The 10th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1938
Academy Award History
I have been writing a series about Academy Awards Ceremonies over the years, but have been sporadic in the years I've written about. Now, I am filling in to make this series more complete.
The Academy Awards Ceremony of 1948 was held in March at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. It was scheduled to be held earlier in the month but due to flooding wasn't held until March 10th. The rainy weather was the worst in Los Angeles since 1884. Described as "a killer flood of the century" in the L.A. Times, which went on to say ninety-six people died across Southern California and fifteen hundred homes destroyed.
This year's host was Bob Burns. If you're like me, you're not familiar with Bob Burns. He was an actor but played many minor roles until around 1935-36. Sadly, I am not familiar with any of his movies like, "Quick Millions" or "Young As You Feel".
Academy Award Categories come and go and it seems 1938 was the last year for Best Dance Direction and Best Assistant Director Awards. There were other things of note in this Oscar year; the first year a movie was nominated for ten awards, the first time an actress won an Oscar two years in a row, a color film received a nomination for Best Picture, certainly a banner year for the Oscars.
Who was this two time Oscar winning actress? In 1937 Luise Rainer won the Best Actress Award for her role in "The Great Ziegfeld". This year it was to be for "The Good Earth". Although these two movie roles were worlds apart, Ms. Rainer, obviously, carried them both off with charm and believe-ability. Hollywood nicknamed her ""The Viennese Teardrop". From the research I have done it appears Ms. Rainer is still alive at 103. The last picture I can find of her is on her 102nd birthday last January but neither can I find anything credible saying she has passed away. Certainly a tribute to longevity as well as acting!
I think it is time to move on to the Academy Awards in 1938.
The Good Earth
Although this movie won for Best Actress as I've already mentioned, I thought I would start with it. If you've read Pearl S. Buck's book you couldf stop now, however, assuming many of you have not, I will continue. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is about a farming family in China before WWII. I only read the book once but saw the movie several times. In 2004 the book was returned to the Best Seller list after Oprah chose it for her book club!
The story starts out with Wang Lung and O-Lan's wedding. It is hard to understand many of the actions of O-Lan but during times of famine and poverty people will often do terrible things to survive and help their family to survive. Through the bad years they survived by begging and stealing. When money comes to the family again there are many conflicts.
Duty to family and reverence of the land are portrayed throughout this movie. Though O-Lan is not considered beautiful she is a loving asset to Wang Lung. Their children are sometimes cause of heart ache and conflict but I will leave the details so you can see them for yourself. When Wang Lung has money again he buys a prostitute, shaming O-Lan, but she stands by him and never condemns him.
The scene of the locust descending on the land is incredibly done considering the year of this movie and coupled with Wang Lung's faith in his son's methods for dealing with the locust it is a very emotional scene, well to me anyway.
It is said this movie helped America to gain an understanding and sympathy for China that it did not have before and might never have had were it not for this movie.
According to Wikipedia it took three years to make this movie and it was filmed entirely in California. There were problems with trying to film in China. It is believed a different version of this film was released in China. Makeup was used to make the American cast look oriental. Paul Muni and Luise Rainer were excellent in this film which is definitely worth viewing. A true piece of history.
Paul Muni - Some of His Films
- I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
- Black Fury
- We Are Not Alone
- Stage Door Canteen
- A Song to Remember
- Angel on My Shoulder
- Hudson's Bay
- The Last Angry Man
The Life of Emile Zola
Outstanding Picture Award, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Though "The Life of Emile Zola" was nominated for ten awards, it only won these three.
This is a biographical film about the real life of author Emile Zola. Zola was a celebrated novelist, more well paid than Victor Hugo, and according to Wikipedia, "became a figurehead among the literary bourgeoisie". Novelist, optimist, poet, scientist, all describe Emile Zola. His writings include images of the catastrophe that was to befall France, but the movie focuses more on his involvement with the Dreyfus Affair. Dreyfus had been wrongly imprisoned on Devil's Island. Years later Dreyfus' wife, Lucie, pleads with Zola to take up her husband's cause.
His attempts to bring justice to Dreyfus land him a jail sentence for libel for he has to accuse French officials of wrongdoing in order to prove Dreyfus innocent. Of course he is right and perjury and cover-ups have kept Dreyfus in prison. Zola is sentenced to a year in prison but manages to escape to England. In England he continues to write on Dreyfus' behalf. If you know about the Dreyfus Affair then you know Zola was successful when a new administration in France exonerated Dreyfus.
