Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea in one of the great comedies of all-time: Sullivan's Travels.

Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea in one of the great comedies of all-time: Sullivan’s Travels.

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’s only change was to go from Scoring of a Dramatic Picture to Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Sullivan’s Travels
  2. Bambi
  3. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  4. The Magnificent Ambersons
  5. To Be or Not to Be

Analysis:  Just like in 1941, my Top 5 are all **** films and my #6 (in this case The Palm Beach Story) is a ***.5 film.

  • Welles-e1319629415536Best Director
  1. Orson Welles  (The Magnificent Ambersons)
  2. Preston Sturges  (Sullivan’s Travels)
  3. Michael Curtiz  (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
  4. Stuart Heisler  (The Glass Key)
  5. Preston Sturges  (The Palm Beach Story)
  6. William Wyler  (Mrs. Miniver)

Analysis:  Heisler is definitely the odd man out here.  The other five (there are six because Sturges is on the list twice) are all in the Top 100 and Heisler is nowhere near it.  But he does a solid job with this Dashiell Hammett adaptation.  Really, there is a big drop here after the first three.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Magnificent Ambersons
  2. Bambi
  3. Random Harvest
  4. Now Voyager
  5. The Glass Key

Analysis: This is another year that has a full Top 10.  The next five are Kings Row, This Gun for Hire, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Mrs. Miniver and The Pride of the Yankees.  I’ve only actually read the source material for four of them – Ambersons (in my Top 200), Key (solid Hammett), Hire (solid Graham Greene) and Dinner (an enjoyable play – yet another from the Kauffman book I already featured several times).

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Sullivan’s Travels
  2. To Be or Not To Be
  3. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  4. The Palm Beach Story
  5. Woman of the Year

Analysis:  More category confusion.  Dandy was nominated for Original Story while Woman of the Year won Original Screenplay.  Sadly, Sturges was nominated for nothing, being passed over, for, among other things, the mostly forgotten and utterly unmemorable Wake Island.

  • Best Actor:
  1. James Cagney  (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
  2. Joel McCrea  (Sullivan’s Travels)
  3. Ronald Colman  (Random Harvest)
  4. Jack Benny  (To Be or Not to Be)
  5. Gary Cooper  (The Pride of the Yankees)

Analysis:  Cagney wins this by a mile.

  • Best Actress
  1. Greer Garson  (Mrs. Miniver)
  2. Katharine Hepburn  (Woman of the Year)
  3. Bette Davis  (Now Voyager)
  4. Greer Garson  (Random Harvest)
  5. Carole Lombard  (To Be or Not to Be)
  6. Teresa Wright  (The Pride of the Yankees)

Analysis: With the two nominations for Garson, Wright makes it in sixth place.  Ironically, though Garson was in the midst of 5 straight Oscar nominations, these are her only two Nighthawk nominations, and she wasn’t Oscar nominated for Harvest, obviously, because of the rule against two nominations by one performer.  This is obviously the last nomination for Lombard, who died in a plane crash in January of 1942 before the film was released.  Hepburn takes second place in points, but is still behind Davis.

  • hustonBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Walter Huston  (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
  2. Van Heflin  (Johnny Eager)
  3. Claude Rains  (Kings Row)
  4. Henry Travers  (Mrs. Miniver)
  5. Laurence Olivier  (The 49th Parallel)

Analysis:  It’s a bit of a slog at the bottom of the list, and Olivier’s performance has been ridiculed by some.

  • agnes-moorehead-the-magnificent-ambersons-2Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Agnes Moorehead  (The Magnificent Ambersons)
  2. Teresa Wright  (Mrs. Miniver)
  3. Gladys Cooper  (Now Voyager)
  4. Susan Peters  (Random Harvest)
  5. May Whitty  (Mrs. Miniver)

Analysis:  Wright was only the second actress to earn lead and supporting in the same year and she won supporting.  Here, she gets in with my sixth nomination for Actress and doesn’t win supporting, which is too bad because I adore her, and her peak work from 41-46 is really impressive (she did win this award in 41).  But Moorehead is my easy winner here – she probably belongs in lead (she won the New York Film Critics) but the Academy put her here so I put her here.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Sullivan’s Travels
  2. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  3. The Palm Beach Story
  4. To Be or Not to Be
  5. Bambi

Analysis:  The Oscar went to The Pride of the Yankees, which came in 12th on my list.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. The Magnificent Ambersons
  2. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  3. Random Harvest
  4. Arabian Nights
  5. Kings Row

Analysis:  Neither Oscar winner (Mrs. Miniver, The Black Swan) makes my list, even though it’s 16 films long.  James Wong Home moves up to a tie for 5th with two nominations (Dandy, Row).

