The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1947
1947 is one of the most boring years in the history of the Oscars. It’s so weak. But, they made a solid (and bold) choice, so that makes up for it.
Gentleman’s Agreement wins Best Picture, Best Director for Elia Kazan (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actress for Celeste Holm (talked about here). Best Actor was Ronald Colman for A Double Life (talked about here), a veteran Oscar if there ever was one (though he did do a good job). Best Actress was Loretta Young for The Farmer’s Daughter (talked about here), one of the greatest upsets in the history of the Oscars (and a terrible decision to boot). And Best Supporting Actor was Edmund Gwenn for Miracle on 34th Street (talked about here), which — he played Santa Claus. Obviously.
See what I mean? It’s a boring year. Gentleman’s Agreement is a great film, but it’s not a very sexy choice. And none of the acting winners is particularly memorable. I mean, Gwenn is good, but otherwise — no one really remembers anything. It’s just a boring year, 1947.
BEST PICTURE – 1947
And the nominees were…
The Bishop’s Wife (RKO Radio)
Crossfire (RKO Radio)
Gentleman’s Agreement (20th Century Fox)
Great Expectations (Rank-Cineguild, U-I)
Miracle on 34th Street (20th Century Fox)
The Bishop’s Wife — What a weak year, huh? You can just cross the stuff off without even thinking about it. This is definitely one of the weakest categories I’ve ever seen. On a good day, I might consider this the weakest.
Anyway, the film is about a bishop (and his wife, clearly), who is trying to raise money for a failing parish (or to build another one. Either way — church-related shit) and is looking for help. And his wife makes a wish to God for help, and an angel (Cary Grant, naturally) is sent down to help. And he does help. He makes him realize that he should really be focusing on his marriage. It’s one of those films. It’s quite good and all, just — it shouldn’t have won. I don’t even think it should have been nominated. But they loved this religious shit back then.
Oh, also — you know that snowball scene in Elf? Yeah, totally stole that from this movie. Like, blatantly.
Crossfire — Ah, the first (and probably only, considering the actual definition) B movie to be nominated for Best Picture. It’s like Gentleman’s Agreement lite. It’s anti-Semitism, but in that B movie, right up front, thrills and chills kind of way.
The film deals with the murder of a Jewish man, which is believed to be a hate crime. And the film is about the police investigation into the murder, specifically with the group of soldiers he was drinking with earlier at the bar. And it’s mostly a procedural, going back and forth between flashback and the present, until it’s revealed who killed the man.
It’s quite a good film. I don’t know if it should have been nominated here, but honestly, considering the year was so weak and there weren’t so many choices here (plus the obvious winner in the category), I like that a B movie was nominated here. It feels nice. A nice little underdog moment. It’s like seeing that indie performance nominated in an acting category, and you know, “Oh, that’s nice. I didn’t think anyone would ever see that movie.” And you know it won’t win, but, it’s nice to see the recognition. That’s what this is.
Gentleman’s Agreement — I’m gonna boil this one down real easily, since it’s the kind of film you should know about, and if you haven’t seen it, I can probably claim Anti-Semitism.
Gregory Peck is a newspaper reporter who writes these hard-hitting, topical stories. And he wants to write one about Anti-Semitism, but can’t find a hook. So what he decides to do is pretend to be Jewish. He tells everyone his last name is Green and that he’s actually Jewish. And he watches everyone’s attitudes toward him change. And we watch how his life changes because he simply says, “I’m Jewish.”
It’s an amazing, amazing film, and really does point out how deep-rooted anti-Semitism was at that time. The best part about it was how it even dealt with it on a small scale. The way Dorothy McGuire discovers how bad it is — where her friend tells an anti-Semitic joke, and she finds herself, despite knowing it’s wrong, not saying anything and not doing anything about it. It’s that kind of thing that really does hit at the issue. It’s not that you’re doing something, it’s that you’re not doing anything when others do it, which is just as bad.
It’s a great, great film, and while I’d say it’s not really a film that would (or should) win Best Picture in most years (put it in just about any other year in this decade that’s not 1944 or ’49 and I don’t think it wins), in this category, it definitely deserved it. It’s a very important film. Though, objectively, issue aside, I feel like this doesn’t win in another year. That’s just my feeling, in terms of the categories. But it doesn’t matter, because we’re here. And here, this deserved to win.
Great Expectations — This one’s real simple to talk about too. It’s an adaptation of the book. Little Pip, meets the fugitives, then goes off to Miss Havisham, and Estella, then gets a secret benefactor who helps him become a gentleman.
In terms of the Dickens works, I like this book, but I don’t love it. I would put it above some other ones, but it’s one where, if they made movies about it, I wouldn’t expect to be interested. “Oliver Twist” — that’s a movie I’d expect to be at least decent. Here, I don’t know if I like the material enough to expect a good movie out of it. But, actually, this movie is really good. It might be the best Dickens movie ever made. It’s really great. David Lean’s direction is flawless, and the story moves along at a real nice pace — I was never bored here, and I felt that it hit all the story beats as I remembered them. So I really loved this.
I also, for a time, was considering voting for this as Best Picture, just because I did like it so much. But it just never felt like the right film to win, and went against everything I said about films like this winning after 1938 and all that. But even so, it’s an amazing film.
Miracle on 34th Street — You don’t get a synopsis. You should know what this is about. The only thing you get from me about this film: Santa Claus.
It’s amazing. It really is. Unfortunately, we’re in a time period where films like this do not win Best Picture. 1944? Yes, this has a shot. Post-war? Nuh uh. So this was never going to win. (Plus, if It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t win, do you really think this should?) Still, it’s a classic. But in terms of this category, it actually makes it weaker, just because you know it was never going to win. (Neither was Bishop’s Wife or Crossfire. It’s the kind of year where your decision is made before you even look, it’s that weak a category.)
My Thoughts: It has to be Gentleman’s Agreement. It’s the only film of substance here. I don’t really have anything to say. It’s a pretty vanilla year. (Though admittedly, Gentleman’s Agreement is a very progressive film for 1947. The rest of the category is still really boring.)
My Vote: Gentleman’s Agreement
Should Have Won: Gentleman’s Agreement
Is the result acceptable?: Oh yeah. Best (and only, really) decision in the category.
Ones I suggest you see: You need to see Gentleman’s Agreement. It’ll make you a better person.
Miracle on 34th Street is also essential. See this version. Don’t see the 1994 version. See this one.
Great Expectations is a terrific adaptation of the film. David Lean directed the hell out of it. I highly recommend this film. It’s amazing. It really is.
The Bishop’s Wife is a classic and I highly recommend it.
Crossfire is pretty awesome. It’s the first (and possibly only, by strict definition) B movie to be nominated for Best Picture. That makes it worth seeing. It’s like a B movie Gentleman’s Agreement. It’s awesome.
4) The Bishop’s Wife
3) Great Expectations
2) Miracle on 34th Street
1) Gentleman’s Agreement