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The one film from 1939 that might be better than its reputation.

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.  The Academy added one category this year – splitting Score into Score and Original Score, though they are vague over what the precise difference is.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  3. Wuthering Heights
  4. Stagecoach
  5. Gone With the Wind

Analysis:  All five are Best Picture nominees.  Even in a year with 10 nominees this is an oddity.  The Wizard of Oz becomes the first Fantasy film, the first Kids film and the first Musical to win the Nighthawk.

  • 03-wizard_of_oz_14Best Director
  1. Victor Fleming  (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. Frank Capra  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  3. William Wyler  (Wuthering Heights)
  4. Victor Fleming  (Gone With the Wind)
  5. John Ford  (Stagecoach)
  6. Marcel Carné  (Port of Shadows)

Analysis:  Victor Fleming’s top 5 films average a 78.6.   That’s with Oz and Wind, two **** films.  He earned a 386.30 on my director’s scale, which was good enough for 119th out of all the Oscar nominated directors.  If not for these two films he would have had a 245.98 and been in the bottom 10.  On the other hand, it’s Ford’s second Nighthawk nomination, Capra’s fourth (and second in a row) and the third in a row for Wyler.

  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Wuthering Heights
  3. Port of Shadows
  4. The Lady Vanishes
  5. Stagecoach
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  2. Ninotchka
  3. Midnight
  4. Young Mr. Lincoln
  5. You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man

Analysis:  We have two films co-written by Billy Wilder, neither of which does he direct.  Once he becomes a director, his scripts take a leap up as well and he will start winning a lot of Nighthawk Awards.

  • Best Actor:
  1. James Stewart  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  2. Laurence Olivier  (Wuthering Heights)
  3. Clark Gable  (Gone With the Wind)
  4. Jean Gabin  (Port of Shadows)
  5. Robert Donat  (Goodbye, Mr. Chips)

Analysis:  Robert Donat again comes in fifth place, but unlike the year before, this was for an Oscar-winning performance.  A performance that won the Oscar over three iconic performances.  Donat was very good and in my top 5, so it wasn’t a horrible choice, but it is certainly one of the oddest in Oscar history.  This is the third nomination in a row for Gabin and the first of many, many nominations for Olivier.  The final Oscar nominee was Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms, a performance I don’t even consider.  This is the first time since 1931 that neither Leslie Howard nor Fredric March is nominated.

  • Best Actress
  1. Vivien Leigh  (Gone With the Wind)
  2. Judy Garland  (The Wizard of Oz)
  3. Jean Arthur  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  4. Greta Garbo  (Ninotchka)
  5. Bette Davis  (Dark Victory)

Analysis:  Davis earns her sixth nomination and second of a remarkable 8 straight.  It’s the last of 5 nominations for Garbo.  It’s the second for Arthur and Garland and the first for Leigh.  Of all five of them, only Leigh will win another Nighthawk.

  • James StewartBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Claude Rains  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  2. Ray Bolger  (The Wizard of Oz)
  3. Thomas Mitchell  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  4. Harrey Carey  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  5. Thomas Mitchell  (Stagecoach)
  6. Raymond Aimos  (Port of Shadows)

Analysis:  After finishing in 2nd and 5th place in 1938, Rains wins his first Nighthawk Award.  The first of many.  For the second year in a row we have six nominees in this category because someone is the top 5 twice (Thomas Mitchell, whose un-nominated performance in Smith I think is better than his Oscar-winning one).  I’m glad of it because it means I can fit in Raymond Aimos for his suicidal artist in Port of Shadows.

  • Wizard-Of-Oz-witch_lBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Margaret Hamilton  (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. Olivia de Havilland  (Gone With the Wind)
  3. Hattie McDaniel  (Gone With the Wind)
  4. Geraldine Fitzgerald  (Wuthering Heights)
  5. Rosalind Russell  (The Women)

Analysis:  This is a big change for me – I have had de Havilland as my winner since I first saw Gone.  But really, it’s Hamilton and her magnificent performance as the Wicked Witch of the West who is the clear champion here.  This is the best group of five to date.

