Monday, September 30, 2013

Wake Me Up When September Ends....

Today is the last day of September, so....wake up! September is ending!

Whenever I hear of this song, I feel conflicted. I feel sad because I know that it was written by Green Day singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, who dedicated it to his father, who died of cancer when he was only ten years old. I know it speaks of loss and death. Sam Bayer, the director of the video, says it is "all about youth and dreams and bonds that get broken."

And it makes me think of James Dean, who died on September 30, 1955.

And it makes me think of September 11, 2001, and all the lost lives and lost innocence of that time.

However, isn't it at the end an uplifting song? "Wake me up" from the sadness. "Wake me up" from death.
It's October! It's the Autumn. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner. Shouldn't it be a good thing? Now, I may be biased because my birthday is October 1, but I always end up thinking (hoping?) that this should be a happy song. Still, if I'm already in a sad or melancholy mood, I go straight to "American Idiot" or "Holiday" instead.

Congratulations, we've made it through September; bring on October!

Here's the official Green Day video for this song. It's one of those "story-songs" that I'm not a big fan of. You can skip the non-musical parts if you want, or watch it the way director Sam Bayer and Billie Joe Armstrong meant for it to be. The song itself loses something with this treatment, in my opinion....
This version also includes the lyrics if you would like to read them.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Citizen Kane (1941)

Is Citizen Kane the greatest film ever made? Well I can't say with conviction that this is true. It's definitely not my favorite movie. It's not a pleasant movie. I am willing to say that it is a classic that every film lover should see, however.
Citizen Kane tells the story of publishing magnate Charles Foster Kane. The film begins with his death, and then through newsreels and flashbacks we gradually learn something about him. He is born into poverty  but gold or oil or something is discovered on land owned by his parents when he is about ten years old. So a bank trustee buys the land and pays for Charles' education. On a day he is enjoying sledding in the Colorado snow, the bank trustee Mr. Thatcher (George Coulouris) shows up and suddenly takes him away from his parents (Agnes Moorehead plays his mother in her screen debut). Several years later he is now played by Orson Welles and wants his independence from Mr. Thatcher. He buys a local newspaper and succeeds at publishing by mixing yellow journalism and man-on-the-street populism. He travels the world and becomes more and more famous. He marries the niece of a President. He runs for Governor, but on the eve of his election victory his opponent threatens him with exposure of a mistress. He doesn't give in and drop out, so the scandal is exposed. This destroys his campaign as well as his marriage. He marries his mistress and pushes her to be an opera singer even though she is not driven to succeed. Eventually he builds an opera house where she performs, although critics not affiliated with his his newspapers are harsh in their assessment of her talents (or lack of). When she tries to commit suicide he finally allows her to quit. Then, after years of being cooped up in a mansion called Xanadu, she decides to divorce him. The film ends where it began: the death of Kane. 

