In 1944, this would have been the #2 film.  In 1946, it would be the #8 film.  But in 1945, The Lost Weekend is easily the best film of the year.

In 1944, this would have been the #2 film. In 1946, it would be the #8 film. But in 1945, The Lost Weekend is easily the best film of the year.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category.  Films in blue were nominated. This is the last year of the seemingly unlimited number of nominees in most of the tech categories at the Oscars.  It’s the third year of the Golden Globes – there were still 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. The Lost Weekend
  2. To Have and Have Not
  3. Spellbound
  4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  5. The Story of G.I. Joe

Analysis:  Unlike the year before, this isn’t even a full list of **** films – Joe is a ***.5 film, and not that high a one either.  Joe is the weakest #5 film since 1934 and the total group is the weakest group of 5 since 1931.

  • wilderBest Director
  1. Billy Wilder  (The Lost Weekend)
  2. Howard Hawks  (To Have and Have Not)
  3. Alfred Hitchcock  (Spellbound)
  4. Michael Powell  (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)
  5. William Wellman  (The Story of G.I. Joe)

Analysis:  Billy Wilder joins Murnau and Orson Welles in the rare back-to-back Nighthawk winner group.  But Wilder only has three Nighthawk nominations to this point, while it’s the fourth for Hitchcock and Wellman and the fifth for Hawks.  It’s the first for Powell, but he’ll have a couple of more before the decade’s end.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Lost Weekend
  2. To Have and Have Not
  3. Spellbound
  4. The Body Snatcher
  5. The Man in Grey

Analysis: William Faulkner earns a Nighthawk nomination for his screenwriting on To Have and Have Not.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  2. A Medal for Benny
  3. Anchors Aweigh
  4. Dillinger

Analysis: A Medal for Benny was nominated for Best Original Story, losing to the okay House on 92nd Street.  Dillinger was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, losing to Marie-Louise, which is extremely difficult to find and the only Oscar winner after 1935 I haven’t seen.  These are the only 4 films in my Top 22 that were original.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Ray Milland  (The Lost Weekend)
  2. Roger Livesey  (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)
  3. Humphrey Bogart  (To Have and Have Not)
  4. Boris Karloff  (The Body Snatcher)
  5. Gregory Peck  (The Keys of the Kingdom)

Analysis:  Peck also finishes in 6th, for Spellbound.  Milland is way better than anyone else on the list, but that’s okay since Milland is way, way, way better in this film than he is in any film in his career.  With his nomination here, Bogart moves up to 2nd in points, though he’s still quite a bit behind Claude Rains.

  • Best Actress
  1. Joan Crawford  (Mildred Pierce)
  2. Gene Tierney  (Leave Her to Heaven)
  3. Ingrid Bergman  (Spellbound)
  4. Lauren Bacall  (To Have and Have Not)
  5. Bette Davis  (The Corn is Green)

Analysis:  In sixth is Bergman again, for her actual Oscar-nominated role in The Bells of St. Mary’s.  This is the 8th nomination in a row for Davis and the end of her streak (all losses); in five years she has gone from 5 points behind Katharine Hepburn to 135 points ahead.  In the same period Bergman has gone from 0 points to tied for fourth with 210 points.

  • Robert Mitchum The Story og G.I JoeBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Robert Mitchum  (The Story of G.I. Joe)
  2. J. Carroll Naish  (A Medal for Benny)
  3. John Dall  (The Corn is Green)
  4. Michael Chekhov  (Spellbound)
  5. James Dunn  (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)

Analysis:  As you can see, even when the Academy gets it completely right, I still think they get it completely wrong.  Naish (whose performance is hard to find though I finally saw it on TCM a year or so ago) was actually my winner until I rewatched Joe to write about and bumped up Mitchum just enough.  Not a great year for supporting performances.  It’s the only win for Mitchum at the Nighthawks, but hey, it was the only nomination for Mitchum at the Oscars.

  • kerr

    Each row is a different role played wonderfully by Deborah Kerr.

    Best Supporting Actress:

  1. Deborah Kerr  (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)
  2. Joan Lorring  (The Corn is Green)
  3. Angela Lansbury  (The Picture of Dorian Gray)
  4. Geraldine Fitzgerald  (The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry)
  5. Jane Wyman  (The Lost Weekend)

Analysis:  Like with Supporting Actor, not a great year.  Kerr wins the Nighthawk years before she’ll start losing at the Oscars.  My #6 is Doris Dowling (also for Lost Weekend), while the other three Oscar nominees are my 7-9 (Anne Revere, the winner, for National Velvet, then Eve Arden and Ann Blyth for Mildred Pierce).

