Just read pages 360-62 of Kavalier and Clay and that says it all.

Just read pages 360-62 of Kavalier and Clay and that says it all.

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 made only one change in this year, but it was a needed one – changing the two Score categories from Score and Original Score to Scoring of a Dramatic Picture and Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. Fantasia
  4. The Lady Eve
  5. The Little Foxes

Analysis:  This is, in a sense, precisely how it should be – all five of these films are **** films and the next one on the list (High Sierra) isn’t.  It kills me, though, that The Maltese Falcon has to be in the same year as Citizen Kane.  They’ll be more on that down under points.

  • 936full-citizen-kane-photoBest Director
  1. Orson Welles  (Citizen Kane)
  2. John Huston  (The Maltese Falcon)
  3. Preston Sturges  (The Lady Eve)
  4. Raoul Walsh  (High Sierra)
  5. William Wyler  (The Little Foxes)

Analysis:  Probably the two best directorial jobs done by first-time directors and they have to come in the same year.  This is Wyler’s fourth nomination in five years but the first for the other four.  Astoundingly enough, of these five, only Welles and Wyler were nominated at the Oscars.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Maltese Falcon
  2. The Little Foxes
  3. Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  4. The Devil and Daniel Webster
  5. High Sierra

Analysis: There’s a significant drop-off after Falcon, one of the best scripts (and best novels) ever written.  There is actually a full Top 10, with the next five being How Green Was My Valley, Hold Back the Dawn, Meet John Doe, Suspicion and Pépé le Moko.  Ball of Fire and Meet John Doe were nominated for Original Story, but by Academy rules today, would qualify here.  Jordan, by the way, is a rare double winner, taking home both Original Story and Screenplay.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Lady Eve
  3. Ball of Fire
  4. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  5. The Devil and Miss Jones

Analysis: Unlike Adapted, this is my full list.  This only includes two actual nominees in the category, plus two from Original Story (Ball of Fire and The Lady Eve).  Two of them from Original Story actually qualify as Adapted and the final nominee from Story (Night Train) and the other three from Original Screenplay don’t make my list at all.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Orson Welles  (Citizen Kane)
  2. Humphrey Bogart  (The Maltese Falcon)
  3. Walter Huston  (The Devil and Daniel Webster)
  4. Humphrey Bogart  (High Sierra)
  5. Jean Gabin  (Pépé le Moko)
  6. Robert Montgomery  (Here Comes Mr Jordan)

Analysis:  That’s right; Bogart wasn’t nominated for either classic performance.  Instead, the winner was Gary Cooper for his “aw, shucks” performance in Sergeant York and and the fifth nominee was Cary Grant, nominated for the maudlin Penny Serenade after not being nominated for either of his brilliant comedies the year before.  There are six nominees because of the two for Bogart.

  • Best Actress
  1. Barbara Stanwyck  (The Lady Eve)
  2. Bette Davis  (The Little Foxes)
  3. Joan Fontaine  (Suspicion)
  4. Vivien Leigh  (That Hamilton Woman)
  5. Barbara Stanwyck  (Ball of Fire)
  6. Carole Lombard  (Mr. and Mrs. Smith)

Analysis:  Six nominees again, this time because of Stanwyck, whose better performance went un-nominated by the Academy.  The final two nominees there were Olivia de Havilland for Hold Back the Dawn (my 9th place finisher) and Greer Garson, giving one of her worst performances in Blossoms in the Dust (which earned her a second nomination in three years and the first of a run of five straight nominations, in three of which would she face off against Bette Davis).  Davis herself, with her 8th nomination in a decade, takes 1st place in points, something she will hold until the late 60’s.

  • Bogart, Humphrey (Maltese Falcon, The)_15Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Sydney Greenstreet  (The Maltese Falcon)
  2. Charles Dingle  (The Little Foxes)
  3. Peter Lorre  (The Maltese Falcon)
  4. Donald Crisp  (How Green Was My Valley)
  5. Claude Rains  (Here Comes Mr Jordan)

Analysis:  Rains is back for the first of four straight nominations.  All of the other Oscar nominees make my Top 10 (and two of them make my Comedy nominations), but I think they really missed out by not going with Dingle, Lorre and Rains.

