I have a very small list in terms of true directorial achievements throughout the history of film. Feature-wise… you start with Intolerance, and then you don’t really get anything until this movie. And then after this, there’s maybe… two more before 1970. But in terms of classical Hollywood, there are really only about four or five movies that are truly, to me, milestones of (American) film directing. And this is one of them.
Whenever this film would come up during the Oscar Quest, I’d say, “This film is so good, it could have won Best Director and Best Picture every year between the year it was released and 1939. No film could have beaten it. No directorial achievement was better than this one during that time. This was truly the greatest American film made for an entire decade. And even now, the film still holds up as a masterpiece that has not aged a day.
The film is based on what is now one of the most famous novels ever written, one we all read in school at some point, and was the highest-grossing movie of its year. So, through continued relevance (we’ve all watched this in school as well), and popularity and acclaim at the time of release (it did win Best Picture and Best Director), it’s the only film you can choose for 1930 as the film that defines its year. (more…)