  • Best Editing:
  1. The Lost Weekend
  2. Spellbound
  3. To Have and Have Not
  4. Mildred Pierce
  5. The Southerner

Analysis:  Again, I totally disagree with the Academy.  The Lost Weekend is the only one of the 13 films on my list to earn an Oscar nomination (the Oscar winner was National Velvet).

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. The Lost Weekend
  2. Spellbound
  3. To Have and Have Not
  4. Mildred Pierce
  5. The Southerner

Analysis:  John Seitz wins back-to-back Nighthawks doing work for Billy Wilder; he’ll win another in 1950.  Sadly, he never won an Oscar.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Spellbound
  2. The Lost Weekend
  3. Hangover Square
  4. Mildred Pierce
  5. To Have and Have Not

Analysis:  Spellbound is a great film score.  But Hangover Square is a film I saw simply for the score – Stephen Sondheim in one of his two books of annotated lyrics listed the film as being one with a great score that he remembered seeing when he was young; so I saw it on his recommendation.  It’s a good film, but a great score, just like he said; that score moves composer Bernard Herrmann into a tie for third place, with 150 points.  All of the scores here are by composers in the top 8 at this point – Miklos Rosza did both Spellbound and Lost Weekend, which gives him 100 points.  To Have and Have Not is the fifth nomination for Franz Waxman, which moves him into a tie for 5th.  And the final score, Mildred Pierce, was composed by Max Steiner, who now has 375 points and is 100 points ahead of anyone else (that 2nd place composer is Chaplin).

  • Best Sound:
  1. They Were Expendable
  2. The Story of G.I. Joe
  3. The Pride of the Marines
  4. San Antonio
  5. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Analysis:  There were 12 films nominated in this category at the Oscars.  I have 13 films on my complete list.  They Were Expendable is the only film which overlaps.  The Oscar winner was The Bells of St. Mary’s.

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  2. The Lost Weekend
  3. Spellbound
  4. The Man in Grey
  5. The Picture of Dorian Gray

Analysis:  At least the color winner, Frenchman’s Creek, finished in 6th on my list.  The black-and-white winner, Blood on the Sun, didn’t even make my list.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Spellbound
  2. They Were Expendable

Analysis:  Spellbound didn’t win, in spite of the wonderful effects with the Dali designs, with Wonder Man winning instead (as a longtime comic book reader, I can’t help always thinking that Wonder Man should be a film about the Marvel hero).  I should point out that I’m a huge Dali fan – I have a print of The Persistence of Memory right above my desk.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. They Were Expendable
  2. The Story of G.I. Joe
  3. San Antonio
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  2. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  3. The Man in Grey
  4. Frenchman’s Creek
  5. A Song to Remember

Analysis:  Not only does Blimp have great costumes, but they look glorious in the wonderful Technicolor.

  • Best Makeup
  1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Analysis:  The filmmakers really do an impressive job with the aging makeup on Roger Livesy and Anton Walbrook, something that filmmakers often struggle with.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “I Fall in Love Too Easily”  (Anchors Aweigh)
  2. “Accentuate the Positive”  (Here Come the Waves)
  3. “Aren’t You Glad You’re You”  (The Bells of St. Mary’s)
  4. “Three Caballeros”  (The Three Caballeros)
  5. “It Might as Well Be Spring”  (State Fair)

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) Not a great year, but the last year that the studio controls what is nominated.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. none

Analysis:  The only eligible film I’ve seen, The Three Caballeros is a high level *** film, which isn’t good enough to earn a nomination.

  • les-enfants-du-paradisBest Foreign Film:
  1. Children of Paradise
  2. Ivan the Terrible Part I
  3. Open City
  4. Those Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail

Analysis:  It’s the first time since 1938 there are two **** films in the category and the best 1-2 punch in the category since Metropolis and Battleship Potemkin in 1926.  It’s the first win for France in 3 years (the longest they’ve gone so far), the first nomination for the Soviets in 10 years and the first nomination for Italy at all.  It’s the second nomination for Kurosawa, but the third win for Carne, who is now second in the category with 160 points (behind Renoir).

