The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1934

I love 1934. That will never change, because my favorite film of all time was made in 1934. And also It Happened One Night was this year too. Which, coincidentally, those are the two films I’ll pretty much be talking about in this article. So, that’s cool.

1934 is the first year of the single digit Oscar years, the first year they really figured out how to start doing things. They got up on their feet this year. It would take them another two years to get the Supporting categories in, but, they’re working at it. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to recap here, since It Happened One Night literally won everything. Best Picture, Best Actor for Clark Gable, Best Actress for Claudette Colbert, and yes, even Best Director.

I’m not even going to hide my opinion. I’m voting The Thin Man all the way here. It’s my favorite film, and nothing’s gonna change. So I’m gonna make this one as quick as possible, since, we all knew, before I walked in the goddamn door, which film I was gonna vote for.


And the nominees were…

Frank Capra, It Happened One Night

Victor Schertzinger, One Night of Love

W.S. Van Dyke, The Thin Man

I just want to point out, since the Academy did, that Capra won, and it was announced that Van Dyke finished second, and Schertzinger came in last. One of the few categories they announced the order of finish.

Capra — It Happened One Night is a perfect movie. Which is why seeing it win this year is so frustrating. Couldn’t it have been a bad movie so I could bitch and be justified? It’s almost worse when it’s a good movie. Like when you really want to hate someone because of some superficial reason, and then it’s worse when you find out they’re really a nice person. In this case, this movie actually deserved to win. And yet — no. It can’t beat The Thin Man.

I guess we’ll do the synopsis thing. Claudette Colbert is a spoiled heiress who marries a dude her father doesn’t want her to marry (he’s a fortune hunter). He comes and gets her and says he got the wedding to be annulled. She runs away. She knows nothing of the outside world, so she’s completely lost. She tries to get on a bus, but doesn’t have money and has no idea what to do. Clark Gable is a reporter who was just fired. He manages to get rehired when he realizes who Colbert is and promises his boss an exclusive story. He pays her for bus ticket and forces his way along the trip with her — much to her chagrin. They bicker a lot. They grow to love one another. They end up traveling from Florida to New York together and falling in love. It’s a romantic comedy to the tee. And it’s perfect. It still holds up, even today. It’s brilliant.

Capra’s direction is actually brilliant. Up there with his best films. Top three for certain. Am I voting for him? No. Did he deserve to win? Yes. It’s those other two directing Oscars he should have won for. (Well, one of them, anyway.)

Schertzinger — And the other film on the list. It must suck to be this film. It had no shot. It’s like being Tony Kukoc on the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. Though, independently of the other films, I can tell you, very definitively, this film isn’t very good. I mean, it’s not terrible, but — you can skip it. You’re not missing much.

It’s an opera film. And by that I mean — it’s one of those films in the mid 30s starring a singer whose style is much more tailored to opera than showtunes. So instead of getting all the singing you’re used to, you get “Oh, sweet mystery of life I’ve found you.” (Note: Not in this film, but, in Naughty Marietta, the year after this, it is actually the song they use.) The film is about a girl who wants to be an opera singer. A vocal coach takes her under his wing, and trains her to be the best opera singer of all time. He’s stern and makes her work hard. She falls in love with him, he doesn’t reciprocate. He’s unable to. But she becomes a great singer. And they go on to relationships with other people, but do end up together in the end, and all that stuff. You know how it is.

The film was really boring. None of it interested me. And all the singing is opera singing, which makes it worse. The direction was standard 30s, and I guess they just needed another nominee here. I don’t know. But, whatever, it’s not like he had any chance whatsoever.

Van Dyke — It’s the fucking Thin Man. Though I guess, after all these other categories, I still need to do a synopsis. Anything I can to promote my favorite film.

Nick Charles is a detective. He is married Nora Charles. He married rich, and has now given up detecting in favor of drinking all the time and living the good life. One night, in a bar, he meets Dorothy Wynant, the daughter of an old colleague of his. He’s been missing for a few weeks and she wants to know where he is. He says he’s retired and doesn’t want to take the case. Then people connected to the case end up dead. Nick still doesn’t want to take the case, but somehow finds himself in the middle of it. And really all he wants to do is drink. His wife, however, really wants to see him do all this detecting that he’s so famous for. he doesn’t want to, but also does it, because he’s becoming implicated in it as well by simple happenstance. The film is basically about him solving the case in the most Forrest Gump way possible, while simply just trying to be a regular alcoholic who loves to fuck his wife. What more can you ask for?

The direction is flawless. And that’s not just the bias talking. Okay, it’s somewhat of the bias talking. But, if you don’t believe me, look around. You’ll see how well-regarded this film is. It’s not just me. I just happen to like it more than most. I’m gonna vote for the film, so that’s not the question. But if you’ve managed to read this blog this long and still haven’t watched this movie — I have to tell you, I can’t quite understand how that is.

My Thoughts: It’s my favorite movie of all time. What can I do?

My Vote: Van Dyke

Should Have Won: Van Dyke. And…yes… Capra.

Is the result acceptable?: Yes. Yes and no. It’s acceptable because Capra’s direction on the film was great. Perhaps the best of his career next to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life. But, he won three times. Couldn’t just this one have gone to Woody instead? I mean, I know it was never going to, and at this point no one knew Capra would have three, so that’s why it’s acceptable, but — couldn’t The Thin Man have just won this year instead?

Ones I suggest you see: The Thin Man is my favorite film of all time. That makes it essential in my eyes and I won’t say anything else. See it. And It Happened One Night is also essential because it’s one of the best romantic comedies ever made. In fact, it’s kind of the first romantic comedy. I mean, there were more before this, but this is the first one we know that’s a romantic comedy in the modern sense. Watch it. You’ll see how timeless it is. It’s really wonderful.


3) Schertzinger

2) Capra

1) Van Dyke

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