Mike’s Top Ten of 1941
Don’t let anyone tell you the 30s and the 40s weren’t the greatest era for American film. Look at this. It’s year after year of just amazing stuff.
I guess what we need to talk about for 1941 is that the consensus greatest movie ever made was released this year. Or, I guess, for contrarians, the most influential film ever made. No matter how you slice it, Citizen Kane is on the Mount Rushmore of movies. And then you have a bunch of other really amazing stuff. The “official” beginning of the noir genre, with The Maltese Falcon. Classic comedies like The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels. Cultural classics like Sergeant York. This year is just stacked with incredible films.
This is one of those years where I could swap out half the top ten for the 11-20 and it would still look like a formidable top ten list. That’s the 40s. They churned out incredible stuff on a consistent basis. (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1941
I don’t have to say anything about 1941. We know Citizen Kane should have won. Let’s not dwell on that. (Though for a very quick history, it’s thought that the reason the film didn’t win is because William Randolph Hearst made huge threats against Hollywood simply because the film was even coming out. So it’s thought that people deliberately didn’t vote for it because they feared him. So if that’s the case, we can’t be angry at this decision. We can only understand it, and be disappointed.)
Since Kane wasn’t being voted for, How Green Was My Valley won Best Picture, Best Director for John Ford (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actor for Donald Crisp (talked about here). None should have happened, though the Crisp win is the closest to being okay (and it probably is. I just love Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon). Best Actor was Gary Cooper for Sergeant York (talked about here), which, as an alternative to Orson Welles, it’s fine. Best Actress was Joan Fontaine for Suspicion (talked about here), which was a makeup Oscar for the year before this, which is okay (even though Greer Garson gave the best performance. Though she got her Oscar the year after this, so everything worked out). And Best Supporting Actress was Mary Astor for The Great Lie (talked about here), which seems insignificant, but if you realize she was also in The Maltese Falcon this year, it becomes a good decision (though for a forgettable film).
So, in all, when you ignore the controversy, this is a very serviceable year. But the controversy is going to outshine everything, so it’s pretty much always going to be considered a bad year.
BEST PICTURE – 1941
And the nominees were…
Blossoms in the Dust (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Citizen Kane (RKO Radio)
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Columbia)
Hold Back the Dawn (Paramount)
How Green Was My Valley (20th Century Fox)
The Little Foxes (RKO Radio)
The Maltese Falcon (Warner Bros.)
One Foot in Heaven (Warner Bros.)
Sergeant York (Warner Bros.)
Suspicion (RKO Radio) (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1941
Oh boy — 1941 again. Let’s just cover it like this. Citizen Kane lost. That covers all the editorializing that needs to be done.
How Green Was My Valley wins Best Picture, Best Director for John Ford (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actor for Donald Crisp (talked about here). Best Actor was Gary Cooper for Sergeant York (talked about here), and Best Actress was Joan Fontaine for Suspicion (talked about here). Those are what they are.
And we end with this one, which — while it’s not for the right film at all, is a really great decision.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1941
And the nominees were…
Sara Allgood, How Green Was My Valley
Mary Astor, The Great Lie
Patricia Collinge, The Little Foxes
Teresa Wright, The Little Foxes
Margaret Wychery, Sergeant York (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1941
The great thing about the 1940-1945 years is that you could always count on the same actresses being in almost every category. Put it this way: of the 30 nominees for Best Actress between 1940 and 1945, the nominees in just this category account for 15 of them. And add Katharine Hepburn, Jennifer Jones and Ingrid Bergman to that list, and 22 of the 30 nominees are accounted for. That’s pretty insane.
As for 1941 — we all know how bad it was. How Green Was My Valley beats Citizen Kane for Best Picture and John Ford beats Orson Welles for Best Director (talked about here). ’nuff said there. Donald Crisp won Best Supporting Actor for the film, which does actually make sense, though, as I said here, I’d totally have given it to Sydney Greenstreet for The Maltese Falcon. That man is awesome. Then Gary Cooper wins Best Actor for Sergeant York (talked about here), which I don’t like, but understand (you really think they were gonna give it to Orson?). And Best Supporting Actress was Mary Astor for The Great Lie, which is a fine decision, since she was also in The Maltese Falcon this year. So even though it’s for the more forgotten of the two films, it’s cool that she won.
Now for this category. This is pretty cut and dry. It’s a make up Oscar. Everyone understands this, and it’s totally acceptable. Just know, I wouldn’t (and won’t) vote for it. I thought there was a better performance. But since all the principals (for the most part) won Oscars, this is a fine decision.
