It's possible that this film doesn't move you.  It's also possible you have no heart.

It’s possible that this film doesn’t move you. It’s also possible you have no heart.

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 (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated (this is the first year that there are nominees for the Globes).  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winner.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Bicycle Thieves  *
  2. The Heiress  *
  3. A Canterbury Tale
  4. A Letter to Three Wives  *
  5. It Always Rains on Sunday

Analysis:  These five films represent a nice sliding scale of **** films – a 97, 95, 93, 90, 89.  Interesting perhaps, that the only two American films on the list were both nominated for Best Picture.  My #6 is another Foreign film (Germany Year Zero) and my #7 film is the Oscar and Consensus Best Picture (All the King’s Men).

  • Best Director
  1. Vittorio de Sica  (Bicycle Thieves)  *
  2. William Wyler (The Heiress)
  3. Michael Powell (A Canterbury Tale)
  4. Roberto Rossellini  (Germany Year Zero)  *
  5. Robert Hamer  (It Always Rains on Sunday)

Analysis: There is some irony here in that the one of my Picture nominees not nominated for Director is A Letter to Three Wives, which won the Oscar.  This is William Wyler’s seventh Nighthawk nomination, tying him for second in points with Chaplin (315) and tying him in first in nominations with Howard Hawks.
Because of strange eligibility with the first DGA Awards, Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Wives) wins the DGA and Oscar but loses the Consensus, because Robert Rossen (All the King’s Men), wins the 1949 DGA and the Globe and is nominated for the Oscar.  Because of the limited awards at the time, it will be another decade before another director wins the DGA and Oscar but not the Consensus.
A note about Rossellini’s Consensus nomination.  Because so many of the critics groups combine films, I give the Consensus based on awards for the year, not on a single film.  So, Rossellini earns his nomination for the Consensus based on his 1948 NBR Best Director award for Paisan (which was also eligible in 1949), rather than for any award for Germany Year Zero.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Bicycle Thieves
  2. The Heiress
  3. A Letter to Three Wives  *
  4. It Always Rains on Sunday
  5. All the King’s Men  **

Analysis: The Heiress is an example of a film being much better than its source – I loathe Henry James and the remake is far inferior.  All the King’s Men, on the other hand, it could be argued is still a better book.  I should mention that the WGA would not begin separating into Adapted and Original until 1969; prior to that all of their nominations were based on genre rather than source.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. A Canterbury Tale
  2. Germany Year Zero
  3. Paisan
  4. Passport to Pimlico
  5. A Run for Your Money

Analysis:  Not a single American film in the bunch.  And the Academy recognized the weakness of American films in this category, as they nominated two of these films.  And yet, the utter cliche-ridden Battleground won the Oscar, won the Globe and was nominated by the WGA.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Kirk Douglas  (Champion)  *
  2. Broderick Crawford  (All the King’s Men)  **
  3. Ralph Richardson  (The Fallen Idol)  *
  4. James Cagney  (White Heat)
  5. Gregory Peck  (12 O’Clock High)  *

Analysis:  For the 4th year in a row (and 5th time in 6 years), the Oscar winner comes in 2nd on my list.  But, unlike the previous two years, my winner was Oscar-nominated.  I admit that Crawford’s performance might not hold up as well for me because so many of his later performances were so much like it – at the time it must have seemed a bigger stretch.

  • Best Actress
  1. Olivia de Havilland  (The Heiress)  **
  2. Sheila Sim  (A Canterbury Tale)
  3. Googie Withers  (It Always Rains on Sunday)
  4. Susan Hayward  (My Foolish Heart)  *
  5. Deborah Kerr  (Edward My Son)  *

Analysis:  Olivia de Havilland wins for the second straight year.  She’s also the first Actress to win three awards in one year, taking home the Oscar, Globe and NYFC – the NBR didn’t bother to even give an award.  Because the BAFTAs didn’t yet give out the award and Kerr was the only other Globe nominee, de Havilland dominates the award, earning almost 54% of the points – the highest in history and impossible to be matched today (Helen Mirren, with her sweep in 2006, only earned 45% of the points because there are so many other awards – Emma Thompson fell just .09 percentage points short of de Havilland with her sweep in 1992 before there were so many more awards).  Partially because Davis and Hepburn have dominated this category (and, in the 40’s, Bergman), and partially because so many of the best actresses of the 20’s and 30’s didn’t make it into the 40’s (e.g. Gaynor, Shearer, Garbo), Kerr has already earned enough points to get her into 6th place.