  • little-foxesBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Teresa Wright  (The Little Foxes)
  2. Patricia Collinge  (The Little Foxes)
  3. Mary Astor  (The Great Lie)
  4. Sara Allgood  (How Green Was My Valley)
  5. Lee Patrick  (The Maltese Falcon)

Analysis:  I adore Teresa Wright, and this was the start of a career that burned very brightly for a few years (the next year she would become the second person to be nominated for Actress and Supporting Actress in the same year).  The final Oscar nominee was Margaret Wycherly, another of the undeserved nominations for Sergeant York (she comes in 10th on my list).

  • Best Editing:
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. The Lady Eve
  4. Fantasia
  5. How Green Was My Valley

Analysis:  This just like the year before – a vastly overrated film (Sergeant York) wins the Oscar while three of my choices go un-nominated.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. How Green Was My Valley
  4. Suspicion
  5. Pépé le Moko

Analysis:  After not being nominated for Grapes of Wrath, Gregg Toland at least is nominated though still fails to win for some of the most amazing, innovative camera-work in film history.  And of course, the brilliant work on Falcon did go un-nominated.  Blood and Sand won the Color award, but Dive Bomber is the only color film that makes my list.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. The Little Foxes
  4. Suspicion
  5. The Devil and Daniel Webster

Analysis:  The Academy finally dropped the distinction between “Original” and regular and instead went with “Dramatic Picture” and “Musical Picture”.  Everything on my list is from a Dramatic Picture, except Dumbo, which won the Musical award.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. Fantasia
  4. High Sierra
  5. Dive Bomber

Analysis:  For the third straight year the actual Oscar winner (in this case That Hamilton Woman) doesn’t even make my Top 10, although it was a better choice than the two previous years.

  • nurseentersBest Art Direction:
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Little Foxes
  3. The Maltese Falcon
  4. That Hamilton Woman
  5. The Lady Eve

Analysis:  How Green Was My Valley, the black-and-white winner, would end up in 8th place. But no color film, even the winner, Blossoms in the Dust, makes my list at all.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Citizen Kane
  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Fantasia
  2. Citizen Kane
  3. Dive Bomber
  4. Sergeant York
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Little Foxes
  3. That Hamilton Woman
  4. The Devil and Daniel Webster
  5. The Maltese Falcon

Analysis:  Not a great year for Costume Design.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Wolf Man
  3. The Face Behind the Mask
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Chattanooga Choo Choo”  (Sun Valley Serenade)
  2. “Baby Mine”  (Dumbo)
  3. “Since I Kiss My Baby Goodbye”  (You’ll Never Get Rich)
  4. “Pink Elephants on Parade”  (Dumbo)
  5. “The Last Time I Saw Paris”  (Lady Be Good)

Analysis:  We still have the strange Academy rule (“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)), so the other song from Dumbo wouldn’t actually have been eligible.

  • fantasia_1940Best Animated Film:
  1. Fantasia
  2. Dumbo

Analysis:  Because of the two Disney releases this will be one of the very few years before the 90’s when there are multiple nominees in this category.  Though Fantasia was initially released in 1940, it wasn’t released for a qualifying run in LA until 1941.  Which, frankly, I prefer, as Dumbo is so much a weaker film than Pinocchio, I’d hate it if it had been Pinocchio that lost to Fantasia.

  • 78505-brothers-and-sisters-of-the-toda-family-0-230-0-341-cropBest Foreign Film:
  1. The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family

Analysis:  Only one film makes my list and it barely makes my list, but that’s better than the year before.

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.

