This was the last year of the “double years” of the Academy, and it’s fitting. 1932-1933 was the last year before everything became completely “classical” as we know it to be. By around, 1932, Hollywood had perfected sound and started telling stories freely. However, the issue that then arose was one of censorship. There were many scandals out of Hollywood in the 20s and it soiled the industry’s reputation. So they basically started self-censoring, creating a list of “Don’ts and Be Carefuls,” of things filmmakers should avoid putting on screen. It wasn’t something that had to be adhered to, so some people didn’t necessarily listen to it. So you had these “Pre-Code” films, as they came to be known, which were, in the words of Dick Powell in The Bad and the Beautiful, “liberally peppered with sex.” And the government was fixing to come down on them if they didn’t stop it, fast. So after 1933, they passed the Production Code (enforced by Will Hays. Which got it the nickname “Hays Code”), which was basically a list of things that couldn’t be shown on screen (and was basically an early form of the MPAA, in that, if you didn’t follow the guidelines of the system, you couldn’t get your film distributed in major theaters. Not having a production code seal was like being rated NC-17.) So this is the real last year of the party, so to speak. Which is fitting that this was the last year before the Oscars really became “the Oscars.”
This last year was basically a free-for-all for Best Picture. It was the first year of ten nominees, and I don’t think the Academy quite knew what to vote for. I think they fell back on classy stage material, which can explain how Cavalcade won Best Picture and Best Director for Frank Lloyd (talked about here). Best Actor was Charles Laughton for The Private Life of Henry VIII (talked about here), which I don’t particularly like as a decision (based on the category), but was a helpful decision in that it kept him from winning in other years where he really shouldn’t have won. And Best Actress was Katharine Hepburn for Morning Glory (talked about here), which — the category only had three nominees, and she was really the best in the bunch. It was a star-making performance, and it showed. I understand that completely.
The real question about this year is the Best Picture decision. It’s not that it’s a bad film, it’s just that one other film held up better. So, in a way, it feels like one of those years where they go with the “Academy” decision and overlook the film that’s clearly a better choice. And as a result, this is one of the weakest Best Picture winners of all time, and is certainly one of the two most forgotten (next to The Broadway Melody).
BEST PICTURE – 1932-1933
And the nominees were…
42nd Street (Warner Bros.)
A Farewell to Arms (Paramount)
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Warner Bros.)
Lady for a Day (Columbia)
Little Women (RKO Radio)
The Private Life of Henry VIII (London Films, United Artists)
She Done Him Wrong (Paramount)
Smilin’ Through (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
State Fair (Fox) (more…)
Going old school today. Haven’t done one of these in a while. I like when we do these. Because I know almost no one has seen these films and I can seem like an authority on them. And because, I know there are less people who will complain about my decision because of that. Life is better when the possibility for encountering stupid assholes is lower.
Anyway, 1932-1933 is the last year of the double years. After this is just 1934. This is also the last year I consider a “foundation” year for the Academy. That is, after this, you can start complaining about their decisions. Here, they’re still developing their identity. It’s like a kid. The 1927-1933 years are the pre-18 years. If the kid sucks, it’s bad parenting. After 18, though, if the kid’s an asshole, the kid’s an asshole.
Best Picture went to Cavalcade, which is historically considered one of the weakest Best Picture decisions. I personally don’t get it myself. Frank Lloyd also wins Best Director for the film (which I talked about here), which, by default, has to be a good decision. Then Best Actress was Katharine Hepburn for Morning Glory (which I talked about here), which is also one of those by-default good decisions, because there were only three nominees, and she was the only one that was gonna win. And, since there were no Supporting categories this year, that’s it. Isn’t that nice and simple? I should also state, before we get into it, I don’t like this category. The category itself and the decision. Let me explain:
BEST ACTOR – 1932-1933
And the nominees were…
Leslie Howard, Berkeley Square
Charles Laughton, The Private Life of Henry VIII
Paul Muni, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (more…)
This is gonna be a quick one. Most because — fuck, I hate this year. I really, really do.
This is an Academy year where there was little-to-no interesting nomination whatsoever. Of the ten Best Picture nominees, I’d say there are — maybe two, worth voting for. Maybe a third. Of all the acting nominees, I’d say I enjoyed one of them (but even that was out of obscene love for the film).
For recap purposes, Cavalcade won Best Picture (which meant the Director pair-up was inevitable). It’s a British drama about a family between New Year’s 1890-something and 1933, and we see them going through all the major events of the early 20th century, as well as seeing their kids grow and all that. Decent film and all, but — let’s put it this way — of all the Best Picture winners, this is the only one with fewer than 1,000 votes on IMDB. No one even remembers this film. Of all the Best Picture nominees, I guarantee that this is the most forgotten of the bunch (next to The Life of Emile Zola). Oh, and Charles Laughton won Best Actor for The Private Life of Henry VIII (look at all the Brits — this is how cinema was back then. British meant respectable), and Kate Hepburn won Best Actress for Morning Glory. That’s that starmaking role I was telling you about when I went over it. Yeah, weak all around, this year. (more…)
I wanted to get in a really old race as early as possible. To show that the Academy did actually spend time growing into the traditions they have today.
At first, they had a small board that voted the best performances, and there weren’t even ballots. Then the second year there weren’t even official nominees. Then after that, they had official nominees, but it depended on how the board voted. Some years had 8 nominees for Best Picture, some had six, one had twelve. It wasn’t until 1934, the year after this one, that the standard system was formulated — 10 Best Picture nominees (5 after 1943) and 5 acting nominees. Before that, however, it was kind of arbitrary who was gonna get nominated. There were quite a few write-in nominees that came very close to winning. Back then the Academy announced some years (especially in three-person categories) who finished second and who finished third.
It’s interesting to look at these early categories, because you really do get a sense of a body building its own identity from the ground up. Also of note, since the first six years of the Academy had years that were numbered by two. You had 1927-1928, 28-29, 29-30, 30-31, 31-32 and 32-33. After this was 1934. So the way you tell what year the picture is actually for is by looking at the last one in the set. The 1932-1933 Oscars were for films released in 1933. They soon figured out that cutting off the first year makes it easier to keep track of. (more…)