My mom always mentions that Paul Henreid is in Now Voyager.  I then always point out that he's also in Casablanca.  Oh yeah, so are Bogie, Bergman and Rains.  A hell of a cast.

My mom always mentions that Paul Henreid is in Now Voyager. I then always point out that he’s also in Casablanca. Oh yeah, so are Bogie, Bergman and Rains.  And Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. A hell of a cast.

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. For the first time in a long time there are no changes to Academy categories.  But, this is the first year of the Golden Globes – there were no nominees and no distinction between Drama and Comedy, but those films in red in the Globe section won the Globes.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Casablanca
  2. The Ox-Bow Incident
  3. In Which We Serve
  4. Shadow of a Doubt
  5. For Whom the Bell Tolls

Analysis:  Unlike the last two years, there are actually 6 **** films, which is unfortunate.  I rank The More the Merrier at the same level as Bell, but one of them had to come in 6th.  Then there’s a five point drop to #7 (Watch on the Rhine) and 4 points each for the next two (This Land is Mine, Five Graves to Cairo).  That’s a pretty hefty drop-off in three spots.  Six of those nine films deal with the war; the other three are Ox-Bow, Shadow of a Doubt and Bell (which deals with the Spanish Civil War).

  • curtizBest Director
  1. Michael Curtiz  (Casablanca)
  2. Alfred Hitchcock  (Shadow of a Doubt)
  3. William Wellman  (The Ox-Bow Incident)
  4. David Lean  (In Which We Serve)
  5. Sam Wood  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Analysis:  A year after directing the worst film of the year, Wellman is in the top 5.  Curtiz finally gets a Nighthawk win with his fifth and final nomination while Lean earns his first of many nominations.  Oddly enough, among Bell’s nine nominations was not one for Director or Screenplay; those nine nominations are the most for a film like that, though it has been tied several times.  Instead, both The Song of Bernadette and The Human Comedy earned Director and Screenplay nominations (which is just ridiculous).

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Casablanca
  2. The Ox-Bow Incident
  3. Watch on the Rhine
  4. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  5. Heaven Can Wait

Analysis: Though this is a solid top 5, there are only two more films on the list: Five Graves to Cairo and The Phantom of the Opera.  With some strong original scripts, this is a more evenly balanced year than most years.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Shadow of a Doubt
  2. In Which We Serve
  3. The More the Merrier
  4. This Land is Mine
  5. Hangmen Also Die

Analysis:  Shadow of a Doubt is nominated for Original Story.  In Which We Serve is nominated for Original Screenplay, which it loses to Princess O’Rourke, a very lightweight film.  The More the Merrier is nominated for Original Story and Screenplay.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Humphrey Bogart  (Casablanca)
  2. Joseph Cotton  (Shadow of a Doubt)
  3. Henry Fonda  (The Ox-Bow Incident)
  4. Paul Lukas  (Watch on the Rhine)
  5. Gary Cooper  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Analysis:  After not earning a Nighthawk nomination for his Oscar-winning role in 1941, Cooper ends up fifth place in back-to-back years.  Lukas is very good in Rhine, but I think today he is mainly thought of as the guy who beat Bogart.  Rather than nominate Cotton or Fonda, the Academy went with lightweights Mickey Rooney (my #7) and Walter Pidgeon (my #14).

  • Best Actress
  1. Ingrid Bergman  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  2. Ingrid Bergman  (Casablanca)
  3. Teresa Wright  (Shadow of a Doubt)
  4. Jean Arthur  (The More the Merrier)
  5. Bette Davis  (Watch on the Rhine)
  6. Jennifer Jones  (The Song of Bernadette)

Analysis:  In spite of winning the Oscar, Jones only makes my nominees because Bergman is on there twice.  These are the first two of five nominations for Bergman in four years.  It’s also Davis’ sixth nomination in a row and the fourth nomination for Wright in three years.

  • bhd-rains-casaBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Claude Rains  (Casablanca)
  2. Charles Coburn  (The More the Merrier)
  3. Akim Tamiroff  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  4. George Sanders  (This Land is Mine)
  5. Erich von Stroheim  (Five Graves to Cairo)

Analysis:  It took me a long time to look past seeing Coburn as the guy who beat Rains in one of the greatest supporting performances of all-time and realize how great Coburn is in the film.  In most years, he would have won the Nighthawk.  This win, Rains’ second (in his eight nomination, third in a row), moves him above Charles Laughton and into first place in points.  He will hold the top spot until the late 70’s.

