a pair of Oscar winners: Teresa Wright and Greer Garson in Best Picture winner Mrs. Miniver (1942)

The 15th Academy Awards, for the film year 1942.  The nominations were announced on February 8, 1943 and the awards were held on March 4, 1943.

Best Picture:  Mrs. Miniver

  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Kings Row
  • Random Harvest
  • The Pride of the Yankees
  • The Talk of the Town
  • 49th Parallel
  • The Pied Piper
  • Wake Island

Most Surprising Omission:  Woman of the Year

Best Eligible Film Not Nominated:  Sullivan’s Travels

Rank (out of 82) Among Best Picture Years:  #71

The Race: The war had come to Hollywood and the Academy was responding.  There was a large choice of films dealing with the war, either on a specific level (Mrs. Miniver, The Pied Piper, Wake Island, 49th Parallel) or patriotic notions of the country (Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Talk of the Town).  They had all moved to the forefront of the Oscar race.  Other contenders included films about life in small-town America (The Magnificent Ambersons and Kings Row), a British man with amnesia after fighting in the first World War (Random Harvest) and a film about the all-American sport of baseball (The Pride of the Yankees).

The critics groups were of no help sorting things out.  They both chose In Which We Serve, yet another film about the British war effort, but one that had not yet opened in Los Angeles and would not be eligible for the Academy Awards until the following year.  Of the major contenders (and eventual nominees), only Wake Island, Mrs. Miniver and The Pied Piper made the Top 10 for the National Board of Review.  Further boosts were provided to Wake Island, Yankee Doodle Dandy and The Magnificent Ambersons with wins from the New York Film Critics (for Director, Actor and Actress, respectively).

The Results: With 12 nominations, the second most of all-time, Mrs. Miniver situated itself well to win it all and it eventually would, taking home Best Picture and Best Director among its 6 Oscars.  Its six wins would be more than all the other Best Picture nominees combined, as Yankee Doodle Dandy would win 3, Pride of the Yankees and 49th Parallel winning one each, with the other six nominees all failing to win anything.

The first film to get 5 acting nominations: Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Mrs. Miniver

  • Director:  William Wyler
  • Writer:  Arthur Wimperis  /  George Froeschel  /  James Hilton  /  Claudine West  (from the book by Jan Struther)
  • Producer:  Sidney Franklin
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Stars:  Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Henry Travers, May Whitty
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor (Pidgeon), Actress (Garson), Supporting Actor (Travers), Supporting Actress (Wright), Supporting Actress (Whitty), Editing, Cinematography (Black-and-White), Sound, Special Effects
  • Oscar Note:  The first film to receive 5 acting nominations
  • Length:  134 min
  • Genre:  Drama  (World War II)
  • Release Date:  4 June 1942
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #14  (year)  /  #320  (nominees)  /  #69  (winners)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Director, Actress (Garson), Supporting Actor (Travers), Supporting Actress (Wright), Supporting Actress (Whitty)

The Film:  For some reason, Mrs. Miniver seems to end up on lists of the worst Best Picture choices of all-time and I can’t quite understand that.  On the one hand, no, it didn’t deserve 12 nominations and didn’t deserve 6 Oscars.  But its Oscars aren’t embarrassments.  They aren’t bad choices, they’re simply not good choices and even the Oscars for Garson and Wright were pretty good choice – there simply were better choices available.  But one of the worst Best Pictures of all-time?  No.

First, we can look at it as a film itself.  It is a pretty good film, fairly well written, well directed, certainly well acted.  It is an excellent piece of propaganda that does a good job of helping people to understand what was going on in England, how people on the homefront reacted to things like the Blitz and Dunkirk, how they all worked together because they were a country at war.  They even had the tenacity to kill a major character in a heart-breaking way and then have to deal with that death.  It then ends with that inspiring speech.  Is it a big much?  A bit too overly propaganda?  Sure, but it works, especially the way they filmed it in the blown out church.  So, as a winner, it’s not that bad a choice, not a truly un-worthy film like Broadway Melody or Gigi or Braveheart.

