My Top 10:

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Peter Lorre in Fritz Lang's brilliant M

  1. M
  2. King Kong
  3. Duck Soup
  4. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
  5. The Invisible Man
  6. The Blood of a Poet
  7. The Mummy
  8. Little Women
  9. Dinner at Eight
  10. The Private Life of Henry VIII

Academy Awards:

  • Best PictureCavalcade
  • Best Director:  Frank Lloyd  (Cavalcade)
  • Best Actor:  Charles Laughton  (The Private Life of Henry VIII)
  • Best Actress:  Katharine Hepburn  (Morning Glory)
  • Best Adaptation:   Little Women (from the novel by Louisa May Alcott)
  • Best Original Story:  One Way Passage

TSPDT Consensus Top 5 Films:

  • M – #53
  • Duck Soup – #103
  • King Kong – #115
  • Trouble in Paradise – #162
  • Love Me Tonight – #405

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. Cavalcade – 265
  2. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang – 185
  3. Little Women – 175
  4. Lady for a Day – 170
  5. A Farewell to Arms – 160

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • King Kong – #43  (1998) / #41  (2007)
  • Duck Soup – #85  (1998) / #60  (2007)

Nighthawk Awards:

hepburn.little

Katharine Hepburn won the Oscar in 1933 for Morning Glory, but should have actually won for Little Women

  • Best Picture:  M
  • Best Director:  Fritz Lang (M)
  • Best Actor:  Peter Lorre  (M)
  • Best Actress:  Katharine Hepburn  (Little Women)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Adolph Menjou  (A Farewell to Arms)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Elsa Lanchester  (The Private Life of Henry VIII)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (from the book by Robert Burns)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  M
  • Best Foreign Film:  Boudu Saved from Drowning

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch over and over:  Duck Soup
  • Best Scene:  The revelation of The Invisible Man
  • Best Ending:  The dark despair of I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
  • Best Line  (comic):  “Go, and never darken my towels again.”  (Duck Soup – Groucho Marx)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “How do you live?”  “I steal.”  (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang – Helen Vinson and Paul Muni – final lines)
  • Read the Book – Don’t See the Movie:  Oliver Twist

Ebert Great Films  (in order of being added):

  • M
  • Trouble in Paradise
  • Duck Soup
  • King Kong

This is the last combination of years as the Academy made their dates of eligibility August 1, 1932 to December 31, 1933, trying to align with the calendar year.  It was also the period when the National Board of Review decided to start giving out a Best Picture of the year, instead of simply a Top 10.  Horror films continued to be fantastic (three of my top 10), and once again, the best film of the year was a Fritz Lang film.  There is a current general consensus on the best films of the year (M, King Kong, Duck Soup) and they combined for 0 Oscar nominations.

Film History: Acts of the U.S. government allow for the vertical integration of production companies, essentially allowing them to act like monopolies, something that will last until the Supreme Court bans the practice in 1948.  Sergei Eisenstein flops in the Western Hemisphere, as, defeated by Hollywood, and unable to finish Que Viva Mexico, he returns to Moscow.  In response to AMPAS calls for wage cuts due to the Great Depression, both the Screenwriters Guild and the Screen Actors Guild are formed.  Flying Down to Rio is released, the first film teaming Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers.  Fatty Arbuckle dies, 12 years after being banned by Will Hays.  Hedy Kiesler (soon to be Hedy Lamarr) creates an international sensation with her long nude scene in Ecstasy.  David O. Selznick moves from RKO to MGM, run by his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer (prompting the comment “the son-in-law also rises”).  According to Fritz Lang he is offered the position of film supervisor by Josef Goebbels.  He flees for Paris that night, leaving behind his wife, Thea von Harbou, who had joined the Nazi Party the year before.  Darryl F. Zanuck forms 20th Century Pictures, which two years later will merge with the Fox Film Corporation.  The British Film Institute forms in London in September of 1933.

Academy Awards: Cavalcade was only the second film to win Best Picture and Best Director and according to Inside Oscar “received 50 percent more votes than first runner-up, A Farewell to Arms, with Little Women in third place”, but today it is largely forgotten (and not widely admired).  When Frank Lloyd won for Best Director, Will Rogers simply said “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.  Come up and get it, Frank!”  Except while he was talking to Lloyd, Frank Capra, nominated for Lady for a Day, got up, thinking he had won.  Capra had come in second, two votes ahead of George Cukor.  May Robson had finished a less distant second to Hepburn (20% behind) and Paul Muni close behind Laughton (10% behind).  A Farewell to Arms becomes the first film to ever win multiple technical awards (winning Best Cinematography and Best Sound).  Walt Disney winning the second of 8 consecutive Oscars for Short Subject (Cartoon), expresses thanks for winning an “Oscar,” the first public use of the term.  His Three Little Pigs gets 80% of the vote.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Art Direction for Cavalcade
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for She Done Him Wrong
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Sound for King Kong
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Original Story – three lackluster candidates when they ignored King Kong, Duck Soup and Trouble in Paradise
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actress – three of the four best and the other one was for Katharine Hepburn, who was already one of the nominees