  • Citizen Kane  (680)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Makeup
  • The Maltese Falcon  (460)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • The Little Foxes  (350)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • The Lady Eve  (250)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Editing, Art Direction
  • Fantasia  (175)
    • Picture, Editing, Sound, Sound Editing, Animated Film
  • High Sierra  (140)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Sound
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster  (115)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Original Score, Costume Design
  • How Green Was My Valley  (110)
    • Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan  (105)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Suspicion (85)
    • Actress, Cinematography, Original Score
  • Pépé le Moko  (80)
    • Actor, Cinematography, Foreign Film (1937)
  • Ball of Fire  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • That Hamilton Woman  (70)
    • Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • The Devil and Miss Jones  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Dumbo  (40)
    • Original Song, Original Song, Animated Film
  • Dive Bomber  (40)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • The Great Lie  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Sergeant York  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • Sun Valley Serenade  (20)
    • Original Song
  • The Wolf Man  (10)
    • Makeup
  • The Face Behind the Mask  (10)
    • Makeup
  • You’ll Never Get Rich  (10)
    • Original Song
  • Lady Be Good  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis: This is one of the most difficult years to deal with.  The Maltese Falcon, in most years, would dominate.  It wins two awards here and finishes in 2nd place 7 times.  If not for Citizen Kane (which it finishes 2nd to all 7 times), it would have 9 Nighthawk Awards and 685 points – more even than Citizen Kane has.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Hold Back the Dawn

Analysis:  For the second year in a row the film in this category is an Oscar nominee for Best Picture that is a low level ***.5 that earns multiple Top 10 finishes but none in the Top 5.  It finishes in 6th place twice (Supporting Actress, for Paulette Goddard, who can’t even manage a Globe nomination because she’s in drama, just like all 5 nominees, Art Direction), 7th place twice (Adapted Screenplay, Original Score) and 9th place twice (Actress – Olivia de Havilland, who was Oscar nominated and lost to her sister Joan and Cinematography).  I’ve written a whole review of it here.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Hold Back the Dawn

Analysis: For the second year in a row this is the same film as the best film not nominated for any awards.  It was nominated for 6 Oscars, though it didn’t win any.  The next highest was Blossoms in the Dust, nominated for 4 Oscars, which didn’t earn my consideration in any category.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture
  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. The Little Foxes
  4. High Sierra
  5. Suspicion

Analysis:  This doesn’t work out as well as the regular Picture award because I have almost no difference between Suspicion and Pépé le Moko, the 6th film on this list.

  • Best Director
  1. Orson Welles  (Citizen Kane)
  2. John Huston  (The Maltese Falcon)
  3. Raoul Walsh  (High Sierra)
  4. William Wyler  (The Little Foxes)
  5. John Ford  (How Green Was My Valley)

Analysis:  While Welles and Huston are first-time directors, Ford earns his third straight nomination (and fifth overall) while Wyler earns his 6th straight nomination.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Maltese Falcon
  2. The Little Foxes
  3. The Devil and Daniel Webster
  4. High Sierra
  5. How Green Was My Valley
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Citizen Kane
  • citizen-kane-image-1Best Actor:
  1. Orson Welles  (Citizen Kane)
  2. Humphrey Bogart  (The Maltese Falcon)
  3. Walter Huston  (The Devil and Daniel Webster)
  4. Humphrey Bogart  (High Sierra)
  5. Jean Gabin  (Pépé le Moko)

Analysis:  Again, experience vs youth.  This is Welles’ first film.  This is Gabin’s fifth straight year of being nominated.

  • Bette-Davis-1941-The-Little-Foxes-p247Best Actress
  1. Bette Davis  (The Little Foxes)
  2. Joan Fontaine  (Suspicion)
  3. Vivien Leigh  (That Hamilton Woman)
  4. Mary Astor  (The Maltese Falcon)
  5. Wendy Hiller  (Major Barbara)

Analysis:  People mainly think of Leigh as Scarlett or Blanche, but this is her fourth nomination in three years.  And she’s got nothing on Davis.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Sydney Greenstreet  (The Maltese Falcon)
  2. Charles Dingle  (The Little Foxes)
  3. Peter Lorre  (The Maltese Falcon)
  4. Donald Crisp  (How Green Was My Valley)
  5. Herbert Marshall  (The Little Foxes)

Analysis:  Marshall was always so fun to watch and always so good to listen to and he never earned an Oscar nomination.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Teresa Wright  (The Little Foxes)
  2. Patricia Collinge  (The Little Foxes)
  3. Mary Astor  (The Great Lie)
  4. Sara Allgood  (How Green Was My Valley)
  5. Lee Patrick  (The Maltese Falcon)

By Film:  All five of my regular nominees are from dramas.  For that matter, so are the next 5, who comprise the rest of my consideration list (Paulette Goddard in Hold Back the Dawn, Dorothy Comingore in Citizen Kane, Joan Leslie in High Sierra, Ingrid Bergman in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Margaret Wycherly in Sergeant York).

