My Best Actor and Actress winner in my Best Picture winner - before things go bad.

My Best Actor and Actress winner in my Best Picture winner – before things go bad.

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.  This is the last year of two of the strangest categories in Oscar history: Assistant Director and Dance Direction, neither of which do I use.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. A Star is Born
  2. You Only Live Once
  3. The Awful Truth
  4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  5. The Lower Depths

Analysis:  There are only four **** films in 1937.  The Lower Depths is a high-level ***.5 and is followed very closely by three more films: It’s Love I’m After (see Original Screenplay), Stage Door and Dead End.

  • langBest Director
  1. Fritz Lang  (You Only Live Once)
  2. William Wellman  (A Star is Born)
  3. Leo McCarey  (The Awful Truth)
  4. Jean Renoir  (The Lower Depths)
  5. William Wyler  (Dead End)

Analysis:  With another win, Lang now ties Chaplin in first place with 270 points.  It’s the second nomination for Wellman, the first (and only) for McCarey, the first of consecutive nominations for Renoir and the first of many nominations for Wyler.

  1. The Awful Truth
  2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  3. The Lower Depths
  4. Stage Door
  5. Dead End
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. A Star is Born
  2. You Only Live Once
  3. It’s Love I’m After
  4. The Life of Emile Zola
  5. Shall We Dance

Analysis:  This means that Dorothy Parker wins the Nighthawk Award.  But don’t overlook It’s Love I’m After.  After a mess of a relationship in Of Human Bondage and the tragic ending of The Petrified Forest, Leslie Howard and Bette Davis re-team for a screwball comedy that is vastly under-rated, one I only finally saw on a Leslie Howard day on TCM.  It came within a hair’s breadth of ending up in 5th place and being a Best Picture nominee.  You can get it yourself from the Warner Archive.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Fredric March  (A Star is Born)
  2. Cary Grant  (The Awful Truth)
  3. Henry Fonda  (You Only Live Once)
  4. Jean Gabin  (The Lower Depths)
  5. Paul Muni  (The Life of Emile Zola)

Analysis:  It’s first nominations for Grant, Fonda and Gabin, but they’ll all be back soon.  It’s the third for Muni.  It’s the fourth for March and his second win, moving him in a tie for third place with Chaplin (behind only Laughton and Chaney).  In regards Cary Grant, this, of course, is one of those great screwball comedy roles he would play and fail to earn a nomination for.

  • Best Actress
  1. Janet Gaynor  (A Star is Born)
  2. Katharine Hepburn  (Stage Door)
  3. Irene Dunne  (The Awful Truth)
  4. Luise Rainer  (The Good Earth)
  5. Ginger Rogers  (Stage Door)

Analysis:  It’s the sixth nomination and third win for Janet Gaynor.  It’s also the end for her, as she would retire after her marriage in 1939.  It’s the fourth nomination for Hepburn, who will tie Gaynor’s mark in 1940 and pass her in 1942.  It’s the second and final nominations for both Rainer and Rogers and surprisingly, the only Nighthawk nomination for Irene Dunne.

  • eb1Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Eric Blore  (It’s Love I’m After)
  2. Joseph Schildkraut  (The Life of Emile Zola)
  3. Ralph Bellamy  (The Awful Truth)
  4. Louis Jouvet  (The Lower Depths)
  5. Thomas Mitchell  (Make Way for Tomorrow)

Analysis:  Eric Blore was a wonderful character actor but he was never better than he is as Howard’s butler, valet and all-around sidekick, including a wonderful scene where he is desperately trying to make bird noises.  He manages to win the Nighthawk Award over Oscar winner Schildkraut, who was playing Alfred Dreyfus.  Bellamy was very good at what would later become known as “the Ralph Bellamy role”.  Jouvet is the Baron, sinking ever lower in society while Thomas Mitchell gives the best performance in the melancholy Make Way for Tomorrow (better than his actual Oscar-nominated performance for the year in The Hurricane).  Also, in the second year for this category, only two Oscar nominees make my top 5, although they are all in the top 9.

