily wins this year.  It’s an interesting mix – the first three roles are filled with malevolence.  The last two are almost the opposite.  Stone was actually nominated for Best Actor for The Patriot.

  • argent-1Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Brigitte Helm  (L’Argent)
  2. Olga Baclanova  (The Docks of New York)
  3. Marie Glory  (L’Argent)
  4. Zasu Pitts  (The Wedding March)
  5. Dorothy Cumming  (The Wind)

Analysis:  We have two returning nominees from the year before, including Helm, who wins back-to-back Nighthawk Awards, this time for her scheming Countess.  It’s interesting to have Marie Glory and Dorothy Cumming on here for playing almost the exact opposite types of wives.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Nosferatu
  2. Napoleon
  3. Steamboat Bill Jr
  4. Lonesome
  5. October
  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Nosferatu
  2. The Wind
  3. October
  4. Napoleon
  5. L’Argent
  • Best Sound:
  1. L’Argent
  2. Lonesome
  3. In Old Arizona
  4. Broadway

Analysis:  L’Argent and Lonesome are both partial sound films which make great use of the sound when they do use it (especially in the opening scenes of L’Argent).

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. Nosferatu
  2. Aelita: Queen of Mars
  3. The Fall of the House of Usher
  4. Napoleon
  5. The Docks of New York

Analysis:  The gritty lock of the docks in von Sternberg’s film are the only sets that can break into the European bunch here, including the amazing sets in Aelita clearly influenced by German Expressionism.

  • Best Visual Effects:
  1. Steamboat Bill Jr
  2. Nosferatu

Analysis:  You don’t really think of special effects with Buster Keaton, but so much of the last 20 minutes of the film, with the hurricane, are so well done, it had to be the winner here.

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Napoleon
  2. Nosferatu
  3. The Wedding March
  4. Broadway
  5. The Iron Mask
  • Best Makeup:
  1. Nosferatu
  2. Spite Marriage
  • Best Original Song:
  1. Lon Chaney’s Gonna Get You”  (The Hollywood Revue of 1929)
  2. The Broadway Melody”  (The Broadway Melody)

Analysis:  This is going to be very tricky in the years before the creation of the Best Song category at the Academy Awards in 1934.  I was yelled at for dismissing nearly all pre-1934 songs other than Marx Bros songs in my Best Original Song post for my History of the Academy Awards series.  But it’s hard figuring out precisely which songs were written for these films.  This gets much easier (though not perfectly clear) starting in 1954, when you can go to the Academy list for Song Title from all the films released in each year (not perfectly clear because some of them I’m fairly certain are wrong, but we’ll get to those in individual years).  As for this year, as far as I can tell, both of these songs were written for these films and I thought them at least decent enough to nominate.

  • largentBest Foreign Film:
  1. L’Argent
  2. Asphalt
  3. The Wonderful Lies of Nina Petrovna
  4. The Fall of the House of Usher
  5. Arsenal

Analysis:  Though there are 11 films that are eligible, there are only 5 that I rate high enough to earn a nomination.  I’m sure the biggest complaint will come from Louise Brooks fans.  But I feel that Pandora’s Box doesn’t work as a whole and that the script is sorely lacking.  Brooks performance, like Pabst’s direction, is very good though, which is why she earned a nomination from me even though the film doesn’t.

By Film:

note:  They’re in points order.  You get twice as many points for a win as for a nomination.  Hopefully your math skills will let you figure out the system.

