So now we’re firmly in the era of the Production Code, and the subject matter’s gotten a lot less fun. But that doesn’t mean anything, since it’s almost a good thing. Maybe it would have happened anyway, but the minute they put restrictions on, they busted out with some real classics.
For me, 1934 is always gonna be known for two things. First, it’s the year my favorite film of all time was made. And second, it’s the year where Hollywood established its “classic” formula. It Happened One Night is the benchmark film of the studio era. You could watch it and see the progression of just about any film made for the next thirty years.
Otherwise, a lot of other things began in this year: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple and William Powell and Myrna Loy. We’re hitting the ground running, and it’s only gonna get more fun from here. (more…)
(Note: THIS CATEGORY IS NOT FINISHED. I still need to watch one of the nominees. I still have not been able to find The White Parade in any cheap/acceptable format. If anyone has it or knows where it can be procured, let me know, so this category can be finished.)
All right, now we have “The” Oscars. Now the Oscars are a man. Baruch atah adonai. None of that foundation stuff anymore. Now they know what these awards are about and what the criteria for them are, they can just start voting the way we do now. This year really solidified that. They got rid of the double years, all films nominated were for that singular calendar year, and they also gave a film the “big five,” which is like wiping the slate clean and saying, “Okay, now we know what we’re doing.”
It Happened One Night won everything this year. Best Picture, Best Director for Frank Capra (talked about here), Best Actor for Clark Gable (talked about here) and Best Actress for Claudette Colbert (talked about here). And of course, Best Screenplay. Hence the big five. I have absolutely no problem with any of these decisions, and they were all well-deserved. Though my favorite film of all time (The Thin Man) was on almost all those lists (still kind of upset about that Best Actress snub), so despite me being okay with the result, I still won’t vote for it. Still though, this is one of the best Academy years.
Two things to point out — this year and the year after this were the only two years in Academy history in which they allowed write-in candidates (that is, on the final ballot. After nominees were announced). These two years also happen to be the two years with the most Best Picture nominees (12).
BEST PICTURE – 1934
And the nominees were…
The Barretts of Wimpole Street (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Flirtation Walk (First National)
The Gay Divorcée (RKO Radio)
Here Comes the Navy (Warner Bros.)
The House of Rothschild (20th Century, United Artists)
Imitation of Life (Universal)
It Happened One Night (Columbia)
One Night of Love (Columbia)
The Thin Man (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Viva Villa! (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
The White Parade (Fox) (more…)
1934. Wonderful year. This goes twofold for me, since my favorite film of all time was made this year. Every time I talk about this year, I make sure to note that there’s no way I can be subjective when my favorite film is involved. I just can’t. That’s the one place I refuse to do it. Fortunately, The Thin Man isn’t nominated here, so it won’t affect this category at all. Recapping the year is easy. It Happened One Night won everything. Picture, Director (talked about here), Actor (here), and, yes, Actress (writing too. First big five winner in history). But of all the categories of 1934, this one is the most interesting. For several reasons. The first is that this is one of the few categories for which the Academy announced the order of finish. Claudette Colbert won, Norma Shearer finished 2nd, and Bette Davis finished 3rd (QED, Grace Moore was last). The most important part about all this, though, is the Bette Davis nomination. Let me explain.
Bette Davis begged out of her Warner Bros. contract to make this film. They agreed because they assumed she was going to fail. But the film actually ended up being her breakthrough. And come Oscar time, when she got nomination buzz, Warners spitefully told people not to vote for her. And since the voting system wasn’t as, shall we say, objective, as it is now (votes were tabulated by the heads of the Academy. Warners was one. No bias at all, I’m sure), she wasn’t nominated. And her supporters, outraged, petitioned the Academy for a write-in vote. The outcry was large enough (probably because at that time the Oscars were small enough) that it actually worked. The Academy caved (kind of like when they caved in 2008 and started the 10 nominees), and this became one of only two years to ever feature a write-in vote (that counted).
It didn’t work out for Bette Davis (3rd), but the year after this, Hal Mohr actually won Best Cinematography for A Midsummer Night’s Dream without being nominated (which is great. He was the best there). But, this decision was strong enough to get several things to happen. First, it got the write-in ballot for two years. Then it got the Academy to change its voting practices. They handed over the entire voting and counting process to PriceWaterhouse (who still does it). And it also created that Oscar groundswell we know so well, especially when it comes to Best Actress, that got Bette Davis to win a slam dunk Oscar (considered a makeup Oscar) the year after this, for Dangerous. I’ll talk about that when I get to it, but for now, can you see how important 1934 is (even without The Thin Man)?
BEST ACTRESS – 1934
And the nominees were…
Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night
Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage (write-in)
Grace Moore, One Night of Love
Norma Shearer, The Barretts of Wimpole Street (more…)
I love 1934. That will never change, because my favorite film of all time was made in 1934. And also It Happened One Night was this year too. Which, coincidentally, those are the two films I’ll pretty much be talking about in this article. So, that’s cool.
1934 is the first year of the single digit Oscar years, the first year they really figured out how to start doing things. They got up on their feet this year. It would take them another two years to get the Supporting categories in, but, they’re working at it. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to recap here, since It Happened One Night literally won everything. Best Picture, Best Actor for Clark Gable, Best Actress for Claudette Colbert, and yes, even Best Director.
I’m not even going to hide my opinion. I’m voting The Thin Man all the way here. It’s my favorite film, and nothing’s gonna change. So I’m gonna make this one as quick as possible, since, we all knew, before I walked in the goddamn door, which film I was gonna vote for.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1934
And the nominees were…
Frank Capra, It Happened One Night
Victor Schertzinger, One Night of Love
W.S. Van Dyke, The Thin Man
Everybody has one year they’re the most biased about. 1934 is mine.
Most years, you can at least have some sort of objectivity when you go, “Yeah, I guess it’s okay.” But, here, my favorite film of all time is contained amongst the nominees, and no matter what it’s up against, I’m always going to feel as if it should have won. So this one’s gonna be brief on the voting and everything. I will talk about how great all three of these movies and performances are, though. So you do get that. Because this category is fucking amazing. All three are great. It’s just — my favorite is my favorite.
Oh, yeah, basically what you need to know is — It Happened One Night swept everything. Beat the hell out of everything. Except my spirit.
BEST ACTOR – 1934
And the nominees are…
Clark Gable, It Happened One Night
Frank Morgan, The Affairs of Cellini
William Powell, The Thin Man (more…)