  • StageDoor8Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Andrea Leeds  (Stage Door)
  2. Claire Trevor  (Dead End)
  3. May Whitty  (Night Must Fall)
  4. Alice Brady  (In Old Chicago)
  5. Fay Bainter  (Make Way for Tomorrow)

Analysis:  Surrounded by massive talent, Leeds gives the best performance in Stage Door as the poor, doomed Kay.  Trevor and Whitty are likewise doomed, but in different ways.  Brady would win the Oscar for a performance that was below the level she had hit in The Gay Divorcee and My Man Godfrey.  Bainter would play Thomas Mitchell’s wife in Make Way for Tomorrow.

  • Best Editing:
  1. A Star is Born
  2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  3. You Only Live Once
  4. The Lower Depths
  5. Sabotage

Analysis:  If all of Sabotage was up to the bombing scene, it would run away with this award, but it isn’t.  The Oscar winner was Lost Horizon, which was constantly re-edited, so the Oscar seems odd.  And yet, it was much better than several of the other nominees.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. You Only Live Once
  2. Dead End
  3. La Marseillaise
  4. The Lower Depths
  5. A Star is Born

Analysis:  Gregg Toland, the only one of the Oscar nominees I deem worthy of nominating, earns his second Nighthawk nomination (with many more to come).  The Oscar winner, The Good Earth, ends up 8th on my list.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  2. A Star is Born
  3. The Lower Depths
  4. Lost Horizon
  5. Dead End

Analysis:  The first of many Disney wins in this category.  It was the only nomination for the film and it lost to 100 Men and a Girl.  I list six actual Oscar nominees in my top 11 for the category and they’re all better than the score for 100 Men and a Girl.  The score for A Star is Born was written by Max Steiner, already marking his 7th Nighthawk nomination and tying him with Charlie Chaplin for 1st place at 225 points (three times as much as any other composer to this point).

  • Best Sound:
  1. You Only Live Once
  2. La Marseillaise
  3. Dead End
  4. Sabotage
  5. The Hurricane
  • Best Art Direction:

    Rather incredible for a set.

    Rather incredible for a set.

  1. Dead End
  2. A Star is Born
  3. The Lower Depths
  4. Lost Horizon
  5. Stage Door

Analysis:  Again, the Academy doesn’t go for a period piece.  And the sets for Lost Horizon are quite good, but I’ll take that amazing set from Dead End which made me think it was a real New York street.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. In Old Chicago
  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Sabotage
  2. You Only Live Once
  3. The Hurricane
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. La Marseillaise
  2. The Great Garrick
  3. Camille
  4. The Life of Emile Zola
  5. The Prisoner of Zenda

Analysis:  This may never happen again – that none of the Art Direction nominees are nominated for Costume Design.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Heigh Ho”  (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
  2. “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”  (Shall We Dance)
  3. “Someday My Prince Will Come”  (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
  4. “Whistle While You Work”  (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
  5. “They All Laughed”  (Shall We Dance)

Analysis:  This is a massive fail by the Academy in this category.  Or just a vastly different taste in music.  They nominated five songs and only one of them do I even deem worthy of consideration – “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” from Shall We Dance, which I have in 8th.  Hell, I have it as the 4th best song just from that film.  And to ignore all the Snow White songs is just lame.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Analysis:  And we finally have the beginning of this category.  It will now skip to 1940, but will be here in most years as Disney, for years, would make films good enough to be eligible (***.5 or higher).

  • grand-illusion-posterBest Foreign Film:
  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. Pépé le Moko
  3. Harvest

Analysis:  It’s France in a sweep again.  And Renoir is the winner again.  That now makes Renoir the big man in this category with 140 points, beating out Fritz Lang, who won’t make another Foreign Film for over 20 years.  I suspect Renoir will stay in 1st place until at least the late 50’s, when Kurosawa and Bergman will make their moves (and Renoir directs the #4 film, just off the list, La Marseillaise).  Both the #1 and #2 films have Jean Gabin as their star.  France now has 580 points while all other countries have a combined 440 points.