  • Best Editing:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  3. Stagecoach
  4. Port of Shadows
  5. Wuthering Heights

Analysis:  For all the magnificent transitions and cuts in Oz, it remained un-nominated while Gone With the Wind, at an hour too long (at least) won the Oscar.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. Wuthering Heights
  4. Port of Shadows
  5. Alexander Nevsky

Analysis:  I would have been fine giving the award to any of the top three films.  There are two Oscar winners because this is the start of the Color / Black-and-White split in the category.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. Port of Shadows
  4. Alexander Nevsky
  5. Gunga Din

Analysis:  Oz won for Best Original Score.  Stagecoach was the Best Score winner for a score derived from old folk songs and which wouldn’t be eligible today.  Wind is Max Steiner’s 9th Nighthawk nomination in 8 years.  This is easily the best group of nominees to date.

  • Best Sound:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Stagecoach
  3. Gone With the Wind
  4. Gunga Din
  5. Each Dawn I Die

Analysis:  This category continues to mystify me.  No nominations for Oz, Stagecoach or Gunga Din but the Oscar goes to When Tomorrow Comes?

  • munchkinland_superBest Art Direction:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. Wuthering Heights
  4. Son of Frankenstein
  5. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Analysis:  Not until 2001, with Fellowship of the Ring and Moulin Rouge will we have a top two in this category like these two.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Gone With the Wind

Analysis:  In a year with some really inexplicable choices this might be the strangest.  The winner was The Rains Came.  Not Oz, with some of the best pre-1968 effects ever.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Stagecoach
  3. Gone With the Wind
  4. Each Dawn I Die
  5. The Four Feathers
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
  4. Alexander Nevsky
  5. Wuthering Heights

Analysis:  I have said before that I assume that Wind would have won the Oscar had it existed, giving it a 14th nomination (which would tie it for first all-time) and a 9th win.  That I gave the award to Oz does nothing to diminish the costumes in Wind.  Oz‘s costumes were by the great designer Adrian, who would retire in 1948, the year award was created and thus never win an Oscar.  Wind‘s were by Walter Plunkett who would later win an Oscar for An American in Paris.  This group of nominees just beats out 1912-26 as the best group to date.

  • Best Makeup
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
  3. Son of Frankenstein
  • Best Original Song:
  1. Over the Rainbow”  (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. Follow the Yellow Brick Road / We’re Off to See the Wizard”  (The Wizard of Oz)
  3. If I Only Had a Brain”  (The Wizard of Oz)
  4. Lydia, the Tattooed Lady”  (At the Circus)
  5. Good Morning”  (Babes in Arms)

Analysis:  “From 1938 through 1945, each studio’s music department submitted a single song which would then automatically be nominated.  Omissions during there years are therefore the responsibility of the studios and not the Academy.”  (Inside Oscar, p 1012)  That, if true, explains this category.  “Rainbow”, the best song ever written for a film, wins.  But all of the other songs on my list are also from MGM films and therefore couldn’t be nominated.  For a long time my last two songs were also from Oz – “Heart” and “Nerve.”  But since all three songs are basically the same, but with different lyrics, I counted two other Oz songs, which come in 6th (“The Merry Old Land of Oz”) and 7th (“Munchkin Sequence”, which is what the soundtrack calls the medley of songs).  This is one of the best groups of song in history.  It almost maxes out the category and will be the highest until 1964, which will max out the category.  “Good Morning” would be used better in Singin in the Rain, but this is the original.  As for “Lydia”, well, I have co-workers named Lydia at two different jobs and haven’t been able to get the song out of my head in over a year.  You can find an even more enjoyable version here.

  • the_rules_of_the_game_posterBest Foreign Film:
  1. Rules of the Game
  2. Le Jour se Lève

Analysis:  France, which hasn’t lost since 1932, wins again.  The winner is again Jean Renoir.  It’s his 4th Nighthawk Award and his 6th nomination.  But he’ll be gone for quite a while, as he leaves France and comes to the States.  In second place is Marcel Carné, who beat Renoir the year before.  Carné stays in France and continues to earn nominations through the decade.

