The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1946
A lot of people like to argue about 1946. They like to say that It’s a Wonderful Life should have won Best Picture. Bullshit. I love that film, but it shouldn’t have won at all. 1946 is a year where America was dealing with the after-effects of the war. There was no better film to reflect those sensibilities than The Best Years of Our Lives. The fact that the film is just as good as It’s a Wonderful Life also helps. I just wanted to get my opinion on that out of the way up front, so there’s no confusion.
The Best Years of Our Lives, aside from winning Best Picture, won Best Director for William Wyler (talked about here), his second, Best Actor for Frederic March (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actor for Harold Russell (talked about here). All of those decisions make perfect sense. Best Actress this year was Olivia de Havilland for To Each His Own (talked about here). That had been a long time coming for her, and despite Celia Johnson being amazing in Brief Encounter (and that film also being amazing. Not that I ever expected Hollywood to place it on this list), was deserved. And Best Supporting Actress was Anne Baxter for The Razor’s Edge (talked about here), which was not only deserved, but makes her loss for All About Eve in four years easier to take.
So, that’s 1946. You know my opinion already, so, let’s just go into this saying — whatever your opinion is, let’s just celebrate the strength of the year more than anything. Be glad the films exist, rather than argue over whether or not they should have won.
BEST PICTURE – 1946
And the nominees were…
The Best Years of Our Lives (RKO Radio)
Henry V (United Artists)
It’s a Wonderful Life (RKO Radio)
The Razor’s Edge (20th Century Fox)
The Yearling (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
The Best Years of Our Lives — Oh, what a film this is. If there was ever something that perfectly captured the feeling of a country post-war, this is it.
The film is about three men, Frederic March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell, returning home from World War II and dealing with how the war has impacted their lives. Russell returns home without the use of his hands (he was an actual veteran who lost his hands in the war). Andrews was a simple soda jerk before the war and now is having trouble going back to that position after the war. Now he’s older, and while other men are accountants and stuff, he’s still a simple soda jerk. And March was a banker before the war and is now having trouble adjusting to home life. He drinks too much, and has changed too much emotionally to adjust. And we spend the most time with March. Myrna Loy plays his wife and Teresa Wright plays his daughter. It’s — it’s a perfect film. It’s so good. This is a film everyone needs to see.
I know everyone probably wants to vote for It’s a Wonderful Life here, but considering the state the country was in, and how powerful this film is — this is the only film that should have won this year.
Henry V — This is a filmed version of Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” The film is about the Battle of Agincourt. There’s really not much more to say about it. That’s the film. This was Laurence Olivier’s first Shakespeare film, and it’s pretty great. Back then, Hollywood still had a hard-on for these types of films, so it makes sense they’d nominate it here. It shouldn’t have won. I still don’t think any film that’s essentially a play should have won Best Picture post-1938. So to me, this is the weakest link in the bunch (even though I’d totally vote for it over The Razor’s Edge).
It’s a Wonderful Life — You don’t get a synopsis here. If you don’t know what this is about, we have nothing more to say to one another.
The Razor’s Edge — This film is just a giant sprawling mess. Well, maybe it. I guess it’s just pretty boring. This, to me, is the bad side of classy literary adaptations. Sometimes they turn out great, other times, they’re just boring. This is one of the boring ones.
It’s about Tyrone Power who grows up in high society and can’t stand it. He’s gonna marry Gene Tierney, who loves that kind of life. But then he decides he’d rather see the world and goes off to India to discover himself. And then he comes back ten year’s later and everything’s changed. Tierney is married to a man she doesn’t love just so she can live in high society, and their friend (played by Anne Baxter), who had seemingly had everything figured out and was going to be happily married, lost her husband and child in a car accident and is now a drunk. And Power comes back and interacts with all these people, and eventually he starts to feel more for Baxter than he does for Tierney, since Tierney is still preoccupied with the superficiality of high society, and he helps Baxter get sober and turn her life around. But Tierney is jealous of her, so she causes her to relapse, which eventually kills her. And Power, disgusted by everything, goes back to India to live a simpler life.
The story itself isn’t bad, it’s just — the film is too long and too boring for too much of it. The only parts I found interesting were when Anne Baxter reappeared as a drunk. Outside of that, everything just felt flat and miscast. I don’t think this should have won at all and feels like it’s only here because it “should” be here.
The Yearling — I love this film. Childhood, man.
The film is about a young boy who befriends a young deer whose mother was killed. And he takes the deer in as a pet. And he lives with his father (Gregory Peck) and his mother (Jane Wyman). And his father is like a playmate to him and his mother is very cold. The reason she’s cold is because she had another son who she loved very much and who died suddenly. So she’s worried that if she shows her son any love that he’ll die too. And the film shows this conflict, with the boy wanting some affection from his mother, and befriending the deer. It’s about growing up. And then the deer gets too big and becomes a nuisance, so they have to shoot it (because it’ll keep coming back). And then the boy, upset that the deer is dead, runs away. And then when he comes back, the mother showers him with affection. It’s such a simple and beautiful story. It’s so perfect.
Of course, it shouldn’t have won, but it definitely should be here. It’s fantastic.
My Thoughts: I already told you, The Best Years of Our Lives was the best choice. That’s my vote.
My Vote: The Best Years of Our Lives
Should Have Won: The Best Years of Our Lives, It’s a Wonderful Life
Is the result acceptable?: Top ten decision of all time, all things considered.
Ones I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life, you shouldn’t be allowed to watch movies anymore.
If you haven’t seen The Best Years of Our Lives, you don’t really love movies.
If you haven’t seen The Yearling, you should. (I was gonna say “we can’t be friends,” but I guess I shouldn’t have expected you to have seen it. So see it, so we can be friends.)
Henry V is a good film and well worth watching. This and the Branagh version are both great and both have their individual merits.
The Razor’s Edge — meh. I don’t love it, but the Anne Baxter portion is definitely the most interesting. Other than that, I don’t love it. It’s kind of flat.
5) The Razor’s Edge
4) Henry V
3) The Yearling
2) The Best Years of Our Lives
1) It’s a Wonderful Life