This is a straight-forward summary of the plot, but the first uniqueness of the film is in the way it tells its story. It starts at the end, with Kane's death. A newsreel is used to summarize his life and background information to the reporters (and we, the audience). One reporter (William Alland) is assigned to find out why Kane's last word was "Rosebud." The rest of the story is told through flashbacks via interviews or diary postings. This means that the story isn't told linearly or chronologically, and that sometimes the same scenes are told from two different points of view. That means that you have to engage with the film to actively pay attention; you just can't sit back and let the story flow over you. Because Welles and his Mercury Theater Company came from radio, it's a different sensibility.
see Kane in the reflection in the window? technically brilliant!
Also, the soundtrack to the film resembles much more closely what modern audiences expect from background music. If you watch (listen?) to other films of this time period the music tends to be used as sweeping opening or closing themes or as crescendos for specifically dramatic moments. In Citizen Kane the music is more like a supporting character; it's there in the background adding a little bit of "feel" to each scene.
And what scenes! There are several that are classics because of how they are staged, or filmed, or lighted. When the reporter goes to read the diaries of Mr. Thatcher, the light hits the table in the reading room in such a way as to keep everything else (including the truth?) in shadow. In fact, throughout the film the lighting and staging is such that the reporters, representing us, are almost always literally in the dark. When Kane as a boy is being dispersed to New York, the scene in his parents' lodge has everybody in the scene in tight focus: not just the figures in the foreground, but Charles, who is outside playing in the snow, as well. When Kane is confronted by his political opponent the Governor, their scene is filmed from below, symbolizing their fall into purgatory or worse? The patterns on the wall an of the staircase also help symbolize his ranting.  
However, even with all of these technically wonderful accomplishments for Citizen Kane, I still consider the film to be a flawed classic. I don't want to give too much away if you haven't actually seen this film. Suffice it to say that if you love movies, you should see it. Still, if the emotional core of the film is Kane being given up to Mr. Thatcher by his parents, shouldn't we be shown a little bit more of this? Was handing off your child a customary practice at the turn of the century, so needed no embellishment by Welles? Did his parents never try to get in touch with him after he moved to New York? There's a line by his mother that makes it sound as if his father was beating him, and that's why she wanted Charles shipped away. But if, as one of the characters later says, "All he wanted out of life was love," shouldn't this whole scenario have been more prominent?
scene filmed with everyone in extreme focus
Also, it seems to be established that young Kane is a populist and interested in doing what's right. He writes an editorial to this effect as soon as he takes over his first newspaper. His more cynical friend Leland (Joseph Cotten) chides him about it at the time. Somehow, during the course of the film Kane starts to become a power hungry mogul instead. Eventually he and Leland have a falling out, and Kane fires him. I would have liked to have seen more of this process from populist to egomaniac. The most we get is a series of dinner scenes between Kane and his wife. She is never given any characterization at all, which is also a flaw of the film. She seems socially conscious, telling him, "What will people think?" to which he replies, "Whatever I tell them to think!" For a man who is looking for love, you would think we would be shown more of their courtship and life together. Instead she is suddenly there, and then, just as suddenly, not there. Once she divorces him she and his son end up dying in a car accident, so their voices are not part of the ensemble. I think this was a critical mistake in the story-telling. Instead all we get is the point of view of his second wife,  Susie (Dorothy Comingore), who doesn't know who he is when they first meet.  They bond because she has just as lonely a heart as he has. Once she is discovered, however, his pride insists that he not only marry her but "make something of her." Her scenes are the best is the film. When she cries, "You never give me anything I really care about!" her sadness and frustration are palpable. 
Kane making his editorial oath with Leland
A word about the scandal of the film. At the time it was made there was considerable talk that it was based on the life of real-life newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. He had it banned from being mentioned in any of his newspapers, and fought RKO (the producers) to get it black-listed. Because of this the film was not a financial success at the time of its release. However, looking into the stories Hearst and Kane really don't seem similar to me. They both ran newspapers and they both had mistresses. That's about all that I could find. A different Chicago tycoon divorced his wife and married an opera singer. And another tycoon still built his less-than-talented wife an opera house where she could perform. It seems to me that Welles took a few stories of egocentric millionaires and put together a fictional character. Too bad Hearst didn't see it that way.

Technically, Citizen Kane is a masterpiece because of how it is structured and because it has numerous classically staged scenes. However, much like the man Charles Foster Kane himself, the film is at heart, disappointing. Was it better than How Green Was My Valley, the film the Academy chose as Best Picture of 1941? Hell, yes. Is it the best film ever made? Maybe. The most I'm willing to concede is that it is probably the best-made US film.
"I would have liked to have thanked the Academy...."
Although Citizen Kane was not named Best Picture, it was nominated for nine Academy Awards:
Best Picture, Best Director (Orson Welles), Best Actor (Orson Welles), Best Score (Drama), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound, and Best Editing. As a director Welles was beaten by John Ford (How Green Was My Valley) and as an actor Welles was beaten by Gary Cooper in Sgt. York. The film won only one award: Best Screenplay, which Welles shared with Herman J. Mankiewicz.
This trailer from 1940 is obviously written for the radio's fun and unique, and made mostly independently from the film, as most of the scenes shown here are not in the movie! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Jim Henson!

Today September 24 would have been Jim Henson's 77th birthday. He was born in 1936 in Mississippi but was raised in Maryland. He worked as a puppeteer off and on for several years after college. In 1963 he and his Muppets, Inc troupe landed a job on The Jimmy Dean Show, where Rowlf The Dog made his public debut. In 1969 Henson and Co. was invited to work on a fledgling children's television show on Public Broadcasting called Sesame Street. From that success they created The Muppet Show, which originally no US network would agree to broadcast. Henson had to go to the UK to film and finance the show that ran for five successful years, from 1976 to 1981. Then Jim Henson made several Muppet movies as well as other television series such as Fraggle Rock and Dinosaurs. He died on May 16, 1990.