  • Katína_Paxinoú_in_For_Whom_the_Bell_Tolls_trailerBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Katina Paxinou  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  2. Lucille Watson  (Watch on the Rhine)
  3. Gladys Cooper  (The Song of Bernadette)
  4. Celia Johnson  (In Which We Serve)
  5. Anne Revere  (The Song of Bernadette)

Analysis:  This group falls off very badly after Paxinou.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Casablanca
  2. In Which We Serve
  3. The Ox-Bow Incident
  4. Shadow of a Doubt
  5. The More the Merrier

Analysis:  The Oscar went to Air Force, which ending up 8th on my list, is better than previous years.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Casablanca
  2. Shadow of a Doubt
  3. The Ox-Bow Incident
  4. In Which We Serve
  5. For Whom the Bell Tolls

Analysis:  The color winner, The Phantom of the Opera, is my #6 and thus the second color film on the list.  The black-and-white winner, The Song of Bernadette, doesn’t come anywhere near my list.  Arthur Edeson, who never won an Oscar, wins his third and final Nighthawk Award, moving into first place all-time with 200 points.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Casablanca
  2. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  3. The Song of Bernadette
  4. The Ox-Bow Incident
  5. Shadow of a Doubt

Analysis:  After two straight years without a Nighthawk nomination, Max Steiner is back with another win, extending his lead in first place.

  • Best Sound:
  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  2. In Which We Serve
  3. Casablanca
  4. Five Graves to Cairo
  5. Air Force

Analysis:  Even with 12 nominations, there apparently wasn’t enough room on the nominee list for any of my five.  This Land is Mine, which won the Oscar, is 10th on my list.

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. Casablanca
  2. The Phantom of the Opera
  3. Heaven Can Wait
  4. Shadow of a Doubt
  5. The More the Merrier

Analysis:  Since Casablanca is black-and-white, that means the Oscar for Phantom is the only tech one in this year that I agree with.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. In Which We Serve
  2. Destination Tokyo
  3. For Whom the Bell Tolls

Analysis:  Still a weak bunch, but better than the weak bunch that the Academy went for.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  2. In Which We Serve
  3. Destination Tokyo
  4. Five Graves to Cairo
  5. Sahara
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. The Phantom of the Opera
  2. Heaven Can Wait
  3. The Song of Bernadette
  4. For Whom the Bell Tolls

Analysis:  With the studios focusing on the war, there wasn’t much in the ways of great costumes.  Phantom easily wins this one.

  • Best Makeup
  1. The Phantom of the Opera

Analysis:  Not even close to the greatness of the Lon Chaney makeup, but still solid enough to make the list, and as the only film on the list, easily wins my award.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Watercolor of Brazil”  (Saludos Amigos)
  2. “Saludos Amigos”  (Saludos Amigos)
  3. “One for My Baby”  (The Sky’s the Limit)
  4. “My Shining Hour”  (The Sky’s the Limit)
  5. “You’ll Never Know”  (Hello Frisco Hello)

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) So, that means the two songs on my list that weren’t nominated weren’t submitted, which is annoying, since obviously I think they’re better than the songs submitted from those films.  And, in spite of 10 nominees (one of which I haven’t seen), this is my whole list.  Forties swing and lite pop just isn’t for me.

  • SaludosAmigosLCBest Animated Film:
  1. Saludos Amigos

Analysis:  This is a big drop from Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi, but it does earn ***.5 (just barely) and so, we have a winner.  The next year won’t be so good.

  • sugatasanshiro3itvq3Best Foreign Film:
  1. Sanshiro Sugata
  2. Day of Wrath

Analysis:  Two very different films from two very different directors.  There is the first of many wins for Akira Kurosawa and the second nomination for Carl Theodor Dreyer (his first since winning for Vampyr in 1932).  Because of the war, it will be a long time before either of these films make it to LA and become eligible for the rest of the awards (see the end of the post).  In fact, no other films in this category will be eligible in other categories until after the war is over.

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.

