Monday, May 21, 2012

1930s Votes

One of the most enjoyable ongoing projects on the web is Allan Fish's Wonders Yearly Awards Poll, at Wonders in the Dark. It's been going on a while - I jumped in late, mid-20s - they have just completed the 1930s, and that makes a good time to expand a bit on my voting. It's been a while since I've posted a great big list post... So - here are my votes, plus a year by year top 10, and a best of the decade, which I guess will be top 20. If comments occur to me, I will add them, though if I add too much I will never get around to posting it. The 1930s are my favorite decades worth of film, by some margin, and it's sometimes hard to get through the things I would like to say about it...

UPDATE (8/5) - I just noticed that I didn't actually finish this post - left out most of the extra categories....

Decade as a whole:

DIRECTOR: Fritz Lang, M
LEAD ACTOR: Peter Lorre, M
LEAD ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck in The Miracle Woman
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Dwight Frye, Dracula
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kay Francis, Trouble in Paradise
SHORT: Rose Hobart
SCORE: George and Ira Gershwin, Shall We Dance

Some of these should be cumulative as well:

DIRECTOR: Ozu (with Capra not far behind)
LEAD ACTOR: Cary Grant (nipping Stewart, and maybe Fred Astaire, though he'd be there for performer, more than actor)
LEAD ACTRESS: this is also Stanwyck
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Basil Rathbone, who steals everything he's in

And the extras:
Cinematography: Joseph Walker, Platinum Blonde (he's also the best of the decade, I'd say)
Script: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Duck Soup
Editing: M, though with a strong challenge from The Only Son
Music/Sound: M

Top 20:
1. M
2. Rules of the Game
3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
4. Duck Soup
5. I Was Born, but...
6. Blue Angel
7. Bride of Frankenstein
8. Trouble in Paradise
9. Osaka Elegy
10. Frankenstein
11. Make Way for Tomorrow
12. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
13. Wife! Be Like a Rose!
14. Bringing Up Baby
15. Crimes of M. Lange
16. Platinum Blonde
17. Love Me Tonight
18. Top Hat
19. Zero for Conduct
20. The Awful Truth

And now - I was not sure whether to start at the beginning or the end - I think I will start at the beginning, because, though 1939 is the year most people talk about, the first half of the decade is where the action is. So start in 1930...


This one is almost a sweep...

Film: Blue Angel
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Actor: Emil Jannings
Actress: Marlene Dietrich, in Blue Angel
Supporting Actor: Louis Wolfheim – All Quiet on the Western Front
Supporting Actress: Beryl Mercer – All Quiet…
Short: The Golf Specialist… I think I like it better when it was recycled in You’re Telling Me, but it is great stuff.

Plus – Cinematography: I think I would say Earth – one of the most beautiful movies ever. Editing – All Quiet on the Western Front. Script – Blue Angel.

Top 10:
1. Blue Angel
2. Earth
3. All Quiet on the Western Front
4. Under the Roofs of Paris
5. Morocco
6. The Blood of a Poet
7. That Night's Wife
8. Animal Crackers
9. The Bat Whispers
10. Walk Cheerfully


The fact is, it's all downhill from here - my favorite film ever, close to my favorite direction of a film, probably the best performance, probably best supporting performance - certainly of the decade, probably ever. Stanwyck gets the decade's honors too. But it goes beyond that. This is my favorite period in all of film history, 1930-1933, more or less - before sound became routine, codified, when everyone was making it up as they went along. With the great 20s directors still working at close to the top of their game - Lang, Murnau, Chaplin, Vertov; the next generation coming into their own - Ozu, Naruse, Mamoulian, Capra - just a spectacular year. And really, that's true of the years around it too - 30, 32, 33 - just as astonishing. And oh yeah - an Oliveira film, making this the only year in the decade to feature a film by a director who makes one of my yearly ten bests in the 2010s!

Best Picture: M
Director: Fritz Lang
Lead Actor: Peter Lorre (M)
Supporting Actor: Dwight Frye (Dracula)
Lead Actress: Barbara Stanwyck (Miracle Woman, if I have to choose one)
Supporting Actress: Joan Blondell (Night Nurse)
Short: I'll say Douro, Working River

Playing with other categories:
Cinematography = Joseph Walker, Platinum Blonde
Screenplay = Thea von Harbou & Lang for M
Sound design = M – though this is a great year for sound. Before everyone figured out how films were supposed to sound, they were all making it up as they went, and the results are exhilarating. M, Enthusiasm, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Platinum Blonde, etc. are all endlessly inventive and surprising.
Editing = Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Top 10:
1. M
2. Frankenstein
3. Platinum Blonde
4. Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
5. Tabu
6. City Lights
7. Tokyo Chorus
8. Dracula
9. Enthusiasm
10. Flunky Work Hard!


This is another year with an impossibly rich selection...