Happy Birthday, Jim Henson! 



Jim Henson portrayed several Muppets, the most famous of them being Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, and Ernie (of Bert and Ernie fame). My favorite was always Rowlf. Here he is in a tender moment from an episode of The Muppet Show circa 1977. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Jim Croce RIP

On September 20, 1973 singer-songwriter Jim Croce died in a plane crash outside Natchitoches, Louisiana. He had been enjoying a year of huge successes: he had two Top Ten hits in 1972 ("You Don't Mess Around With Bill" and "Operator") and then a Number One hit in July 1973, "Bad Bad Leroy Brown." After he finished a concert at Northwestern Louisiana University, he and five other people died in their charted airplane.

He had two posthumous hits, "I Got A Name," and another Number One hit, "Time In A Bottle." Now even more heart-breaking than romantic, it went to the top of the charts in late December 1973.

Here is my favorite Jim Croce song, "Operator." Playing with him is guitarist Maury Muehleisen, who died with him in the airplane accident. Please enjoy these two masters at their best. 

Rest in Peace, Jim Croce

Friday, September 20, 2013

How Green Was My Valley (Best Picture 1941)

How Green Was My Valley (HGWMV from now on)  is a movie that I had absolutely no interest in seeing. I had heard about it for years: it was a romantic love-letter to Wales and its wonderful people, directed by the sentimentalist John Ford, starring the beautiful Maureen O’Hara and the dashing Walter Pidgeon. The reason I didn’t particularly want to see it is because I have seen The Quiet Man, also directed by John Ford, also starring the beautiful Maureen O’Hara (and the dashing John Wayne), and set in some beautiful Irish (or was it Scottish?) village. Let me tell you, that is one of the most boring films I ever sat through! Sure, it won John Ford another Best Director Oscar (his fourth) but….why? We’ll discuss that when we get to it sometime in the mid-Fifties. For now, I just knew that it made me wary of its older sister, HGWMV.

If you’ve picked up on the fact that I thought this was a terrible movie, you’re right.
First of all, there is no dialogue for the first 17 minutes. All we get is a narrator waxing poetically about how great his childhood was and how he is going to tell us all about his small village in Wales. We get various scenes of the Welsh countryside (actually California) until *finally* the camera comes to land on the Morgan family....
The story of HGWMV revolves around young Huw (pronounced "Hugh"), portrayed by a young Roddy McDowall. He and his five brothers and one sister live with their parents on the hill leading up to the coal-mine. Unfortunately, we never learn anything about any of these siblings, and in fact I couldn't even tell them apart. Huw however is a 12-year old boy looking at his experiences through rose-colored glasses, so maybe that's how it's supposed to be. As an example of what I mean, Huw romanticizes his father and brothers coming home from the mine every night, washing up, and having dinner together. This is a simple life, but somehow he makes it sound wonderful. Huw meets his oldest brother's fiancee and falls madly in love with her. They marry and moves into a small house next door. Huw falls into the icy river and is bed-ridden for months; this is when he begins to cultivate his mind by reading such classics as Treasure Island, and conversing with the new chapel minister, played by Walter Pidgeon. 
Most of the story is about the Morgans and their relationship to the mine. When the management lowers the workers' salaries, the workers vote to strike. During the strike the village men turn against the foreman, Mr. Morgan (Donald Crisp, in an Academy Award winning Best Actor performance). They somehow hold him responsible for the conditions, although he is firmly on their side. Mrs. Morgan (Sara Allgood) goes to one of the union meetings to defend her husband. This is where she and Huw fall into the river. She is laid low for a few weeks, but is eventually okay. The town comes together after the strike is over, and the Morgans are welcomed back into the villages' good graces.  Soon after, two sons are laid off and decide to go off to America.  The other two sons are let go, so they head to London. The eldest son dies in a coal-mine fire just as his son is born. In the end, Mr. Morgan dies in a coal-mine cave-in. 

Not a lot of "green" on display here. And I don't mean just because the movie is in black and white.   