  • Best Original Score:
  1. The Magnificent Ambersons
  2. Random Harvest
  3. Kings Row
  4. Bambi
  5. Cat People

Analysis:  Neither Alfred Newman, with his 2 nominations, or Max Steiner with his win for Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (for Now Voyager) makes my nominations list.  Instead, Bernard Herrmann wins a second Nighthawk in a row while Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score for Kings Row moves him into third place in points; I especially feel I must mention Korngold because my lack of mention of it on the Best Picture post earned me a critical comment.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  2. Saboteur
  3. The Pride of the Yankees
  4. Reap the Wild Wind
  5. Captains of the Clouds

Analysis:  It’s the first time in 4 years that the Oscar winner makes my Top 10, but it’s the first time ever that the Oscar winner wins the Nighthawk.

  • ambersonsBest Art Direction:
  1. The Magnificent Ambersons
  2. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  3. Arabian Nights
  4. Sullivan’s Travels
  5. To Be or Not to Be

Analysis:  There are two Oscar winners, and neither (This Above All for black-and-white, My Gal Sal for color) even earns consideration on my list which includes 18 films, including 5 nominees (only one of which, Arabian Nights, is in color).  Really, how did Dandy not get nominated?

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Reap the Wild Wind

Analysis:  There wasn’t much to visual effects during this time period, so a weak winner wins a very weak year.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Saboteur
  2. Desperate Journey
  3. Reap the Wild Wind
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  2. The Magnificent Ambersons
  3. Arabian Nights
  4. The Black Swan
  5. The Jungle Book

Analysis:  Had the award existed in 1942, I think Dandy and Ambersons would have been a good race.  Of course, seeing some of the later winners, they probably would have skipped them both.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  2. Arabian Nights
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “How About You”  (Babes on Broadway)
  2. “White Christmas”  (Holiday Inn)
  3. “April Shower”  (Bambi)
  4. “Moonlight Becomes You”  (Road to Morocco)
  5. “I’m Old Fashioned  (You Were Never Lovelier)

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)  Since Bambi (“Love is a Song”, which is 7th on my list) and You Were Never Lovelier (“Dearly Beloved”, which is 8th on my list) had other songs submitted (and nominated), that’s why the above songs on my list didn’t get nominations.  But Road to Morocco got nominated for neither my #4 song or my #6 song (“Road to Morocco”) because it’s a Paramount film – the same studio that made Holiday Inn.  And there are probably those who are appalled at my not picking “White Christmas”, but it’s never been a big favorite of mine and I think “How About You” is an enduring classic.

  • MPW-19545Best Animated Film:
  1. Bambi

Analysis:  Because Fantasia doesn’t have a narrative, this, to me, is the peak of feature-length animated story-telling for a good half-century.

  • 600full-les-visiteurs-du-soir-(aka-the-devil's-envoys)-posterBest Foreign Film:
  1. The Devil’s Envoys

Analysis:  Yes, we’re back to France.  It’s another Marcel Carné film.  This puts him at 120 points, tied with Fritz Lang for second, behind Jean Renoir.  This category will continue to be thin for nominees until the end of the war, at which point we will start having a full slate of 5 nominees almost every year.