  • Nosferatu  (545)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Costume Design, Makeup, Foreign Film (02-26)
  • L’Argent  (320)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor,Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Sound, Foreign Film  (02-26)
  • The Wind  (290)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography
  • Napoleon  (235)
    • Director, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Foreign Film
  • Steamboat Bill Jr  (230)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Visual Effects
  • Lonesome  (180)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound
  • The Docks of New York  (120)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Art Direction
  • The Wedding March  (120)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Costume Design
  • October  (115)
    • Director, Editing, Cinematography, Foreign Film
  • Street Angel  (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress
  • Pandora’s Box  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • A Woman of Affairs  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Spite Marriage  (40)
    • Original Screenplay, Makeup
  • The Fall of the House of Usher  (40)
    • Art Direction, Foreign Film
  • Show People  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • West of Zanzibar  (35)
    • Actor
  • The Letter  (35)
    • Actress
  • Broadway  (30)
    • Sound, Costume Design
  • In Old Arizona  (20)
    • Sound
  • Aelita: Queen of Mars  (20)
    • Art Direction
  • The Hollywood Revue of 1929  (20)
    • Original Song
  • The Iron Mask  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Broadway Melody  (10)
    • Original Song

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Where East is East

Analysis:  This is a good Lon Chaney film, one of his last.  But Chaney’s performance isn’t nearly as good as in many of his other films and though directed by Tod Browning, it’s not at the same level as many other Chaney films.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • The Patriot  /  The Divine Lady

Analysis:  The Patriot was “nominated” (see below for explanation) for five Oscars – Picture, Director, Writing (which it won), Actor and Art Direction.  However, it is lost, so I can’t see it.  So I also list The Divine Lady, which won Best Director and was nominated for Actress and Cinematography, a mediocre effort from Frank Lloyd (who was a mediocre director).

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. Nosferatu
  2. The Wind
  3. L’Argent
  4. Lonesome
  5. October
  • Best Director
  1. F.W. Murnau  (Nosferatu)
  2. Victor Sjöström  (The Wind)
  3. Abel Gance  (Napoleon)
  4. Pál Fejös  (Lonesome)
  5. Sergei Eisenstein  (October)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Nosferatu
  2. L’Argent
  3. The Wind
  4. The Docks of New York
  5. Street Angel
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Lonesome
  2. The Wedding March
  • napoleon-abel-gance-03-gBest Actor:
  1. Albert Dieudonne  (Napoleon)
  2. Pierre Alcover  (L’Argent)
  3. Lon Chaney  (West of Zanzibar)
  4. Erich von Stroheim  (The Wedding March)
  5. George Bancroft  (The Docks of New York)

Analysis:  Bancroft is the only actor in any of the four categories to get a Drama nomination without an actual nomination.  The comedies were so weak, that only Buster Keaton managed a nomination in an acting category, knocking Bancroft into 6th place, alongside his co-star Betty Compson, who doesn’t manage to move up here because there were no comedy performances in the top 5.  Annoyingly, Bancroft actually was nominated by the Academy, but for Thunderbolt, which is extremely difficult to find, as opposed to Docks, which is available in a beautiful Criterion set.

  • LillianGish-1280Best Actress
  1. Lilian Gish  (The Wind)
  2. Janet Gaynor  (Street Angel)
  3. Louise Brooks  (Pandora’s Box)
  4. Jeanne Eagles  (The Letter)
  5. Greta Garbo  (A Woman of Affairs)
  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Max Schreck  (Nosferatu)
  2. Carl Goetz  (Pandora’s Box)
  3. Clyde Cook  (The Docks of New York)
  4. William Orlamond  (The Wind)
  5. Lewis Stone  (A Woman of Affairs)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Brigitte Helm  (L’Argent)
  2. Olga Baclanova  (The Docks of New York)
  3. Marie Glory  (L’Argent)
  4. Zasu Pitts  (The Wedding March)
  5. Dorothy Cumming  (The Wind)

By Film:

  • Nosferatu  (330)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • The Wind  (265)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • L’Argent  (215)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Lonesome  (175)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay
  • The Docks of New York  (135)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Napoleon  (115)
    • Director, Actor
  • The Wedding March  (105)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • October  (95)
    • Picture, Director
  • Street Angel  (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress
  • Pandora’s Box  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • A Woman of Affairs  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • West of Zanzibar  (35)
    • Actor
  • The Letter  (35)
    • Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Fall of the House of Usher

Analysis:  This is a film that relies primarily on its direction and on the sets and cinematography.  The acting isn’t memorable in the slightest and it is a mood that is created, rather than relying on a top-notch script.  As a result, it can’t quite make it into any of the categories here, where the technical categories aren’t included.

