My Top 10:

Victor McLaglen in his Oscar winning role in The Informer (1935)

  1. The Informer
  2. Bride of Frankenstein
  3. The 39 Steps
  4. Les Miserables
  5. Mutiny on the Bounty
  6. The Man Who Knew Too Much
  7. Captain Blood
  8. Top Hat
  9. A Night at the Opera
  10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Academy Awards:

  • Best PictureMutiny on the Bounty
  • Best Director:  John Ford  (The Informer)
  • Best Actor:  Victor McLaglen  (The Informer)
  • Best Actress:  Bette Davis  (Dangerous)
  • Best Screenplay:  The Informer (from the story by Liam O’Flaherty)
  • Best Original Story:  The Scoundrel

TSPDT Consensus Top 5 Films:

  • A Night at the Opera – #202
  • Bride of Frankenstein – #223
  • Top Hat – #307
  • The 39 Steps – #309
  • Triumph of the Will – #347

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. The Informer – 635
  2. Mutiny on the Bounty – 410
  3. Lives of a Bengal Lancer – 220
  4. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 150
  5. Ruggles of Red Gap – 120

Consensus Awards Winners:

  • Best Picture:  The Informer
  • Best Director:  John Ford  (The Informer)
  • Best Actor:  Charles Laughton  (Mutiny on the Bounty / Les Miserables / Ruggles of Red Gap)
  • Best Actress:  Bette Davis  (Dangerous) / Greta Garbo  (Anna Karenina)

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Mutiny on the Bounty – #86  (1998 – not on 2007 poll)
  • A Night at the Opera – #85  (2007 – not on 1998 poll)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Katharine Hepburn was denied her second Oscar for Alice Adams (1935)

  • Best Picture:  The Informer
  • Best Director:  John Ford (The Informer)
  • Best Actor:  Charles Laughton  (Mutiny on the Bounty)
  • Best Actress:  Katharine Hepburn  (Alice Adams)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  W.C. Fields  (David Copperfield)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Una O’Connor  (The Informer)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Informer (from the story by Liam O’Flaherty)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Man Who Knew Too Much

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Bride of Frankenstein
  • Best Scene:  the cabin scene in A Night at the Opera
  • Best Ending:  Bride of Frankenstein (“You go.  We belong dead.”)
  • Best Line:  If we shadows have offended / Think but this and all is mended / That you have but slumbered here / While these visions did appear / And this weak and idle theme / Yielding no more but a dream / And as I am an honest Puck / If we have unearned luck / Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue / We shall make amends ‘ere long / Else the Puck a liar call / So good night unto you all / Give me your hands if we be friends / And Robin shall restore amends  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mickey Rooney – still in my memory 23 years after being in the play in 6th grade)
  • See the Movie – Don’t Read the Book:  The 39 Steps

Ebert Great Movies:

  • Bride of Frankenstein
  • Top Hat
  • Triumph of the Will

At the very moment where American movies were taking their place at the top of the pile (notice I have no Best Foreign Film for 1935), we have a disgusting reminder of the power of film with Triumph of the Will, the all important documentary from Leni Reifenstahl that documented a Nuremberg rally and the utter worship of Adolf Hitler.  There was no question that this was powerful propaganda (as Hollywood knew could happen – the year before, Louis B. Mayer had used newsreel films critical of Upton Sinclair to keep him from becoming Governor of California), a stunning look at the pure craftsmanship of political construction were those rallies, and the only real antidote to watching the film (and a pure interest in film history is the only reason to watch it) is to watch Night and Fog, a film just as disturbing in the naked depiction of what the Nazism of Reifenstahl’s film would result in.

The Informer, in spite of terrible box office, is widely acclaimed as the best film of the year, winning both critics groups and several Oscars, while losing Best Picture, yet today doesn’t get the acclaim.  Bride of Frankenstein brings the Golden Age of Horror to an end.  While Universal will continue to churn out Horror films, they will decrease in quality.  Only twice in the next 25 years will a Horror film make my Top 10.

Film History: David O. Selznick leaves MGM and becomes an independent producer.  20th Century Fox and Republic Pictures are founded.  Errol Flynn stars in Captain Blood, becoming a star.  Becky Sharp, the first three-color Technicolor feature film, is released.  The Museum of Modern Art establishes its film library.  Porky Pig debuts, the first of what will become the Loony Tunes characters.  Will Rogers dies in a plane crash in Alaska.