The more interesting part of the film is the romantic relationship between sister Angharad (don't ask me to pronounce it) and Mr. Gryffydd (O'Hara and Pidgeon, respectively). Pidgeon has a strong screen presence as the new minister. He is at first just a friend to the Morgans, then a teacher to young Huw, and then a would-be suitor for Angharad, and finally another brother-father figure for Huw. O'Hara looks lovely in this role, but all she is ever asked to do is stand or sit and look beautiful, smiling blankly as her fellow actors emote to or around her. It is a thankless role and terribly uninteresting. When she confesses her love for the minister, he has the more dramatic scene. He has to explain to her that although he loves her, he won't marry her because that would doom her to a life of poverty. Yes, you read that right. This is the type of sentiment on display in this movie. So she ends up marrying the son of the coal-mine manager and living unhappily ever after. 
This is when the movie really begins to falter. Maureen O'Hara ends up coming back from South Africa without her husband. Suddenly there is gossip all over the village about her and the minister, although it appears that they never meet. What exactly is the sin here? The gossip gets so bad that Pidgeon is voted out of the chapel by the ruling council. (By the way, O'Hara in her husband's house reminds me of Joan Fontaine in *her* husband's house in Rebecca; O'Hara is initially shy but then takes command and orders the maid around.) There is talk that she and the manager's son are going through a divorce, but as she is still living in her husband's family's home it seems like it is only talk. 

I guess I miss the point of how a village made up of thankless union strikers and shallow gossips is in any way "idyllic"? Symbolically (?) Huw's father dies at this time, so maybe the theme really is that his childhood is over? If that's the case it isn't very clearly presented.
The best part of this film BY FAR is the performance of Roddy McDowall as young Huw. He is wonderful in every one of his scenes. I especially liked when he goes to school to learn and become something, only to face rejection and ridicule. McDowall does a wonderful job handling this sentimental hogwash. Then when he tells his father that he doesn't want to study to be a doctor or lawyer, preferring the life of the coal-mine, you can tell how heart-broken Mr. Morgan is. Crisp definitely deserved his Oscar for this scene. If you are going to watch this movie, watch the scenes with Roddy McDowall and skip the rest of the stuff.
My wife made her own comment on the film: she fell asleeep during the first half hour and woke up to ask, "Which brother is that?" and then gave up. Her rating system is as follows: 
stay awake = good
doze off = not so good
actually fall asleep = no good

I'm inclined to agree with her.

How Green Was My Valley
*Academy Award Best Picture 1941*
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
Directed by John Ford
Screenplay by Phillip Dunne
based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Blossoms In The Dust
Citizen Kane
Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Hold Back The Dawn
The Little Foxes
The Maltese Falcon
One Foot In Heaven
Sergeant York

The Oscar ceremony was held in February 1942, so I guess it's not surprising that after the attack on Pearl Harbor a heart-warming film like HGWMV would win. I know most of these other nominees. Here Comes Mr. Jordan is the story of Robert Montgomery, who is accidentally killed before his time; Claude Rains plays Mr. Jordan, the angel sent down with him to help him take over a murdered man's life. It's a great film. It was later re-made by Warren Beatty as Heaven Can Wait, but the original is better. The Maltese Falcon is, of course, one of the greatest mystery films of all time. It stars Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, directed by John Huston by a story by Dashiell Hammett. By the way, Mary Astor won Best Supporting Actress this year for a film I have never heard of, The Great Lie. Sergeant York was a WWI drama that won Gary Cooper his first Best Actor Oscar. Suspicion starred Joan Fontaine as another put-upon wife; she is the only Alfred Hitchcock directed actor to ever win an Oscar. Her elder sister, Olivia De Haviland, was nominated for Hold Back The Dawn; it is said that when De Haviland lost to her sister they didn't talk for years. I have never even heard of that film. The Little Foxes is a classic Bette Davis film that I have never seen; she, too, was nominated. I don't know two of the last three; the third,  Citizen Kane, is supposedly the greatest film ever made. We'll talk about that motion picture NEXT week.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Ilya and Batman!

Today September 19 is the shared birthday of two pop culture icons:
Adam West was born on September 19, 1928; David McCallum was born on September 19, 1933.
Two great TV "super-heroes" and wonderful actors. 
 Happy Birthday 
Adam West & David McCallum!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Joe Kubert!

