The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1931-1932
We’re getting closer to streamlined. Now you’re seeing the Oscars start to discover their own identity. The winners are starting to make sense, and the precedents are about to be set, and pretty soon it’s gonna be the way we know it to be. But we’re not quite there yet. Though this is the first year where an “Academy” film won, rather than the “best” film. (All Quiet on the Western Front was just better than the competition. Grand Hotel was an “Academy”-type winner.)
1931-1932 is a noteworthy year in Oscar history because it’s the last time no film would win more than two Oscars at the ceremony. And it would also be the last time until 1989 and Driving Miss Daisy that the Best Picture winner wasn’t also nominated for Best Director. It would also be the only time in which the Best Picture winner wasn’t nominated for any other Oscars. (Though that does technically mean that the film swept.) And then, outside the Oscars, this is also a year that is littered with Pre-Code films, where Hollywood practically got away with murder with what they put on the screen. Watch this clip. Look at how suggestive it is. That’s basically all the context you need for it.
Other winners this year were a tie for Best Actor, with Frederic March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Wallace Beery for The Champ, winning (talked about here). March got one more vote than Beery, but Academy rules dictated that anything within three votes become a tie. Best Actress was Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet (talked about here), which was the best choice in the category. And Best Director was Frank Borzage for Bad Girl (talked about here), which I love, even though he didn’t really need it (they could have given King Vidor or Josef von Sternberg an Oscar this year). I’m sure many people would go another way there.
Overall, though, another solid year. Out of context, of course, it looks weak like almost all the early years, but in context, most of them are actually pretty solid.
BEST PICTURE 1931-1932
And the nominees were…
Arrowsmith (Goldwyn, United Artists)
Bad Girl (Fox)
The Champ (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Five Star Final (First National)
Grand Hotel (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
One Hour With You (Paramount)
Shanghai Express (Paramount)
The Smiling Lieutenant (Paramount) (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1931-1932
1931-1932 is kind of the first year where a real “Academy” film took the top prize. Grand Hotel is about as Oscar as you can get. It makes sense they went with it. It’s also funny that it wasn’t nominated for anything except Best Picture. They really didn’t know what they were doing yet. It’s so funny.
Also this year, Best Director was Frank Borzage for Bad Girl, his second, which I talked about here, and Best Actor was a tie between Frederic March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Wallace Beery for The Champ, which I talked about here. Which, is actually, all the other categories for this year. This is the last one. That’s weird.
As for this category — it’s a pretty cut and dry one. There’s really only one choice, and, the Academy made the right one. I like when categories go smoothly like this one.
BEST ACTRESS – 1931-1932
And the nominees were…
Marie Dressler, Emma
Helen Hayes, The Sin of Madelon Claudet
Lynn Fontanne, The Guardsman (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1931-1932
1931-1932. Not much to say about this one. Grand Hotel — an “Oscar” film if there ever was one. Only film to ever win Best Picture without gaining a single nomination in any other category. That’s interesting. The film was designed for one purpose and achieved that purpose. In today’s world — that would never happen.
We actually covered one of the categories in these year very recently. Best Actor this year was the tie between Frederic March and Wallace Beery. Remember that? That saves us some time on one of the nominees. Best Actress was Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet. That’s 1932. Let’s get into it.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1931-1932
And the nominees are…
Frank Borzage, Bad Girl
King Vidor, The Champ
Josef von Sternberg, Shanghai Express
Borzage — There’s a reason I picked this one for the weekend. It doesn’t have films most people would ever see. Like, ever. Even though I like them and love one of them a lot — they’re not films a regular person would put on. Starting with this one. (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1931-1932
And we’re back with another three nominee category. I’m trying to accomplish two things with these: one, spread them out as much as possible, because, a three-person category feels like a cheat (and, if it’s like this one, really fucking difficult to pick, because, really, can you really say which one was the best?), and two, getting them out of the way as quickly as possible. Sure, a three-person category means less for me to write, but, it’s just less interesting. Plus I love talking about it, as much as the thought of actually writing because I have to feels like work, it’s easy once I get going. Seriously, get me talking about movies or Oscars, and I can just keep going.
So, 1931-1932, or as it’s best known in most circles, 1932. This is the year that made history that’s never been repeated (and never will). Grand Hotel won Best Picture without garnering a single nomination in any other category. That is — not win, surely other Oscar movies have won Best Picture without winning any other categories — the film won Best Picture without getting a single nomination outside of Best Picture. That’s — wow.
Other winners this year include Frank Borzage for Bad Girl — Borzage is one of the premier silent film directors and was a powerhouse in this era (he has two Best Director statues to prove it), but, I bet that unless you took a film class (or bought that awesome Murnau/Borzage at Fox boxset), you really have no idea who he is. Which is a shame — Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet, and that’s it. Remember, no supporting categories at this point. They were still figuring shit out. (more…)