My Top 10:

My winner for 1937 of Best Picture, Best Actress (Janet Gaynor) and Best Actor (Frederic March): A Star is Born

  1. A Star is Born
  2. You Only Live Once
  3. The Awful Truth
  4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  5. Shall We Dance
  6. Make Way for Tomorrow
  7. Stage Door
  8. The Lower Depths
  9. Lost Horizon
  10. La Marseillaise

Academy Awards:

  • Best PictureThe Life of Emile Zola
  • Best Director:  Leo McCarey  (The Awful Truth)
  • Best Actor:  Spencer Tracy  (Captains Courageous)
  • Best Actress:  Luise Rainer  (The Good Earth)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Joseph Schildkraut  (The Life of Emile Zola)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Alice Brady  (In Old Chicago)
  • Best Screenplay:  The Life of Emile Zola
  • Best Original Story:  A Star is Born

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Life of Emile Zola
  • Best Director:  Gregory La Cava  (Stage Door)
  • Best Actor:  Paul Muni  (The Life of Emile Zola)
  • Best Actress:  Greta Garbo  (Camille)

TSPDT Top 5:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – #256
  • Make Way for Tomorrow – #280
  • The Awful Truth – #297
  • You Only Live Once – #656
  • Camille – #935

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. The Life of Emile Zola – 615
  2. A Star is Born – 295
  3. The Awful Truth – 280
  4. Stage Door – 255
  5. The Good Earth – 235

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs #49  (1998) / #34  (2007)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  A Star is Born
  • Best Director:  Fritz Lang (You Only Live Once)
  • Best Actor:  Frederic March  (A Star is Born)
  • Best Actress:  Janet Gaynor  (A Star is Born)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Ralph Bellamy  (The Awful Truth)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Claire Trevor  (Dead End)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Awful Truth (from the play)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  A Star is Born
  • Best Foreign Film:  Grand Illusion

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Best Scene:  dancing on roller skates – Shall We Dance
  • Best Line:  “If I hold you any closer, I’ll be in back of you.”  (A Day at the Races – Groucho Marx)
  • Best Ending:  The Awful Truth

Ebert Great Films:

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Warner Brothers were concentrating on how good a biopic they could make while David O. Selznick was simply making art.  The Academy has always loved a good biopic, but with a few exceptions (Raging Bull, Yankee Doodle Dandy), I find that they rarely rise to the truly great works of film.  The Life of Emile Zola certainly tries hard and wants to show the importance of art and fighting for the good man (even with most of the Anti-Semitism barely mentioned), but nothing about it really rises above the level of a good film.  A Star is Born, however, the first, and best version of the great story of the rising female and the falling male, is one of the first great films about Hollywood, anchored by Frederic March’s best performance and another brilliant performance from Janet Gaynor.  Gaynor would soon retire from films altogether, but had already left a lasting mark.

Film History: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs becomes the first U.S. feature-length animated film and ends up the #1 grossing film of all-time.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gets a new charter and changes from a labor organization to simply a film organization.  We have the single greatest year for actors being born; in the course of 1937, welcomed into the world are: Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Jane Fonda, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Warren Beatty, Vanessa Redgrave and Robert Redford who combine for 10 acting Oscars and 45 nominations.  Exiting are Colin Clive (who played Victor Frankenstein), George Gershwin and Jean Harlow.  Alexander Korda abandons his attempt to film I, Claudius with only 20 minutes completed while Sergei Eisenstein abandons Bezhin Meadow with about 30 minutes completed..  Daffy Duck is introduced in Porky’s Duck Hunt.

Academy Awards: The Life of Emile Zola becomes the first film to break the double digit barrier for nominations with 10 (including 2 for writing – one for Screenplay and one for Original Story, as well as a nomination for Assistant Director in the last year the category existed).  For the second time (first since 1930) all the Best Picture nominees have multiple nominations (they have at least 4).  The Guilds are invited back and all members of the Actors, Directors and Writers Guilds nominate and vote.  On the technical side, every studio is guaranteed a nomination for Interior Decoration, Sound and Score simply by submitting an entry.  The initial Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award is given to Darryl F. Zanuck, who will later win twice more, the only multiple winner of the award.  Luise Rainer wins back to back Oscars, the first to do so, in a surprise win over Greta Garbo, who had won the NYFC and was widely expected to win.  Garbo and Rainer, like Janet Gaynor, will both be out of movies within 5 years.  Leo McCarey wins Best Director for The Awful Truth, but comments “Thanks, but you gave it to me for the wrong picture,” referencing his box office failure Make Way for Tomorrow.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Score for 100 Men and a Girl
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for In Old Chicago
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  In Old Chicago
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Song for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (“Heigh Ho”)
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Picture – nominations for over-rated Captains Courageous and The Good Earth, mediocre 100 Men and a Girl and awful In Old Chicago
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Oscar Nomination:  Best Score for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – music branch recognized what the rest of the Academy over-looked

Awards: For the first time, the NYFC agreed with the Academy, giving Best Picture to The Life of Emile Zola (it wouldn’t happen again until 1944).  The rest of their winners are a smattering of Oscar nominees who don’t win at the Academy (Gregory La Cava, Paul Muni, Greta Garbo) and the Foreign Film Mayerling.  The NBR goes with Night Must Fall which doesn’t even get a BP nomination at the Oscars, but do find room for 5 of the BP nominees in their top 10.  For their Best Foreign Film they go with The Eternal Mask, thus frustrating all future awards obsessives by choosing a movie that has pretty much disappeared.  They also decide to list 12 worthy acting performances, though without designating a best of in any category or even breaking them down into categories.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in mid-step in Shall We Dance (1937)

Over-looked Film of 1937:

Shall We Dance (dir. Mark Sandrich)

Why is it that Swing Time gets so much attention and Shall We Dance gets so little?  Just look at this.  How can a film like this have only earned one measly Oscar nomination (and lost)?  I seem to be on the wrong end of the spectrum when it comes to Astaire and Rogers.  I much prefer The Gay Divorcee to Top Hat and I much prefer Shall We Dance to Swing Time.

On one level, all of the films are interchangeable.  Astaire happens upon Rogers, he falls for her, there is a misunderstanding, usually involving the two of them being forced to be a couple.  There are dance routines, there are songs.  Astaire is likable and charming in all of them and Rogers is sweet and snappy (somehow at the same time).  Many of them are ably supported by Edward Everett Horton, who was always good for a good straight performance (much like Margaret Dumont in the Marx Brothers films).  So what is it that makes one film better than another?

They made ten films together and I think The Gay Divorcee is the best, partially because they were so still so young and fresh, but had done a previous film and had really established their chemistry with each other.  But what is so wonderful about Shall We Dance is what really separates the films: what they do in their routine and the strength of the songs.

In fact, for Shall We Dance, the one clip pretty much says it all.  First of all, we have the wonderful Gershwin tune (one of his last as he died this same year).  While “Cheek to Cheek” still gets remembered, this might be the longest lasting tune from any of the Astaire / Rogers films.  Of course, it’s not the only great Gershwin song in the film (it failed to be nominated for an Oscar as did “Nice Work if You Can Get It” and “They All Laughed” while “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” was nominated but lost to the inferior “Sweet Leilani” from Waikiki Wedding).  But then there is the dance.  Has there ever been such grace on film?  Even the acrobatics of Gene Kelly and the choreography of Michael Kidd seem to pale beside what two great dancers could do on a pair of roller skates.