Joe Kubert was a master story-teller. He was a professional artist, a writer, an editor, and a teacher. He was a nice guy (I met him at a convention), who was also a good friend and father (so I've read).

He was born on September 18, 1926. Today would have been his 87th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Joe Kubert!
As far as I can tell, these two issues of All-Star Squadron 
are the only time Mr. Kubert ever drew my favorite character.

Joe Kubert died on August 12, 2012. 
He is survived by four sons and a daughter...
and a legacy of fine art. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mission:Impossible and MASH

You may not think that these two classic TV shows have anything in common. Well, they were not produced by the same studios (Desilu/Paramount and 20th Century Fox, respectively.) They didn't share the same stars (although Larry Linville and Loretta Swit both guest-starred on episodes of M:I before being cast on MASH). They did share the same network, CBS-TV, but that isn't what we're here to celebrate.

No, both of these classic TV shows made their broadcast debuts on the same night: September 17. Mission appeared first, on September 17, 1966. MASH followed six years later on September 17, 1972.

Another coincidence.....both series had casts that were largely different by the time their series ended! Of the four or five leads on Mission: Impossible in its first year, only Greg Morris and Peter Lupus lasted the whole seven years. And on MASH, of course, only Loretta Swit and Alan Alda lasted all eleven years (although Jamie Farr and William Christopher were supporting characters in the first years before becoming regular cast members). And because they both had vast cast changes, neither of their original line-ups are my favorites! 

So celebrate Classic Television by watching an episode of Mission:Impossible or MASH. Or both!
the original M:I cast

all-time classic M:I cast (1967-1969)
Larry Linville played an Eastern bloc military man
in a 1968 M:I episode

Loretta Swit played an old girl-friend of Peter Graves 
in a 1970 M:I episode

 the original MASH cast circa 1974

my favorite MASH cast with BJ, Potter, and Frank (1975-77)

Monday, September 16, 2013

One Hit Wonder "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

I hear this song every once in awhile. I didn't hear it when it was new (1995) because I was still living in Japan and it didn't get any airplay there. However after I came back to the States I would hear it on the radio sometimes and I finally tracked down a copy for my ipod.

Do you know the song? It's by a group from Texas called Deep Blue Something. That's kind of a stupid name, but I guess bands have the prerogative to call themselves stupid names if they want. The band started out as Leper Messiah, so I guess Deep Blue Something is an improvement.

Two brothers got together with buddies at the University of North Texas and started playing gigs. Todd Pipes wrote the song about the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, but he didn't think that sounded as good as a title as the film made from the Truman Capote short story. As the song was rising on the charts the brothers and friends were deciding not to continue as a band; they officially broke up in 2001. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" got as high as No. 5 on the US chart, although it went all the way to No. 1 in the United Kingdom.

I like it. I've read that it didn't have a stellar critical reaction when it came out, but somehow the song gets to me. It's at heart about wanting to create or maintain a relationship with another person. If you say we have nothing in common, it's just not true. If we look close enough, there is always *something* we share. Even if it's something that sounds as trivial as liking the same movie or kinds of movies....well that's something, isn't it? If I like comedies and you like action movies, we aren't necessarily going to get along....unless we talk about the stories, and the lighting, and the pace, etcetera. I'm over-thinking this, I know, but only to make a point.
A: He likes comedies, I like action.
B: We have nothing in common.
C: You both like movies, don't you?
Whenever I hear this song, it gives me hope. Hope that we as a nation, or even as a world, can maybe start looking for things we hold in common instead of always looking for things that divide us.

And as an extra bonus both Audrey Hepburn films, Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany's, are excellent and you should watch them. 

That's my chipper message for this Monday! Enjoy the song and a kinda cute video.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rebecca (Best Picture 1940)

Rebecca  is one of those motion pictures that can't decide what it wants to be. It starts out as a comedy, then becomes a love story, then turns into a suspenseful melodrama. I guess because it manages to do all of these things well that it won the Best Picture Oscar. 