  • The Maltese Falcon  (365)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Little Foxes  (355)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Citizen Kane  (340)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor
  • High Sierra  (170)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • How Green Was My Valley  (145)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Suspicion  (85)
    • Picture, Actress
  • The Devil and Daniel Webster  (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Pépé le Moko  (35)
    • Actor
  • That Hamilton Woman  (35)
    • Actress
  • Major Barbara  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Great Lie  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Hold Back the Dawn

Analysis:  None of the categories had enough comedies to get anything for Hold Back the Dawn into the top 5.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Fantasia
  2. The Lady Eve
  3. Ball of Fire
  4. Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Analysis:  There’s a nine point drop between Lady Eve and Ball of Fire, which is a hell of a drop.  But it’s a still a good enough year that Dumbo can’t make the list.

  • Best Director:
  1. Preston Sturges  (The Lady Eve)
  2. Howard Hawks  (Ball of Fire)
  3. Alexander Hall  (Here Comes Mr. Jordan)
  4. Alfred Hitchcock  (Suspicion)

Analysis:  What are the odds that Hitchcock wouldn’t make the Drama list (for Suspicion) but would make the Comedy list?  This is the first of three wins in four years for Sturges.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  2. Meet John Doe

Analysis:  Jordan was a play while Doe was an interesting story that was made into a film that was very different and had a complete opposite of an ending.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Lady Eve
  2. Ball of Fire
  3. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  4. The Devil and Miss Jones

Analysis:  The first of three Preston Sturges’ wins in this category.

  • jordanBest Actor:
  1. Robert Montgomery  (Here Comes Mr. Jordan)
  2. Henry Fonda  (The Lady Eve)
  3. Robert Montgomery  (Mr. and Mrs. Smith)
  4. Gary Cooper  (Ball of Fire)

Analysis:  It’s too bad that Montgomery had to give two of his best performances in the same year.

  • lady-eveBest Actress:
  1. Barbara Stanwyck  (The Lady Eve)
  2. Barbara Stanwyck  (Ball of Fire)
  3. Carole Lombard  (Mr. and Mrs. Smith)
  4. Barbara Stanwyck  (Meet John Doe)
  5. Jean Arthur  (The Devil and Miss Jones)

Analysis:  The new Stanwyck biography that came out at Christmas ends at 1940.  I doubt that’s a coincidence that she earns three nominations here; 1941 clearly was a big year for her and a good point to start the second volume.

  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. Claude Rains  (Here Comes Mr. Jordan)
  2. Charles Coburn  (The Devil and Miss Jones)
  3. James Gleason  (Here Comes Mr. Jordan)
  4. William Demarest  (The Lady Eve)

Analysis:  In spite of all his Nighthawk nominations for Supporting Actor, this is the only time Rains is nominated in a comedy.  His only other appearance in the Comedy / Musical category will be when he wins Best Actor in 1943.

  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. none

Analysis:  Most of the really good comedies on the year just didn’t have a big enough supporting female role, and those that did didn’t have a performance that was particularly memorable, at least to me.

By Film:

  • The Lady Eve  (355)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Here Comes Mr. Jordan  (335)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Ball of Fire  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • The Devil and Miss Jones  (105)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Fantasia  (100)
    • Picture
  • Meet John Doe  (90)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress

Analysis: It’s a singularly oddity, Fantasia winning Picture without any other nominations.  But it’s a singularly interesting film.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Dumbo

Analysis:  Not as good as the other Disney films released around it, without a strong script, and only good enough for 6th in Picture – Comedy.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  110

By Stars:

  • ****:  5
  • ***.5:  10
  • ***:  65
  • **.5:  26
  • **:  3
  • *.5:  1
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  66.56

Analysis:  A lot more mediocre films (below ***) and significantly fewer great films mean a full point drop in the average score for the year.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Mercy Island  (Scoring of a Dramatic Picture)
  • That Woman is Mine  (Scoring of a Dramatic Picture)
  • The Devil Pays Off  (Sound Recording)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  This year is actually positioned between the last two years.  There are only two nominees that rank higher than 229, but they are #5 (Citizen Kane) and #19 (The Maltese Falcon) and there is only one nominee lower than 400.

