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The 11th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1939
Walt Disney and the Seven Dwarfs
11th Academy Awards
I've been writing a series about Academy Awards and up until this year (1939) I've been doing very well with my memories of the films that have been given Awards in this Ceremony. I'll have to see if this one is more of a test for me though I see many movies I know well.
The 11th Academy Awards were held at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California and did not have an official host, but Cedric Hardwicke and Tyrone Power gave out most of the awards., This was the first time a foreign language film was ever nominated for Best Picture, though it didn't win. Another 'outstanding achievement' of these particular awards, this was the first time that three out of the four acting awards were won by someone who had won before.
So, pop your popcorn and sit back while we spend a little time at the movies back in 1938!
You Can't Take It With You
In the thirties, romantic comedy was done right. Subtle, yet funny and the good guy always wins! Add Frank Capra [director] to the mix and you know you've got a winner. "You Can't Take It With You" won two Academy Awards, one for Outstanding Production and one for Best Director. This was Capra's third Academy Award for Best Director. His first was in 1934 for "It Happened One Night" and his second was for "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" in 1936. Seems Mr. Capra was establishing quite a pattern for himself. Of course the cast of this movie included some great actors/actresses including Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Spring Byington, Eddie Anderson, and a fifteen year old Ann Miller.
Screwball families were popular in the thirties and this movie contains one of the screwiest from Grandpa Vanderhof right on down to Penny Sycamore. However, Alice Sycamore is perfect normal and perfectly in love with Tony Kirby who happens to be from a normal, wealthy family. Adapted from the 1934 play of the same name, and when Alice invites the Kirbys to her house for dinner things turn our a little differently than she expected.
Saying more would give away the film. If you enjoy light-hearted comedies, you'll enjoy "You Can't Take It With You". Yes, I've seen it a few times and yes I enjoyed it. It certainly doesn't rank with "Gone With the Wind" but its what I call a "cute" movie.
You'll notice Mr. Barrymore is on crutches and though it was written into the script it was really the beginning of his long bout with crippling arthritis.
"isms" scene from You Can't Take it With You
This is a biographical film based on the life of the real Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town, a non-profit organization that was originally an orphanage for boys. Today it cares for children and families. It's Academy Award? Best actor to Spencer Tracy who played Father Flanagan and Best Story.
Father Flanagan believed all boys were good and wanted a place for them that would help them reach their true potential. Of course nothing comes easy. What better actor than a young Mickey Rooney to play the bad boy Father Flanagan has trouble reaching? His brother's in jail, he's been in trouble before and he just doesn't see this "good guy" stuff. His brother, Whitey, waiting for the electric chair, has paid Father Flanagan to help him.
Of course there are scenes to make you cry, like the scene when his only friend, a little boy named Pee Wee is hit by a car, or when he gets shot in the leg. You may say its a 'schmaltzy' film but, based on fact it turns from that to just a tear jerker and a testament to Father Flanagan and his strong will to help young boys. A good film to watch on a Saturday night at home and one of the 100 Best Films according to the American Film Institute.
There is some controversy about what exactly happened with Tracy's Academy Award. Some say he gave it to Father Flanagan, others say a duplicate was given to Father Flanagan...either way, Boys Town and the movie of the same name were winners.
A bit of controversy surrounds this movie. Rumor has it this movie was offered to Bette Davis to compensate for her losing the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind". True or not, it was a mighty compensation since she won an Academy Award for Best Actress. This film was also released before "Gone With the Wind". It doesn't have the scope and amazing scenes that were present in "Gone With the Wind" but there is character exploration and a look into the south in that period. Oh, and it isn't in color but rather it was filmed in the old black and white.
The story line is not unlike Scarlett's. A willful southern belle who loses the man she loves because of her willfulness. The most famous "issue" in the film is when she buys a red dress to wear to a ball to 'show' her beau after he puts work before her. Her beau is played by a young and handsome Henry Fonda. At that time all unmarried women were expected to wear white to the ball! When she shows up in her red dress everyone is shocked. Even she is surprised and upset by the response people show to her. But Pres (Henry Fonda) makes her dance with him and won't let her escape her shame. As a result, Pres breaks their engagement and leaves to go north. I'm sure you've guess that Pres comes back with a northern wife.
The Civil War is not the focus here, that has not happened. This movie is as much about southern customs as it is about the selfish Julie, whom her Aunt labels Jezebel. The duel that takes place as a matter of honor, is actually started by Julie, but southern men take honor seriously. The critical issue in this movie is yellow fever not the Civil War, remember this is in 1853. An outbreak of yellow fever shows the mettle of Julie, who, unlike Scarlett O'Hara, has a more caring side toward her fellow man.
The Best Supporting Actress Award was won by Fay Bainter, who superbly played Bette Davis's aunt in this film. An aunt whom everyone but Julie loved.
If you enjoyed "Gone With the Wind", if you like Bette Davis or Henry Fonda, this is a must see. Even if you don't like any of the things I've mentioned, this is a classic film worth watching.
Best Supporting Actor
Shaw et al
Rainger & Robin; "Thanks for the Memory"
The Big Broadcasts of 1938
The Adventures of Robin Hood
This film won Best Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score. Though it was nominated for Best Picture it lost that award to "You Can't Take It With You". Who out there has never heard of Robin Hood? I'm hoping its a minority of my readers. Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor. And who out there hasn't heard of the dazzling Errol Flynn? What better actor to be Robin Hood?
The evil Prince John continually raises taxes to line his coffers while his brother, Richard the Lionhearted, is a prisoner of war. Robin, Earl of Locksley tells John he will do everything in his power to thwart him and restore Richard to the throne. Robin sets up home in Sherwood Forest where he begins to gather his band of merry men.
Another film chock full of well known actors with Olivia DeHavilland playing the lovely Maid Marion, Alan Hale, Sr. as Little John, Claude Rains as the evil John, and Basil Rathbone as the evil Sir Guy of Gisbourne. People might not think of Robin and his merry men as rebels but in the true sense of the word they were, fighting for the right. Robin says, "It's injustice I hate, not the Normans."
This film was well received and Errol Flynn was inextricably linked to the role of Robin Hood. It is said the original star was James Cagney but he walked off the film to be replaced by Flynn. Roger Ebert got me thinking with a comment he made about the stars in old movies. Though there might have been one star as a headliner, the movies back then were about the story not the star. Romance was about romance, not about sex or lovemaking. The relationship between Robin and Marion was pure and, well, romantic.
A great, "swashbuckling" film with Robin/Flynn doing many of his own stunts. Swinging from ropes, jumping from walls, and of course sword fighting. You might really want to check this one out, I won't tell you how many times I've seen it, just that its worth watching.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
None of Walt Disney's pictures ever won an Academy Award. However, in 1939 "Snow White" was awarded a special Oscar for technical achievement. Actually, it was one large Oscar with seven little ones.
Snow White was innovative and still stands as one of the most beautiful animated films ever made. Adapted from the original by Hans Christian Anderson, and brought to life by Walt Disney, this is a film not to be missed.
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