  • letter5Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Kirk Douglas  (A Letter to Three Wives)
  2. Ralph Richardson  (The Heiress)  **
  3. Dean Jagger  (12 O’Clock High)  *
  4. Arthur Kennedy  (Champion)  *
  5. Claude Rains  (The Passionate Friends)

Analysis:  Douglas, of course, pulls off the amazing feat of winning both Actor and Supporting Actor in the same year.  But Richardson is also impressive, coming in 3rd in Actor and 2nd here – his NBR Award was for both films.  Interesting that neither actor actually pulled off a double nomination.  Just when Bogie was about to catch Claude Rains for first place, Rains moves slightly further away with his 11th Nighthawk nomination (and his second to last).

  • mercedes-mccambridgeBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Mercedes McCambridge  (All the King’s Men)  **
  2. Miriam Hopkins  (The Heiress)
  3. Susan Shaw  (It Always Rains on Sunday)
  4. Patricia Plunkett  (It Always Rains on Sunday)
  5. Margaret Rutherford  (Passport to Pimlico)

Analysis:  This used to be an easy win for McCambridge, but I was much more impressed with Hopkins when I went back to the film for the Best Picture project.  Hopkins earned a Globe nomination; she was the only nominee aside from winner McCambridge.

  • Best Editing:
  1. Bicycle Thieves
  2. A Canterbury Tale
  3. A Letter to Three Wives
  4. Thieves Highway
  5. Germany Year Zero

Analysis:  I’m certain that at some point the Academy and I will start to agree on this category, but it’s not here.  My #6 film, The Window, at least earned a nomination.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. The Heiress
  2. Bicycle Thieves
  3. A Canterbury Tale
  4. Thieves Highway
  5. Champion

Analysis:  The black-and-white Oscar winner was the overrated Battleground, whose cinematography is very suspect and didn’t even make my list (see my objections in the Best Picture post).  The color choice, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, is actually a pretty good choice, but the black-and-whites are still better at this point.  It’s interesting (to me), that none of the cinematographers here had previously earned a Nighthawk nomination; perhaps the new blood was coming on with the decline of the Studio Era.  The Academy clearly thought differently, as no less than 4 previous Oscar winners were among the 10 nominees in this year, including Leon Shamroy (nominated here for Prince of Foxes), who would tie for 1st place in points at the Academy in this year and would never relinquish that lead (his total when he retired was 550 – that’s 75 points higher than any other cinematographer, 225 points higher than any cinematographer who’s received a nomination in the last 35 years, and double the points of any active cinematographer).

  • Best Original Score:
  1. Bicycle Thieves
  2. The Heiress
  3. The Battle of the Rails
  4. A Canterbury Tale
  5. Under Capricorn

Analysis:  It’s the same here.  All five of these composers (Allessandro Cicognini, Aaron Copland, Yves Baudrier, Allan Gray, Richard Addinsell) are earning their first Nighthawk nominations.  But at the Academy, Roger Edens was winning the second of three straight Oscars (in the Scoring of a Musical category), Ray Heindorf was earning a nomination for the 8th straight year (for Musicals) and Max Steiner was earning a nomination for the 16th straight year (every year the category had existed).  Though, this was also the first year since 1936 that Alfred Newman wasn’t nominated (by this point, even with Steiner’s streak, Newman had more point (750) than Steiner would ever have from the Academy and that’s before the 7 year streak of nominations that Newman would start the next year).  I much prefer Steiner myself – even though Newman was the uncle to one of my college roommate’s favorite singers (and a high school classmate of my father), he has, at this point, less than a third of the Nighthawk points that Steiner has.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Champion
  2. Thieves Highway
  3. 12 O’Clock High
  4. Sands of Iwo Jima
  5. White Heat

Analysis:  Another category I often don’t agree with the Academy on – the 3rd place finish for the Oscar winner is the best since 1942.