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.

  • A Star is Born  (485)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction
  • You Only Live Once  (350)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing
  • The Lower Depths  (315)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Foreign Film
  • The Awful Truth  (275)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  (245)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Original Score, Original Song, Original Song, Original Song, Foreign Film
  • Dead End  (225)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction
  • Stage Door  (190)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Actress, Supporting Actress, Art Direction
  • The Life of Emile Zola  (120)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Costume Design
  • It’s Love I’m After  (100)
    • Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Sabotage  (85)
    • Editing, Sound, Sound Editing
  • La Marseillaise  (75)
    • Cinematography, Sound, Costume Design
  • In Old Chicago  (70)
    • Supporting Actress, Visual Effects
  • Shall We Dance  (60)
    • Original Screenplay, Original Song, Original Song
  • Make Way for Tomorrow  (60)
    • Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Lost Horizon  (45)
    • Original Score, Art Direction
  • The Hurricane (40)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • The Good Earth  (35)
    • Actress
  • Night Must Fall  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • The Great Garrick  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • Camille  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Prisoner of Zenda  (15)
    • Costume Design

Analysis:  Night Must Fall is the big loser here, coming in sixth place in three categories, as noted below.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Way Out West

Analysis:  To me, the best of the Laurel and Hardy sound films.  It’s got a good score and a good script, but just can’t make the top 5 anywhere.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Captains Courageous

Analysis:  Have I not already made it clear how much I dislike this film.  I think Spencer Tracy’s Oscar ranks with Denzel’s for the worst Oscar ever in the Best Actor category.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. A Star is Born
  2. You Only Live Once
  3. The Lower Depths
  4. Stage Door
  5. Dead End

Analysis:  Better than the year before, where I couldn’t fill the category, though, there are no other films on the year which qualify.

  • Best Director
  1. Fritz Lang  (You Only Live Once)
  2. William Wellman  (A Star is Born)
  3. Jean Renoir  (The Lower Depths)
  4. William Wyler  (Dead End)
  5. Jean Renoir  (La Marseillaise)

Analysis:  A year after coming second, Fritz Lang wins.  And William Wyler comes in fourth for the second year in a row.  Alfred Hitchcock is just off the list in sixth place for Sabotage.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Lower Depths
  2. Stage Door
  3. Dead End
  4. Night Must Fall
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. A Star is Born
  2. You Only Live Once
  3. The Life of Emile Zola
  4. La Marseillaise

Analysis:  After two straight years with only one film we finally have a bigger category.  And Renoir ends up with nominations in both categories.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Fredric March  (A Star is Born)
  2. Henry Fonda  (You Only Live Once)
  3. Jean Gabin  (The Lower Depths)
  4. Paul Muni  (The Life of Emile Zola)
  5. Robert Montgomery  (Night Must Fall)

Analysis:  Paul Muni again comes in fourth place.  Outside the list there is also Ronald Colman (Lost Horizon), Joel McCrea (Dead End) and Charles Boyer (Conquest), all of whom would have made the Comedy list.

  • Best Actress
  1. Janet Gaynor  (A Star is Born)
  2. Katharine Hepburn  (Stage Door)
  3. Luise Rainer  (The Good Earth)
  4. Ginger Rogers  (Stage Door)
  5. Rosalind Russell  (Night Must Fall)

Analysis:  It’s a much better group than the previous year.  And, like with Actor, there are a number of performances that don’t make the list that would make the Comedy list: Greta Garbo (Camille – Oscar nominee), Sylvia Sidney (Dead End), Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas – Oscar nominee).  In fact, I rank all three of those above all the Comedy nominees except Irene Dunne.  Granted, if I still had Stage Door as a Comedy, that would have changed things significantly.  Also, I normally think of Rosalind Russell as a comedic actress, but this is her second straight nomination in this category.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Joseph Schildkraut  (The Life of Emile Zola)
  2. Louis Jouvet  (The Lower Depths)
  3. Thomas Mitchell  (Make Way for Tomorrow)
  4. Humphrey Bogart  (Dead End)
  5. Thomas Mitchell  (The Hurricane)

Analysis:  The sixth spot is taken by an Oscar nominee: H.B. Warner (Lost Horizon).

