A nice quiet hangover moment in The Thin Man (1934).

A nice quiet hangover moment in The Thin Man (1934).

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category.  Films in blue were nominated.  We finally get to 12 categories this year with the addition of Editing, Original Score and Original Song.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Thin Man
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. Vampyr
  4. The Gay Divorcee
  5. Death Takes a Holiday

Analysis:  From 1931-33 I had fifteen top films (my top five in each year) – they combined for 1 Oscar among 8 nominations.  Here, my top 5 win 6 Oscars out of 14 total nominations, and that’s with two of them receiving zero nominations.  For the fourth year in a row there’s a Horror film in the top 5, though it’s the first one since the 20’s to be a Foreign Film as well.  More importantly, for the first time the top two films are both comedies.  This won’t happen again until 1942 and will only happen twice in the following 50 years.

  • Best Director
  1. W.S. Van Dyke  (The Thin Man)
  2. Carl Th. Dreyer  (Vampyr)
  3. Frank Capra  (It Happened One Night)
  4. Howard Hawks  (Twentieth Century)
  5. Billy Wilder / Alexander Esway (Mauvaise Graine)

Analysis:  This list is basically backwards if we consider it an all-time directing list.  Thankfully Woody Van Dyke is saved by Michael Cimino from being the worst director to win a Nighthawk Award.  As for Wilder, well, his film, which is funny and charming probably never actually played in the States (in his book with Cameron Crowe he really downplays it but it is worth finding) so it probably shouldn’t count, in which case Josef von Sternberg would get in here for The Scarlet Empress.

  1. The Thin Man
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. Vampyr
  4. The Gay Divorcee
  5. Of Human Bondage
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Mauvaise Graine

Analysis:  It’s good, I guess, that I counted the film since it had the only original script I bothered to consider worthy of my awards.

  • Best Actor:
  1. William Powell  (The Thin Man)
  2. Leslie Howard  (Of Human Bondage)
  3. Clark Gable  (It Happened One Night)
  4. Fredric March  (Death Takes a Holiday)
  5. John Barrymore  (Twentieth Century)

Analysis:  Powell becomes the first actor other than Chaplin to win the Nighthawk Award for a comedic role.  Astoundingly, Powell actually came in 3rd (the results are known), behind Frank Morgan for Affairs of Cellini, who I didn’t think was even worthy of consideration..  March also comes in 6th place for his performance as Robert Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

  • Best Actress
  1. Bette Davis  (Of Human Bondage)
  2. Myrna Loy  (The Thin Man)
  3. Claudette Colbert  (It Happened One Night)
  4. Marlene Dietrich  (The Scarlet Empress)
  5. Norma Shearer  (The Barretts of Wimpole Street)

Analysis:  Davis, of course, really wanted the Oscar and when she was left out of the nominations a movement started for her to win as a write-in (which was allowed at the time).  Instead, she came in 3rd.

  • 1934-barretts-of-wimpole-street-charles-laughtonBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Charles Laughton  (The Barretts of Wimpole Street)
  2. Edward Everett Horton  (The Gay Divorcee)
  3. Ned Sparks  (Imitation of Life)
  4. Roscoe Karns  (Twentieth Century)
  5. Walter Connolly  (It Happened One Night)

Analysis:  This is really a weak year – the #3 through 5 barely eek in here.

  • Gay-Divorcee-BradyBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Alice Brady  (The Gay Divorcee)

Analysis:  And as bad as Supporting Actor is, clearly this is worse.  Even re-watching a number of films for the Best Adapted Screenplay post didn’t end up with me pushing anyone into this category.  Brady wins it by a mile.

  • Best Editing:
  1. The Thin Man
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. Vampyr
  4. The Gay Divorcee
  5. Mauvaise Graine

Analysis:  This was the first year for the category and the Oscars totally blew it.  Yes, Eskimo, which won the Oscar is decently edited, but the other two nominees were just awful and they overlooked some very good films.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Vampyr
  2. The Thin Man
  3. The Black Cat
  4. Mauvaise Graine
  5. Tarzan and His Mate

Analysis:  Finishing in second place is James Wong Howe, his first Nighthawk nomination.  I’m not certain how many Nighthawk nominations he will earn (at least a few), but from 1938-75 he would earn 10 Oscar nominations and win 2 Oscars and currently sits 8th all-time among Cinematographers for Oscar points.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. The Black Cat
  2. Of Human Bondage
  3. The Lost Patrol