Awards: The National Board of Review starts giving out, in addition to its Top 10 films and Top 5 Foreign Films, actual awards for Best Picture and Best Foreign Film.  For 1932, the winners are I Am a Fugitive for a Chain Gang (a full fourteen months before it would be nominated by the Academy) and A Nous La Liberte.  For 1933, the winners are Topaze (very difficult to see now) and Hertha’s Erwachen, a German film so forgotten now that the IMDb has no user votes and no user comments on the film.  It is hard to verify that the two Foreign films actually won.  Tom O’Neill’s book Movie Awards lists them as winners in the yearly recap, but not in the text and the official NBR list does not indicate any winners among the top 5 Foreign Films.

sotd

The Story of Temple Drake (1933): the pre-code film that helped bring on the Production Code

Over-looked film of 1933:

The Story of Temple Drake (dir. Stephen Roberts)

The film world has not been particularly kind to William Faulkner.  He worked in Hollywood for a while, but never particularly thrived there.  At one point he said that he was more comfortable at home than at a studio office and asked to write at home.  The studio was surprised to find that he went all the way home to Oxford, MS (Faulkner’s problems working in the industry and the heavy drinking he did in Hollywood are the basis for John Mahoney’s character in Barton Fink).  Faulkner would return in the 40’s and be a part of the two brilliant Bogie / Bacall / Hawks films: To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, but would fail to get Oscar nominations for either one (Have, based on Hemingway’s novel is the only film to make use of two Nobel Prize winning writers).  Faulkner’s own novels have had mixed success on screen, with several adaptations in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, none of them getting much in the way of an audience or critical approval and several of them getting big plot changes (The Sound and the Fury) or even title changes (Pylon was filmed as The Tarnished Angels).  Many of these films are now hard to find.

You could say part of the problem is Faulkner’s style, a stream of consciousness that doesn’t lend well to adaptation.  Part of the problem as well is that Faulkner’s dark, Southern Gothic aspects (rape, murder, incest) weren’t meant for films being made under the auspices of the Production Code.  But then why is it that no feature film has been made from one of his novels since 1969?  Several of his novels would lend themselves well to a new cinematic treatment and no one has bothered to make the attempt.  The prime example of what can be done when given the chance with a Faulkner novel is that The Story of Temple Drake, the first film version of Sanctuary, is probably the best film version ever made from a Faulkner novel.

Yet, in these days of DVD releases, with three box sets of “Pre-Code Classics” it still remains that the only place to see The Story of Temple Drake is on YouTube.  Given that Joseph Breen, the enforcer of the Production Code demanded that it never be re-released and it was lost until the fifties and still remains widely unavailable today, completely unavailable on either video or DVD, rarely even being aired on TCM, it is amazing it can even be seen on the web, but there it is, in its entirety.  I am not a fan of uploading copyrighted content to YouTube, but when a company (in this case, Paramount) either refuses to make a film available or no longer seems to have a copyright hold, then I relent.  Films should be available for people to see, and for classic films, if the companies won’t do it, and users can, they should.

Of course, there are numerous reasons why this film should be made available.  First of all, there are the Faulkner fans, and believe me, I am not the only one out there.  Most of the film versions of Faulkner’s novels are hard to find, but we’ll try to find them, because even if they’re terrible, it’s a chance to see it.  Then there is the historical aspect of the film.  It has been widely written about, is incorporated in many film history books as “the film banned by the Code,” with several pages describing the film, its plot and various critical reactions in Thomas Doherty’s Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934.  Then of course, there is the other reason to see it.  It’s a good film.

Again, it is probably the best adaptation of any Faulkner novel.  Tarnished Angels is mediocre at best, The Sound and the Fury and The Long Hot Summer suffer a bit from the overwrought Southern melodrama pushed in by the screenwriters, Intruder in the Dust and The Reivers are good, but not great and the Lee Remick version of Sanctuary is near impossible to find (Sound and the Fury isn’t easy either – I bought a VHS copy off Ebay several years ago).  But Story is a good film, with a very solid, sexually lurid performance from Miriam Hopkins as Temple.  It captures many of the best aspects of the novel (including putting the baby in a drawer to sleep to keep it safe from the rats), holds well enough to the story and the horror of the novel without bottoming out into the truly lurid details that even the Pre-Code Era wouldn’t have allowed on screen.  Yes, at the end of the film there is the trial and that seems to sum up and conclude the film in true Hollywood fashion, but it moves well, has good cinematography, is well directed and captures the essence of the novel more than I would have thought possible.  So see it, while you still can, even if you have to watch it online.  Because films are made to be seen and film history deserves to be preserved, even if it’s only in 10 minute long clips on YouTube.

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