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Andrea Leeds  (Stage Door)
  2. Claire Trevor  (Dead End)
  3. May Whitty  (Night Must Fall)
  4. Alice Brady  (In Old Chicago)
  5. Fay Bainter  (Make Way for Tomorrow)

By Film:  In 1936 I couldn’t fill this category.  Here, all five actual Nighthawk nominees are in it.

  • A Star is Born  (365)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • The Lower Depths  (240)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Stage Door  (220)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • You Only Live Once  (215)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor
  • Dead End  (195)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Night Must Fall  (140)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Life of Emile Zola  (135)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • La Marseillaise  (85)
    • Director, Original Screenplay
  • Make Way for Tomorrow  (70)
    • Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Good Earth  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Hurricane  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • In Old Chicago  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Analysis:  Even though Drama is usually a much tougher category, Stage Door would have only done one better in the Comedy category, with a Director nomination.

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Sabotage

Analysis:  Falling just short in Best Director, it’s not able to squeak in anywhere, even in a weaker year.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. The Awful Truth
  2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  3. It’s Love I’m After
  4. Shall We Dance

Analysis:  There are several good comedies that can’t quite make it to ***.5 and thus no nomination for Nothing Sacred, Way Out West or Stand-In.

  • Best Director:
  1. Leo McCarey  (The Awful Truth)

Analysis:  This is the second of an incredible three straight Best Director Oscars that went to Comedies, two of which didn’t win Best Picture.  To get another three you’ll have to go all the way to 1960.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Awful Truth
  2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. It’s Love I’m After
  2. Shall We Dance
  3. Way Out West
  4. A Day at the Races
  • the-awful-truth-cary-grant-irene-dunne-1937_i-G-67-6721-CSMA100ZBest Actor:
  1. Cary Grant  (The Awful Truth)
  2. Leslie Howard  (It’s Love I’m After)
  3. Fredric March  (Nothing Sacred)
  4. Cary Grant  (Topper)
  5. Fred Astaire  (Shall We Dance)

Analysis:  Cary Grant earns his first two nominations here, including his first win.  Within a few years he’ll be second in this category only behind Chaplin.  We also have the third nominations in this category for both Astaire and March.  I believe that March is the first person in this category to be in a Technicolor film.

  • Best Actress:
  1. Irene Dunne  (The Awful Truth)
  2. Bette Davis  (It’s Love I’m After)
  3. Carole Lombard  (Nothing Sacred)
  4. Ginger Rogers  (Shall We Dance)
  5. Constance Bennett  (Topper)

Analysis:  We have a fourth straight nomination for Lombard and the third nomination in four years for Ginger Rogers.  Of course, they’re both beaten out by Dunne, in the best performance of her career.

  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. Eric Blore  (It’s Love I’m After)
  2. Ralph Bellamy  (The Awful Truth)
  3. Roland Young  (Topper)
  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Cecil Cunningham  (The Awful Truth)
  2. Billie Burke  (Topper)

Analysis:  Cunningham plays Dunne’s Aunt Patsy and she gets the best line in what might be the best scene (when Grant chases the music teacher out of the room).