  • Casablanca  (645)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls  (495)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Costume Design
  • Shadow of a Doubt  (340)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction
  • In Which We Serve  (295)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • The Ox-Bow Incident  (245)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score
  • The More the Merrier  (150)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing, Art Direction
  • Watch on the Rhine  (140)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Song of Bernadette  (135)
    • Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Score, Costume Design
  • Heaven Can Wait  (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • This Land is Mine  (70)
    • Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Five Graves to Cairo  (70)
    • Supporting Actor, Sound, Sound Editing
  • The Phantom of the Opera  (70)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Saludos Amigos  (70)
    • Original Song, Original Song, Animated Film
  • Hangmen Also Die  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Destination Tokyo  (40)
    • Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Air Force  (20)
    • Sound
  • The Sky’s the Limit  (20)
    • Original Song, Original Song
  • Sahara  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • Hello Frisco Hello  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  The More the Merrier would earn Picture and Director nominations if it had been released in either of the next two years.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse

Analysis:  This is the French-language version of the The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (which wouldn’t reach the States until 1952).  The German version is much better, but this version, also directed by Fritz Lang, is still quite good, a high-level *** film.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • The Human Comedy

Analysis:  Nominated for five Oscars and the winner of one, this maudlin look at the homefront during the war boasts a good performance from Mickey Rooney, but overall wilts under the weight of what it tries to do.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. Casablanca
  2. The Ox-Bow Incident
  3. In Which We Serve
  4. Shadow of a Doubt
  5. For Whom the Bell Tolls

Analysis:  For the first time since 1930, all five Best Picture nominees are dramas, so this is the same as above in the regular awards.  Sadly, it will continue to be like this several times in the following years, as the great comedies seem to disappear in the post-war era.

  • Best Director
  1. Michael Curtiz  (Casablanca)
  2. Alfred Hitchcock  (Shadow of a Doubt)
  3. William Wellman  (The Ox-Bow Incident)
  4. David Lean  (In Which We Serve)
  5. Sam Wood  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Analysis:  Again, the same as above.  It’s the first time since 1935 that William Wyler isn’t nominated, which is easily explained; he didn’t make a film (and wouldn’t again until 1946 – he’ll get nominated then).  It’s the first of four consecutive nominations for Hitchcock (all losses).

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Casablanca
  2. The Ox-Bow Incident
  3. Watch on the Rhine
  4. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  5. Five Graves to Cairo
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Shadow of a Doubt
  2. In Which We Serve
  3. This Land is Mine
  4. Hangmen Also Die
  5. Air Force

Analysis:  Air Force has uncredited writing from William Faulkner.  It’s the first of three Howard Hawks films written by Faulkner, as will be seen in future years.

  • bogieBest Actor:
  1. Humphrey Bogart  (Casablanca)
  2. Joseph Cotton  (Shadow of a Doubt)
  3. Henry Fonda  (The Ox-Bow Incident)
  4. Paul Lukas  (Watch on the Rhine)
  5. Gary Cooper  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Analysis:  Again, the same as above.

  • For-Whom-the-Bell-Tolls-1943-7

    When I did my Year in Film, I was accused of thinking with the wrong body part in picking Bergman for Bell. However, if I really was thinking that way, I would have picked her for Casablanca, where I find her far more attractive.

    Best Actress

  1. Ingrid Bergman  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  2. Ingrid Bergman  (Casablanca)
  3. Teresa Wright  (Shadow of a Doubt)
  4. Bette Davis  (Watch on the Rhine)
  5. Jennifer Jones  (The Song of Bernadette)
  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Claude Rains  (Casablanca)
  2. Akim Tamiroff  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  3. George Sanders  (This Land is Mine)
  4. Erich von Stroheim  (Five Graves to Cairo)
  5. Dooley Wilson  (Casablanca)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Katina Paxinou  (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  2. Lucille Watson  (Watch on the Rhine)
  3. Gladys Cooper  (The Song of Bernadette)
  4. Celia Johnson  (In Which We Serve)
  5. Anne Revere  (The Song of Bernadette)

By Film:  Yet another repeat of above.

  • Casablanca  (465)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls  (330)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Shadow of a Doubt  (245)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • The Ox-Bow Incident  (170)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • In Which We Serve  (165)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • Watch on the Rhine  (140)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Song of Bernadette (95)
    • Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Five Graves to Cairo  (70)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • This Land is Mine  (70)
    • Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Hangmen Also Die  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Air Force  (40)
    • Original Screenplay

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. The More the Merrier
  2. Heaven Can Wait
  3. Saludos Amigos

Analysis:  I’ve seen 7 Comedies from 1943 (far lower than previous years – either people didn’t want to laugh during the war or the Comedies haven’t been worth seeing).  They average a 65.6, a low ***.  The 18 Musicals I’ve seen are even worse – they average a 62, or a high-level **.5.  Aside from these three films which reach ***.5 (76 or higher), the only other film above a 68 is The Phantom of the Opera, which a Horror film, has easily enough music to qualify as a Musical.  And yet, this is far better than this category will produce.  After 1944, this the Comedy / Musical section of my awards is in sad shape for the rest of the decade.

