My Top 10:

The final shot of Modern Times (1936): Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard walking off into the future.

  1. Modern Times
  2. The Petrified Forest
  3. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
  4. A Tale of Two Cities
  5. My Man Godfrey
  6. The Secret Agent
  7. Dodsworth
  8. Fury
  9. After the Thin Man
  10. The Great Ziegfeld

Academy Awards:

  • Best PictureThe Great Ziegfeld
  • Best Director:  Frank Capra  (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)
  • Best Actor:  Paul Muni  (The Story of Louis Pasteur)
  • Best Actress:  Luise Rainer  (The Great Ziegfeld)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Walter Brennan  (Come and Get It)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Gale Sondergaard  (Anthony Adverse)
  • Best Screenplay:  The Story of Louis Pasteur
  • Best Original Story:  The Story of Louis Pasteur

Consensus Award Winners:

  • Best Picture:  Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
  • Best Director:  Frank Capra  (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)
  • Best Actor:  Walter Huston  (Dodsworth)
  • Best Actress:  Luise Rainer  (The Great Ziegfeld)

TSPDT Consensus Top 5 Films:

  • Modern Times – #48
  • Swing Time – #541
  • Carnival in Flanders – #748
  • Fury – #987
  • Toni – #997

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – 415
  2. The Great Ziegfeld – 390
  3. Dodsworth – 330
  4. Anthony Adverse – 290
  5. The Story of Louis Pasteur – 280

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Modern Times – #81  (1998) / #78  (2007)
  • Swing Time – #90  (2007)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Modern Times
  • Best Director:  Charlie Chaplin (Modern Times)
  • Best Actor:  Charlie Chaplin  (Modern Times)
  • Best Actress:  Bette Davis  (The Petrified Forest)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Humphrey Bogart  (The Petrified Forest)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Maria Ouspenkaya  (Dodsworth)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Petrified Forest
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Modern Times
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Crime of Monsieur Lange

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Modern Times
  • Best Scene:  Spencer Tracy reliving “dying” in Fury
  • Best Line:  “I am dead.”  (Fury – Spencer Tracy)
  • Best Ending:  Modern Times

Ebert’s Great Movies:

  • Swing Time
  • My Man Godfrey

Almost a decade into the Sound Era, and Charlie Chaplin was still making his own kind of film.  I’ve already talked here about how brilliant Modern Times is and the amazing virtuoso that was Charlie Chaplin.  It is easily the best film of 1936, currently sitting almost 500 spots higher than any other film from the year in the Top 1000.  In my own Top 1000, Modern Times finishes a good 160 spots above The Petrified Forest and some 250 above Mr. Deeds.  I don’t find 1936 to be quite as bad a year as the Top 1000 does, but it is one of the lower years for both Top 5 films and Top 10 films, though not in the bottom 10 years for either.

Film History: The film world is shaken by the death of Irving Thalberg of pneumonia at the age of 37.  Norma Shearer, his widow, will never be the same again on-screen.  Deanna Durbin makes her film debut, marking the start of a long, but very annoying career.  Bugs Bunny is created by Warner Bros. as a way to counteract Mickey Mouse.  Carl Laemmle is one of the first of the big studio heads to exit, selling Universal Films.  Price-Waterhouse begins as the tabulator of Academy Awards votes.  The Screen Directors Guild is incorporated.  John Gilbert, whose career died out in the Sound Era, makes his last film with Greta Garbo (Queen Christina), then dies of a heart attack at age 40.

Academy Awards: The Academy decided to finally reward the actors who weren’t stars with the addition of Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.  They are both established with 5 nominees, and Actor, Actress, Director and the Screenplay categories are also changed to have 5 nominees.  The Academy gives Best Original Story to Story of Louis Pasteur, inspiring the question of how a true story can be the Best Original Story.  Frank Capra joins Frank Borzage and Frank Lloyd with his second Oscar.  My Man Godfrey becomes the first film to earn acting nominations in all 4 categories, and in spite of that and nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay, fails to get a Best Picture nomination while Libeled Lady gets a Best Picture nomination and nothing else (and both star William Powell).  In spite of sympathy for Norma Shearer, she comes in third for Best Actress, behind Rainer and Carole Lombard.  Gary Cooper comes in second to Paul Muni for Best Actor.  Frank Capra finishes just barely ahead of W.S. Van Dyke (San Francisco) and Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey).  The Story of Louis Pasteur comes in second for Best Picture.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Editing for Anthony Adverse
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Editing for Anthony Adverse
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Picture for Modern Times
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Editing
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actress

Awards: The two critics groups agreed not just on Best Picture (Mr. Deeds), but also on Foreign Film (Carnival in Flanders).  The NYFC Awards for Best Actor would go to Oscar nominee Walter Huston, while the Best Actress would go the eventual Oscar winner, Luise Rainer.  But oddly, Best Director would go to Rouben Mamoulian for The Gay Desperado, an almost forgotten film today.  The NBR would do better than the Oscars in that it would once again take my choice for the best film (Modern Times) and put it in its Top 10.  Only three of the NBR Top 10 would overlap with the Best Picture nominees and would not include the winner (Mr. Deeds, Story of Louis Pasteur, Romeo and Juliet).

My winner for Best Actress (Bette Davis) and Best Supporting Actor (Humphrey Bogart) with my #2 Best Actor (Leslie Howard) in my #2 film of 1936: The Petrified Forest

Over-looked film of 1936:

The Petrified Forest (dir. Archie Mayo)

How can a film so good be so unknown?  With all the attention paid among film buffs to Bette Davis and clips of her films all over YouTube, with Bogart the most widely celebrated film star of the 20th Century and still it’s nowhere in sight.

The Petrified Forest is the perfect way to remember Leslie Howard.  He was so wrong in Gone with the Wind, it’s hard to figure out where to begin explaining.  And the problem with his Romeo and Juliet wasn’t that he was too old (as was Norma Shearer, but she was radiant); the problem is that Leslie Howard is utterly unbelievable as Romeo.  If there is anything to define Howard’s screen persona it is the quiet intellectual, the one who thinks and ponders.  He may have strong feelings, like in Pygmalion, he may have an air of romance like in Berkeley Square, he may even be the hero, like in The Scarlet Pimpernel, but he is someone who has taken the time to think about things.  He could never be confused with someone who would act so irrationally, so blindly out of passion (and stupidity) as Romeo.  He would have been far more believable as Mercutio, the dreamer, the thinker, not the fickle Romeo.  But in The Petrified Forest, as the depressed, world-weary Alan Squier, the thinker, the man who wants to act and can’t bring himself to do it, who will so quickly fall in love with the waitress who shares that dream, but be unable to fully act upon it, that is the role that Leslie Howard was born to play.

Of course, you need someone to play opposite him.  He dominates Pimpernel and Berkeley, but is matched well with Wendy Hiller as Liza in Pygmalion.  So he is cast opposite Bette Davis, who had already proved his match on screen in Of Human Bondage (being robbed of an Oscar at the same time).  But they have been on screen together before, have shown how much they can match.  So to add something more we have Bogart, and not the Bogart we would all later know and worship.  This is the younger Bogart, desperate to become a bigger star, helped along by Howard, both in terms of getting the role, and as the character Duke Manatee in the film.  It is Howard’s push that propels the action, much as he propelled the making of the film.  This is a Bogart performance that will help you to understand how the same actor could so convincingly play both Rick Blaine and Fred C. Dobbs.

Then there is the script, of course.  Yes, there is not a whole lot of opening up of it as a film, it feels much like a staged play.  But when you have a location like this, when you have star power like this that knows so well how to respond to each other do you really need more than that?

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