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 Magnificent Ambersons  (435)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy  (425)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Sullivan’s Travels  (330)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Art Direction
  • To Be or Not to Be  (205)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Editing, Art Direction
  • Mrs. Miniver  (205)
    • Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Bambi  (190)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Original Score, Original Song, Animated Film
  • Random Harvest  (190)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Original Score
  • The Palm Beach Story  (110)
    • Director, Original Screenplay, Editing
  • Now Voyager  (105)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Pride of the Yankees  (90)
    • Actor, Actress, Sound
  • The Glass Key  (85)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • Kings Row  (80)
    • Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Original Score
  • Reap the Wild Wind  (80)
    • Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Woman of the Year  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Arabian Nights  (70)
    • Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Saboteur  (60)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • Johnny Eager  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • 49th Parallel  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Cat People  (25)
    • Original Song
  • Captains of the Clouds  (20)
    • Original Score
  • Desperate Journey  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • Babes on Broadway  (20)
    • Original Song
  • The Jungle Book  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Black Swan  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • Holiday Inn  (10)
    • Original Song
  • Road to Morocco  (10)
    • Original Song
  • You Were Never Lovelier  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  Sullivan’s Travels comes in third in awards and third in points, yet wins Best Picture – a true oddity for my awards in any year.  But, also, with an animated film and two Sturges films, there are three films nominated for Director but not Picture – also an oddity.  The six nominations for a Picture winner ties Greed for the lowest to-date and the three wins for a Picture winner is the lowest to-date.  The 37 total nominations for my Picture nominees is the lowest since 1934.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • This Gun for Hire

Analysis:  In 1942, Alan Ladd starred in two thrillers that were very good (both ***.5) and very under-appreciated.  The Glass Key, from a Dashiell Hammet novel, earned Director and Adapted Screenplay nominations above.  This one, from a Graham Greene novel, finishes in 12th in Picture, 8th in Director and 7th in Adapted Screenplay (its highest finish).

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Wake Island

Analysis:  I bemoaned the success of this film in my Best Picture post for the year.  It also won Best Director from the New York Film Critics, which is ridiculous.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture
  1. Bambi
  2. The Magnificent Ambersons
  3. Random Harvest
  4. The Glass Key
  5. Now Voyager

Analysis:  Let’s remember that Bambi, unlike almost every other Disney film, does not have its songs sung by its characters, and thus is not a musical.  And given the overall scope of the film, it’s a drama.  Certainly the only time Disney will win this category.  There is, by the way, a 10 point drop between Ambersons and Harvest.

  • Best Director
  1. Orson Welles  (The Magnificent Ambersons)
  2. Stuart Heisler  (The Glass Key)
  3. William Wyler  (Mrs. Miniver)
  4. Frank Tuttle  (This Gun for Hire)
  5. Mervyn LeRoy (Random Harvest)

Analysis:  Welles makes his second film and wins his second straight award in this category.  That will certainly never happen again.  Wyler concludes his streak of seven straight nominations (with no wins), moving him into a tie with John Ford for 1st place in Drama points (315) while Heisler and Tuttle make their only appearances in any awards.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Magnificent Ambersons
  2. Bambi
  3. Random Harvest
  4. Now Voyager
  5. The Glass Key

Analysis:  Key is not prime Hammett, so the script might actually be better than the original.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. One of Our Aircraft is Missing
  2. 49th Parallel

Analysis:  Both of these are Powell / Pressburger films.

  • Ronald Colman Random HarvestBest Actor:
  1. Ronald Colman  (Random Harvest)
  2. Gary Cooper  (Pride of the Yankees)
  3. Walter Pidgeon  (Mrs. Miniver)
  4. Alan Ladd  (This Gun for Hire)
  5. Monty Woolley  (The Pied Piper)

Analysis:  This list includes 4 of the 5 actual Oscar nominees (all but Ladd) and still is inferior to the Comedy list.  Not surprisingly, this is the only time Ladd gets a nomination.  Perhaps surprisingly, it is also the only time that Pidgeon earns a nomination.

  • greer-garson-mrs-miniver-39Best Actress
  1. Greer Garson  (Mrs. Miniver)
  2. Bette Davis  (Now Voyager)
  3. Greer Garson  (Random Harvest)
  4. Teresa Wright  (Pride of the Yankees)

Analysis:  With Hepburn in a Comedy, Davis continues to extend her large lead in Drama points, already with 450 to second place Janet Gaynor (315).

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Van Heflin  (Johnny Eager)
  2. Claude Rains  (Kings Row)
  3. Henry Travers  (Mrs. Miniver)
  4. Laurence Olivier  (49th Parallel)
  5. Thomas Mitchell  (Moontide)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Agnes Moorhead  (The Magnificent Ambersons)
  2. Teresa Wright  (Mrs. Miniver)
  3. Gladys Cooper  (Now Voyager)
  4. Susan Peters  (Random Harvest)
  5. May Whitty  (Mrs. Miniver)

By Film:  Just like with my regular awards above, this is the whole list of Oscar nominees.