But what about it as the winner?  How does it compare to other 1942 films?  Well, of the nominees it comes in sixth.  Certainly it’s not a great choice.  But it still makes it into the top 20 for the year and with 10 nominees, they certainly could have made a much worse choice.  1942 simply isn’t that great a year for film, with only 5 **** films and another 5 ***.5 films.

So, in the end, it’s a good film, with good performances.  It’s well-made, it’s thoughtful and was made with a very specific purpose, which it fulfilled.  It’s not a great film, but let’s not try to say it’s one of the worst Best Picture winners of all-time.  The evidence just isn’t there.

Yankee Doodle Dandy - my mother's favorite film and one of the best biopics of all-time

Yankee Doodle Dandy

  • Director:  Michael Curtiz
  • Writer:  Robert Buckner  /  Edmund Joseph
  • Producer:  Jack Warner  /  Hal B. Wallis  /  William Cagney
  • Studio:  Warner Bros.
  • Stars:  James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Original Story, Actor (Cagney), Supporting Actor (Huston), Editing, Scoring of a Musical Picture, Sound
  • Length:  126 min
  • Genre:  Musical  (Biopic)
  • Release Date:  6 June 1942
  • My Rating:  ****
  • My Rank:  #3  (year)  /  #97  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor (Cagney), Supporting Actor (Huston), Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup

The Film:  There really isn’t another performance like it in all of film history.  Who could possibly have been prepared for it?  Yes, he had made a few musicals, but his specialty were cold blooded gangsters.  He had made a name for himself shoving a grapefruit in Mae Clarke’s face in Public Enemy.  His first Oscar nomination had been for the gangster who shows the bare necessity of humanity in Angels with Dirty Faces.  But this?  Singing?  Dancing?  Moving around the stage with the grace of an acrobat and the smile of a sly con man?

By all rights, this film should be ordinary.  It has the signs of an average Hollywood film of the era – a biopic, with history distorted enough to make it a movie rather than a work of non-fiction, a voiceover narration moving the action along and little anecdotes about a life strung together.  It even had a framing device of the subject telling his life to the president.  Nothing about that screams that this film is not only one of the all-time classics, but is enjoyable in a way that so few biopics really manage to be.

Part of it, of course, is the magnificence of the songs written by George M. Cohan.  Cohan’s life was interesting enough to begin with, but you don’t have to use much of the life when you could build a film around songs like these.  Look at just a few of them: “Yankee Doodle Boy”, “Grand Old Flag”, “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “Over There.”  They have become a part of our national heritage.  So has the film itself, one of the best biopics ever made, one of the few to transcend the genre and become pure movie entertainment.  We can thank the songs.  And we can thank Cagney.  And his father.  And his mother.  And his sister (that’s his real sister by the way).

The Magnificent Ambersons - we'll never know how good it could have been

The Magnificent Ambersons

  • Director:  Orson Welles
  • Writer:  Orson Welles  (from the novel by Booth Tarkington)
  • Producer:  Orson Welles
  • Studio:  RKO Radio
  • Stars:  Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Anne Baxter, Tim Holt
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Supporting Actress (Moorehead), Cinematography (Black-and-White), Interior Decoration (Black-and-White)
  • Length:  88 min
  • Genre:  Drama  (Literary Adaptation)
  • Release Date:  10 July 1942
  • My Rating:  ****
  • My Rank:  #4  (year)  /  #126  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress (Moorehead), Cinematography, Score, Art Direction, Costume Design

The Film:  Going back to the novel, the day after re-watching the film, I could hear Orson Welles in my head narrating.  Those very opening scenes, which are non-descript in the novel, simply setting a time and place, provide more of a story in the film as we see the young Joseph Cotten adapting to the times and hear Welles’ magnificent narration.  It seems the way the book should be.  Had the film been made today, perhaps they would have gone back and gotten Welles to do the audio version of the book.