  • The Heiress 6Best Art Direction:
  1. The Heiress
  2. The Barkleys of Broadway
  3. Adventures of Don Juan
  4. It Always Rains on Sunday
  5. Germany Year Zero

Analysis:  On the other hand, the Academy and I are much more agreeable here.  The Heiress has wonderful production design.  And it’s not all about period pieces – in the next two years the Academy and I will agree on Sunset Blvd and Streetcar.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Mighty Joe Young
  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Mighty Joe Young
  2. 12 O’Clock High
  3. White Heat
  4. Sands of Iwo Jima
  5. The Battle of the Rails
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. The Heiress
  2. Under Capricorn
  3. In the Good Old Summertime
  4. Adventures of Don Juan
  5. The Barkleys of Broadway
  • Best Makeup
  1. none
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “Baby It’s Cold Outside”  (Neptune’s Daughter)
  2. “Lavender Blue”  (So Dear to My Heart)

Analysis:  Yes, I could only find two original songs from the year I thought worthy of nomination.  But at least the Oscar went to my #1 and my #2 was nominated.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. none

Analysis:  There was only one eligible film: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  It’s fun and memorable, but not really good enough to rate ***.5.  There’s a full review here.  It ranked at #30 in my Disney rankings.  If nothing else it gave us Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, still one of my favorite rides at Disneyland and one of only two rides we went on twice when we took Thomas there last month (the other was Star Tours).

  • bicycleBest Foreign Film:
  1. Bicycle Thieves  **
  2. Stray Dog
  3. Distant Journey
  4. Orpheus
  5. A Quiet Duel

Analysis:  Bicycle Thieves wins the second special Oscar for Best Foreign Film.  It also wins Best Foreign Film at the Globes and from the New York Film Critics, making it the first film to win three Foreign Film awards, which won’t be matched until 1963.  And it’s such a unique combination that, to this day, only five other films have won all three of those awards: War and Peace, Fanny and Alexander, All About My Mother, A Separation and Amour.  It is also the third straight film from Italy to win this award, though it won’t do so again until 1956.

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.

  • Bicycle Thieves  (435)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Foreign Film
  • The Heiress  (410)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • A Canterbury Tale  (285)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score
  • It Always Rains on Sunday  (250)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress, Art Direction
  • A Letter to Three Wives  (175)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing
  • Germany Year Zero  (170)
    • Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, Art Direction, Foreign Film (1948)
  • Champion  (165)
    • Actor, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Sound
  • All the King’s Men  (135)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • 12 O’Clock High  (105)
    • Actor, Supporting Actor, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Mighty Joe Young (80)
    • Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • White Heat  (75)
    • Actor, Sound, Sound Editing
  • Passport to Pimlico  (70)
    • Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • Thieves Highway  (70)
    • Editing, Cinematography, Sound
  • The Battle of the Rails  (65)
    • Original Score, Sound Editing, Foreign Film (1946)
  • Paisan  (60)
    • Original Screenplay, Foreign Film (1946)
  • A Run for Your Money  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Under Capricorn  (40)
    • Original Score, Costume Design
  • Sands of Iwo Jima  (40)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • The Fallen Idol  (35)
    • Actor
  • My Foolish Heart  (35)
    • Actress
  • Edward My Son  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Barkleys of Broadway  (35)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Adventures of Don Juan  (35)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design
  • The Passionate Friends  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Neptune’s Daughter  (20)
    • Original Song
  • In the Good Old Summertime  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • So Dear to My Heart  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • They Live By Night

Analysis:  A bleak crime film from Nicholas Ray.  It’s a mid-level ***.5 film and my #8 of the year.  But it never ends up higher than 7th place in any category (that’s Director).  It’s the only film in the Top 11 not to earn at least 2 nominations.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Battleground

Analysis:  Winner of two Golden Globes and two Oscars but never better than low-level *** and no longer even in the Top 400 Best Picture nominees of all-time.  It earned a total of 9 nominations (2 Globes, WGA, 6 Oscars).  You can read a review here.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. Bicycle Thieves
  2. The Heiress
  3. A Canterbury Tale
  4. A Letter to Three Wives
  5. It Always Rains on Sunday

Analysis:  Like with 1948, Bicycle Thieves is actually the Best Foreign Film at the Globes (All the King’s Men won Picture), but since it wasn’t eligible for the regular Best Picture, it gets the color here.