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 Wizard of Oz  (795)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Song, Original Song, Original Song
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  (425)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing
  • Gone With the Wind  (405)
    • Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Costume Design
  • Wuthering Heights  (285)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Port of Shadows  (265)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Foreign Film (1938)
  • Stagecoach  (230)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Alexander Nevsky  (85)
    • Cinematography, Original Score, Costume Design, Foreign Film (1938)
  • Ninotchka  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Gunga Din  (45)
    • Original Score, Sound
  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex  (45)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • The Lady Vanishes  (40)
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • Young Mr. Lincoln  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Midnight  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Each Dawn I Die  (40)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips  (35)
    • Actor
  • Dark Victory  (35)
    • Actress
  • Son of Frankenstein  (30)
    • Art Direction, Makeup
  • The Women  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • The Four Feathers  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • Harvest  (20)
    • Foreign Film  (1937)
  • At the Circus  (10)
    • Original Song
  • Babes in Arms  (10)
    • Original Song

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Drums Along the Mohawk

Analysis:  It gets 7 Top 10 finishes but none in the Top 5.  Those Top 10 finishes include a 6th (Costume Design), a 7th (Sound), an 8th (Original Score), two 9ths (Supporting Actress and Art Direction) and two 10ths (Director and Cinematography).  A good film, almost a ***.5 and well worth seeing, especially in the gorgeous Fox at Ford DVD.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Love Affair

Analysis:  Silly melodrama, but better than the remakes and earns 8th place finishes for Actor, Actress and Original Song and a 10th place finish for Supporting Actress.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  2. Wuthering Heights
  3. Stagecoach
  4. Gone With the Wind
  5. Port of Shadows

Analysis:  It’s too bad that the best films of the year were heavier on the Dramas and I couldn’t make room for The Lady Vanishes or Alexander Nevsky on this list.

  • Best Director
  1. Frank Capra  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  2. William Wyler  (Wuthering Heights)
  3. Victor Fleming  (Gone With the Wind)
  4. John Ford  (Stagecoach)
  5. Marcel Carné  (Port of Shadows)

Analysis:  William Wyler moves up yet another slot while Capra makes his first appearance in the Drama category.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Wuthering Heights
  2. Port of Shadows
  3. The Lady Vanishes
  4. Stagecoach
  5. Harvest
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  2. Young Mr. Lincoln
  • stewartBest Actor:
  1. James Stewart  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  2. Laurence Olivier  (Wuthering Heights)
  3. Clark Gable  (Gone With the Wind)
  4. Jean Gabin  (Port of Shadows)
  5. Robert Donat  (Goodbye, Mr. Chips)

Analysis:  It’s the first nominations for Stewart and Olivier but the last for Gable and Donat.  Henry Fonda is in 6th for Young Mr. Lincoln, followed by Nikolai Cherkasov for Alexander Nevsky.

  • Vivien_Leigh_Gone_with_the_Wind_1939_0291Best Actress
  1. Vivien Leigh  (Gone With the Wind)
  2. Jean Arthur  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  3. Bette Davis  (Dark Victory)
  4. Greer Garson  (Goodbye, Mr. Chips)
  5. Irene Dunne  (Love Affair)

Analysis:  Garson, who was an Oscar nominee, really doesn’t belong in this category – she’s in less than half the film.  But I have a rule where if the Oscars nominate them I keep them in that category.  If I had put Garson in supporting, she would have been 6th overall, or 4th in Drama, which is exactly where she is here.  Dunne was the fifth Oscar nominee.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Claude Rains  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  2. Thomas Mitchell  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  3. Harrey Carey  (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington)
  4. Thomas Mitchell  (Stagecoach)
  5. Raymond Aimos  (Port of Shadows)

Analysis:  If I gave a sixth nomination (which I don’t in my Globe awards) because of the two Mitchell nominations it would be for Charles Bickford in Of Mice and Men.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Olivia de Havilland  (Gone With the Wind)
  2. Hattie McDaniel  (Gone With the Wind)
  3. Geraldine Fitzgerald  (Wuthering Heights)
  4. Flora Robson  (Wuthering Heights)
  5. May Whitty  (The Lady Vanishes)

By Film:  Off the list, in 6th and 7th are the last two Oscar nominees – Edna May Oliver (Drums Along the Mohawk) and Maria Ouspenskaya (Love Affair).