Comedy:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Steamboat Bill Jr
  2. Show People

Analysis:  As I said in the previous year, this is a weak bunch until we get to about 1933 or so and comedy starts picking up.  I’ve seen 49 films in this “year” and only 7 of them qualify as Comedy or Musical.  And two of them – the two Oscar nominees (Broadway Melody and Hollywood Revue of 1929) are among the worst films of the year.

  • Best Director:
  1. Buster Keaton  (Steamboat Bill Jr)
  2. King Vidor  (Show People)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:

Analysis:  Unlike the first two years, I can’t provide anything here.  The only eligible film here is Broadway and the script is the weakest part of that film.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Steamboat Bill Jr
  2. Spite Marriage
  3. Show People
  • steamboatbillBest Actor:
  1. Buster Keaton  (Steamboat Bill Jr)
  2. William Haines  (Show People)

Analysis:  Though I personally prefer Steamboat to The General, this film, and Keaton’s performance, is not up to the level set by the previous film.

  • bessieloveBest Actress:
  1. Bessie Love  (The Broadway Melody)
  2. Marion Davies  (Show People)

Analysis:  Neither of these is a great performance and neither even makes my top 6 in the regular Nighthawk Awards.  But Love is the best thing about the second Best Picture winner (and worst) and Davies gives the best performance of her career.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Ernest Torrance  (Steamboat Bill Jr)
  2. Del Henderson  (Show People)

Analysis:  We have two very different portrayals of imposing father figures.  The first plays Buster Keaton’s overbearing father, pushing his son harder and harder, a thug and a criminal.  The second is the very proud father of Marion Davies, but a bit of a crazy Southerner, out of his depth in Hollywood.

  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Marion Byron  (Steamboat Bill Jr)

Analysis:  This is as weak as it gets.  Byron barely qualifies for my awards as the young woman in love with Buster Keaton and there just isn’t anyone else in the other eligible films.

By Film:

  • Steamboat Bill Jr  (460)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Show People  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • The Broadway Melody  (70)
    • Actress
  • Spite Marriage  (40)
    • Original Screenplay

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Broadway

Analysis:  Broadway is far from a great film.  It has a fairly mundane plot and some decent song routines.  But in a year where Hollywood struggled to make quality films as sound started to take over, it is the best film that doesn’t earn any nominations here.  It does have some good sound and earned two regular Nighthawk nominations.  But too many of the comedies and musicals in the first full year of sound just aren’t very good.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  49

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:  *

  • The Patriot  (Picture, Director, Writing, Actor, Art Direction)
  • Drag  (Director)
  • The Valiant  (Writing, Actor)
  • The Cop  (Writing)
  • The Leatherneck  (Writing)
  • Sal of Singapore  (Writing)
  • Skyscraper  (Writing)
  • Wonder of Women  (Writing)
  • Thunderbolt  (Actor)
  • The Barker  (Actress)
  • 4 Devils  (Cinematography)
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey  (Art Direction)