  • Best Director
  1. Vittorio de Sica  (Bicycle Thieves)
  2. William Wyler (The Heiress)
  3. Michael Powell (A Canterbury Tale)
  4. Roberto Rossellini  (Germany Year Zero)
  5. Robert Hamer  (It Always Rains on Sunday)

Analysis:  Though this is only Wyler’s second nomination since 1942, because of time off with the war, this is the fifth film in a row for which he earns a Nighthawk Nomination for Best Director – Drama.  It’s his ninth nomination overall which puts him 90 points above anyone else, but he still has no wins.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Bicycle Thieves
  2. The Heiress
  3. A Letter to Three Wives
  4. It Always Rains on Sunday
  5. All the King’s Men

Analysis:  I should point out that the WGA classified A Letter to Three Wives as a Comedy.  But, from 1948-1983, when they finally stopped dividing between Comedy and Drama, they also considered these films as Comedies: All About Eve, Lilies of the Field, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Terms of Endearment.  There are arguments to be made in all of these cases, but none of them will find themselves on the Comedy side of the Nighthawk Awards.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. A Canterbury Tale
  2. Germany Year Zero
  3. Paisan
  4. White Heat

Analysis:  One American film makes it this time.

  • championBest Actor:
  1. Kirk Douglas  (Champion)
  2. Broderick Crawford  (All the King’s Men)
  3. Ralph Richardson  (The Fallen Idol)
  4. James Cagney  (White Heat)
  5. Gregory Peck  (12 O’Clock High)

Analysis:  Richard Todd was the other Globe nominee (and was Oscar-nominated) for The Hasty Heart.  He is quite good and is my #6, but since my top five are all from Dramas, he can’t make it onto my list.

  • heiressodhBest Actress
  1. Olivia de Havilland  (The Heiress)
  2. Sheila Sim  (A Canterbury Tale)
  3. Googie Withers  (It Always Rains on Sunday)
  4. Susan Hayward  (My Foolish Heart)
  5. Deborah Kerr  (Edward My Son)

Analysis:  This second win in a row moves de Havilland into 4th place for Drama points, behind only Davis, Bergman and Gaynor.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Kirk Douglas  (A Letter to Three Wives)
  2. Ralph Richardson  (The Heiress)
  3. Dean Jagger  (12 O’Clock High)
  4. Arthur Kennedy  (Champion)
  5. Claude Rains  (The Passionate Friends)

Analysis:  Rains still is 5 points behind Bogie here and Bogie will spend the first half of the 50’s increasing his lead.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Mercedes McCambridge  (All the King’s Men)
  2. Miriam Hopkins  (The Heiress)
  3. Susan Shaw  (It Always Rains on Sunday)
  4. Patricia Plunkett  (It Always Rains on Sunday)
  5. Celeste Holm  (Come to the Stable)

Analysis:  For a few years here, Holm was the queen of supporting actresses in Hollywood.  In four years she earned three Oscar nominations and won an Oscar.  Then, she decided she preferred the theatre (and television) and only made about a dozen films over the next sixty years.

Points:

  • Bicycle Thieves  (270)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • The Heiress  (265)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • It Always Rains on Sunday  (230)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • A Canterbury Tale  (210)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress
  • A Letter to Three Wives  (150)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • All the King’s Men  (135)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Champion  (100)
    • Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Germany Year Zero  (85)
    • Director, Original Screenplay
  • White Heat (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor
  • 12 O’Clock High  (65)
    • Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Paisan  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Fallen Idol  (35)
    • Actor
  • My Foolish Heart  (35)
    • Actress
  • Edward My Son  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Passionate Friends  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Come to the Stable (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • They Live By Night

Analysis:  As mentioned above, just not enough.  It’s #8 in Picture and #7 in Director, but everything above it is a Drama.

Comedy / Musical:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Passport to Pimlico
  2. Whisky Galore

Analysis: Huzzah!  It’s the Ealing Comedies, come to save the Comedy / Musical section of the Nighthawk Golden Globes.

  • Best Director:
  1. Alexander MacKendrick  (Whisky Galore)

Analysis:  MacKendrick was the best of the Ealing directors.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Whisky Galore
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Passport to Pimlico
  2. A Run for Your Money
  3. The Barkleys of Broadway

Analysis:  No surprise here that Ealing takes both Screenplay awards.