Analysis:  Heinz Reimhold gets a second straight nomination and earns the win this time.  But Max Steiner takes the lead, earning his fourth and fifth nominations.  Steiner would be Oscar-nominated for his score for The Lost Patrol in the first year for the category; it would be the first of a record-setting 17 straight Oscar nominations as a composer.  Yet, in spite of earning a win and three other nominations in the first three years, Steiner’s reign at the top of the Oscar list would only last five years because from 1937-39 Alfred Newman would earn a mind-boggling 9 nominations (and 1 win).

  • Best Sound:
  1. The Lost Patrol
  2. Tarzan and His Mate
  3. The Thin Man

Analysis:  Best Sound Recording becomes the first tech category to be expanded, with 8 nominees, but none of them make my list.

  • ScarletEmpress2Best Art Direction:
  1. The Scarlet Empress
  2. Vampyr
  3. Madame Bovary
  4. The Barretts of Wimpole Street
  5. The Thin Man

Analysis:  I can understand them not nominating the naturalistic yet fantastic dreamworld of Vampyr, but how could they not nominate Scarlet Empress?

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. The Scarlet Empress
  2. Madame Bovary
  3. The Merry Widow
  4. The Barretts of Wimpole Street
  5. Queen Christina
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “The Continental”  (The Gay Divorcee)
  2. “Love in Bloom”  (She Loves Me Not)
  3. “Carioca”  (Flying Down to Rio)
  4. “Cocktails for Two”  (Murder at the Vanities)

Analysis:  Ah, this finally gets at least a little easier.  At the very least I have a bunch of actual nominees to choose from (in fact, I go with all three, although I think “The Continental” is better than the other two nominees combined).  But I also have the lists from Inside Oscar of eligible songs that failed to be nominated.

  • atalante-posterBest Foreign Film:
  1. L’Atalante
  2. A Story of Floating Weeds
  3. Mauvaise Graine
  4. Liliom

Analysis:  Not a single **** film in the bunch – L’Atalante is a high ***.5.  For the first time there is no nominee from Germany and there won’t be again for quite a while.  But we do get the first nominee from Japan.  We have the first appearance from Ozu, the last appearance from Lang (at least for a couple of decades) and the only appearance of Wilder.  And they all lose to Vigo with his last film.

By Film:

note:  They’re in points order.  You get twice as many points for a win as for a nomination.  Hopefully your math skills will let you figure out the system.

  • The Thin Man  (490)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction
  • Vampyr  (270)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Foreign Film
  • It Happened One Night  (260)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing
  • The Gay Divorcee  (225)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Original Song
  • Mauvaise Graine  (195)
    • Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Foreign Film
  • Of Human Bondage  (170)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Original Score
  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street  (130)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Twentieth Century  (110)
    • Director, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • The Scarlet Empress  (105)
    • Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Death Takes a Holiday  (85)
    • Picture, Actor
  • The Black Cat  (75)
    • Cinematography, Original Score
  • The Lost Patrol  (65)
    • Original Score, Sound
  • Tarzan and His Mate  (45)
    • Cinematography, Sound
  • Madame Bovary  (35)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Imitation of Life  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Queen Christina (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Merry Widow  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • She Loves Me Not  (10)
    • Original Song
  • Flying Down to Rio  (10)
    • Original Song
  • Murder at the Vanities  (10)
    • Original Song

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Mother

Analysis:  A Soviet film from 1926 that made it to the States in 34.  Good, but not even at ***.5.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • One Night of Love

Analysis:  Here’s what I wrote some three and a half years ago: “For an actress who really couldn’t do much outside of sing, for a story that doesn’t really have any originality, for a film that really isn’t much, it isn’t as bad as it could have been. ”  But it earned a mind-boggling 6 Oscar nominations.  The full review is here.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture
  1. Vampyr
  2. Death Takes a Holiday
  3. Of Human Bondage
  4. The Scarlet Empress

Analysis:  It’s a very weak year for Drama.  Vampyr is the only **** film and it’s questionable as to whether or not it belong in this year.