*   –  Technically, the only films on this list are actually The Patriot and The Bridge of San Luis Rey and their only nominations were their wins.  Let’s repeat the official disclaimer from the Academy: “There were no announcements of nominations, no certificates of nomination or honorable mention, and only the winners were revealed during the awards banquet on April 3, 1930. Though not official nominations, the additional names in each category, according to in-house records, were under consideration by the various boards of judges.”  Now, as I have mentioned before, various books, including Inside Oscar, lists nominees (sometimes slightly different) for this year.  In fact, Inside Oscar claims the following on page 15: “WALL ST. LAYS AN EGG was the way Variety headlined the news on October 30, 1929.  The very next day, the trade paper announced the nominations for the second Academy Awards.”  Now, Inside Oscar is a very useful book and my copy is beat to hell and highlighted all over.  But it is an incredibly frustrating book because it HAS NO DAMN CITATIONS.  So we don’t know where any of their information comes from.  And this information is pure bullshit.  Variety was a weekly paper.  Yes, on October 30, 1929, they did indeed have that headline.  But there was no issue the next day, so it is impossible for it to run anything on the “nominees” the next day.  So I don’t know where the authors got their information, but it isn’t true.  And who knows where the notion of “nominees” for this year came from in the first place.

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  It ranks dead last for all the history of the Academy Awards.  And it’s not even close.  On the 100 point scale, it averages a 51.5, or a very low **.5.  That’s 4 points lower than the next lowest year and 13 points lower than the 3rd lowest.  On the ranking of all the films, it averages a 473.75.  The next lowest is 447 and no other year is lower than a 386.  To give an idea of how bad this year is, the best of the available nominees, Alibi, ranks lower than the worst of the nominees for 55 of the other 84 years.  Granted, part of this is because The Patriot, which was almost certainly the best of the nominees, is lost.  But the rest of the nominees are so bad that even if The Patriot was as good as Sunset Blvd, this year would still rank second to last.

The Winners:  I rank this in three different ways.  In two of them, this year again comes in dead last, because of the dreadful pick for Best Picture (The Broadway Melody) and because there are so few winners (7, two of which I haven’t been able to see).  In averaging out where I rank the winners among all the films for the year, it gets an 18.4, one of only a handful of years to average in double digits.  And when I factor out Best Picture (because I rank all films this can drastically affect the rank), it is the only year to average in double digits (11.0).  In terms of ranking the winners among the nominees, it comes out better, with a 2.6.  But that’s because the nominees where such bad choices, that they just didn’t do as badly picking the winners from the motley group, except in Best Picture.  They picked the best choice for Actor and the second best for Director and Cinematography.  But I factor them together, because in later years I have seen so many more films, than can affect the overall numbers in the first group (which says all the more about how bad this year is).  And this year again finishes dead last.  Part of it is that, while they didn’t do as bad for picking the winners among their nominees, the actual nominees were awful.  This is one of only a handful of years in which none of the Oscar winners wins a Nighthawk and one of only two years (along with 1930-31) where none of the Oscar winners even comes in 2nd.  Warner Baxter, the winner for Best Actor comes in 7th and that’s the best of the year and that’s just simply pathetic.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  Nosferatu  (see review here)

2  –  The Wind  (see review here)

3  –  Steamboat Bill Jr  (see review here)

4  –  L’Argent  (see review here)

Lonesome movie poster Glenn Tryon Barbara Kent Carl Laemmle Paul Fejos Ferris Wheel

The real great film about the loneliness in the crowd.

5  –  Lonesome  (dir. Pál Fejös)

Something struck me pretty early on in watching this film.  This is the film that everyone proclaims The Crowd to be – a great love story in the modern city with first rate production values and a visionary director.  But while the stories themselves, on a face value, are similar – the loneliness and isolation of the city, in spite of the large crowds, it is the details that separate the films.

The Crowd, I found to be boring, in spite of its incredible interiors and dazzling cinematography.  I found the acting to be terrible in The Crowd (Glenn Tryon and Barbara Kent aren’t great in Lonesome, but they aren’t bad either, and if I had considered it a comedy, they would have both earned Globe nominations from me).  I found the story, designed to pull at the heartstrings, to be simply trite (it reminds me of Romeo and Juliet, in that I always argue that Romeo brings on his own misfortunes by acting without getting permission from his brain and the same goes for the lead character in The Crowd).