I won't give away the ending of the film, I try never to do that so you can see it for yourself. I will say Paul Muni is an excellent actor. As mentioned above he co-starred in "The Good Earth" and was also in "The Story of Louis Pasteur", to name just two. He worked for Warner Brothers Studios and was such a well known and well liked actor of the times he was able to choose which movies he wanted to be in.
While you might not find this the best movie ever, it is a good movie and a good history lesson with a good performance by Muni.
Zola's speech in court
Illustration from the book "Captains Courageous"
Probably one of America's all time favorite actors is Spencer Tracy. We've seen him alone and we've seen him with Hepburn. Here he stars in Captains Courageous and wins a Best Actor Award for doing it!
An adventure film based on a novel by Rudyard Kipling. I have to admit I didn't know it was based on a novel until I started researching this piece. This movie has a star-studded cast. Along with Tracy is Freddie Bartholomew, Melvyn Douglas, Lionel Barrymore, Mickey Rooney, and John Carradine. Set at sea it is the tale of a very spoiled and selfish little boy whose rich father can't do a thing with him. His father decides to take him on a business trip to England. In another display of arrogance, the boy falls overboard. According to Wikipedia, he is rescued by a Portuguese-American fisherman, Manuel Fidello, and taken aboard the fishing schooner We're Here. He fails to persuade captain Disko Troop to take him ashore,and he can't convince the Captain that he is wealthy.
So our young man is forced to stay on the ship and is offered a low paying job. The movie continues with Harvey (our young boy) learning the ways of the world aboard this fishing ship. He becomes friends with Manuel[Spencer Tracy] who is his mentor on the ship. Manuel is able to teach Harvey how to fish and how to respect the sea. As is my wont, I will not tell you the end of the story but make you watch it and see for yourself.
After reading this many of the ladies out there may think its a man's movie, but trust me, it isn't. Watching Harvey 'grow up' and the bond that forms between him and Manuel, well, you just have to see it for yourself.
Other Academy Awards for 1938
The Awful Truth
Best Supporting Actress
In Old Chicago
Wellman & Carson
A Star is Born
One Hundred Men and a Girl
Best Art Direction
Thomas Moulton & United Artists
Best Sound Recording
Havlik & Melton
Best Film Editing
Best Assistant Director
In Old Chicago
While not considered a big winner, "Lost Horizon" won two Academy Awards. Any movie directed by Frank Capra is a good one and this adaptation of James Hilton's book is no exception. Eutopia, Shangri-La, a place we'd all like to find. The Himalayas are not where you'd expect to find this paradise but a plane crash brings our hero, a veteran of the British Diplomatic service to just such a place. He is not alone on the plane and the only fatality of the crash is the pilot. Watching them trek through the snowy mountains only to come out in Shangri-La can play with one's imagination. Its a treacherous trip but they manage to find Shangri-La, the beautiful valley where no one ever ages, unless they leave the valley whereupon they will age rapidly and die. A feel good movie and if you like Ronald Colman, Jane Wyette and their pairing with Frank Capra this is a must see on your list.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention "A Star is Born". Not the version with Judy Garland but the original with Janet Gaynor. It won the Best Story Oscar, after having been nominated for seven awards, and is about a young woman who goes to Hollywood to become an actress. Some believe this movie was based on real life actress Barbara Stanwyck and her marriage to one Frank Fay. The young woman meets an older, drunken actor who helps her with her career. They get married and he does quit drinking, for a while. She becomes very successful, and there I will leave this film. If you haven't seen it I don't want to ruin the end for you.
The last film I'll mention here is "The Hurricane". I have to say it is a depressing but interesting movie that I have seen several times. It was nominated for three Academy Awards but only won for Best Sound Recording. The love story, the twist in plot, and the fantastic hurricane are what make this film. Dorothy Lamour doesn't hurt either! The trials of Terangi (the main, male character) begin after his marriage to Ms. Lamour. He is a Polynesian sailor and while out on a trip gets into a fight and winds up in jail. From there things do not get better for him. You will hold your breath, hope for the best, and won't be disappointed. Take a look and see what you think.
I hope you've enjoyed this look into 1937. All comments and thoughts are welcomed and appreciated.
Copyright - Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved
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