  • Best Director
  1. Carl Th. Dreyer  (Vampyr)
  2. Josef von Sternberg  (The Scarlet Empress)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Vampyr
  2. Of Human Bondage
  3. Death Takes a Holiday
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. none

Analysis:  We go from a full slate in 1932-33 to nothing here.  It was just a terrible year for original scripts.

  • Bette_Davis_and_Leslie_Howard_in_Of_Human_BondageBest Actor:
  1. Lesile Howard  (Of Human Bondage)
  2. Fredric March  (Death Takes a Holiday)
  3. Fredric March  (The Barretts of Wimpole Street)

Analysis:  As I said, it’s a really weak year for Drama.

  • Best Actress
  1. Bette Davis  (Of Human Bondage)
  2. Marlene Dietrich  (The Scarlet Empress)
  3. Norma Shearer  (The Barretts of Wimpole Street)
  4. Greta Garbo  (Queen Christina)
  5. Orane Demazis  (Angele)

Analysis:  Orane Demazis ends up in the fifth slot in Drama for the second year in a row.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Charles Laughton  (The Barretts of Wimpole Street)
  2. Ned Sparks  (Imitation of Life)

Analysis:  A year after finishing second, Laughton wins the Supporting Actor – Drama award.  And Sparks makes it in the other slot pretty much for being Ned Sparks.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. none

By Film:

  • Vampyr  (270)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • Of Human Bondage  (230)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • The Scarlet Empress  (130)
    • Picture, Director, Actress
  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street  (130)
    • Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Death Takes a Holiday  (125)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Queen Christina (35)
    • Actress
  • Angele  (35)
    • Actress
  • Imitation of Life  (30)
    • Supporting Actor

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Mother

Analysis:  The pickings were so scarce that every film that had points in any major Drama category got nominations.  That left Mother, a high end *** film with no quite enough directing, writing or acting to get points, as the high water mark here.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. The Thin Man
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. The Gay Divorcee
  4. Twentieth Century
  5. Mauvaise Graine

Analysis:  It’s not as stacked as the year before below 5th place but the top 5 averages an 87.4 – the exact same as 1932-33 and the best since the overly stacked 1902-26 which had over two decades to choose from.  And it beats the hell out of Drama, whose top 5 films average an 80.4 (the lowest all-time).

  • Best Director:
  1. W.S. Van Dyke  (The Thin Man)
  2. Frank Capra  (It Happened One Night)
  3. Howard Hawks  (Twentieth Century)
  4. Billy Wilder  (Mauvaise Graine)
  5. Mark Sandrich  (The Gay Divorcee)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Thin Man
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. The Gay Divorcee
  4. Twentieth Century
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Mauvaise Graine
  • Best Actor:
  1. William Powell  (The Thin Man)
  2. Clark Gable  (It Happened One Night)
  3. John Barrymore  (Twentieth Century)
  4. Fred Astaire  (The Gay Divorcee)

Analysis:  Definitely not as stacked as the year before where good performances actually couldn’t even make the top 5.  But still a solid group of 4.

  • Best Actress:
  1. Myrna Loy  (The Thin Man)
  2. Claudette Colbert  (It Happened One Night)
  3. Ginger Rogers  (The Gay Divorcee)
  4. Carole Lombard  (Twentieth Century)

Analysis:  How ironic that all the Oscars for It Happened One Night can’t even win the genre awards because The Thin Man is a comedy.

  • hortonBest Supporting Actor
  1. Edward Everett Horton  (The Gay Divorcee)
  2. Roscoe Karns  (Twentieth Century)
  3. Walter Connolly  (It Happened One Night)
  4. Eric Blore  (The Gay Divorcee)

Analysis:  Just like with Laughton in Drama, Horton goes from 2nd in 32-33 to 1st here.  Horton is really as good as the other three combined, but that also shows the two kinds of supporting roles.  Horton is in a lot of the film and is good throughout, while Connolly and Blore really have quite small roles that are rather memorable.