  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  (495)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Gone With the Wind  (290)
    • Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Wuthering Heights  (270)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Port of Shadows  (200)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Stagecoach  (165)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • The Lady Vanishes  (70)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips  (70)
    • Actor, Actress
  • Harvest  (40)
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • Young Mr. Lincoln  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Dark Victory  (35)
    • Actress
  • Love Affair  (35)
    • Actress

Analysis:  Though weak in Original Screenplay, this is a very good group of nominees, with new highs for Actor, Supporting Actor and acting as a whole.  It’s good enough that Alexander Nevsky, a high level ***.5 film can’t make it into any category.

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Alexander Nevsky

Analysis:  A very good film and just off the list in Picture, Director and Actor.  A must-see for any serious film fan.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Gunga Din

Analysis:  There a lot of Comedies in 1939 that other rates much higher than me, notably Ninotchka and Midnight.  These are the only two films that reach the ***.5 level for me (and you can question calling Gunga Din a Comedy).

  • Best Director:
  1. Victor Fleming  (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. George Stevens  (Gunga Din)

Analysis:  And, after a full slate in 1938, we’re back to just two nominees.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Wizard of Oz
  2. Gunga Din
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Ninotchka
  2. Midnight
  3. You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man

Analysis:  Two Billy Wilder scripts and a W.C. Fields film (one of his best).

  • Douglas-NinotchkaBest Actor:
  1. Melvyn Douglas (Ninotchka)

Analysis:  Douglas barely makes my list and yet he wins.  There just aren’t good options here.  Don Ameche is pretty awful in Midnight, W.C. Fields can hardly be called acting in You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, the acting isn’t the strong point in Gunga Din, there’s no lead male in Oz and no male at all in The Women.  I suppose I could have gone with Mickey Rooney, who was actually Oscar-nominated for Babes in Arms, but I just didn’t think his performance was good enough.

  • tnhwizardofoz0015Best Actress:
  1. Judy Garland  (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. Greta Garbo  (Ninotchka)
  3. Norma Shearer  (The Women)
  4. Claudette Colbert  (Midnight)

Analysis:  A weaker list than 1938.  It’s the first time Shearer gets a Comedy nomination and her last nomination at all.

  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. Ray Bolger  (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. Frank Morgan  (The Wizard of Oz)
  3. John Barrymore  (Midnight)

Analysis:  Barrymore won this award in 1933 and was nominated for Actor – Comedy in 34.  He’s the only one of the four nominated Comedy actors to receive any other nominations.

  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Margaret Hamilton  (The Wizard of Oz)
  2. Rosalind Russell  (The Women)
  3. Marjorie Main  (The Women)
  4. Joan Crawford  (The Women)

Analysis:  I suppose I could have gone with Paulette Godard or Joan Fontaine, also from The Women, to fill out the category, but these were the candidates I deemed worthy.

By Film:

  • The Wizard of Oz  (490)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Ninotchka  (185)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • Gunga Din  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • The Women  (125)
    • Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Midnight  (105)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man  (40)
    • Original Screenplay

Analysis:  Unlike 1938, where there was a lot of competition, Oz crushes everything.  The only two awards it doesn’t win it doesn’t qualify for.  Oz would always have won handily; it’s just too bad there’s not more competition.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Another Thin Man

Analysis:  The third in the series is good, but not good enough to rate anywhere.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  99

By Stars:

  • ****:  7
  • ***.5:  3
  • ***:  60
  • **.5:  22
  • **:  6
  • *.5:  1
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  65.59

Analysis:  One more **** and one more ***.5, but a whole lot more **.5 means the average dips a little from 1938.  But overall, from 1935-39, the average never varies more than a point (low of 65.23, high of 66.02).

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • none

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  The Best Picture category takes a big leap up to 53rd, by far the best to this date.  Yet, it will rank slightly below the next two years.  It ranks as highly as it does for two reasons – because it has The Wizard of Oz at #2 and because every nominee, for the first time, earns at least ***.  The 10 nominees average 81.3 which is almost four points higher than any previous year.

The Winners:  This group of winners has the best average so far.  The average Oscar winner is a 3.82 and in only three categories does the Oscar winner not make my top 5 (Screenplay, Editing, Sound).  In six categories I actually agree with the winner (Story, Actress, Cinematography (Black-and-White), Original Score, Score, Song), which is higher than the previous three years combined and won’t be equalled again until 1945.  Yet, the average winner ranked 2.35 among the nominees, which is worse than the year before as well as several other years.  So what does that mean?  It means that in this year the Academy did a much better job choosing its nominees than in other years, that when my #1 choice didn’t win the Oscar it was usually at least nominated.  That’s reflected in the next category.