Academy Awards: For the last time, we have a film (Mutiny on the Bounty) win Best Picture and nothing else.  Mutiny does set a new record though with 8 nominations and is the first film with 3 acting nominations (all for Best Actor).  The Informer, on the other hand, wins 4 Oscars, the second most at the time, but fails to win Best Picture.  It will be 13 years before a film again wins Director and Screenplay without winning Picture.  Bette Davis makes up for her snub the year before by winning Best Actress, the first widely accepted example of a “make-up Oscar”, possibly costing Katharine Hepburn a second Oscar.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream becomes the only film to win an Oscar (Best Cinematography) without an actual nomination due to the allowing of write-in votes.  Write-ins finish in second place for Best Actor (Paul Muni in Black Fury) and Director (Captain Blood) while Captain Blood comes in third for Screenplay and Score as a write-in.  The Academy adds a new category, Dance Direction, will which only last a few years.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Sound for Naughty Marietta
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for Naughty Marietta
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Cinematography for Bride of Frankenstein
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Cinematography – ignored Bride of Frankenstein, The Informer and Captain Blood – and the winner was a write-in (and better than the actual nominees)
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Song – I would have gone with “Cheek to Cheek” for the win, but definitely three great nominees

Awards: The New York Film Critics Circle decided that they wanted in on the awards action, so they broke out with their initial awards in 1935.  They and the NBR pick The Informer for Best Picture.  This begins a trend as five more times in the next decade a film will win both critics groups and all five times that film will lost at the Oscars (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, The Citadel, The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, In Which We Serve).  While the NBR continues with a Best Foreign Film (Chapayev), the NYFC decides to give a Best Director (eventual Oscar winner John Ford), Best Actor (Charles Laughton for his work throughout the year) and Greta Garbo (who fails to get nominated by the Academy for Anna Karenina).

Peter Lorre menacing Leslie Banks in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Hitchcock's first great film

Under-appreciated film of 1935:

The Man Who Knew Too Much (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

This film is so under-appreciated that it is ranked 32nd among Hitchcock’s films on the IMDb, behind such mediocre films as I Confess, Marnie and the remake.  I personally find it to be the 11th best Hitchcock film.  It was Hitchcock’s first great film, the one that established him as a master of suspense.  It is so obviously superior to the re-make that I can’t understand why anyone would champion the latter.

What does the re-make have in its corner?  Jimmy Stewart.  Jimmy Stewart proved over the course of several films that he was the proper lead for Hitchcock in an emotional role (to counter-act Cary Grant in a more comedic role – Hitchcock’s opinion as put forth in Hitchcock/Truffaut) and in he, of course, is the emotional core of the re-make.  But on the other hand, the re-make also has Doris Day, in Hitchcock’s continual quest to replace Grace Kelly as the perfect icy blonde, has the annoying child and simply takes too long.  Hitchcock, in the book, talks about how the longer scene at the Royal Albert Hall allows for a greater feeling of suspense, but it just makes it seem to take so much longer (that and Doris Day was so badly miscast – the only reason for casting her was the song “Que Sera Sera” which seems so out of place in a Hitchcock film).

Then look at the earlier film.  Yes, it is not particularly technically polished.  It is the work of someone younger, with a British cinema that is not as advanced.  But it has suspense, it has style, it moves, it flows, it doesn’t crawl along.  Did you really need 120 minutes to tell the same story that you had already done in 75?  And it has the teenage daughter as opposed to the young son, so much more interesting, both in the opening scene, and at the conclusion, out on the rooftop.

Then there is the most important aspect of the original: Peter Lorre.  The story goes that Lorre didn’t actually know English yet, that he faked his way through his interview with Hitchcock and learned his part phonetically.  It doesn’t really matter.  Lorre was a master actor, who had already given one of the great screen performances in M and had fled Nazi Germany.  This film was the beginning of a long and fruitful career as one of the best character actors in film.  He would later team again with Hitchcock in a brilliant, bizarre performance in The Secret Agent, but here, he is so despicable, so subtly slimy and creepy.  The language barrier only adds to the performance.  How could adding Jimmy Stewart possibly make up for the loss of Peter Lorre?  While the Academy did film a great dis-service by never awarding an Oscar to Claude Rains, the greatest of all character actors, they did an even greater dis-service by never even nominating Peter Lorre, for a masterful career that included M, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Secret Agent, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and Casbah.  Every time he appeared on screen, you could instantly think to yourself, I should never, ever trust that man.  That career truly began in this role and if you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself and seek it.  Skip the re-make.

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