  • Astaire, Fred (Barkleys of Broadway, The)_NRFPT_06Best Actor:
  1. Fred Astaire  (The Barkleys of Broadway)
  2. Stanley Holloway  (Passport to Pimlico)

Analysis:  This is, surprisingly, Astaire’s first (and only) win in this category, though his fourth nomination (all opposite Ginger).  This puts him 5th in points for Comedy / Musical.

  • HermionePTPBest Actress:
  1. Hermione Baddeley  (Passport to Pimlico)
  2. Ginger Rogers  (The Barkleys of Broadway)

Analysis:  This is the final appearance of Ginger Rogers at the Nighthawk Awards.  Her final tally is one Comedy / Musical win and four total Comedy / Musical nominations, good enough at this point to tie Jean Arthur for 4th place.

  • Best Supporting Actor
  1. Arthur Levant  (The Barkleys of Broadway)
  • Best Supporting Actress
  1. Margaret Rutherford  (Passport to Pimlico)

Points:

  • Passport to Pimlico  (345)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • Whisky Galore  (220)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • The Barkleys of Broadway  (205)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • A Run for Your Money  (40)
    • Original Screenplay

Analysis:  Things finally start to improve because, as I mentioned, the Ealing Comedies start to arrive.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • On the Town

Analysis:  An enjoyable Gene Kelly movie – the first film he co-directed with Stanley Donen, but I just don’t think it’s good enough in any of the major categories to merit award discussion.  Good enough though to be my #19 of the year.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  126

By Stars:

  • ****:  6
  • ***.5:  9
  • ***:  89
  • **.5:  18
  • **:  4
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  67.5

Analysis:  A massive amount of *** films (and a few ** films) means the average drops almost a point.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Sand  (Cinematography – Color)

Other Awards Films I Have Not Seen  (in points order):

  • Gal Who Took the West  (WGA  –  Western)
  • You’re My Everything  (WGA  –  Musical)

note:  It’ll be another 7 years before I’m missing another WGA nominee.

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  A big drop, down to #58.  That’s mainly because, even with The Heiress, not a single one of the nominees makes the top 100.  On the other hand, it’s not in the bottom group because only one film is outside the top 400 and that’s Battleground and it’s still only at #404.

The Winners:  With several of the tech categories only having 3 nominees, the awards do overall well, earning a 1.81, with 11 first place finishes.  But that’s partially because they didn’t do a great job with the nominees.  That 1.81 is the average winner rank among the nominees.  But the average winner rank overall is a 4.05, though only black-and-white Cinematography finishes outside the Top 10.

The Nominees:  The nominee choices aren’t too terrible.  The overall score, the tech score and the acting score are all weaker than 1948, but better than the several previous years before that.  But the major categories (Picture, Director, writing) are where things break down.  It’s the first time in four years that none of those categories earns over a 70 and the overall score for the majors is 49.2, the worst since 1942.  The category that is the strongest in some ways is Best Sound, earning a 57, the best to date in that category.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

Well what do you know.  Pauline Kael and I agreed on something.

Well what do you know. Pauline Kael and I agreed on something.

1  –  Bicycle Thieves  (dir. Vittorio de Sica)

Could I be under-rating Bicycle Thieves by only giving it a 97?  Is that perhaps because the naturalism of the actors, which works so well for the lead role, is a bit more distracting for the rest of the performers?  Because what else could it be that would keep this film from achieving a 99 and being on my short-list for the greatest film ever made?

Have you not seen Bicycle Thieves (a word as to the title – the Italian title translates more directly, though the English language title to the right gives a different take on the plot, or just doesn’t give away the ending, perhaps)?  It is perhaps expected that any serious film fan would have seen it.  It was one of two films I had ruined for my in the nineties because the ending of the film itself was shown in The Player and I hadn’t yet seen the film.  Perhaps Altman was expecting that if I had enough interest in film to see The Player then I already would have seen Bicycle Thieves (the other was Touch of Evil, ruined by Get Shorty, although in both cases, the films are so brilliant, even knowing the ending can’t ruin them).