The Nominees:  As already mentioned in my retrospective on the decade, this was the best year for nominations.  This was the best year to date for Picture, Director and Cinematography as well as for the major nominations (Picture, Director, writing) and the nominees as a whole.  In only three categories did it really not do well – Editing, Black-and-White Cinematography and Sound.  It was the first year for the Cinematography split and even in Editing and Sound it was better than the previous few years.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  The Wizard of Oz  (see my reviews here and here)

2  –  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  (see my review here)

3  –  Wuthering Heights  (see my reviews here and here)

4  –  Stagecoach  (see my review here)

5  –  Gone With the Wind  (see my review here)

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. The Return of Doctor X
  2. Jamaica Inn
  3. Reno
  4. Stand Up and Fight
  5. Good Girls Go to Paris

note:  Reno makes the third year in a row that a John Farrow film makes the Worst Films list.  On the other hand, the presence of a Hitchcock film is a rare thing.

Yes, it's as ridiculous as this poster.

Yes, it’s as ridiculous as this poster.

The Return of Doctor X  (dir. Vincent Sherman)

In all fairness to Gary Cooper, who was awful in 1938’s worst film (The Adventures of Marco Polo), it’s now time to pick on one of my favorite actors of all-time because, yes, even Bogie can make a real stinker.  And he knew it.  Bogart always hated this film, considered it one of his worst, and never did anything in the genre again (Horror).

The original Doctor X was a 1932 film from director Michael Curtiz.  A Horror film (not exactly what Curtiz was known for) that was a pale shadow of what Universal was doing, it was nonetheless, not too bad of a film, a high-level **.5.  Then there is this film, marketed as if it were a sequel and approaches the character as if it continues a previous story when in fact there is no connection between the two films except the studio and the title.  While the original film had Curtiz it was Vincent Sherman, who is not anywhere near Curtiz as a director, in his directorial debut (he would get much better as a director, though never great).

Could the direction be the problem?  Could Sherman not get anything out of his actors?  I ask because of the utter ridiculousness of Bogart’s performance.  Bogart plays a vampire (yes, really), with a horrible skunk stripe in his hair, horrible glasses and a bunny that he holds and strokes.  He’s been brought back from the dead and he needs rare blood to keep him alive.  That leads to a serious of mysterious deaths that brings in the world’s most idiotic newspaper reporter.

See, Bogie isn’t actually the star in the picture – it takes over 20 minutes before he ever shows up after the reporter finds a corpse, the corpse disappears, he gets fired because she reappears alive, then gets a doctor friend to help him out, and good lord, it’s too ridiculous to explicate the plot.  And perhaps the biggest problem is that the reporter is the main character and he is played by Wayne Morris in what is perhaps the worst lead performance in the history of Warner Bros.

The plot is moronic, the acting is beyond horrible and the film is just a complete waste.  But, if this kind of awful crap is your thing, well, then make sure to pick it up through the Legends of Horror 6 DVD set.  That version at least has a DVD commentary by director Vincent Sherman, made when he was 99 years old.  If you’re going to watch a film this bad, at least give yourself a chance to learn some interesting things about how and why pictures were made at the time.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Wizard of Oz  (18)  *
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Wizard of Oz  (14)  *
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Wizard of Oz  (795)  *
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  At the Circus
  • 2nd Place Award:  Gone With the Wind  (Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Score, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Costume Design)
  • 6th Place Award:  Port of Shadows  (Picture, Director, Supporting Actor)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  (8)  **
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  (495)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  Love Affair
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Wizard of Oz  (7)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  The Wizard of Oz  (6)  **
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The Wizard of Oz  (490)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  The Women

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

Analysis:  Port of Shadows manages two nominations for 6th place finishes, in Director and Supporting Actor.  The Wizard of Oz destroys the records for nominations, awards and points.  Those will stand for a long time.