And perhaps if they went back today they would have the good sense to know that Orson Welles knew what the hell he was doing.  Yes, the book had won the Pulitzer Prize, and yes, it is a great book, but could anyone else have done with the book what Welles did?  It’s true, they did have Robert Wise re-cutting the film (as opposed to Welles famous complaint that “when I was in Mexico they had the janitor re-cut The Magnificent Ambersons“), but it belonged to Welles vision.  The reconstruction of such films as Othello and Touch of Evil have made that clear.  It is possible that some of the cuts made the film flow better, made it more fluid, but certainly it should have kept Welles ending, even if the ending they went with is a bit more true to the book.  You don’t have to be true to the book.  You have to be true to the film.

Of course, what we have left is still, unquestionably, a great film.  It makes us weep for what we could have had.  It does a magnificent job of taking an excellent novel about class and society in middle America and bringing it to life, with phenomenal art direction (Welles wanted to be able to shot from any angle, so he actually had a mansion built), brilliant cinematography and first-rate acting, especially from Agnes Moorehead, as poor Aunt Fannie.

Then there is the ending.  Let me make this clear.  Every film should end like this.  It is only a measure of Welles’ knowledge of the extent of his contributers that he also includes the various crew members.  But every film should end with a visual depiction of the actors.  It is perhaps the only linking aspect between this and M*A*S*H and Return of the King, but every time I see it, I wish I saw it more and with Welles actually introducing them all with that magnificent voice, well, it overcomes the weaker ending that was forced on the film.

Random Harvest - the second Ronald Colman film made from a James Hilton novel to get nominated for Best Picture

Random Harvest

  • Director:  Mervyn LeRoy
  • Writer:  Claudine West  /  George Froeschel  /  Arthur Wimperis  (from the novel by James Hilton)
  • Producer:  Sidney Franklin
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Stars:  Ronald Colman, Greer Garson, Susan Peters
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor (Colman), Supporting Actress (Peters), Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedic Picture, Interior Decoration (Black-and-White)
  • Length:  125 min
  • Genre:  Drama
  • Release Date:  17 December 1942
  • My Rating:  ***.5
  • My Rank:  #7  (year)  /  #250  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor (Colman), Actress (Garson), Supporting Actress (Peters), Cinematography, Score

The Film:  Here’s the formula for a good solid drama.  Take one British novel, written by a novelist who has already had two of his novels adapted into Best Picture nominees (Lost Horizon, Goodbye Mr. Chips).  Add a leading man who had been the star of the first one.  Add a lovely actress who had been in the second.  Throw in the experiences of being lost in the war — not dead, but simply lost.  Blend them all together, with some romance, some pathos, a good performance by a young actress, a solid Hollywood director and mix them together.  In the end you come out with a film with 7 Oscar nominations, a good enjoyable film that never strays too far into melodrama.

Ronald Colman had already showed his range in Best Picture nominees.  He could be the good, decent man (Arrowsmith), the drunken rogue who comes to the rescue (A Tale of Two Cities) or the stalwart symbol of the British (Lost Horizon).  Here he was able to reflect on his own war experiences from the First World War as a man who has lost his memory in the war.  He ends up escaping from the asylum during the celebrations over the end of the war and meets a young dance hall girl.  It doesn’t take long for them to fall in love and begin a life together.  But then he is hit by a taxi and loses his memory again — this time remembering his true past and forgetting the time since the war.  We get to watch Colman go back to his old life and wonder what happens to Garson, the lovely young wife he has forgotten, until she suddenly appears as his secretary.  Then we get to slowly watch their story unfold, for she remembers what he has forgotten and doesn’t want to give him too big of a shock.  Of course, this is an old-fashioned film and we shouldn’t expect anything other than a happy ending.  But this film earns its ending with solid performances from both stars and from Susan Peters, playing a step-niece who falls in love with Colman, only to allow him to slip away when she realizes he has a past that he desperately wants to connect with and can not remember.  It is well written, well directed, well acted, well made.  Pretty much everything you would hope to find in a Best Picture nominee.