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 Lost Weekend  (515)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  (405)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Sound, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Spellbound  (360)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Visual Effects
  • To Have and Have Not  (280)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score
  • The Story of G.I. Joe  (195)
    • Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Mildred Pierce  (120)
    • Actress, Cinematography, Original Score
  • They Were Expendable  (100)
    • Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • The Corn is Green  (95)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Anchors Aweigh  (85)
    • Original Screenplay, Editing, Original Song
  • The Body Snatcher (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • The Man in Grey  (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • A Medal for Benny  (70)
    • Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray  (65)
    • Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Dillinger  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • San Antonio  (40)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • The Keys of the Kingdom  (35)
    • Actor
  • Leave Her to Heaven  (35)
    • Actress
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • The Southerner  (25)
    • Cinematography
  • Hangover Square  (25)
    • Original Score
  • The Pride of the Marines  (20)
    • Sound
  • Frenchman’s Creek  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • A Song to Remember  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Three Caballeros  (10)
    • Original Song
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s  (10)
    • Original Song
  • State Fair  (10)
    • Original Song
  • Here Comes the Waves  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis: With all due respect to Arsenic and Old Lace, which is a great film, it would have not gotten much more than Adapted Screenplay in a good year.  Gaslight sets a new record for points without winning Best Picture (500).

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • And Then There Were None

Analysis:  There is some irony here, as in my Year in Film post, I reviewed this film as my under-appreciated film of 1945.  And I do think it is under-appreciated.  After all, it is my #11 film of the year and earns ***.5 from me and was not one of the 62 feature films nominated for an Oscar.  But it doesn’t rank higher than 7th in any of my categories (Adapted Screenplay).

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • National Velvet

Analysis:  This is just a matter of chance.  National Velvet won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars and finished 7th on my list in that category.  It’s a better film than The Bells of St. Mary’s, but the latter film has a decent song that makes it into my nominations in a weak year for the category.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. The Lost Weekend
  2. To Have and Have Not
  3. Spellbound
  4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  5. The Story of G.I. Joe

Analysis:  Since all of these Drama categories are the same as the Nighthawk categories up above, there are minimal comments.

  • Best Director
  1. Billy Wilder  (The Lost Weekend)
  2. Howard Hawks  (To Have and Have Not)
  3. Alfred Hitchcock  (Spellbound)
  4. Michael Powell  (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)
  5. William Wellman  (The Story of G.I. Joe)

Analysis:  This is Hitchcock’s third Drama nomination in a row, but it’s the first for Hawks since his win in 1932.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Lost Weekend
  2. To Have and Have Not
  3. Spellbound
  4. The Body Snatcher
  5. The Man in Grey
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  2. A Medal for Benny
  3. Dillinger
  • Ray-Milland-The-Lost-WeekendBest Actor:
  1. Ray Milland  (The Lost Weekend)
  2. Roger Livesey  (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)
  3. Humphrey Bogart  (To Have and Have Not)
  4. Boris Karloff  (The Body Snatcher)
  5. Gregory Peck  (The Keys of the Kingdom)

Analysis:  Bogart moves up to 2nd in Drama as well, though here he’s only 10 points behind Rains.

  • Joan Crawford tones down the bitch factor and wins an Oscar and a Nighthawk in a weak year.

    Joan Crawford tones down the bitch factor and wins an Oscar and a Nighthawk in a weak year.

    Best Actress

  1. Joan Crawford  (Mildred Pierce)
  2. Gene Tierney  (Leave Her to Heaven)
  3. Ingrid Bergman  (Spellbound)
  4. Lauren Bacall  (To Have and Have Not)
  5. Bette Davis  (The Corn is Green)

Analysis:  Bergman’s other performance, in 6th place, won the Globe for Best Actress.  Here, Bergman is in 3rd place, but Davis, in 1st has an astounding 555 points, putting her 240 points above anyone else.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Robert Mitchum  (The Story of G.I. Joe)
  2. J. Carroll Naish  (A Medal for Benny)
  3. John Dall  (The Corn is Green)
  4. Michael Chekhov  (Spellbound)
  5. James Dunn  (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn)