The film begins at the ending, with Joan Fontaine saying that she dreamt of her home, now destroyed; she tells us that she can never go back to it....Foreshadowing sufficiently planted, we go back a year or so...
Laurence Olivier is Maxim de Winter, lonesome aristocrat. Joan Fontaine is the paid companion to an egotistical and annoying elderly socialite, Edyth Von Hopper. They meet when she think he is about to throw himself off a cliff in Monte Carlo. He begins to spend time with her and eventually they fall in love. When her employer suddenly decides to leave Monte Carlo, Maxim proposes to her. Her former employer viciously wishes her luck, telling her that there is no way that she could erase the memory of his first wife, Rebecca, from his mind. He takes her home and she becomes the mistress of his castle/mansion known as Mandelay. However, because she is shy, nervous, and timid she is overwhelmed by the house-keeper, Mrs. Danvers (played by Judith Anderson). 

Let's stop here for a moment. Identity and appearances play a huge role in this film. For example, the name of the film is Rebecca, although that character never appears (she dies before the film begins and we never see her, even in flashback). Her monogram and name are everywhere in the mansion and on everyone's lips. Worse, we are never given a name for Joan Fontaine's character! Olivier calls her "darling" and the others all call her "Mrs. de Winter." This helps (?) the illusion that she is interchangeable with Rebecca, and has no real identity of her own. I'll refer to her as "Joan" so I don't have to keep calling her "the second Mrs. de Winter."
Up until Joan arrives at Mandelay things have been pretty straight forward. However, things get a bit confusing for her (and thus, for us, atleast the first time we watch the film). Everywhere she turns she runs up against other words, the first Mrs. de Winter. Everyone tells her that Maxim was devoted to her, and how full of life she was, and what types of things she enjoyed doing, etc etc. Mrs. Danvers is especially creepy in her devotion to the dead woman, and in a dramatic confrontation poor Joan is freaked out something terrible. Finally she cracks; but no, she has actually found her backbone. In a rematch of the dramatic confrontation, Joan puts the house-keeper in her place. "I am Mrs. de Winters now. Do as *I* say." Then she convinces Maxim to have a costume party, but innocently takes a suggestion for a costume from Danvers; it turns out to be a dress that Rebecca wore, and Maxim is furious at her. 
After this things get a bit more suspenseful, and I don't want to spoil this film for you if you have never seen it. Just remember, it *is* a Hitchcock film. The last third of the film involves death, plot-twists, and grand juries. George Sanders shows up, dripping villainy. He ends up as a sympathetic character, but only barely. You really do cheer when Laurence Olivier gives him a knuckle sandwich during one of their scenes. 
The best thing about this film, I think, is that the first time you watch it you are watching it from Joan's point of view; namely, you don't know what is going on or had been happening before you arrived, i.e. before the film starts. For the second or third viewing, though, you can watch it from Maxim's point of view: you know what happened before and now you can see (better than he) that the whole problem could have been solved by a smile here or a hug there or a different choice of words at inoperative moments. That's what makes this such a tragedy. 
I couldn't help thinking, though, that if the heart-to-heart conversation that happens at about the 90 minute mark had happened at the 45 minute mark the movie would have been over. If there was ever a movie that could have been solved by better husband-wife communication, it is this one.
*Academy Award Best Picture 1940*
Produced by David O. Selznick
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by
Robert E. Sherwood & Joan Harrison
Adaptation by
Philip MacDonald & Michael Hogan
based on the book by Daphne du Maurier

the trailer for the re-release of the film
I like this;
it gives you just enough of a hint of something NOT being said
in the spirit of true suspense

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
All This And Heaven Too
Foreign Correspondent
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Dictator
Kitty Foyle
The Letter
The Long Voyage Home
Our Town
The Philadelphia Story

In another year with ten nominees for Best Picture, I have only heard of half of these. The Grapes of Wrath won John Ford his second Best Director Oscar, denying Hitchcock what was, in hind-sight, probably his best overall effort (he never won). The Grapes of Wrath also had Henry Fonda, who was nominated for Best Actor but who lost to James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story. TPS is a comedy with real drama, but probably had no real chance of winning. The Great Dictator is Charlie Chaplin's great satire on Adolf Hitler; it was one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to openly criticize the then-current German regime. It is a great film. Foreign Correspondent is in the odd position of being another Alfred Hitchcock film; it lost to its sister, Rebecca. The other films I have never seen. Kitty Foyle is evidently a tour de force for Ginger Rogers, who won the Best Actress Oscar. Likewise, The Letter is a tour de force for Bette Davis, who was also nominated.