Kings Row - kind of like Peyton Place, except good

Kings Row

  • Director:  Sam Wood
  • Writer:  Casey Robinson  (from the novel by Henry Bellamann)
  • Producer:  Hal B. Wallis
  • Studio:  Warner Bros.
  • Stars:  Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Claude Rains
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Cinematography (Black-and-White)
  • Length:  127 min
  • Genre:  Drama
  • Release Date:  18 April 1942
  • My Rating:  ***.5
  • My Rank:  #9  (year)  /  #271  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Rains)

The Film:  It’s amazing that this film ever could have succeeded.  It does have some of the better supporting performers of the era – Claude Rains, Charles Coburn, Judith Anderson.  But Rains is in it for too short a time and Anderson isn’t all that great.  And then there are the leads.  Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan and Robert Cummings?  How did this film ever get anywhere?  They had too cut so much from the book, it’s incredible that they even got a script put together.  It is full of melodrama and little bits of psychiatric information designed to show great insights.

Yet, somehow, it actually succeeds.  It has a strong performance from Claude Rains (as if there were a thing as a weak performance by Claude Rains).  It also has, by far, the best acting performance in the career of Ronald Reagan.  It has an interesting story that manages to accurately convey the kind of small town with deep secrets that was supposed to be the shocking revelation of Peyton Place.  In spite of the weak group of actors at the center of the film, none of them are particularly bad.  It is well directed, particularly well made, with good cinematography and sets.

Lou Gehrig - the one Yankee great enough and decent enough to deserve a movie

The Pride of the Yankees

  • Director:  Sam Wood
  • Writer:  Paul Gallico  /  Jo Swerling  /  Herman J. Mankiewicz  /  Damon Runyon
  • Producer:  Samuel Goldwyn
  • Studio:  RKO Radio
  • Stars:  Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Babe Ruth, Walter Brennan
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Screenplay, Original Story, Actor (Cooper), Actress (Wright), Editing, Cinematography (Black-and-White), Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedic Picture, Sound, Interior Decoration (Black-and-White), Special Effects
  • Oscar Record:  Most Nominations Without Best Director  (11)
  • Length:  128 min
  • Genre:  Drama  (Sports Biopic)
  • Release Date:  14 July 1942
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #11  (year)  /  #295  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Actor (Cooper), Actress (Wright), Sound

The Film:  Well, of course, I hate the Yankees, hate them with a fierce passion, hate them like I hate no other organization in professional sports, even the Raiders.  That being said, I rather like Lou Gehrig.  He was the nice guy to Babe Ruth’s raving jackass, the man who amassed an amazing array of statistics, and unlike Ruth, his time was shortened not by personal excess, but by a disease that struck down first his career, then his life.  He was a quiet man, one who simply went to work each day and did the job he was supposed to do.  That job included driving in runs and that was what he did better than just about anybody else who ever played.  He was a man really born to be played on screen by Gary Cooper.

So why is it that this film has gone down in my opinion?  I didn’t really mind watching the Yankees win all those games in the film.  This isn’t the Yankees franchise that I truly hate, the Evil Empire of the Steinbrenner years, so I don’t quite feel the same way.  But I watched this film now, for the first time in probably 20 years, as a student of film, instead of a fanatic follower of baseball.  So there are two things at play here.  The first is that I look more at what kind of film it is, how it is a pretty standard biopic with a good performance from Cooper, a fairly good performance from Wright, and an otherwise pretty pedestrian storyline.  The young poor boy makes good, becomes a star, is beloved, marries the girl he loves, then is struck down when still pretty much in his prime.  It is well shot, well edited, but there is nothing about it that screams out as a piece of art.  It is a typical Academy film, one with good performances that tells the arc of a life, but what the Academy tends to nominate and the films that deserve to be nominated aren’t necessarily the same.

Then there’s the baseball aspect.  There is no question that I have lost a lot of passion for sports.  As things have tightened up in life the last few years, something has had to give.  So the comic books I had been collecting for 30 years are now gone and the sports that I used to care so passionately about no longer mean as much to me.  From a person who, two years ago, went to victory parades for both the Red Sox and the Celtics, who now can barely remember when a game is on, even when it’s the playoffs, it just doesn’t feel the same watching this kind of film anymore.  So I watch it more from a cinematic standpoint and it just doesn’t hold up as well.  It’s a good film, but it’s no more than that.