By Film:

  • The Awful Truth  (500)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • It’s Love I’m After  (260)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Shall We Dance  (160)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • Topper  (130)
    • Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  (90)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay
  • Nothing Sacred  (70)
    • Actor, Actress
  • Way Out West  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • A Day at the Races  (40)
    • Original Screenplay

Analysis:  Not nearly as good a year as 1936.  If I hadn’t managed to see It’s Love I’m After because I am a big Leslie Howard fan then Awful Truth would have swept the category.  And yet, Awful Truth isn’t as good as Modern Times, My Man Godfrey or Mr. Deeds, the big 1936 Comedies and if it were in 1938 or 1940, it would be thumped in most categories by either Bringing Up Baby or The Philadelphia Story, both of which are also Cary Grant Screwball Comedies.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Stand-In

Analysis:  An enjoyable Leslie Howard comedy (complete with Bogie again), in which he’s an accountant who takes over a Hollywood studio.  Another film I saw on the Leslie Howard day on TCM.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  92

By Stars:

  • ****:  4
  • ***.5:  5
  • ***:  54
  • **.5:  22
  • **:  7
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  65.2

Analysis:  A slight drop from the year before because of the bigger number of ** films and not as many high-level *** films.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Wings Over Honolulu (Cinematography)
  • Portia on Trial  (Score)
  • You’re a Sweetheart  (Interior Decoration)

Critics Awards Films I Have Not Seen:

  • The Eternal Mask [Die ewige Maske] (Best Foreign Film – NBR)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  This is another year in the bottom 10 (it tanks 76th out of 85).  It is fairly similar to 1936.  They are next to each other on the average nominee (72.1 for 1937, 71.5 for 1936 – ranking 76th and 77th) and very close on the average nominee rank (344.6 for 1937, 355.5 for 1936 – ranking 76th and 78th).  Hell, they even both have an annoying Deanna Durbin film.  This year is a bit worse at the bottom, with four films at 448 or below: 100 Men and a Girl, The Good Earth, Captains Courageous, In Old Chicago.  But, the best film (A Star is Born) is a good 80 spots above any 1936 film, which is why it ranks higher.

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.  In this year it doesn’t make that much of a difference because the winner, The Life of Emila Zola, is ranked 11th.  So it earns a 7.43 with Best Picture and 7.15 without it – the latter score the worst in four years.  That’s mainly because of the awful choices for Actor (Captains Courageous) and Score (100 Men and a Girl).  In fact, because of Actor (the first time they chose the worst among the nominees) and Score (I rank it 13 out of 14 nominees because I haven’t seen the other one) we have the lowest rank among the nominees so far – a 3.36, a score that may be the worst in history.  There is again only one category where I fully agree with the Academy – the choice of A Star is Born for Best Story, though I think they at least chose the best of the nominees for Supporting Actor and Sound.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  A Star is Born  (see review here)

you_only_live_once_ver22  –  You Only Live Once  (dir. Fritz Lang)

In my review of The Lower Depths I mentioned it in the context of a recent list of films you wouldn’t want to see again.  Well, if The Lower Depths gets you down, well, it’s got nothing on You Only Live Once.  This is Fritz Lang at nearly his best in his American years (not quite as good as The Big Heat) and at his bleakest.

On one level this is the story of a criminal who unable to escape the bonds that shackle him.  And I don’t mean prison – I mean the life that he has been pushed into.  He is an ex-con who is convicted of a bank robbery that he didn’t commit, that we know he didn’t commit.  He is sentenced to die and then, at the last moment, two things happen.  The first is that a gun is smuggled into prison to allow him to escape.  The second is that the body of the actual bank robber has turned up and he’s been pardoned.  But he doesn’t believe what he’s being told – he had been told once before to give himself up and it has only left him on the road to death when he knew he was innocent.  So what happens next pushes him forward straight towards death again, just through a slightly different road.

But, as Fritz Lang himself points out in Fritz Lang in America, “that is the main characteristic, the main theme that runs through all my pictures – this fight against destiny, against fate.”  Eddie, this poor ex-con, is fighting against his fate, which is to die.  And in the end, there is nothing he can do about it.  He takes the woman who loves him, who will not let him go, and he takes her down that road to death with him and the end of the film is no less ignoble for them than it was for Bonnie and Clyde.  Eddie is not a killer and yet, forced to believe that he has only chance to escape from death, refusing to believe what he is being told, he manages to kill the one man who has genuinely showed him human kindness, the prison chaplain.