So, if you haven’t seen Bicycle Thieves (what is wrong with you?) and haven’t seen The Player (seriously, what is wrong with you?), here’s the basic rundown.  This is post-war Rome (and neo-realism, the Italian film movement that ranks up there with German Expressionism and French New Wave as one of the most important in film history) and a man who desperately needs a job gets one because he has a bicycle.  But, while working, his bicycle is stolen and he and his son must try to hunt it down.

What happens to the father, what happens between father and son, what happens at the end that will move you deeply (unless, as I said before, you have no heart) I don’t really need to write here.  Needless to say it is extremely well-made, extremely well-written and moving as very few films in film history are, one that continues to move you every time you see it.

2  –  The Heiress  (read my review here)

3  –  A Canterbury Tale  (read my review here)

4  –  A Letter to Three Wives  (read my review here)

Don't be fooled by the name Ealing.  This is not a comedy.

Don’t be fooled by the name Ealing. This is not a comedy.

5  –  It Always Rains on Sunday  (dir. Alexander MacKendrick)

When you think of Ealing you think of witty, droll comedies, usually starring Alec Guinness, or at least Stanley Holloway.  You don’t think of bleak melodramas played out against the dreariness of a rainy Sunday.  And yet, while the Ealing Comedies were blooming forth, the first great Ealing film to arrive in the States was the 1947 production of It Always Rains on Sunday.  Following in the footsteps of Jean Renoir and Marcel Carne in France, parallel to de Sica and Rossellini in Italy and presaging the often bleak British dramas of the next 15 years to come (including the advent of the angry young man) this is a film that always manages to hit its mark.

Like Bicycle Thieves, there wasn’t much that had to be done to make the scene.  This is filmed in the desolation of the post-war years with all the ravages of the war clear on the screen.  Not just the bombing and desolation all around on the ground of Bethnal Green (where it takes place and was filmed), but the rationing and stolid British way that was to hold the ground over the next decade.

This is the story of Rose, a woman living with her husband and her two step-daughters (whom she loathes, and who loathe her in return).  But, one rainy Sunday, who crawls over the wall and back into her life but her former lover, now on the lam.  She must deal with her family, deal with the mundane aspects of everyday life (including getting the cooking done), try to hide her lover (who she clearly still has strong feelings for), push back his advances and hold it all together.  This is really her story, though there is a side plot about the D.I. who is tracking down her lover, which gives it all a bit more of a dramatic ending than was needed.  But the writing is strong, the directing is strong and the powerful performance from Googie Withers as Rose makes this a film that, often overlooked, shouldn’t ever be.  It proves that Ealing could do it all, complete with Robert Hamer, who will next show up in 1950 directing one of the very best of the Ealing Comedies: Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Utter rubbish masquerading as both philosophy and art.  It is neither.

Utter rubbish masquerading as both philosophy and art. It is neither.

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. The Fountainhead
  2. The Great Gatsby
  3. Whirlpool
  4. Under Capricorn
  5. Little Women

note: Apparently Rex Reed was crazy about this version of Little Women.  Everyone else thinks it is blown out of the water by the 1933 and 1994 versions.  Under Capricorn is proof that even great directors can make bad films (yes – at **, I think it is a bad film).

The Fountainhead  (dir. King Vidor)

The argument could be made that I was automatically inclined to dislike The Fountainhead.  After all, I find Ayn Rand’s political beliefs (just looking out for yourself hardly qualifies as a philosophy – and don’t try to argue with me on this point – if you think Rand’s beliefs are about anything other than pure selfish narcissism then get your head examined) to be repulsive (and by the way, if you claim to be a Catholic fan of Rand, like that idiot Paul Ryan, then you clearly flunked Bible school – there is zero room to account for Christian charity as laid out in the New Testament and the beliefs of Rand).  But I try very hard not to let a particular message in a film influence my opinion on the film as a film; that’s why films I rated higher when I was much younger like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner because of their message, don’t rank so high anymore.  Irregardless of message, the film must succeed as a film.

The Fountainhead does not succeed as a film.  There are several reasons for that.  The first is that it’s incredibly boring.  It actually only runs 114 minutes but it feels much more like 2 and a half hours.  It has far too much “philosophizing” (especially during Gary Cooper’s big speech towards the end of the film) and too little of anything actually happening.  Part of the reason it’s so boring is that Rand really isn’t a very good writer – her dialogue is stodgy and makes you tune out (full blame lies on Rand here, as she not only wrote the novel, but also the script).