The U.S. poster for Michael Powell's 49th Parallel, re-titled The Invaders

49th Parallel

  • Director:  Michael Powell
  • Writer:  Emeric Pressburger  /  Rodney Ackland
  • Producer:  Michael Powell
  • Studio:  Columbia
  • Stars:  Laurence Olivier, Finlay Currie, Richard George, Leslie Howard, Raymond Massey
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Screenplay, Original Story
  • Length:  123 min
  • Genre:  War  (World War II)
  • Release Date:  15 April 1942
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #18  (year)  /  #334  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Supporting Actor (Olivier)

The Film:  It was very strange to go back to this film.  Here was a film made by Michael Powell, with major roles played by Laurence Olivier and Leslie Howard, and yet, I couldn’t remember a damn thing about it.  It’s almost like I was watching it for the first time.  It was also the first of two Michael Powell films to get nominated for Best Picture, neither of them, in my opinion, among his stronger films.  Not that they were bad.  But they weren’t up there with his best work.  I’ll deal with The Red Shoes later, but this film, it seems, earned its nomination mostly through the message it was trying to convey.  It managed to both slightly humanize and demonize the Nazis at the same time.  It allowed some moments of true human interaction among the different members of the U-Boat that end up on Canadian shores, but also shows them brutally killing people.  It shows them fervently believing in their party and its ideas.

It’s hard to get attached to the story, because of course, its the Nazis that the story follows as they travel across Canada, trying to make their way to what they hope is freedom in the United States.  Of the different people encountered along the way, Olivier is the best as a French-Canadian trapper who at first can’t believe that another war has broken out and that Canada is fighting in it, but soon ends up sacrificing his life in an attempt to stop the Nazis.  It is rather smartly written, as were all of Powell’s films thanks to his constant collaborator, Emeric Pressburger, but the episodic structure tends to wear down after a while.  It feels too much like they wanted to get a good cross-section of people for the Nazis to come up against before the conclusion.

great director, great stars, but still The Talk of the Town isn't much better than average

The Talk of the Town

  • Director:  George Stevens
  • Writer:  Sidney Harmon  /  Dale Van Every  /  Irwin Shaw  /  Sidney Buchman
  • Producer:  George Stevens
  • Studio:  Columbia
  • Stars:  Cary Grant, Ronald Colman, Jean Arthur
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Screenplay, Original Story, Editing, Cinematography (Black-and-White), Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedic Picture, Interior Decoration (Black-and-White)
  • Length:  118 min
  • Genre:  Comedy
  • Release Date:  20 August 1942
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #23  (year)  /  #374  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none

The Film:  I sit here and I look at that list of nominations and think, that can’t be right.  The film isn’t particularly well-made.  There’s nothing really worthwhile about the Cinematography or Editing or Score or the Art Direction.  Yet, there it was nominated, in some categories, over Magnificent Ambersons, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Sullivan’s Travels.  How can that possibly be right?  Are there people today who would look at this film and think, yeah, it deserves 7 Oscar nominations.  But of course, the technical nominations are only part of the problem.

But it was also nominated for Best Picture.  It’s not a bad film.  It’s perfectly fine, it’s entertaining and it’s actually got some ideas behind it and of course, Grant, Colman and Arthur are always charming, so the performances are perfectly fine, even if they’re not up to the Oscar nomination level you can usually expect from the three of them.  But it’s not a great film, not even close.  Hell, it’s mostly a preachy film about the importance of the law and the legal process, but in the style of a comedy.  It tries to take on some of the same questions that The Ox-Bow Incident would take on the next year, but by using a comedic structure and giving it a happy ending, it lacks the weight or importance of a film like Ox-Bow.  And that’s part of the problem with the screenplay as well.  It’s entertaining at times, but do you really want to just sit around and listen to Cary Grant and Ronald Colman debate the legal process?  All of them could do better.  All of them did do better.  There’s a reason it’s not considered a classic and I doubt there are people today who really think it deserved any of its nominations.