The Winners:  Though the acting is a distinct improvement over the 1940 winners, the overall winners take another step back, averaging a 5.37 overall and a 3.00 among the nominees (though, most tech categories still have double-digit nominations).  In only two categories do they give the Oscar to the most deserving film (Original Screenplay, Scoring of a Musical Picture), but in no categories do they actually give it to the worst of the nominees.

The Nominees:  While they were blowing it with the winners (again), they were getting a lot of the nominees right (again).  There’s a slight decrease to a score of 64.6, the second best to date among the nominees (out of 100).  There are just slight dips in Tech, Acting and Picture-Director-Screenplay, with new highs in Screenplay (80.0) and Supporting Actress (89.7).

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  Citizen Kane  (see my review here)

2  –  The Maltese Falcon  (see my reviews here, here and here)

No dancing hippos on this poster.  But don't listen to Veronica - they're brilliant!

No dancing hippos on this poster. But don’t listen to Veronica – they’re brilliant!

3  –  Fantasia

For those who would lament that younger people today don’t listen to classical music, here is your solution.  After all, it worked for me.  Why wouldn’t it work for others?

As a kid, I saw many of the Disney classics.  But one that eluded me, because of its absence at the time from the home video market, was Fantasia, one of the ones I was most anxious to see.  But then, it came back to theaters in 1990 and I went to see it, in all its glory, on the big screen.  Less than three weeks later, for my 16th birthday, I got one of the things I had asked for: the soundtrack.  I had been won over to a type of music that I hadn’t paid much attention to before that.  Suddenly, names like Tchaikovsky, Dukas and Ponchielli weren’t just names – they were creators of wonderful works of music.  And I hadn’t just picked up the music itself; from watching the film I had learned about the different ways we can tell stories through music, how it can be opened up to interpretation.

But the music, as incredible as it is, is only part of the story.  It’s true I can put on the soundtrack and listen straight through and there is pleasure in that.  But this film manages to find new and amazing ways to put images to those pieces of music.  Now, Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” isn’t just a brilliant piece of music – it is also a guide through what is possibly the greatest short cartoon ever created.  And the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker isn’t just a wonderful dance – it’s a wonderful dance done by beautifully animated flowers, all moving in perfect rhythm.  Fantasia lets us see what can be done when that music is put with perfectly matching images.

But then, it’s also not about how great the music is, or even how great the music and the images complement one another.  It’s the gift of what we can do with animation.  If the entire film had simply been done in one style of animation – if it had all been Mickey, that would have been great, but it wouldn’t compete today with Spirited Away, Wall-E and Bambi for the holder of the title of greatest animated film ever made.  Look at the simple images that go along with Bach’s Toccata and Fugue.  Look at the cartoonish style of the Greek mythological world set to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (points to Disney as well, for not simply going with the more famous 5th or 9th symphonies).  Then look at the detail on the demon in Night on Bald Mountain or the fearsome T Rex in Rite of Spring.  Look even at the wide array of animation presented through the different short pieces in the Nutcracker.

md_Copy - Fantasia - Hippo and Alligator Trot

Seriously. Don’t listen to Veronica. It’s brilliant!

And then we come to the one bit I haven’t mentioned at all.  To millions upon millions, “Dance of the Hours” is probably instantly recognizable, especially given how often the music has been used in other things.  It is a wonderful piece of music and could have been used in a variety of ways.  But to bring us the incredible ballet, so true to its original source, and to have it be so artistic and yet ridiculously silly all at the same time, populated with ostriches, hippos, elephants and alligators, brings it to a whole new level.  I absolutely love “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”; I have a t-shirt and a tie with Mickey in that hat.  But in some ways, I think I have come to love those dancing hippos and alligators more.  Let the children watch this movie over and over.  How could they not come to love it and love the music?