  • The Magnificent Ambersons  (280)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • Random Harvest  (270)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Mrs. Miniver  (240)
    • Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Now Voyager  (155)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Bambi  (140)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay
  • The Glass Key  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • This Gun for Hire  (80)
    • Director, Actor
  • One of Our Aircraft is Missing  (80)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Pride of the Yankees  (70)
    • Actor, Actress
  • 49th Parallel  (70)
    • Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Johnny Eager  (60)
    • Supporting Actor
  • The Pied Piper  (35)
    • Actor
  • Kings Row  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Moontide  (30)
    • Supporting Actor

Analysis:  This is even stranger.  Bambi, the Picture winner, comes in fifth place, after a film not even nominated for Picture.  But that comes with the oddity of having an animated film win.

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Joan of Paris

Analysis:  A solid film from Robert Stevenson, who years later, after Mary Poppins, would become the Disney in-house director.  It’s #15 on the year but 9th among dramas.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Sullivan’s Travels
  2. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  3. To Be or Not to Be
  4. The Palm Beach Story
  5. Woman of the Year

Analysis:  Though the top three are **** and the next two are ***.5, there’s actually a greater difference in points between Dandy and To Be (6 points) and Palm Beach and Woman (6 points) then there is between To Be and Palm Beach (4 points).

  • Best Director:
  1. Preston Sturges  (Sullivan’s Travels)
  2. Michael Curtiz  (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
  3. Preston Sturges  (The Palm Beach Story)
  4. Ernst Lubitsch  (To Be or Not to Be)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Man Who Came to Dinner

Analysis:  More than a lot of plays made into films at the time, this script owes most of its success to the original play.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Sullivan’s Travels
  2. To Be or Not to Be
  3. Yankee Doodle Dandy
  4. The Palm Beach Story
  5. Woman of the Year

Analysis:  Woman of the Year actually won the Oscar, with a very good script, which shows the strength of the writing here.

  • James_Cagney_in_Yankee_Doodle_Dandy_trailer_Best Actor:
  1. James Cagney  (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
  2. Joel McCrea  (Sullivan’s Travels)
  3. Jack Benny  (To Be or Not to Be)
  4. Spencer Tracy  (Woman of the Year)
  5. Monty Woolley  (The Man Who Came to Dinner)

Analysis:  Woolley comes in fifth in both Drama and Comedy.  Except his performance here is 7th overall as opposed to Drama, where that performance is 12th overall.  Plus, here, he gets one of the great insults of all-time (“My great aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102 and when she’d been dead three days she looked better than you do now!”).

  • Katharine_hepburn_woman_of_the_year_croppedBest Actress:
  1. Katharine Hepburn  (Woman of the Year)
  2. Carole Lombard  (To Be or Not to Be)
  3. Veronica Lake  (Sullivan’s Travels)
  4. Claudette Colbert  (The Palm Beach Story)
  5. Rosalind Russell  (My Sister Eileen)

Analysis:  Sadly, it was Eileen that earned Russell her first Oscar nomination, two years after His Girl Friday.  Lombard earns her fifth and final nomination for Comedy while Hepburn earns her third nomination, and third win.

  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. Walter Huston  (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
  2. William Demarest  (The Palm Beach Story)

Analysis:  Huston wins in his one and only appearance in the Comedy categories.  Demarest will continue to earn more supporting nominations for Sturges’ films.

  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Mary Astor  (The Palm Beach Story)
  2. Marjorie Main  (The Affairs of Martha)
  3. Joan Leslie  (Yankee Doodle Dandy)

By Film:

  • Sullivan’s Travels  (340)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy  (295)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Palm Beach Story  (260)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • To Be or Not to Be  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenply, Actor, Actress
  • Woman of the Year  (195)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner  (115)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • My Sister Eileen  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Affairs of Martha  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Analysis:  Absence of full slates in several categories as well as domination by a few films makes for very few films overall.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Road to Morocco