  • Best Director:
  1. George Stevens  (The More the Merrier)
  2. Arthur Lubin  (The Phantom of the Opera)
  3. Ernst Lubitsch  (Heaven Can Wait)

Analysis:  Lubitsch’s fourth (and final) nomination moves him into a tie with Buster Keaton and Preston Sturges for 2nd place, way behind Chaplin.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Heaven Can Wait
  2. The Phantom of the Opera

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. The More the Merrier

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

  • phantomBest Actor:
  1. Claude Rains  (The Phantom of the Opera)
  2. Joel McCrea  (The More the Merrier)
  3. Don Ameche  (Heaven Can Wait)

Analysis:  This is Rains’ only appearance in this category, and just like in his only appearance in Supporting Actor – Comedy, he wins.

  • The-More-The-Merrier-1943-3Best Actress:
  1. Jean Arthur  (The More the Merrier)

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. Charles Coburn  (The More the Merrier)
  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. none

By Film:

  • The More the Merrier  (435)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Heaven Can Wait  (210)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • The Phantom of the Opera  (155)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Saludos Amigos  (50)
    • Picture

Analysis:  The More the Merrier is a great film, but it would have had trouble getting nominated in 1940.  Here it sweeps.  And it’s better than any comedy or musical from 1945-1949.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Sky’s the Limit

Analysis:  It’s way down at #26 for the year, but it’s the next best film on the list.  A decent musical with a couple of good songs.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  94

By Stars:

  • ****:  6
  • ***.5:  5
  • ***:  59
  • **.5:  21
  • **:  3
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  65.41

Analysis:  The average score drops a point and a half, a big fall.  Just not enough films at the top.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Something to Shout About  (Scoring of a Musical Picture, Song)

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  This is a big step up from the year before.  In fact, this is the best year to this date, coming in at #49, the first year to break into the top 50.  In fact, this year is very similar to 1939.  There is one amazing film at the top.  There are four other great films.  The bottom three films earn a 70, a 64 and a 63.  It comes down to the other two films.  In 1939, those are Of Mice and Men and Ninotchka, both good films, but not quite getting above the *** level.  But here they’re Watch on the Rhine (high level ***.5) and Heaven Can Wait (low level ***.5), and that gives the edge to 1943.

The Winners:  With Casablanca the first film to win Picture, Director and Screenplay that I agree with, that bodes well for this year.  It ends up with the best score for the winners since 1939.  It earns a 2.47 among the nominees, only earning one last place finish (Original Screenplay) and earns a 4.47 overall

The Nominees:  The nominees only go up a little bit, up to 57.9.  That’s because while the Picture-Director-Screenplay goes way up (to 59.2), the acting goes slightly down (to 78.0) and the tech goes down as well (to 43.2).  The high points are Picture (78.7) and Supporting Actor (81.8) which hit new highs, while Actress (65.4) has the lowest score since 1934.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  Casablanca  (see my review here)

2  –  The Ox-Bow Incident  (see my review here)

3  –  In Which We Serve  (see my review here)

As has been oft stated, Hitchcock's favorite among his films.

As has been oft stated, Hitchcock’s favorite among his films.  Here are his own words: “if I’ve given that impression, it’s probably because I feel that here is something that our friends, the plausibles and logicians, cannot complain about.”  (Hitchcock/Truffaut, p 151)

4  –  Shadow of a Doubt  (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

Santa Rosa, what a quiet sleepy town.  I’m actually familiar with it.  My great-grandmother was born and raised there (remembering the shaking of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that leveled much of the town) until a traveling salesman swept her off her feet and out the door (that salesman’s mother was a Sepulveda, thus my connection to such a prominent family in California history).  In college, my roommate was from Clearlake, and to get from Clearlake to the Bay Area, you would come down to 101 in Santa Rosa.  And the opening of my (unpublished) novel stems from a night in a Denny’s just outside Santa Rosa in March of 1995.

It’s the setting for Shadow of a Doubt, one of the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, and the one, as he says, that holds up the strongest against those denizens of logic who would try to pick his stories apart.  It’s under-rated, in a sense.  It would be nominated for just one Oscar – its Original Story, as opposed to the far inferior Lifeboat (Best Director nomination) and the slightly inferior Spellbound (Picture and Director nominations) that would follow in the next two years.  Yet, it is anchored by two very strong performances from Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright (both of whom I think are better than the actual Oscar winners for Actor and Actress) as Charlie and Charlie.