Analysis:  As you can see, even when the Academy gets it completely right, I still think they get it completely wrong.  Naish (whose performance is hard to find though I finally saw it on TCM a year or so ago) was actually my winner until I rewatched Joe to write about and bumped up Mitchum just enough.  Not a great year for supporting performances.  It’s the only win for Mitchum at the Nighthawks, but hey, it was the only nomination for Mitchum at the Oscars.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Deborah Kerr  (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)
  2. Joan Lorring  (The Corn is Green)
  3. Angela Lansbury  (The Picture of Dorian Gray)
  4. Geraldine Fitzgerald  (The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry)
  5. Jane Wyman  (The Lost Weekend)

Analysis:  Like with Supporting Actor, not a great year.  Kerr wins the Nighthawk years before she’ll start losing at the Oscars.  My #6 is Doris Dowling (also for Lost Weekend), while the other three Oscar nominees are my 7-9 (Anne Revere, the winner, for National Velvet, then Eve Arden and Ann Blyth for Mildred Pierce).

  • The Lost Weekend  (370)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  (270)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • To Have and Have Not  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • Spellbound  (200)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • The Story of G.I. Joe  (155)
    • Picture, Director, Supporting Actor
  • The Corn is Green  (95)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Body Snatcher (75)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • A Medal for Benny  (70)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • Mildred Pierce  (70)
    • Actress
  • The Man in Grey  (40)
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • Dillinger  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Keys of the Kingdom  (35)
    • Actor
  • Leave Her to Heaven  (35)
    • Actress
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Southerner

Analysis:  The curse of there being no Comedy films in the Nighthawk Awards.  The Southerner is my #6 film for the year and is also in 6th place for Best Director, just barely behind Joe in both categories.  But, since they are all Dramas, there’s no room for it even in the Globes.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Anchors Aweigh

Analysis:  At the lower end of ***.5, meaning it is good enough to qualify here, and it is far better than any other eligible films in the year.  There’s a full review here.

  • Best Director:
  1. none
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. none
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Anchors Aweigh
  • Gene Kelly does a dance for the ages.Best Actor:
  1. Gene Kelly  (Anchors Aweigh)

Analysis:  Maybe one of the more surprising Best Actor nominations.  Kelly is enjoyable, though not really Oscar worthy.  He wins here due to a lack of competition more than anything, but at least he rates consideration here.

  • Best Actress:
  1. none
  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. none
  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. none

By Film:

  • Anchors Aweigh  (250)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor

Analysis:  I’ve seen 24 films from this year that qualify.  And this is the only one good enough to rate any awards from me.  The next best film, The Three Caballeros, a good, but not good enough Disney film, ranks at #26 on the year.  After that you drop down to A Royal Scandal at #35.  Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the Globes didn’t start doing Comedy / Musical awards until 1950.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Three Caballeros

Analysis:  As I said, good, but not good enough.  The weakest of the package films, and I ranked it 34th among the Disney Animated Films (when there were still only 50).

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  101

By Stars:

  • ****:  4
  • ***.5:  8
  • ***:  60
  • **.5:  24
  • **:  3
  • *.5:  2
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  65.3

Analysis:  It goes up almost a full point from the year before, but it’s the second straight year I’ve seen two films I rank below **.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Marie-Louise  (Original Screenplay)
  • Why Girls Leave Home  (Scoring of a Musical Picture, Song)
  • G.I. Honeymoon  (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture)
  • Hitchhike to Happiness  (Scoring of a Musical Picture)
  • Sunbonnet Sue  (Scoring of a Musical Picture)
  • Three is a Family  (Sound Recording)
  • The Unseen  (Sound Recording)
  • Captain Eddie  (Special Effects)
  • Earl Carroll Vanities  (Song)
  • Sing Your Way Home  (Song)

note:  So, that’s 10 films.  As many as I’m missing in all the 1950’s and as many as I’m missing from 1965-2013 combined.  It includes two films nominated for Best Sound (I’m only missing 2 in the 68 years since), four films nominated for Score (I’m only missing 1 film in the 68 years since) and the most recent Visual Effects nominee I’m missing.  And Marie-Louise won, which makes it the only Oscar winner I’m missing post-1935 (ironically, the 1935 winner, The Scoundrel, also won Screenplay – the only two winners I’m missing post-1929).  Almost all of these films are incredibly difficult to see outside of an archive and most of them have fewer than 100 votes on the IMDb.