Analysis:  The sixth best comedy and #13 film on the year.  But the only category its comes close in is Original Screenplay, where its sixth on the year, but all five nominees are comedies, so it misses out.  Still, probably the best of all the Road films and well worth seeing.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  101

By Stars:

  • ****:  5
  • ***.5:  7
  • ***:  66
  • **.5:  21
  • **:  2
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  66.96

Analysis:  The average score ticks up, less than a half-point higher than the year before.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Silver Queen  (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Interior Decoration (Black-and-White))
  • Klondike Fury  (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture)
  • Friendly Enemies  (Sound)
  • Youth on Parade  (Song)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  The Best Picture category takes an enormous step backwards, dropping all the way down to #71.  There are only three films with a rank better than 300.  It’s only saved from being worse because only one film is in the 400’s – instead it’s the range of the relentlessly mediocre.

The Winners:  The winners actually go in both directions at once.  Overall, the average winner is a 6.00 (5.56 if you don’t include Picture), the highest since 1937.  But the average winner among the nominees actually improves, from 3.00 to 2.63.  This means that the Academy really screwed up the nominees in the first place, then didn’t do as bad a job at picking the best among their group of nominees.

The Nominees:  In fact, the nominees drop a full 10 points from the year before, down to 54.6, the worst score since 1938.  They do this in spite of the best acting score since the initial Oscars in 1928 (an 83.9, including a perfect 100 in Supporting Actress, where I agree with all five nominees).  That’s because they did a particular bad job in Picture (lowest since 1936), Director and the writing categories and even worse in the tech categories, with the lowest score there (36.0) since 1933.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  Sullivan’s Travels  (see my review here)

Perhaps the best Disney ever had to offer?

Perhaps the best Disney ever had to offer?

2  –  Bambi

Can Bambi be used as both a sense of what we take away from childhood, what we carry with us for the rest of our lives, but also a sense of how memory functions in our lives?  Think of the seminal moment from Bambi, the one that haunts you as a child, the moment that reminds you that even these original Disney films have something dark at the heart of them: the death of Bambi’s mother.  It’s such a key moment, such a dark and despairing moment that signals the end of childhood, but for us when we realize the specter of death, but also for the young faun as he realizes his mother is now gone and he’s going to have go on without her.  And yet, it takes place just halfway through the film.  We still have to have the other half of the film, where Bambi will return, will find himself twitter-pated, and will find himself in charge once the forest has been cleansed through a baptism of fire and water.

There is more as well, and it’s tied into one of the most endearing characters ever created by Disney.  If you watch the film, you might be surprised to realize that it takes over five minutes of film time before there is a single line of dialogue, surprising for a film that only runs 70 minutes.  That first line comes from a little rabbit, not seen at that point, but soon to come into sight and almost take over the film, with humor (“Kinda wobbly, aren’t ya?”), with sincerity (“”Eating greens is a special treat, It makes long ears and great big feet. But it sure is awful stuff to eat.” I made that last part up myself.”) and with important life lessons, and the last is where we go back to the concept of memory.  Growing up, we had it so ingrained into us in our household that when my mother would say “What does Thumper’s mother always say?” we could say back “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Imagine her surprise when, years later, she would realize that Bambi’s mother is making Thumper repeat what his father always says.  Memory can be funny that way.

But memory can also be what survives.  I saw Bambi as a little kid.  But it really survived in a couple of ways – through my Fisher Price movie viewer, which had the winter scene of Thumper trying to help Bambi skate on the ice, and through my memory.  I always remembered the film – the high moments (the wonderful opening illustrations of the forest and the way the animals come to life complete with personalities even when they don’t say anything) and the low (the death of Bambi’s mother, the fire that threatens all at the end).  Since I didn’t see Fantasia until I was almost 16, this was the defining animated film on my childhood and it stands up today as well as it ever did.  And so much of it has to do with that little bunny, the one who is so funny and charming, who is so very alive, who also manages to get twitter-pated, and who is a complete creation of the filmmakers.  There is no Thumper in the original book Bambi.  But thankfully the film has him and film history is all the better for him.

3  –  Yankee Doodle Dandy  (see my reviews here and here)

4  –  The Magnificent Ambersons  (see my review here)

Ernst Lubitsch finally wins me over.

Ernst Lubitsch finally wins me over.