Film: I Was Born, But…
Director: Ozu (for I Was Born, But…)
Lead Actor: Karloff, in the Mummy (though my god, this is a tough one to choose – Karloff, Lee Tracy in Blessed Event, Laughton in Island of Lost Souls, are all on the short list all time.)
Supporting Actor: Ernest Thesiger (Old Dark House)
Lead Actress: Miriam Hopkins, in Trouble in Paradise
Supporting Actress: Kay Francis, Trouble in Paradise
Short Film: The Dentist, I suppose – I do love WC Fields
And adding a couple categories:
Script: Trouble in Paradise (Samson Raphaelson)
DP: I think I’ll go with Arthur Edeson’s work on Impatient Maiden, a typically handsome James Whale film shot in and around old Los Angeles – Bunker HIll and such.
Sound/Music: Love Me Tonight, for both, and their integration.

Top 10:
1. I Was Born, but...
2. Trouble in Paradise
3. Love Me Tonight
4. The Mummy
5. Blessed Event
6. HOrsefeathers
7. Island of Lost SOuls
8. Vampyr
9. Blonde Venus
10. Scarface


Continuing the theme, another spectacular year. Maybe the last one - things start to tighten up after this. Politics gets in the way - the Nazis didn't exactly kill German cinema, but they drove off the top talent, and turned the rest just a bit too cautious to get close to these kinds of lists. In the US - after 1934, Joseph Breen gave the Hays code teeth, and turned American films notably softer. Though the increased codification of sound films - the use of scores, the more conventional look of mature sound takes a bit of a toll as well. Oh well - enjoy it while we can, huh?

PICTURE: Duck Soup
DIRECTOR: Fritz Lang
LEAD ACTOR: again, I don’t know how to choose. Too bad we don’t have actor in comedy/actor in drama… I have to say Warren William, Employees Entrance, because – if you don’t like it, “go ahead and shoot! what are you, yellow?”
LEAD ACTRESS: not much easier… Jean Harlow, Bombshell it is though
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tokkan Kozo (Tomio Aoki) – Passing Fancy
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: personally, I would as soon nominate the whole cast of the Warner Brothers’ musicals, but if not – Aline MacMahon (Gold Diggers of 1933) makes a good representative…
SHORT: The Fatal Glass of Beer… though if I were cheating, I’d say “By A Waterfall” from Footlight Parade – those Berkeley bits are basically short films in themselves…

Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Karl Freund on The Kiss Before the Mirror
Editing: Naruse’s Every Night’s Dream
Script: Bombshell
Music/Sound: Testament of Dr. Mabuse – again, what Lang did with sound in his early sound films is almost unequaled.

Top 10:
1. Duck Soup
2. Testament of Dr. Mabuse
3. Zero for Conduct
4. Passing Fancy
5. Goddiggers of 1933
6. King Kong
7. Bombshell
8. Every Night's DReam
9. 42nd Street
10. Design for Living


This holds up pretty well itself - though I think it's already starting to slip.

PICTURE: The Gay Divorcee
DIRECTOR: Ozu, Floating Weeds
LEAD ACTOR: John Barrymore, 20th Century
LEAD ACTRESS: Carole Lombard
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Peter Lorre, The Man Who Knew Too Much
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kathleen Howard in It’s a Gift…
SHORT: The Mascot
SCORE: not sure about a score, but the Gay Divorcee has the best music.

Bonus picks:
Cinematography: The Scarlet Empress, I think
Script: Twentieth Century

Top 10:
1. The Gay Divorcee
2. It Happened One Night
3. Twentieth Century
4. You're Telling Me
5. The Merry Widow
6. Story of Floating Weeds
7. The Thin Man
8. It's a Gift
9. The Man Who Knew Too Much
10. L'Atalante


PICTURE: Bride of Frankenstein
DIRECTOR: Ozu (Inn in Tokyo)
LEAD ACTOR: Takashi Sakamoto, Inn in Tokyo
LEAD ACTRESS: Ginger Rogers, Top Hat
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Ernest Thesinger
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Helen Broderick, Top Hat
SHORT: Hoi Polloi? (that is a best Stooges films, though)
SCORE: Bride of Frankenstein (if it's a score as such; soundtrack would be Top Hat)

Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: John Mescal, Bride of Frankenstein
Script: Top Hat
Music/Sound: need a special category for Wife! Be Like a Rose! - by 1935, sound was becoming normalized in American films - but in Japan, it was still a novelty, and there, as elsewhere, the first few years were just incredibly inventive in the right hands. Naruse being the right hands.