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  This year is very similar to 1944, ranking just a couple of spots above.  That’s because three of the films in each year rank very similarly – Gaslight (#137) and The Lost Weekend  (#125), Going My Way (#360) and Mildred Pierce (#353) and Since You Went Away (#413) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (#406).  The others are very different, but end up equalling about the same.  1944 had an incredible film (Double Indemnity – #60) and a terrible film (Wilson – #454) while 1945 has two that are much more in the middle (Spellbound – #249 and Anchors Aweigh – #297).

The Winners:  The winners are a big step up.  Among the nominees, the winners average a 2.22, the best score since 1935.  Among all the films, they average a 4.47, which is the same as 1943, but there are 7 categories in which I think the Academy got it completely right, which is the most to date (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, both Score categories).  This is the first year since 1928 where I agree with Picture, Director, Actor and Actress and it won’t happen again until 1953.  Even in Supporting Actor, the only category where the Academy picked the weakest of the nominees, they did fine, because all five of their nominees are the same as mine.

The Nominees:  But Supporting Actor was one of the few categories they got right.  In almost every other category, the score goes down from the year before and overall the average drops to a 54.5, the lowest since 1938.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  The Lost Weekend  (read my review here)

Bogie.  Bacall.  Faulkner.  Nuff said.

Bogie. Bacall. Faulkner. Nuff said.

2  –  To Have and Have Not  (dir. Howard Hawks)

She effortlessly breathes new life into the screen, the exact same way that she breathed new life into her co-star.  She is slender (when called Slim, she says “I’d rather you wouldn’t call me Slim.  I’m a little too skinny to take it kindly.”).  She is young (young enough that the piano player actually gets her the drink).  But she is beautiful, especially in an array of form-fitting outfits that draw Harry Morgan’s attention to her figure, no matter all the other things that are going on around him.  But, most importantly, with a script provided by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman, she is damn witty.  Look at the interaction between her and Harry around their kiss.  (“What did you do that for?” he asks her.  “I’ve been wondering if I’d like it.”  “What’s the decision?”  “I don’t know yet.”  Then, after a second kiss, comes the killer line: “It’s even better when you help.”)  Then, of course, she exits with that great line: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?  You just put your lips together and blow.”

This was the screen debut of one amazing Lauren Bacall, all of 19 years old, about to sweep Humphrey Bogart off his feet and out of his marriage.  Hollywood is filled with films in which the couple on-screen became a couple off-screen, but only rarely in cinematic history have we had a couple that existed in both places that had such lively chemistry on the screen.

But all of this might have gone for naught.  The very idea of making this film came from a bet between Howard Hawks and Ernest Hemingway – that Hawks could take Papa’s worst book and make a worthwhile film out of it.  So, they settled on To Have and Have Not, and Hawks proceeded to dump most of the plot, just holding on to the basic character of Harry Morgan, complete with a similar opening and letting Faulkner and Furthman rewrite it all (which would bring a bit of trivia well known to most – Hemingway and Faulkner would both go on to win the Nobel Prize, making this the only film in history with two Nobel winners involved).  The result is a film that has very little of the action that was evident in the original novel (indeed, the ending was dropped entirely for a much less dramatic one that fit the tone of the film better and basically recycled into Key Largo, the last of the four Bogie-Bacall films), but instead relies on wit, a bit of topical politics (the book was basically about inequality, from a Marxist perspective, while the film makes it more about the war) and a whole lot of chemistry between its two leads.  It would also have Walter Brennan, in the great role of Eddie, the rummy that helps Harry and who is eventually befriended by Slim as well (in a great additional witty scene that harkens back through the film).  Brennan would so often win Oscars for roles when he didn’t deserve them, and here, in one of his best performances, he didn’t even earn a nomination.

Personal Endnote:  This film also has a special personal meaning to me.  In 1997, I moved to Arizona.  The night before I left, I was eating dinner with two of my closest friends when one of them said “I slept today.”  The other one then explained that I needed to write a story that began with “Ryan slept today.”  When I got to Arizona, living completely on my own, hundreds of miles from anyone I knew, I started to do just that, and then decided to serialize it and send it out over e-mail to several friends, most of whom ended up as characters.  After I returned from Arizona, I did the whole thing again, a new story that took off from the previous one.  Someone I met at this time read both and commented on all this “rutting in the hay.”  So, when I began the third story, I started with a line directed at her: “Mark and Amy were rutting in the hay.”  Except, that was such a blatantly ridiculous line that I needed something to account for it.  So I decided it was a line from a film script that the main characters were making and it immediately prompts an argument over how bad the line is.  To explain it away, the main two characters have a bet with two of the actors that they could take a bad novel and make a good film, just like the Hawks-Hemingway bet, with the caveat that they couldn’t just drop the book like Hawks did, but give a faithful rendition of the original.  Those three stories form the core of my long-ago completed, almost certainly never to-be published novel, in your most frail gesture.