  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Alice Brady  (The Gay Divorcee)

By Film:

  • The Thin Man  (410)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • The Gay Divorcee  (355)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • It Happened One Night  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Twentieth Century  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Mauvaise Graine  (175)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress

Analysis:  Ah, here’s the trick thing with points.  If you just look at the points it might seem like It Happened One Night is one the same level with Twentieth Century and a lesser film than Gay Divorcee and neither is true.  In the four year stretch from 1932-35, Night would sweep the big 5 awards (like it did at the Oscars) in the Comedy categories.  Except in 34, where it gets beaten by Thin Man in all five categories.  Just the luck of the draw.  There’s a big difference in the level of quality in all five categories between Night and Century.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • It’s a Gift

Analysis:  It’s as tricky with W.C. Fields as it is with Groucho.  He does his thing and he does it brilliantly.  But is it acting?  And the writing’s just not good enough, because it’s not that great, it’s just that Fields is so entertaining.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  80

  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100: 63.95

Analysis:  That 63.95 is the lowest for any year so far.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • none (thank you UCLA!)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  Can the fact that this is the third worst group of Best Picture nominees in history be excused by the fact that there are so many?  After all, there are 12 films and they were probably bound to get some wrong.  But that’s not really the problem – there would be 12 again in 1935 and it’s a much better year (ranking 68th).  Of the 12 films in 1935, only two of them would finish outside the Top 400.  Here, only four of them finish inside the Top 400 and one of those just barely does it (#398).  It’s just a pile of mediocrity, only saved a little by the three great films that truly belonged there – It Happened One Night, The Thin Man and The Gay Divorcee, though none of those even make the Top 150.  On the 100 point scale, the nominees average a 66.2 – the fourth worst score and on the average of the ranking scale, it’s a 382, again the fourth worst; but the third worst on each part is better on the other, thus this year slide to the third worst overall, with a score of 5.78.  At least they picked the second best film of the nominees as the winner.  In fact, with Night at a 93 and the average of the nominees at a 66, we have the third biggest disparity between the score of the winner and the average score of the nominees, beaten only by Tom Jones in 1963 and All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930.

The Winners:  When I rank the winners of all the Oscar categories, I do a few things.  One of the things I do is give an average based on where I have the winners ranked in each category, and then I do it again without Best Picture.  That’s because I rank every film for Picture and when a really bad film wins (like Cimarron) it brings down the overall score quite a bit.  But in a year like this, that means the overall score goes up, because It Happened One Night is the second best film of the year.  So, the two scores, 4.33 and 4.55, aren’t that different.  For the score among the nominees, this year gets a 1.83, the second best score so far, behind the first year, and it will stay the second best all the way until 1946.  Partially that’s because It Happened One Night won five Oscars and was the second best choice, in my opinion, for all of them.  But it’s also because most categories only had three nominees (the 5 tech categories earn a 2.2, which, given that four of the five categories have only three nominees, is not a good score – if five seems wrong, it’s because I don’t count Song as a tech category and I didn’t include Assistant Director in these rankings).

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  The Thin Man  (see review here)

2  –  It Happened One Night  (see review here)

3  –  Vampyr  (see review here)

4  –  The Gay Divorcee  (see review here)

5  –  Death Takes a Holiday  (see my review here)

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. Cleopatra
  2. Jane Eyre
  3. Viva Villa!
  4. Outcast Lady
  5. Little Miss Marker

Cleopatra  (read the review here)


  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Thin Man  (9)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Thin Man  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Thin Man  (490)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Murder at the Vanities
  • 2nd Place Award:  It Happened One Night  (Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Editing)
  • 6th Place Award:  Twentieth Century  (Picture, Editing)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  Of Human Bondage  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Vampyr  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Vampyr  (270)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  Imitation of Life
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Gay Divorcee  (8)  **
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  The Thin Man  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The Thin Man  (410)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Mauvaise Graine

Note:  * means a Nighthawk record up to this point; ** ties a Nighthawk record

Analysis:  Mauvaise Graine may be the weakest Comedy with a nomination, but it’s still a very good film – it’s just that no mediocre films made it in with good acting.