Teresa Wright is the younger Charlie, a wide-eyed beautiful girl who feels her family has lost their souls.  She is delighted to discover that her Uncle Charlie, her mother’s charming baby brother that she is named after is coming to town, as she feels that is the uplift her family needs.  What she doesn’t realize, though we have been given hints of it, is that her Uncle Charlie, charming as he may be, is also a murderer, coming for a visit because he’s on the run from the police.

As played by Joseph Cotten, Charlie provides a different character for Hitchcock to focus on.  We look at Shadow of a Doubt and see the mystery and suspense, the danger that young Charlie is in, and we feel like it is classic, but typical Hitchcock.  But Truffaut hits the nail on the head.  “Psycho is the only other picture in which your central figure is a villain; the character in Shadow of a Doubt even has the public sympathy, probably because you never actually show him in the act of killing the widows.”  (Hitchcock/Truffaut, p 153).  And Truffaut is right.  We are so busy being enthralled by the two lead performances, watching how Hitchcock so perfectly brings us into the life of Santa Rosa, keeping the suspense going, first as young Charlie follows the path to the truth, and then as her uncle realizes what has happened and turns on her, that we never think about how Hitchcock films are always following the wrongly accused innocent man.  This time we’re following the guilty man and it feels all the same, because the master is clearly working at his best here.

5  –  For Whom the Bell Tolls  (see my review here)

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. Seven Miles from Alcatraz
  2. Behind the Rising Sun
  3. The Ghost Ship
  4. Flight for Freedom
  5. Sweet Rosie O’Grady
Just the worst of a lot of bad films from Edward Dmytryk in 1943.

Just the worst of a lot of bad films from Edward Dmytryk in 1943.

Seven Miles from Alcatraz  (dir. Edward Dmytryk)

It’s astounding that Edward Dmytryk would, in a few years, be nominated for an Oscar and deserve it (for Crossfire).  Here, he not only directs the worst film of the year, he also directs the second worst film of the year (both of them low-level ** films).  He even directs the 7th, 8th and 9th worst films of the year.  He made a sixth film and it also doesn’t reach ***.  Six films in one year and not one of them is a good film.  That’s a truly astounding lack of artistic success.

The plot of this film is pretty dumb – some criminals escape from Alcatraz.  However, they end up at a lighthouse where one of the men is a Nazi spy.  This will inevitably end up in a confrontation between escaped Alcatraz inmates and Nazis.  There were some far-fetched ideas being made into movies because of the war but this one is among the most ridiculous.  There are also some blatant goofs that make the plot more ridiculous (you can see them all on the IMDb under Goofs, and they really make the already strained plotline snap into a thousand pieces).

Now, silly plots have been made into decent movies, even into good movies.  But this film is hampered by more than just its plot.  It is hampered by inept direction that doesn’t seem to know what to do with the actors.  It is hampered by incompetent editing that destroys any chance for the film to flow.  It is, most of all, hampered by some truly atrocious acting.  Now, Bonita Granville is normally pretty good – she was cute and spunky as kid sisters in screwball comedies.  But even she can’t save this film and she doesn’t actually do a whole lot to try.  But James Craig, in the lead role as one of the convicts, is just a complete dead weight.  He’s not believable as a convict or as a patriotic man who will take on the Nazis.  And even he is better than the acting from the Nazis once they actually appear on-screen to provide us with a ridiculous final fight.  Since the film is so dumb, I will even nitpick the title.  Seven miles from Alcatraz will find you at Mile Rocks.  There is a lighthouse, but no island.  If you tried to get there from Alcatraz, you would drown.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  For Whom the Bell Tolls  (12)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Casablanca  (9)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Casablanca  (645)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Hello Frisco Hello
  • 2nd Place Award:  In Which We Serve  (Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound, Sound Editing)
  • 6th Place Award:  The More the Merrier  (Picture, Director)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  Casablanca  /  For Whom the Bell Tolls  (7)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Casablanca  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Casablanca  (465)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  The Song of Bernadette
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The More the Merrier  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  The More the Merrier  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The More the Merrier  (435)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  The Phantom of the Opera

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:  Claude Rains  (305)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (415)
  • Director:  Charlie Chaplin  (315)
  • Writer:  Charlie Chaplin  (360)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (350)