One of the funniest films ever. One of the sexiest performances ever. Nuff said.

4  –  The Lady Eve  (dir. Preston Sturges)

How wonderful is Barbara Stanwyck in this film?  She wins the Nighthawk Award and, in a piece no longer available, I ranked it the second sexiest performance by a female in the history of film.  She does with a sense of style and audacity that begins when she first meets Henry Fonda and continues on through to the end of the film.

In a typical romantic comedy, even in great romantic comedies, we often see a meet cute.  And in this film, after the rich young heir to a beer fortune comes onto a South American cruise after being in the jungle for a year, almost every woman on the boat wants to have a meet cute with him (especially since he’s played with such sincerity as Henry Fonda gives us).  But Stanwyck, who really wants to fleece him rather than marry him, she’s not interested in a meet cute.  She’s more of a meet deliberate, and when he’s walking back to his room, she trips him, accosts him for breaking her heel and immediately demands he help her to her room so she can get another pair of shoes.  That audacity, the perfect kind of meeting between a couple in a Preston Sturges film, carries through all the way to the second half of the film, where Stanwyck again audaciously comes in to Fonda’s life, this time striving for something more.

Everything about the film is brilliant, from the wonderful way in which Fonda keeps falling over everything after he meets Stanwyck again, to the absolutely first-rate group of supporting players (Charles Coburn as her father, Eugene Pallette as his father, Eric Blore, who pretends to be her father, and William Demarest, as Fonda’s right-hand man who has just as many pratfalls as Fonda does).  I don’t want to say too much more, because if somehow you have never seen The Lady Eve, then you absolutely need to.  It is one of the most brilliant, funniest, most enjoyable comedies ever made.

5  –  The Little Foxes  (see my review here)

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. King of the Zombies
  2. All American Co-Ed
  3. Blood and Sand
  4. Invisible Ghost
  5. I Take This Woman

Do you like camp? Then maybe this is for you. Personally, I think it’s crap.

King of the Zombies  (dir. Jean Yarbrough)

There are two types of camp films.  The first is made up of those films that are so incredibly devoid of artistic worth that some people find them enjoyable; Ed Wood was the master of this kind of film.  The second kind is made up of those films that are deliberately bad or exaggerated – the people involved often have talent, but they’re deliberately not making use of it.  To be fair, I dislike both kinds of camp – I am not a fan of enjoying things that are bad, whether it is deliberate or not.  Some films straddle the line; there is a question as to whether the film is bad because it is badly made or because the filmmakers deliberately made it to be so bad (Starship Troopers comes to mind).  King of the Zombies falls rather into this category.

I don’t think there’s really any getting around that King of the Zombies is pretty bad.  It has a decent enough score, that somehow managed to earn an Oscar nomination when it didn’t remotely deserve it.  But it has a truly awful script (the plot involves a doctor who is trying to get war information from an admiral and hides his plot with the idea of zombies on the island).  It is quite badly directed.  And the acting is truly atrocious.

Let’s deal with the acting here, because that’s the primary problem.  It has two absolutely wooden leads who are supposed to provide a romantic spark but they fall flat every time they’re on-screen.  It stars Henry Victor as the evil doctor, one of the worst accidents to ever befall a film, because it was originally supposed to be Bela Lugosi, who could have provided the film a bit of lively spark, but instead has Victor who is wretched.  And then there is Mantan Moreland.  He is the very easily frightened black servant, who must have been painful to watch in his performance back in 1941 but today adds a bit of racist backlash for us to reel back from as well.

There are people who enjoy this film.  They might argue that there are things in the film that are deliberately exaggerated, that the film is actually designed to be more of a comedy and not to be taken as seriously as I am taking it.  But I’m reviewing the film I see, not the film others try to make me believe that it is.  They are welcome to enjoy it.  For my money, it’s easily the worst film of 1941.