The second reason is that it’s not actually very well made.  Yes, King Vidor (who was often an overrated director) wants to bring you higher and higher into the sky (Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader notes that Vidor is “pushing the phallic imagery so hard that it surpasses Rand’s rightist diatribes”), but the editing stumbles around and the direction seems to lack focus.  Some good imagery from your cameraman is hardly enough to make a competent film.

The biggest problem, however, was known right at the time and seems to have been mostly ignored by those critics who have decided to revisit it with a positive review (it received mostly negative reviews when it originally opened, yet somehow has found enough strong supporters that it has ended up on the TSPDT Top 1000 for each of their 9 versions of the list): the acting is pretty awful.  Patricia Neal was terribly cast (Neal really wasn’t a very good actress for most of her career, with the obvious exception of Hud).  Gary Cooper stumbles through his big courtroom speech (I have the right to blow up the building in the name of uncompromised art – let’s hope no director who’s gone up against Harvey has ever heard this message or he could end up dead) and doesn’t do much better in the rest of the film.  And Raymond Massey is totally unbelievable as someone who would end things the way he does.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Heiress  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  Bicycle Thieves  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Bicycle Thieves  (435)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  Under Capricorn
  • 2nd Place Award:  The Heiress  (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Score)
  • 6th Place Award:  White Heat  (Original Screenplay, Cinematography)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  The Heiress / It Always Rains on Sunday  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  Bicycle Thieves  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Bicycle Thieves  (270)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  Come to the Stable
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  Passport to Pimlico  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Passport to Pimlico  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  Passport to Pimlico  (345)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  A Run for Your Money

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  /  Henry V  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  My Man Godfrey (11)
  • Actor:  Claude Rains  (425)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (485)
  • Director:  Howard Hawks  (360)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (400)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Gregg Toland  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (450)
  • Foreign Film:  Jean Renoir  (200)

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

  • Drama:  63  (19)  –  Bicycle Thieves  (68.1)
  • Foreign:  31  –  Bicycle Thieves  (68.2)
  • Musical:  13  (4)  –  On the Town  (65.5)
  • Comedy:  12  (1)  –  Passport to Pimlico  (67.3)
  • Western:  9  (1)  –  Yellow Sky  (66)
  • War:  7  (2)  –  Paisan  (69.7)
  • Adventure:  6  (1)  –  Mighty Joe Young  (62)
  • Crime:  5  –  It Always Rains on Sunday  (77.6)
  • Suspense:  5  –  The Window  (62.4)
  • Kids:  4  –  The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad  (64.8)
  • Fantasy:  1  (1)  –  Les Jeux sont faits  (71)
  • Mystery:  1  –  The Big Steal  (70)
  • Action:  1  (1)  –  Wong Fei-Hung’s Whip That Smacks the Candle   (64)
  • Horror:  0
  • Sci-Fi:  0

Analysis:  Part of the reason for the large number of Foreign Films is that a lot of the films listed below don’t ever seem to have had an official US release, which means they stay in their original release year for their home country.  This is twice the number of Foreign Films as in the year before, as well as a huge increase in Dramas.  The Crime films go up almost 8 points while the Suspense films go down 8 points.  But the interesting one is War films, of which there are a lot more than the year before and has a 9 point increase.

Studio Note:

I’ve finally seen double digit in Warners films for the first time since 1943, but RKO drops below 10 for the first time since 1942.  MGM has the most (20), its most since 1942 while Fox is in second place (16).  As a result of all the Foreign Films, the major studios only account for 61% of the films I’ve seen, by far the lowest since 1926.  One big new addition is Eagle-Lion, which has 10 films, including several of the best of the year (A Canterbury Tale, It Always Rains on Sunday, Passport to Pimlico), partially because it distributes four of the Ealing films in the States (the other two are distributed by Universal).

Mayer-Burstyn takes Best Picture and the majors only account for 4 of the Top 10 and 11 of the Top 20.  No studio has more than 1 in the Top 10 and Fox is the only one with more than one Top 20 film (it has 4).  Thanks to Universal’s distribution of Ealing’s Whisky Galore, all 8 major studios has at least one film in the Top 20 for the first time since 1943 (namely because Columbia has a film in the Top 20 for the first time since 1943).