Lonesome isn’t about the dismay of trying to make your way in the world.  It’s about the difficulty in finding someone to love in the crowd.  These two characters manage to find each other at the beach and have a lovely night together at the amusement park at Coney Island, scenes that make great use of visual flair (there are some color scenes and some great partial use of sound).  But then, circumstances intervene and the lovely couple are separated, and without last names, they both fear that they have lost each other forever.  What happens in the end, could perhaps be guessed, as this is a product of Hollywood, even if it was directed by a rather inspiring Hungarian director by the name of Pál Fejös.  But the way things come together at the end give it the ending it really deserves and really needs, unlike the ending of The Crowd, which I thought discongruent from the rest of the film.  So, the next time someone says I have it wrong on The Crowd, I’m just going to say that no, Lonesome gets it right.

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. Coquette
  2. The Broadway Melody
  3. The Godless Girl
  4. Big News
  5. Behind That Curtain
coquette

It was the first time that the Academy got Best Actress wrong. Get used to that.

Worst Film of the Year:

Coquette  (dir. Sam Taylor)

I read the Mythical Monkey a lot and I like a lot of what he has to say on films, especially films in the Silent Era.  And we agree on a lot of things.  But the relative merits of Mary Pickford and her films are not one of the things we agree on.  And I’m not simply talking about this film.  I’m talking about Mary Pickford in general.

Pickford was probably the most powerful woman in Hollywood in the 1920’s.  She parlayed her star power into one of the first celebrity marriages and became one of the four iconic founders of United Artists in 1919, along with Fairbanks, Chaplin and Griffith, forming their own studio to distribute the films they wanted to make.  She was a major star throughout the entire decade and capped it off by winning the second Best Actress award for her talkie debut, Coquette.

But just because Pickford was a major star, that doesn’t actually mean she was that great of an actress.  Certainly the level of stardom in Hollywood has never been directly tied to the quality of a performance.  Even in a film like Sparrows, regarded as one of the best Pickford performances, she isn’t really all that good.  She relied on a certain level of childishness about her looks (she was almost convincingly still playing teenagers well into her 30’s because she was so damn small).  Gloria Swanson might have had a face, but Pickford just had those little eyes that always seemed overwhelmed by the world.  And then came her performance in Coquette.

Now, lots has already been written about Pickford became the first person to ever campaign for an Academy Award, having all the Central Board of Judges over for tea at Pickfair, her mansion (see page 17 of Inside Oscar).  And Pickford was just beginning what many would do over the years and what Harvey Weinstein would eventually turn into an art form.  The bigger problem is that Pickford just simply isn’t that good in the film, isn’t believable in the role at all and that the film itself is just awful.

Pickford really wanted to win the second Oscar and wanted to make a good debut in the talkies and keep her career going (it’s interesting that what was so big in 1919 – those four united artists – would, by 1929, almost be dead, with only Chaplin’s very occasional films still making an aesthetic impact).  So she bought the rights to the broadway play and brought in Sam Taylor.  Now, Taylor at one time was a solid director, working quite well with Harold Lloyd on very good comedies.  But once Pickford got hold of her with My Best Girl, he became a disaster of a director, and Coquette is very badly directed and his follow-up with Pickford was the incredibly awful first rendition of Shakespeare on film in sound: The Taming of the Shrew (more on that in 1929-30).  But it didn’t matter what Taylor could do.  Pickford just couldn’t overcome how unbelievable she was as a flapper who would go through a smattering of men (yet, she was far more believable than she was as Shakespeare’s shrew).  She emotes her eyes off and manages to get a nod from me, but that’s not enough to get her above 8th place and certainly didn’t deserve the Oscar.  In fact, I would call it the worst film to win an Oscar for a long time if the Academy hadn’t one-upped it just two years later with the winner in the same category: Min and Bill (more on that in 1930-31).