Monty Wooley doing what he did best: being cranky

The Pied Piper

  • Director:  Irving Pichel
  • Writer:  Nunnally Johnson  (from the novel by Nevil Shute)
  • Producer:  Nunnally Johnson
  • Studio:  20th Century-Fox
  • Stars:  Monty Wooley, Roddy MacDowell, Anne Baxter, Otto Preminger
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Actor (Wooley), Cinematography (Black-and-White)
  • Length:  87 min
  • Genre:  Drama
  • Release Date:  21 August 1942
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #30  (year)  /  #383  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none

The Film:  I don’t quite get the appeal of Monty Wooley.  He wasn’t much of an actor.  His acting seem to consist of standing around, blustering, and generally acting irritated.  Yet this earned him two Oscar nominations and in 1942 that meant nominating him over Joel McCrea in Sullivan’s Travels or Jack Benny in To Be or Not To Be.  Wooley isn’t a bad actor, but he’s just bluster.

Let’s look at him in The Pied Piper.  There aren’t a whole lot of people who have.  It has the fewest votes of any of the Best Picture nominees that has been readily available for the last several years and the fifth least overall.  It stars Wooley as a Brit who is trying to escape France during the early part of the Nazi invasion.  It, like other films in 1942, seems to have been pushed up into a Best Picture nomination as nominal support for the war rather than any claim on artistic merit.  This is, after all, the year of 49th Parallel and Wake Island, other films made, essentially to support the war effort, that war also nominated and have mostly been forgotten (that Parallel has been rediscovered is much more about it being a Michael Powell film than anything else).  He ends up in charge of a number of children who are also trying to flee the country.  In the course of it, he ends up involved with a young French woman (a good early performance from Anne Baxter) and a German major (Otto Preminger).  Of course, there is a happy ending.  Were they going to end it any other way?  But in the end, it’s just another mostly forgettable film.  Too much effort was being put towards the war.  The fact that this year ranks where it does among Best Picture years is not because it has stronger films but simply because there are no truly weak films.

Wake Island - one of the more forgotten 1942 Best Picture nominees

Wake Island

  • Director:  John Farrow
  • Writer:  W.R. Burnett  /  Frank Butler
  • Producer:  Joseph Sistrom
  • Studio:  Paramount
  • Stars:  Brian Donlevy, Macdonald Carey, Robert Preston, William Bendix
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Bendix)
  • Length:  87 min
  • Genre:  War  (World War II)
  • Release Date:  11 August 1942
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #44  (year)  /  #417  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none

The Film:  There have been 468 Best Picture nominees.  Of those 468, 294 were nominated for Best Director.  Culling it down further, only 218 films have been nominated for Picture, Director, Screenplay and an acting award.  Some of those, like Skippy and Wilson and The Human Comedy aren’t available on DVD.  Of the ones on DVD, Wake Island has the fewest votes on the IMDb.  There’s a reason for this.  It’s pretty much completely forgotten.  It has only six external reviews on the IMDb.  In spite of hitting the major nominations, it barely merits a mention in Inside Oscar (a brief blurb about how Winston Churchill approved of it).  It’s available for people to watch and they simply don’t care.

There’s not much reason to care.  It’s an okay film, in the same way that so many war films are okay films.  It was a Best Picture nominee not because it was a particularly good film, but because it was the first out of the gate.  It was excellent propaganda to a country just rushing off to war, showing one of the first major battles, one in which America actually had a chance to fight back (it’s not a particularly accurate depiction, showing all the men dying, when in fact, most of them surrendered and were later executed).  It’s a decent film, but doesn’t earn any of its nominations.  It’s not particularly well directed, is a pretty standard script and the performance by William Bendix is no different than the lug he played in any of dozens of other films.  But Americans needed to have their spirits pumped up and this film was designed to do just that.  So the Academy followed suit and gave it the big nominations.  They didn’t give it any of the awards though.  That would have been going a bit too far.