Eddie is played well by Henry Fonda, one of the few actors in Hollywood at this time who could have convincingly played the role.  He has the toughness to be the ex-con and yet doesn’t seem to have the ruthlessness of Cagney or Bogart – you would believe that he would only end up in this situation when there was nowhere left to turn.  It’s not surprising that he would go from this role to Tom Joad, as they are brothers in a way.

Fritz Lang was one of the greatest directors of all-time before he even came to America, having directed, among other things, Metropolis and M, two of the greatest films ever made.  In this year, when he gave us the best direction of 1937, the relentlessly mediocre Deanna Durbin musical 100 Men and a Girl was nominated for five Oscars and won one.  I mention that because in the entire course of Lang’s career, all of his films combined were nominated for five Oscars and won zero.  In the end, the Academy was no fairer to Lang than the system was to Eddie.

3  –  The Awful Truth  (see review here)

4  –  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  (see review here)

5  –  The Lower Depths  (see my review here)

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. When’s Your Birthday
  2. Maid of Salem
  3. Mr. Dodd Takes the Air
  4. West of Shanghai
  5. She Loved a Fireman

note:  West of Shanghai and She Loved a Fireman were both directed by John Farrow.  If the list was six films, the next one would have been Men in Exile, also directed by Farrow.

And starring in my "worst film of the year" here's Joe E Brown yet again.

And starring in my “worst film of the year” here’s Joe E Brown yet again.

When’s Your Birthday  (dir. Harry Beaumont)

In my Nighthawk Awards for 1931-32 I discussed the film Elmer the Great in this same spot, as the worst film of the year.  It starred Joe E. Brown, who, years later, would become known to another generation for Some Like It Hot.  But in the 1930’s he was a star and was in a whole mess of comedies, all of them really, really annoying.

I won’t repeat here everything I said about Brown in that review.  But this film, the worst of 1937, has an added bonus.  It is directed by Harry Beaumont, one of the worst directors to ever earn an Oscar nomination.  In Elmer the Great, Brown was utterly unconvincing as a baseball star.  Here, he is a boxer.  He was 46 at the time and he absolutely looks it.  To make matters worse, he only wins when the stars are in the proper alignment – he’s a doctor of astrology.  So, we’ve managed to combine an idiotic plot with an idiotic metaphysical concept.

An example of the problem is early on.  After learning that he won’t be able to fight that he’s sure to win because the stars are in alignment, his partners leave.  They slam the door so that a horseshoe, hanging on the wall, is knocked off.  This serves two purposes, neither of them useful – to allow Brown to mug shamelessly when it hits him, and to give him a black eye for later scenes.

When the boxing doesn’t work out, he manages to take his astrology and use it to start predicting horse races – all he needs to know is the horse’s birthday (which, of course, you know, is something anyone would know).  It’s simply a bad film, made with a low budget, so it doesn’t even look good.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Lower Depths  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  A Star is Born  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  A Star is Born  (485)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  In Old Chicago
  • 2nd Place Award:  You Only Live Once  (Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound Editing)
  • 6th Place Award:  Night Must Fall  (Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  A Star is Born  /  The Lower Depths  /  Stage Door  /  Dead End  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  A Star is Born  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  A Star is Born  (365)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  In Old Chicago
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Awful Truth  (7)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  The Awful Truth  (6)  **
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The Awful Truth  (500)  *
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  A Day at the Races

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

Analysis:  La Marseillaise also has three sixth place finishes (Director, Original Screenplay, Art Direction).