The first of the three brilliant Powell films that failed to earn any Oscar noms.

The first of the three brilliant Powell films that failed to earn any Oscar noms.

3  –  The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  (dir. Michael Powell)

Michael Powell hit his peak in the 1940’s.  His The 49th Parallel was nominated for Best Picture, as was The Red Shoes and he earned his only actual Oscar nomination for One of Our Aircraft is Missing (as a writer).  His films during the decade earned 16 Oscar nominations and won 8 Oscars (only William Wyler and Henry King’s films won more Oscars during the decade).  But during the decade he also made what, for my money, are his three best films: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Canterbury Tale and A Matter of Life and Death.  Those three films combined for zero Oscar nominations, and as they all pre-dated the first BAFTA Awards, they got no awards from the Brits either.  But all three of them earn Nighthawk nominations for Best Picture, though because they all got delayed releases in the States, none of them get them in the year of their original British release.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp made it to the States in 1945, two years after its British release, and it was in a truncated form, but it was lucky to ever get made at all.  You can read here about the trials that Powell and his moviemaking partner, Emeric Pressburger went through to get it made.  But get made it did, and it is wonderful to behold.

First there is the story.  This is the story of a soldier, told through the first half of the century, beginning as he has just come home from the Boer War and ending with the threat of the Nazis hanging over England.  He is a lieutenant in the beginning, but a retired general in charge of the Home Guard by the end.  I didn’t say he was a lieutenant when we first meet him, because there is a great use of flashback here.  There is an extended opening concerning a Home Guard training that pulls us into the story and we see the general ridiculed by a young soldier only to have him bluster and knock the soldier into a bath and explain who he is.  And that wonderfully takes us back and allows us to see his story unfold.  It is the story of the wars of the early part of the 20th Century and we understand, somewhat, why they were fought, and what they meant to the English character.

Then there is the acting.  There are three main performances, one of them quite solid, one of them solid and one of them luminous.  Roger Livesy, the Powell stalwart, is quite solid in the role of the British officer, down through the years (the makeup used on him is really quite impressive – a great job of aging him through the years).  Anton Walbrook plays his other half, a German officer, also through the years, who begins as his unplanned opponent, and ends as the only man he can really talk to.  And there is Deborah Kerr, luminous through the years in three different roles, all of them the woman that Livesy loves (and here, years before she would start losing at the Oscars, she wins at the Nighthawks).

And there is the production.  In the middle of the war, with the country being bombed, it’s incredible that England could make films at all, let alone lush Technicolor films like this and Olivier’s Henry V, films that are gorgeous to look at, whose art direction and costume design is still to be admired 70 years down the road.

4  –  Spellbound  (read my review here)

And Robert Mitchum becomes a star in 3, 2, 1...

And Robert Mitchum becomes a star in 3, 2, 1…

5  –  The Story of G.I. Joe  (dir. William A. Wellman)

The War Genre flourished during the war.  I’ve seen 30 War films made before 1940.  I’ve seen 42 that were made during the war.  Almost all of them were about World War II, and they weren’t that great.  The average for those first 30 films was a 73.8, almost a ***.5.  The average for the films made during the war is a 68.1.  Of all those films, The Story of G.I. Joe stands out.  It’s not a great film, but it’s the best American film about the war made during the war (there are two films during the war in the genre I classify as **** – For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was about the Spanish Civil War, and In Which We Serve, which was British).  In fact, there wouldn’t be a better film about the war until Stalag 17.  Indeed, there are few films of this type – the combat film – which are better.  So, the question is, why?

This film feels real is a big part why.  And the reason it feels real is that in a sense it is real.  The men who are in this film aren’t actors for the most part.  They were pulled from actual troops who had seen actual combat.  While I often don’t go for the naturalistic effect of using non-trained actors (like in Bresson films), it works so well here because it means the members of the platoon don’t feel the need to try to emote too much on-screen.  They allow the two primary actors to do their thing and they react to the film the way they reacted to the war.  There are real emotions, real reactions from people who were trained for combat and are reliving that and aren’t trained to pretend about how they feel.