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Wizard of Oz  (18)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Wizard of Oz  (14)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Wizard of Oz  (795)
  • 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:  Max Steiner  (275)

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

  • Drama:  36  (4)  –  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  (66.9)
  • Comedy:  21  (2)  –  Midnight  (62.3)
  • Musical:  9  –  Babes in Arms  (60.6)
  • Foreign:  8  –  Port of Shadows  (73.8)
  • Adventure:  6  –  Gunga Din  (70.9)
  • Crime:  5  –  Each Dawn I Die  (62.4)
  • Western:  4  –  Stagecoach  (75.5)
  • War:  4  (2)  –  Alexander Nevsky  (69.3)
  • Mystery:  4 –  Another Thin Man  (68)
  • Suspense:  4  –  The Lady Vanishes  (66.3)
  • Horror:  3  –  Son of Frankenstein  (56)
  • Kids:  2  –  The Wizard of Oz  (79)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  Gulliver’s Travels  (52)
  • Action:  0
  • Adventure:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0

Analysis:  A year after all those great Comedies, there isn’t a single one better than *** and it has its lowest average as a genre to date.  Crime and Horror, likewise, take significant drops and Musicals has its worst showing since 1929.  But Mysteries are up and Westerns are way up, possibly one of the best years ever for the genre.

Studio Note:

MGM has the most films again (17), followed by 20th Century-Fox, with 16.  But it’s United Artists, with a 69.8 average that has the best group while Fox’s are the worst at 61.56.

For the decade, out of 904 films, 174 of them were from MGM (19.25%), followed by 142 Warners (15.71%) and 114 Paramount (12.72%).  All told, the 8 majors / major-minors, combine for 761 films (84.07%).  The best averages on the decade belong to Universal (69.26) while the worst is RKO (62.92).  Of Universals films, only 15 of them were Horror, but they were the best, averaging a 75.8 and accounting for all their best films except All Quiet on the Western Front and My Man Godfrey.  I feel I should point out that while MGM is associated with Musicals and Warners with Crime, only 20 of the 174 MGM films were Musicals and only 17 of the 142 Warners films were Crime films.  While that accounts for over half the crime films I’ve seen on the decade, MGM accounts for a smaller percentage of Musicals than of total films (only 18.87%).  Since there were 91 Foreign films on the decade, that accounts for most of the remaining 143 films not produced by one of the big studios.  Amkino accounted for 16 films (Soviet films) averaging a 70.9.  Another 18 came from Gaumont (British, including Hitchcock or French), averaging a 69.9.  I must mention two other studios – Republic and Monogram.  Republic was a lower budget studio, mostly known for cheaper Westerns.  I have seen six films from Republic on the decade and they average a 56.5, with no film higher than a 64 (in fact, of the 38 Republic films I have ever seen only two are above *** – Orson Welles’ Macbeth and John Ford’s The Quiet Man).  Monogram, like Republic, was a member of Poverty Row, but worse.  They would eventually become Allied Artists and release some truly great films, but as Monogram most of their films are awful.  I have only seen two of their films from the thirties, both horrible literary adaptations – Oliver Twist and Jane Eyre, which should be avoided at all costs.

8 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):

  • Circonstances attenuantes  (Boyer, France)
  • Derriere la facade  (Lacombe, France)
  • La fin du jour  (Duvivier, France)
  • Le Jour se Leve  (Carne, France)
  • My Apprenticeship  (Donskoi, USSR)
  • Rules of the Game  (Renoir, France)
  • Shchors  (Dovzhenko, USSR)
  • The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums  (Mizoguchi, Japan)

Note:  Yes, France still has over half the eligible films and still has the winner.  And the French films are better – the two Russian films are the weakest of the 8.

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

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street  (1936)
  • Drole de Drame  (1937)
  • Harvest  (1937)
  • Alexander Nevsky  (1938)
  • The Lady Vanishes  (1938)
  • Le Schpountz  (1938)
  • Port of Shadows  (1938)
  • Topper Takes a Trip  (1938)

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

  • Destry Rides Again  (1940)
  • The Face at the Window  (1940)
  • Le Jour se Leve  (1940)
  • The Lion Has Wings  (1940)
  • Derriere la facade  (1944)
  • Circonstances attenuantes  (1946)
  • Rules of the Game  (1950)
  • The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums  (1979)

note:  Though Destry is often mentioned as one of the 1939 classics (again, not quite – a high ***), it was released in the last week of December and wasn’t Oscar eligible until 1940.

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