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

  • Drama:  26  (1)  –  Casablanca  (64.2)
  • War:  23  (1)  –  In Which We Serve  (69)
  • Musical:  12  –  The Sky’s the Limit  (62)
  • Comedy:  6  –  The More the Merrier  (65.6)
  • Suspense:  6  –  Shadow of a Doubt  (68)
  • Western:  5  –  The Ox-Bow Incident  (71.5)
  • Mystery:  4  –  Journey Into Fear  (62.8)
  • Foreign:  3 –  The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse (68)
  • Kids:  3  –  Saludos Amigos  (67.3)
  • Adventure:  3  –  Northern Pursuit  (63.7)
  • Horror:  3  –  The Phantom of the Opera  (60.7)
  • Crime:  1 (1)  –  The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse  (73)
  • Action:  1  –  China  (70)
  • Fantasy:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0

Analysis:  The Comedies plummet – it’s the fewest I’ve seen since 1929 and the first time it’s been in single-digits since 1932.  As I said above, is it just that they were making fewer comedies or because the ones they made aren’t worth seeing?  Dramas are also down – the lowest amount I’ve seen and the first time that they account for less than 1/3 of the films I’ve seen.  On the other hand, Musicals are up – the most since 1936.  And War films explode of course; the 18 War films equal the total number I’d seen from 1934-42.  The quality of many of these is down as well – the lowest numbers for Drama, Comedy and Musical since the 30’s.  And the overall total is down, the lowest since 1937, although almost a whole point higher than it will be in 1944.

Studio Note:

After 26 MGM films the year before, I’ve only seen 12 this year – the lowest total since 1935.  But for some reason, RKO is way up – I’ve seen 18 RKO films, far more than in any previous year.  But that doesn’t mean they’re any good – the RKO films average a 58, the lowest mark for the studio since 1932 and the first time any of the major studios average less than a 60 since 1934.  RKO also manages to have the four worst films of the year.  With the war keeping films out, for the fourth straight year over 90% of the films I’ve seen come from one of the major studios.

Shadow of a Doubt becomes the first Universal film to finish in the Top 10 since 1936.  But 20th-Century Fox does better; after having only one Top 10 film from 1931-1942, they have two here (The Ox-Bow Incident, Heaven Can Wait).  Perhaps the most surprising thing is that Casablanca becomes the first Warners film to win the Nighthawk Award for Best Picture; it won’t be the last.

10 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):

  • Another Dawn  (Bracho, Mexico)
  • Captain Fracasse  (Gance, France)
  • Day of Wrath  (Dreyer, Denmark)
  • Dona Barbara  (de Fuentes, Mexico)
  • Lumiere D’ete  (Gremillon, France)
  • Ossessione  (Visconti, Italy)
  • Romanze in Moll  (Kautner, Germany)
  • Sanshiro Sugata  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Song Lantern  (Naruse, Japan)
  • Wild Flower  (Fernandez, Mexico)

Note:  Again, in spite of the war, almost half the films are from Axis countries, including Sanshiro Sugata, easily the best of the bunch.  Only two of them rate above ***, but for the first time since 1938, all of these films are at least ***.

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

  • The Crimes of Dr. Mabuse  (1933)
  • Aniki-Bobo  (1942)
  • Casablanca  (1942)
  • The Commandos Strike at Dawn  (1942)
  • The First of the Few  (1942)
  • In Which We Serve  (1942)
  • The Moon and Sixpence  (1942)
  • Saludos Amigos  (1942)
  • Seven Miles from Alcatraz  (1942)
  • Stand By for Action  (1942)
  • Star Spangled Rhythm  (1942)

Note:  Here we have the best and worst films of the year, but hey, that’s when they were Oscar eligible.

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

  • Another Dawn  (1944)
  • A Guy Named Joe  (1944)
  • Jack London  (1944)
  • Romanze in Moll  (1944)
  • Demi-Paradise  (1945)
  • Dona Barbara  (1945)
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  (1945)
  • The Man in Grey  (1945)
  • Song Lantern  (1945)
  • Wild Flower  (1945)
  • The Outlaw  (1946)
  • Lumiere D’ete  (1947)
  • Day of Wrath  (1948)
  • Sanshiro Sugata  (1974)
  • Ossessione  (1977)

Note:  I feel the need to point out that Captain Fracasse isn’t on this list.   That’s because if a film doesn’t ever have a confirmed U.S. release date, I include it when it was originally released in its home country.  I doubt it played in the States in 1943, but this is the rule I go with because I don’t have a better one.  Also, with Blimp on the list, we have another film that would have been nominated for Best Picture (and will be in 1945).

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