There are the two primary actors as well.  Burgess Meredith, looking tiny and much older than he actually was (which is a trick – Ernie Pyle himself wasn’t that old, he just looked it) is solid in the role of the journalistic bystander.  But the key to the film is Robert Mitchum.  In the role of the lieutenant (and later, captain) who is looking out for his men but also trying to win the war, Mitchum gives one of his best performances – it made him a star and earned him his only Oscar nomination.  It is gritty and real and he always feel like he is just as much a part of the platoon as all the other soldiers.

But Mitchum isn’t the only key.  There’s also the very story, and the way it was adapted.  This is the story of the everyday soldier and what they went through, first in North Africa, then in Italy.  But it works so well because we see it through the eyes of the tiny little journalist, Ernie Pyle.  He is willing to slog along with the troops, to dig the ditches with them, sleep in the rain with them, because he wants their story to be told and through his eyes we see the war as it unfolds.

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. The Vampire’s Ghost
  2. Salome Where She Danced
  3. A Thousand and One Nights
  4. Detour
  5. Dick Tracy

note:  I am aware that many people consider Detour a classic, a low-budget suspense film that keeps you intensely watching in spite of the total lack of production values.  I find it badly acted, not well directed, badly written, and of course, there is the total lack of production values.

Yet another bad, bad low-budget horror film.

Yet another bad, bad low-budget horror film.

The Vampire’s Ghost  (dir. Lesley Selander)

Obviously I have seen this film, otherwise I would not be reviewing it and I would not have declared it the worst film of 1945.  But I have no idea why I’ve seen this film.  It didn’t earn any Oscar nominations, isn’t on any lists of great films, isn’t directed by a notable director.  My only guess is that it aired on TCM and I decided to see it as I have seen numerous vampire films and decided to see if it was worth the time.  It wasn’t.

This film was made by Republic Pictures, and perhaps part of the blame for the lack of quality is that it was made by a Poverty Row studio.  But Dillinger, made this same year, was also a Poverty Row film and it is made with style, in spite of the lack of budget.  Over the years, Republic would rarely make really good films (The Quiet Man and Orson Welles’ Macbeth being the primary exceptions), but they weren’t usually awful either (of the 40 Republic films I’ve seen only 3 of them were ranked lower than **.5 and this was the only one below **).

The real problem with this film is that it’s a horror film that doesn’t contain any single moment which is frightening or suspenseful.  The direction is not very good and the the production values aren’t particularly good (though they could be worse).  The real problem here is the writing.  The dialogue is completely inane and the characters are overwhelmingly stupid – how they can’t realize who the villain (vampire) is within the first twenty minutes is beyond belief.

And that brings me to the final problem: the acting.  There is a proud tradition of vampire acting through the years, from Lugosi to Lee to Oldman.  John Abbott, in the role of the vampire (who, by the way, breaks a number of vampire rules, with other rules seeming to have been randomly created for this film) is the least likely and just about the least convincing vampire in film history (Twilight notwithstanding).  It’s obvious early on that he’s a vampire but perhaps the other characters can be forgiven for not believing it because it’s so ridiculous and he’s so awful in the role.

Lots of horror films have bad acting in them.  But they can overcome that with some genuine terror or suspense.  But since this film is totally devoid of either, the total lack of talent evident across the board just makes this a complete waste of time.  And to think, this was written by Leigh Brackett, the same writer who would work on The Big Sleep with Faulkner.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Lost Weekend  (9)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Lost Weekend  (7)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Lost Weekend  (535)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Here Come the Waves
  • 2nd Place Award:  To Have and Have Not  (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing)
  • 6th Place Award:  The Southerner  (Picture, Director)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  The Lost Weekend  /  The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  /  Spellbound  /  To Have and Have Not  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  The Lost Weekend  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  The Lost Weekend  (370)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  The Keys of the Kingdom
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  Anchors Aweigh  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Anchors Aweigh  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  Anchors Aweigh  (250)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Anchors Aweigh

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  (335)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (485)
  • Director:  Charlie Chaplin  (315)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (400)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (375)
  • Foreign Film:  Jean Renoir  (200)