  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  Citizen Kane  /  The Maltese Falcon  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Citizen Kane  (12)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Citizen Kane  (680)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Lady Be Good
  • 2nd Place Award:  The Maltese Falcon  (Picture, Director, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction)
  • 6th Place Award:  High Sierra  (Picture, Cinematography)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  The Maltese Falcon  /  The Little Foxes  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Citizen Kane  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  The Maltese Falcon  (365)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  The Great Lie
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Lady Eve  /  Here Comes Mr. Jordan  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Here Comes Mr. Jordan / The Lady Eve  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The Lady Eve  (355)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  The Devil and Miss Jones

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

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:  Bette Davis  (345)
  • Director:  Charlie Chaplin  (315)
  • Writer:  Charlie Chaplin  (360)
  • Cinematographer:  Roland Totheroh  (150)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (300)

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

  • Drama:  36  (2)  –  Citizen Kane  (66.2)
  • Comedy:  23  –  The Lady Eve  (67.9)
  • Musical:  17  (1)  –  Road to Zanzibar  (63.2)
  • Crime:  6  (1)  –  High Sierra  (73.8)
  • Foreign:  5  –  Pépé le Moko  (70.8)
  • Kids:  4  (1)  –  Fantasia  (79)
  • Mystery:  4  –  The Maltese Falcon  (71.3)
  • Suspense:  4 –  Suspicion  (65.8)
  • Western:  4  –  Pinocchio  (64.5)
  • War:  4  –  Sergeant York  (64.3)
  • Adventure:  3  –  The Sea Wolf  (60)
  • Horror:  3  –  The Wolf Man  (55.3)
  • Action:  2  –  China  (57)
  • Fantasy:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0

Analysis:  Without those great comedies of 1940, the score drops almost five points.  Though it’s a far cry from the best of the 1931-35 films, The Wolf Man is really the last of the Golden Age of Horror from Universal.

Studio Note:

MGM has the most films yet again, this time down slightly to 20, but the average plummets from 68 down to 60.9.  RKO is the opposite – their 10 films, which include 4 of the Top 10 (Citizen Kane, The Little Foxes, Ball of Fire, Suspicion) and 7 of the Top 20 go up 16 points to an average of 77.2.  It’s as many Top 10 films as RKO had from 36-40 and as many Top 20 as it had from 35-40.  It’s the first time any studio has had four of the top 10 and the first time a studio has had 7 of the top 20 since MGM in 1929.  It’s also the first time, though that UA hasn’t had a film in the Top 10 since 1934.  MGM doesn’t even get a film in the Top 20; it’s the first time they’ve missed out on the Top 10 since 1931, let alone the Top 20.  Warners also goes up five points, thanks to Falcon and Sierra.  This is the first time Disney has two films and the first time I have seen more than 10 films from Columbia (11).

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):

  • The 47 Ronin  (Mizoguchi, Japan)
  • The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Freidemann Bach  (Muller, Germany)
  • The Iron Crown  (Blasetti, Italy)
  • Ornamental Hairpin  (Shimizu, Japan)
  • Princess Iron Fan  (Guchan / Leiming, China)
  • Stormy Waters  (Gremillon, France)
  • Volpone  (Tourneur, France)

Note:  France’s streak is broken, as mentioned above under Best Foreign Film.  The Ozu film is the only one to earn ***.5 and it just barely makes it.  Stormy Waters, though not good enough to qualify for my award, is the second best film on the list, meaning France has finished in either 1st or 2nd in every year since 1928.

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

  • Pépé le Moko  (1937)
  • The Story of the Fox  (1937)
  • Volga Volga  (1938)
  • Fantasia  (1940)
  • I Take This Woman  (1940)
  • My Universities  (1940)
  • Night Train  (1940)

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

  • Corsican Brothers  (1942)
  • Hellzapoppin  (1942)
  • Kipps  (1942)
  • Pimpernel Smith  (1942)
  • The Shanghai Gesture  (1942)
  • Sullivan’s Travels  (1942)
  • Stormy Waters  (1946)
  • Volpone  (1947)
  • The Iron Crown  (1949)
  • Friedemann Bach  (1953)
  • The 47 Ronin  (1979)
  • The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family  (1982)
  • Princess Iron Fan  (2007)