5  –  To Be or Not to Be

There were all those Ernst Lubitsch films in the early 30’s, the ones that were getting nominated for Best Picture every year, mediocre offerings like The Love Parade, The Smiling Lieutenant and One Hour With You.  None of them is really all that good and they age very badly.  Then there is To Be or Not to Be, a wonderfully charming and funny comedy with the final performance from Carole Lombard, one of the greatest of all comedic actresses, and it got a whopping one nomination: Score.  It does better with me, of course, earning Picture, Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Editing and Art Direction nominations.

This film was always going to be a hard sell.  After all, it was a comedy about the Nazi invasion of Poland.  Not only that, but it had the bad luck to have Pearl Harbor happen before the film made it to theaters.  Then, even worse, Carole Lombard died in a plane crash before the film made it to theaters.  It opened under a cloud and was mostly swept away.  But sometimes things that look tasteless, have just the right amount of satire to find taste in the tastelessness (or, in the words of Mel Brooks, who would star in a remake of this film, when told that his The Producers was vulgar: “It rose below vulgarity.”).  I remember hearing about Jeffrey, a comedy about AIDS and wondering how could it possibly work, comedy about such a darkly serious subject.  But then I watched it and found myself laughing at how brilliantly satiric it was.  This is much the same: a terribly pompous actor is being cuckolded by his actress wife, who has been meeting a young Polish pilot, who slips out (far from silently) during the “to be or not to be” speech while the husband plays Hamlet.

Does all of this sound ridiculous?  Well, how about a plot to help the Polish resistance.  How about the impersonation of a Gestapo chief, only to have the actual chief show up (“So, they call me Concentration Camp Erhardt?”).  And, like Stephen Sondheim so perfectly put it, a happy ending of course (in fact, a rather inspired, hilarious ending that is the perfect one for this film).  So, you could watch the Academy’s Best Picture nominees, mediocre films like The Pied Piper and Wake Island, or you could watch this.

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. Roxie Hart
  2. Johnny Doughboy
  3. Black Dragons
  4. A Yank at Eton
  5. Song of the Islands
Ginger Rogers had her wheelhouse and this was way outside of it.

Ginger Rogers had her wheelhouse and this was way outside of it.

Roxie Hart  (dir. William Wellman)

Ginger Rogers could sing.  She could also dance.  Backwards.  In heels.  But dramatic acting, well, she wasn’t as strong there.  And being a vamp?  Oh, hell no.  Not that there was much to vamp about, because while this film is titled Roxie Hart, for any of those who have seen Chicago, prepare to be disappointed in oh so many ways.

First, let’s start with the opening.  And the way that it drags.  And drags.  And drags.  Finally, we get to Roxie and the crime that will make her famous.  Think of how well it is set up in Chicago, how betrayed Roxie feels, before blowing away her lover.  But here, we simply have a dead body, we have Roxie having nothing to do with the crime, instead just admitting to the crime (it’s actually her husband who did it, partially because women don’t hang, and partially because she needs a kick-start to her sagging career.

Everything about this film falls completely dead.  Rogers gives one of her worst performances, never seems convincing as Roxie, a woman to do whatever she has to to further her career.  She’s supposed to be dazzlingly charming and she shows no charm whatsoever.  Adolphe Menjou shows none of the flare that Richard Gere would later show (he’s just got no razzle-dazzle, instead just giving a typical arrogant Menjou performance).  They even have to throw in a bit of a mystery to find out who actually committed the crime, when part of the juiciness of the story is that we always know Roxie committed the crime.  Even the direction of the film by William Wellman, who would return in 1943 with The Ox-Bow Incident, one of the best films of the year.  And then, just to top it off, we get an unbelievably stupid ending, one that even the Code can’t be blamed for – just the screenwriters.  Pass on this one.  Go watch Chicago again instead.