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  Nosferatu  (11)  *
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Nosferatu  (8) *
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Nosferatu  (545) *
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  The Broadway Melody
  • 2nd Place Award:  The Wind  (Picture, Director, Cinematography)
  • 6th Place Award:  The Docks of New York  (Director, Actor, Actress)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  The Wind  (6)  *
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Nosferatu  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Nosferatu  (330)  *
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  The Letter
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  Steamboat Bill Jr  /  Show People  (6)  *
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Steamboat Bill Jr  (6)  *
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  Steamboat Bill Jr  (460)  *
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  The Broadway Melody

Note:  * means a Nighthawk record up to this point

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  Nosferatu  (11)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Nosferatu  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Nosferatu  (545)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards without winning Best Picture:  Metropolis  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Best Picture Nomination:  Faust  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  Faust  /  7th Heaven (8)
  • Actor:  Lon Chaney  (240)
  • Actress:  Lilian Gish  (210)
  • Director:  F.W. Murnau  (180)

Breakdown by Genre  (Foreign in parenthesis, best film in genre following):

  • Drama:  31  (5)  –  The Wind
  • Foreign:  9  –  Nosferatu
  • Comedy:  5  –  Steamboat Bill Jr.
  • Musical:  3  –  Broadway
  • Horror:  2  (2)  –  Nosferatu
  • Adventure:  2  –  The Pagan
  • Western:  2  –  The Virginian
  • Crime:  1  –  Alibi
  • Mystery:  1  –  Behind That Curtain
  • Suspense:  1  (1)  –  Spies
  • Action:  0
  • Fantasy:  0
  • Kids:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0
  • War:  0

image0201Studio Note:

In the first two “years”, there was a much better balance among the major studios.  But here, there is a clear move in favor of MGM.  Of the 49 films I have seen from this year, 16 of them, almost a third, are either produced or distributed (like Napoleon) by MGM while no other studio has more than 5.  And they cover a wide range – including three of the Top 10 (The Wind, Napoleon, Show People) and two of the bottom 6 (Best Picture nominee Hollywood Revue of 1929 and Best Picture winner The Broadway Melody).  And though MGM is associated with Musicals, those latter two are the only musicals of the 16.  Perhaps it’s because I have seen these films for a wide variety of reasons, whether they be Oscar nominees, whether they are some of the most acclaimed films of the year, whether they be directed by Oscar nominated directors (The Pagan, Madame X), or have one of my favorite actors (Where East is East, West of Zanzibar).

10 Films Eligible for Best Foreign Film (alphabetical, with director in parenthesis – red are ****, blue are ***.5 – both those colors qualify for my Best Foreign Film Award):

  • Arsenal  (Dovzhenko)
  • Asphalt  (May)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher  (Epstein)
  • The Ghost That Never Returns  (Room)
  • L’Argent  (L’Herbier)
  • The New Babylon  (Kozinstev  /  Trauberg)
  • Pandora’s Box  (Pabst)
  • Sex in Chains  (Dieterle)
  • Spies  (Lang)
  • Storm Over Asia  (Pudovkin)
  • The Wonderful Lies of Nina Petrovna  (Schwarz)

Films Eligible in This Year But Originally Released in a Different Calendar Year:

  • Easy Virtue  (1927)
  • Napoleon  (1927)
  • October  (1927)

Films Released This Year Originally But Eligible in a Different Year:

  • Arsenal  (1929-30)
  • Asphalt  (1929-30)
  • The Ghost That Never Returns  (1929-30)
  • The New Babylon  (1929-30)
  • The Wonderful Lies of Nina Petrovna  (1929-30)
  • Storm Over Asia  (1930-31)
  • Italian Straw Hat  (1930-31)

Note:  Because of the way the Academy’s “years” were drawn prior to 1934, years fell into two different Oscar years.  So this is not a list of all the 1929 films that fall into the 1929-30 category.  This list only consists of 1928 films that did not fall into either 1927-28 or 1928-29 as well as any film eligible for Best Foreign Film in this year, but eligible for other awards in a different year.  After 1933, this will get considerably less complicated.

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