Top 10:
1. Bride of Frankenstein
2. Top Hat
3. Wife! Be Like a Rose!
4. Inn in Tokyo
5. Night at the Opera6.
6. Ruggles of Red Gap
7. Crime and Punishment
8. Gold Diggers of 1935
9. The Man on the Flying Trapeze
10. The Devil is a Woman


PICTURE: Osaka Elegy
DIRECTOR: Ozu, for The Only Son
LEAD ACTOR: William Powell - My Man Godfrey
LEAD ACTRESS: Choko Ida, the Only Son
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jimmy Stewart, After the Thin Man
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Helen Morgan, Showboat
SHORT: Rose Hobart, Joseph Cornell
SCORE: Chaplin, Modern Times, I guess - though I can't say the original scores of the day are a match for the musicals. I'll take Show Boat, thanks.

Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: Joseph Walker, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Script: The Crime of M. Lange
Editing: The Only Son - Ozu's editing was always astonishing, but from this point on, it encompasses sound as much as sight; it's otherworldly
Song: Old Man River, of course

top 10:
1. Osaka Elegy
2. Crimes of M Lange
3. The Only Son
4. Sisters of the Gion
5. Modern Times
6. Arigato San
7. My Man Godfrey
8. Mr. Deeds goes to Town
9. Fury
10. Show Boat


PICTURE: Make Way for Tomorrow
DIRECTOR: I voted for Renoir and the Grande Illusion, but I am tempted to give it to Detlef Sirk, for La Habenera - proof that they wee making some good iflms in Germany, even at this late date.
LEAD ACTOR: Cary Grant, in the Awful Truth
LEAD ACTRESS: Barbara Stanwyck, Stella Dallas
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Erich von Stroheim, The Grand Illusion
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: I'd be remiss if I didn't drop an Ozu film in here somewhere, so I'll vote for Michiko Kuwano, the troublemaking niece in one of his funniest films, What Did the Lady Forget?
SCORE: since the music in Shall We Dance was written, for the movie, by George Gershwin, I don't have to mutter about the distinction between film scores and film music. The distinction here is meaningless. And this is exceedingly good.

Plus bonus picks:
Cinematography: I lean toward Karl Freund on The Good Earth
Script: The Awful Truth
Song: You Can't Take that Away From Me, by the Gershwins

top 10
1. Make Way for Tomorrow
2. The Awful Truth
3. The Grande Illusion
4. What did the Lady Forget?
5. Shall We Dance?
6. A Day at the Races
7. Pepe le Moko
8. La Habenera
9. Stella Dallas
10. Green Fields


PICTURE: Bringing Up Baby
DIRECTOR: Eisenstein, Alexander Nevsky
LEAD ACTOR: Cary Grant, Bringing Up Baby
LEAD ACTRESS: Katherine Hepburn, Bringing Up Baby
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Basil Rathbone, in The Adventures of Robin Hood
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: May Whitty, The Lady Vanishes
SHORT: Violent is the Word for Curly
SCORE: Prokofiev, Alexander Nevsky

Bonus Picks:
Cinematography: Adventures of Robin Hood (Sal Polito and Tony Gaudio)
Script: Bringing Up Baby (Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde)
Editing: We have an Eisenstein to marvel at!

This is an interesting fact - I have seen a lot more films from the beginning of the decade than I have from the end. I am not sure why that is - though I suspect a big part of it is that pre-code films get revived a bit more often than the post-code films do. And since most of my film watching has been in theaters (revival houses), that probably is enough to tip the numbers in favor of the pre-34 stuff. Anyway - I'm fairly amazed at how few films I have sen from some of these later years. I mean - Room Service? (Though I think it is a bit underrated...)

1. Bringing up Baby
2. Adventures of Robin Hood
3. Alexander Nevsky
4. The Lady Vanishes
5. The 39 Steps
6. Holiday
7. Olympia
8. La Bete Humaine
9. You Can't Take it With You
10. Room Service


PICTURE: Rules of the Game
DIRECTOR: Renoir, Rules of the Game (though this is impossible by any standards - Capra, Mizoguchi, Naruse are all impossible to let go of...)
LEAD ACTOR: James Stewart, Mr. Smith...
LEAD ACTRESS: Jean Arthur, Mr. Smith...
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Ray Bolger, Wizard of Oz
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Maria Ouspenskaya, Love Story
SHORT: The City
SCORE: Wizard of Oz, I suppose.

Bonus Picks:
Cinematography: Joseph Walker, Mr. Smith...
Script: Sydney Buchman, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Song/Sound: Arlen and Yarburg deserve mention too...
Editing: I will be perverse, but the key to great editing is the choices you make, and the choice not to cut is a choice - so Story of the Last Chrysanthemums gets it, because the choices are impeccable.

And, another year I'm shocked at the films I haven't seen. THis is a great year - there must be 10 great films I haven't seen...

1. Rules of the Game
2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
3. The Wizard of Oz
4. Stagecoach
5. Love Affair
6. Story of the Last Chrysanthemum
7. The Whole Family Works
8. Destry Rides Again
9. Gunga Din
10. Ninotchka

And that is all! See you again when the poll hits the 50s.


John said...
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windshield replacement ga said...

How i love this film. A classic.