  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  Yankee Doodle Dandy  (11)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Magnificent Ambersons  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Magnificent Ambersons  (435)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  The Black Swan
  • 2nd Place Award:  Yankee Doodle Dandy  (Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction)
  • 6th Place Award:  Road to Morocco  (Original Screenplay, Original Song)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  Random Harvest  /  Mrs. Miniver  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  The Magnificent Ambersons  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  The Magnificent Ambersons  (280)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  The Pied Piper
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  Yankee Doodle Dandy  /  The Palm Beach Story  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Sullivan’s Travels  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  Sullivan’s Travels  (340)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  My Sister Eileen

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  /  The Magnificent Ambersons  (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  /  Katharine Hepburn  (315)
  • 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:  37  (2)  –  The Magnificent Ambersons  (66.9)
  • Comedy:  23  (1)  –  Sullivan’s Travels  (69.7)
  • Musical:  12  –  Yankee Doodle Dandy  (65.3)
  • War:  6  –  49th Parallel  (64.2)
  • Suspense:  6  –  This Gun for Hire  (63.8)
  • Adventure:  5  –  Tarzan’s New York Adventure  (62)
  • Mystery:  4  –  The Glass Key  (69)
  • Foreign:  3 –  There Was a Father  (62.3)
  • Crime:  3  –  Johnny Eager  (61.3)
  • Kids:  1  –  Bambi  (96)
  • Horror:  1  –  Cat People  (71)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  Arabian Nights  (69)
  • Action:  1  –  Flying Tigers  (64)
  • Western:  1  –  The Great Man’s Lady  (63)
  • Sci-Fi:  0

Analysis:  I’ve seen significantly fewer musicals, but the war films start to rise, the 6 being more the most I’ve seen in a single year so far, but far short of what will happen in 1943.  The crime and foreign have significant drops.  With only film each for Kids and Horror, those go way up.  Nothing else changes more than a couple of points in any direction.

Studio Note:

I’ve seen 26 MGM films, the most by any studio in one year to date, accounting for a full quarter of the films.  But I’ve only seen 7 United Artists films, the first time since 1934 that falls into single digits.  Overall, with the big drop in foreign films, 93% of the films I’ve seen come from the major studios.  MGM goes up five points and Paramount goes up 6 points (to 72) but RKO, without Citizen Kane to boost it, drops 8 points.  Columbia’s best film is My Sister Eileen, at #22 – the first time since 1935 it doesn’t have a film in the Top 10, let alone the Top 20.  More surprisingly, United Artists, for the first time, doesn’t have a film in the Top 20 (One of Our Aircraft is Missing, its top film, is #21).  Paramount, on the other hand, with the two Preston Sturges films and The Glass Key, has three in the top 10, as many Top 10 films as it had from 1935-41 combined.  With Sullivan’s Travels, Paramount has the #1 film for the first time as well.  And a year after MGM had no Top 20 films, it’s back with 5.

6 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):

  • Aniki-Bobo  (de Oliveira, Portugal)
  • El Basiano Jalil  (Pardave, Mexico)
  • The Devil’s Envoys  (Carne, France)
  • There Was a Father  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Vienna Blood  (Forst, Germany)
  • We the Living  (Allessandrini, Italy)

Note: Half the films come from Axis countries, in spite of the war.  They somehow managed to make films, even if they were crap adaptations of crap Ayn Rand books.

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

  • Four Flights to Love  (1940)
  • Corsican Brothers  (1941)
  • Hellzapoppin  (1941)
  • Kipps  (1941)
  • Pimpernel Smith  (1941)
  • The Shanghai Gesture  (1941)
  • Sullivan’s Travels  (1941)

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

  • Aniki-Bobo  (1943)
  • Casablanca  (1943)
  • The Commandos Strike at Dawn  (1943)
  • The First of the Few  (1943)
  • In Which We Serve  (1943)
  • The Moon and Sixpence  (1943)
  • Saludos Amigos  (1943)
  • Seven Miles from Alcatraz  (1943)
  • Stand By for Action  (1943)
  • Love on the Dole  (1945)
  • The Devil’s Envoys  (1947)
  • Vienna Blood  (1950)

Note:  So, we have the best film of 1943 (Casablanca) and the worst (Seven Miles from Alcatraz).  This is why I use the Academy calendar.  Because I don’t want to put Casablanca in 1942 when it won Best Picture in 1943.  And In Which We Serve won Best Picture at the New York Film Critics in 1942 but was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars the next year.  Several years are affected because of this over the next decade, with the list of films released in one year and eligible in a different year that includes Sullivan’s Travels, Casablanca, Children of Paradise, La belle et la bête, The Third Man and Rashomon.