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  All Quiet on the Western Front  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  City Lights  (9)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  All Quiet on the Western Front  (645)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards without winning Best Picture:  Frankenstein  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Best Picture Nomination:  Faust  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  The Invisible Man (9)
  • Actor:  Lon Chaney  (240)
  • Actress:  Janet Gaynor  (245)
  • Director:  F.W. Murnau  /  Charlie Chaplin  (180)
  • Writer:  Charlie Chaplin  (200)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  (125)
  • Composer:  Charlie Chaplin  (175)

Breakdown by Genre  (Foreign in parenthesis, best film in genre following, avg. score is afterwards, in parenthesis):

  • Drama:  47  (6)  –  Death Takes a Holiday  (61.8)
  • Comedy:  12  (1)  –  It Happened One Night  (68.3)
  • Musical:  11  –  The Gay Divorcee  (62.2)
  • Foreign:  8  –  Vampyr  (73.3)
  • Adventure:  4  –  Tarzan and His Mate  (67.5)
  • Horror:  2  (1)  –  Vampyr  (83)
  • Suspense:  2 –  Red Ensign  (58.5)
  • Mystery:  1  –  The Thin Man  (94)
  • Crime:  1  –  Fog Over Frisco  (60)
  • Action:  0
  • Fantasy:  0
  • Kids:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0
  • War:  0
  • Western:  0

Analysis:  Just like in 1931-32 we have no **** Drama film and the average, a 61.8, is lower than the average film for the year (63.95) and the lowest from any year so far.  And, from 9 films the year before and 6 the year before that, this time we are down to two Horror films, one of which is a German film (sort-of) from two years before.  For the third straight year, the Foreign films average just over 73.  The low averages for Drama and Musical are responsible for the overall low average for the year.

Studio Note:

For the second straight year half the films are from one of three specific studios: MGM (19), Paramount (11) and Warners (10).  This time MGM is the big one – its 19 films this year account for almost 24% of the total while its 19 from the year before only accounted for 15%.  But the odd thing is the quality – in 32-33 those 19 films totaled 1188, or an average of 62.53.  Here they total 1187 or an average of 62.47.  Even though MGM is thought of for its Musicals it only has 1 in the first year and 2 in the second.  And though many of the directors are the same, there’s a wide swath of them (though W.S. Van Dyke accounts for 5 films in 1934).  With the drop in Horror also comes a drop in the quality of Universal films – the 3 I’ve seen average a 65, by far the lowest Universal has had.

15 Films Eligible for Best Foreign Film (alphabetical, with director and country in parenthesis – red are ****, blue are ***.5 – both those colors qualify for my Best Foreign Film Award):

  • Anegele  (Pagnol, France)
  • Chapeyev  (Vasilyev, USSR)
  • The Goddess  (Wu, China)
  • Happiness  (Medvedkin, USSR)
  • Jolly Fellows  (Aleksandrov, USSR)
  • L’Atalante  (Vigo, France)
  • Les Miserables  (Bernard, France)
  • Liliom  (Lang, France)
  • Maskerade  (Forst, Germany)
  • Mauvaise Graine  (Wilder / Esway, France)
  • La Signora di Tutti  (Ophuls, Italy)
  • A Story of Floating Weeds  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Street Without End  (Naruse, Japan)
  • Tonari no Yae-chan  (Shimazu, Japan)
  • Zou Zou  (Allegret, France)

Note:  Several of these films don’t ever seemed to have had an American release, so I default to their original release year in their home country.  For the second year in a row we don’t have any films that reach **** (which is better than the next year where we won’t even have a film reach ***.5).  France continues to dominate (6 films, including the winner) while Germany finally falls off, only having 1 film as the Nazis take over.  This also completes the first 8 years, where the winners went Germany Germany France France Germany Germany France France.

Films Eligible in This Year But Originally Released in a Different Calendar Year:

  • Mother  (1902-26)
  • The Blue Light  (1931-32)
  • Vampyr  (1931-32)
  • Deserter  (1932-33)
  • Flying Down to Rio  (1932-33)
  • Friday the Thirteenth  (1932-33)
  • Madame Bovary  (1932-33)
  • Queen Christina  (1932-33)
  • Marius  (1931-32)

Films Released This Year Originally But Eligible in a Different Year:

  • Chapeyev  (1935)
  • Happiness  (1935)
  • Jolly Fellows  (1935)
  • Liliom  (1935)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much  (1935)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel  (1935)
  • Les Miserables  (1936)
  • La Signora di Tutti  (1936)
  • Maskerade  (1937)
  • L’Atalante  (1947)
  • Zou Zou  (1989)
  • A Story of Floating Weeds  (1994)
  • Tonari no Yae-chan  (2005)
  • The Goddess  (2007)