33 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 – an asterisk means it won the Oscar):

  • Andaz  (Khan, India)
  • Bicycle Thieves  (De Sica, Italy)
  • Bitter Rice  (De Santis, Italy)
  • Calabacitas tiernas  (Solares, Mexico)
  • Carnaval no Fogo  (Macedo, Brazil)
  • Chains  (Matarazzo, Italy)
  • Citta dolente  (Bonnard, Italy)
  • El Crimen de Oribe  (Torre Nilsson, Argentina)
  • Crows and Sparrows  (Zheng, China)
  • Death is a Caress  (Carlmar, Norway)
  • The Devil’s Wanton  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Distant Journey  (Radok, Czechoslovakia)
  • Ghazal al-banat  (Wagdi, Egypt)
  • The Grand Madcap  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • Heaven Over the Marshes  (Genina, France)
  • In the Name of the Law  (Germi, Italy)
  • Jour de Fete  (Tati, France)
  • Late Spring  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Mahal  (Amrohi, India)
  • My Love Has Been Burning  (Mizoguchi, Japan)
  • An Orphan on the Streets  (Ming, China)
  • Orpheus  (Cocteau, France)
  • La Oveja negra  (Rodriguez, Mexico)
  • A Quiet Duel  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Riptide  (Allegret, France)
  • Rotation  (Staudte, East Germany)
  • Salon Mexico  (Fernandez, Mexico)
  • Le Silence de la Mer  (Melville, France)
  • Stray Dog  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • Three Strange Loves  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Una familia de tantas  (Galindo, Mexico)
  • The Watch  (Huang, China)
  • Wong Fei-Hunt’s Whip That Smacks the Candle  (Hu, China)

Note:  I have my first film from four different countries: Argentina, Norway, Egypt and East Germany.  Three of these films are at the highest point of ***, which means they almost qualify for my awards: Jour de Fete, Late Spring and Le Silence de la Mer.  For the first time since 1939 we have a country with at least 5 films and for the first time since 1936 we have multiple countries with at least 5: France, Italy and Mexico.  China, with the revolution over, has as many films (4) as it had from 1938 to 1948 combined.

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

  • The Iron Crown  (1941)
  • A Canterbury Tale  (1944)
  • Le Ciel est a Vous  (1944)
  • The Battle of the Rails  (1946)
  • Enamorada  (1946)
  • Devil in the Flesh  (1947)
  • It Always Rains on Sunday  (1947)
  • Paisan  (1947)
  • Adventures of Don Juan  (1948)
  • Against the Wind  (1948)
  • The Fallen Idol  (1948)
  • Germany Year Zero  (1948)
  • The Last Stage  (1948)
  • Quartet  (1948)
  • Saraband for Dead Lovers  (1948)
  • They Live By Night  (1948)
  • Wake of the Red Witch  (1948)

Note:  So that’s two of the top 5 and 5 of the top 11.  It should technically also include Bicycle Thieves, which was a 1948 film, but because it won Best Foreign Film in 1949, I keep it there.

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

  • Bitter Rice  (1950)
  • Distant Journey  (1950)
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets  (1950)
  • The Red Danube  (1950)
  • The Rocking Horse Winner  (1950)
  • That Forsyte Woman  (1950)
  • The Third Man  (1950)
  • Orpheus  (1951)
  • Riptide  (1951)
  • Jour de Fete  (1952)
  • The Small Back Room  (1952)
  • Three Strange Loves  (1961)
  • The Devil’s Wanton  (1963)
  • Stray Dog  (1963)
  • Late Spring  (1972)
  • My Love Has Been Burning  (1979)
  • A Quiet Duel  (1979)

Note:  If Stray Dog had been eligible in this year it would have been nominated for numerous Nighthawks and won Best Director and Best Actor.  But if The Third Man had been eligible in this year it would have dominated the awards, instead of being mostly a 2nd place finisher like it will be in 1950 thanks to Sunset Blvd.  In fact, if you keep Bicycle Thieves in 1949, the top 6 actually goes up by 12 points if you keep the films from this year over the films that were eligible this year, with Third Man, Stray Dog and Kind Hearts replacing A Canterbury Tale, It Always Rains on Sunday and Germany Year Zero.

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