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  All Quiet on the Western Front  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  City Lights  /  Modern Times  (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:  Captain Blood  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  My Man Godfrey (11)
  • Actor:  Charles Laughton  (255)
  • Actress:  Janet Gaynor  (315)
  • Director:  Charlie Chaplin  /  Fritz Lang  (270)
  • Writer:  Charlie Chaplin  (280)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Roland Totheroh  (125)
  • Composer:  Charlie Chaplin  /  Max Steiner  (225)

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

  • Drama:  35  (3)  –  A Star is Born  (65.3)
  • Comedy:  22  (2)  –  The Awful Truth  (65.1)
  • Musical:  16  (1)  –  Shall We Dance  (62.6)
  • Foreign:  7  –  The Lower Depths  (70)
  • Suspense:  4  –  Night Must Fall  (69.3)
  • Adventure:  4  –  Elephant Boy  (61.3)
  • Crime:  3  –  You Only Live Once  (74.7)
  • Mystery:  3 –  Think Fast, Mr. Moto  (60.3)
  • War:  2 (1)  –  La Marseillaise  (67)
  • Kids:  1  –  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  (90)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  The Man Who Could Work Miracles  (65)
  • Horror:  1 (1)  –  Song at Midnight  (65)
  • Action:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0
  • Western:  0

Analysis:  For the first time, we don’t have an English language Foreign film, instead having the Chinese loose adaptation of Phantom of the Opera.  Adventure continues to drop, down another film and down another point.  The Kids film, of course, also begins the way forward with feature-length Animated films.  All three Mysteries are Detective films.  The best War film covers the French Revolution, not your average war for a war film.  The 22 Comedies are the most so far and the most of any genre other than Drama to this point in one year, but the 65.1 average is the lowest in the category since 1932.  The Dramas continue to be just a bit under 40% of all the films.

Studio Note:

The big studios are Warners (15 films), followed by MGM, Paramount and United Artists (14 each).  The UA films are much better – averaging a 71.3 – of the other major studios, the only other one to average higher than a 64 is Columbia, which only has two films.  Of course, United Artists isn’t really a studio and the three UA films in the top 8 are from three different producers: Selznick (A Star is Born), Wanger (You Only Live Once) and Goldwyn (Dead End).  For the first time in a long time, Universal doesn’t have any Horror films and so I have only seen three films from them.  For the first time, also, we have a film from Disney, though technically, that should count as RKO, because they distributed Disney films until 1954.

13 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):

  • Crossroads  (Xiling, China)
  • Desire  (Guitry, France)
  • Drôle de drame  (Carne, France)
  • The Dybbuk  (Waszynski, Poland)
  • The Grand Illusion  (Renoir, France)
  • La Habanera  (Sirk, Germany)
  • Harvest  (Pagnol, France)
  • Humanity and Paper Balloons  (Yamanaka, Japan)
  • La Marseillaise  (Renoir, France)
  • Pépé le Moko  (Duvivier, France)
  • Song at Midnight  (Weibang, China)
  • The Story of the Fox  (Starewicz, France)
  • Street Angel  (Yuan, China)

Note:  Over half the films are from France, including all three nominees.  In fact, the seven films from France are the top seven films on this list.  And we have the first film from Germany in three years as well as the first film at all from Poland.  We also have the first film in several years to earn ****.  It’s, of course, one of the greatest films ever made.

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

  • Maskerade  (1934)
  • Camille  (1934)
  • The Lower Depths  (1937)
  • The Man Who Could Work Miracles  (1937)
  • Mayerling  (1937)
  • Sabotage  (1937)

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

  • The Dybbuk  (1938)
  • The Edge of the World  (1938)
  • The Grand Illusion  (1938)
  • La Habanera  (1938)
  • Mannequin  (1938)
  • Young and Innocent  (1938)
  • Drôle de drame  (1939)
  • Harvest  (1939)
  • Pépé le Moko  (1941)
  • The Story of the Fox  (1941)
  • Humanity and Paper Balloons  (1982)
  • Street Angel  (2007)

note:  The Grand Illusion would be another Best Picture nominee nominated in a different year from its original release.

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