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

  • Drama:  44  (4)  –  The Lost Weekend  (67.4)
  • Musical:  12  (1)  –  Anchors Aweigh  (64.9)
  • Comedy:  10  (1)  –  A Royal Scandal  (60.7)
  • War:  8  –  The Story of G.I. Joe  (71.1)
  • Suspense:  7  –  Spellbound  (68.4)
  • Foreign:  7  –  Great Freedom No. 7  (64.7)
  • Adventure:  4  –  The Spanish Main  (56.5)
  • Mystery:  3  –  And Then There Were None  (65)
  • Western:  3  (1)  –  San Antonio  (58)
  • Horror:  3  –  The Body Snatcher  (55.3)
  • Kids:  2  –  National Velvet  (70.5)
  • Crime:  2  –  Dillinger  (57.5)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  A Thousand and One Nights  (42)
  • Action:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0

Analysis:  Even though the war is ending, Comedies and Musicals are way down.  On the other hand, the 44 Dramas are the most since 1934.  Not only are there fewer Comedies and more Dramas, but the Comedies are worse (the lowest average for the genre since 1930) and the Dramas are better (the highest average for the genre since 1936).  The Foreign Western is Doña Bárbara, the first one to appear here, Westerns being an American contribution, though the Italians would later delight in them.

Studio Note:

Columbia drops again, this time down to 60.4  But 20th Century-Fox, with 13 films, averages a 68.3, its highest score since 1930 and by far its highest average with double-digit films.  On the other hand, Universal averages a 60.5, the lowest average to date for the studio.  Overall, with the war ending, there are a lot more films from non-majors.  The major studios only account for 86.1% of the films I’ve seen, the lowest since 1938.

Paramount becomes the second studio to win three Best Picture awards and the second to win two in a row.  But, since those first two were done by United Artists, with different production companies, this really puts Paramount on top.  Although, UA does shine here, joining RKO in 1941 and Paramount in 1944 as the only studios so far to have 4 films in the Top 10 in one year.

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):

  • A Cage of Nightingales  (Dreville, France)
  • Children of Paradise  (Carne, France)
  • Ivan the Terrible Part I  (Eisenstein, USSR)
  • Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne  (Bresson, France)
  • Open City  (Rossellini, Italy)
  • Sanshiro Sugata Part II  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Those Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Under the Bridges  (Kautner, Germany)

Note:  With the war finally done, I have the first Soviet film I have seen since 1939.  We also have the weakest film of Kurosawa’s career and one of the single greatest films ever made.

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

  • The Heart of a Queen  (1940)
  • The Stationmaster  (1940)
  • Love on the Dole  (1942)
  • Demi-Paradise  (1943)
  • Doña Bárbara  (1943)
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  (1943)
  • The Man in Grey  (1943)
  • Song Lantern  (1943)
  • Wild Flower  (1943)
  • Belle of the Yukon  (1944)
  • Can’t Help Singing  (1944)
  • Experiment Perilous  (1944)
  • Der Feuerzangenbowle  (1944)
  • Great Freedom No. 7  (1944)
  • Guest in the House  (1944)
  • Here Come the Waves  (1944)
  • The Keys of the Kingdom  (1944)
  • Music for Millions  (1944)
  • On Approval  (1944)
  • The Three Caballeros  (1944)
  • To Have and Have Not  (1944)
  • The Way Ahead  (1944)

Note:  Yet two more Nighthawk nominee for Best Picture.  But better than 1942, 1943, 1946 and 1947, where the Nighthawk winner was from a different year.

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

  • The Big Sleep  (1946)
  • Blithe Spirit  (1946)
  • Brief Encounter  (1946)
  • Caesar and Cleopatra  (1946)
  • Children of Paradise  (1946)
  • Dead of Night  (1946)
  • Madonna of the Seven Moons  (1946)
  • Open City  (1946)
  • The Seventh Veil  (1946)
  • The Spiral Staircase  (1946)
  • Under the Bridges  (1946)
  • Vacation from Marriage  (1946)
  • The Wicked Lady  (1946)
  • A Cage of Nightingales  (1947)
  • I Know Where I’m Going  (1947)
  • Ivan the Terrible Part I  (1947)
  • Pink String and Sealing Wax  (1950)
  • Those Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail  (1960)
  • Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne  (1967)
  • Sanshiro Sugata Part II  (1974)

Note:  This list accounts for my #1 film in 1946, five of the top 10 in 1946 and a Nighthawk nominee for Best Picture in 1947.

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