BEST ACTRESS – 1941
And the nominees are…
Bette Davis, The Little Foxes
Olivia de Havilland, Hold Back the Dawn
Joan Fontaine, Suspicion
Greer Garson, Blossoms in the Dust
Barbara Stanwyck, Ball of Fire (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1941
We can all agree that 1941 is one of the biggest travesties in Academy history. How Green Was My Valley, a good film but not a great film, wins Best Picture over Citizen Kane. It’s bad, yes, we know. No need to repeat the obvious.
Donald Crisp also won Best Supporting Actor for the film (talked about here), beating my personal choice, Sydney Greenstreet for The Maltese Falcon. Best Actor this year was Gary Cooper for Sergeant York (talked about here), which, as much as I love the film and as iconic as the character is, I don’t like as a decision. I think Orson Welles should have won for Citizen Kane. But I’m not that upset about it, since Welles really should have won for Screenplay and Director. I could have lived with Cooper winning if Welles had won those other ones. But it’s fine. Then Best Actress was Joan Fontaine for Suspicion, which is a total makeup Oscar for the year before this, where she probably should have won for Rebecca. My personal choice in this category would have been Greer Garson for Blossoms in the Dust, but Fontaine was a good choice considering she didn’t win the year before this. And Best Supporting Actress was Mary Astor for The Great Lie, which on the surface, doesn’t sound like an Oscar-worthy performance. She was fine in the film, but, the real clincher is the fact that she was also in The Maltese Falcon this year. Plus she’s an actress who definitely deserves an Oscar. So that was a great decision.
So, really, 1941 is a great year, outside of Best Picture and Best Director. The rest of the decisions are at worst acceptable and understandable. So, really, we blame William Randolph Hearst for this one, since he single-handedly torpedoed Kane‘s chances. Someone should make a film about Rupert Murdoch, see what happens. (I bet he doesn’t have a pet name for his mistress’s vagina.)
BEST DIRECTOR – 1941
And the nominees were…
John Ford, How Green Was My Valley
Alexander Hall, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Howard Hawks, Sergeant York
Orson Welles, Citizen Kane
William Wyler, The Little Foxes (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1941
I think we can get this out of the way quickly by saying that 1941 is a travesty. Citizen Kane clearly should have won Best Picture, and didn’t because, well, William Randolph Hearst had a lot of influence. How Green Was My Valley wins Best Picture in a cop out decision. John Ford wins Best Director for it too (which goes with the territory).
Gary Cooper wins Best Actor for Sergeant York (talked about here), which I don’t like, but can’t really argue with. Then Best Actress was Joan Fontaine for Suspicion, which is kind of a makeup Oscar for the year before, and also a kind of best case scenario. Though I’d personally have gone with Greer Garson here. And Best Supporting Actress was Mary Astor for The Great Lie. Not a very memorable film or performance, but, she also played Brigid O’Shaugnessy in The Maltese Falcon, so I’m very okay with the decision.
And then we have this category. I’m not sure what I think about this. On the one hand, Donald Crisp gave a solid performance, but on the other hand, I have a clear personal favorite, and there’s also another “year” candidate (that is, one person had such a strong year, I can’t see how they didn’t get it based on that). I don’t know. I just don’t really like this decision.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1941
And the nominees were…
Walter Brennan, Sergeant York
Charles Coburn, The Devil and Miss Jones
Donald Crisp, How Green Was My Valley
James Gleason, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon (more…)
The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1941
1941. What can you do here but shake your head? Citizen Kane is almost entirely shut out from the Oscars in favor of How Green Was My Valley. Best Picture, Best Director for John Ford (his third, out of four, and second in a row), and even Best Supporting Actor for Donald Crisp, who beat out Sydney Greenstreet for The Maltese Falcon. What can you do?
Also this year, Joan Fontaine wins Best Actress for Suspicion, which is about as blatant a makeup Oscar as you can get (and yet, a good choice. Even though she deserved to win the year before this, everything ended up working out okay), and Mary Astor wins Best Supporting Actress for The Great Lie, which — I don’t think anyone even remembers that particular category, so it doesn’t really matter that much (though she also played Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon, so, even she won for another film, I think we can all be cool with that).
But really though, no matter which way you cut it, the blatant snub of Citizen Kane (mostly because of William Randolph Hearts’s doing), really leaves a black mark on this year that will always be there. We can’t pretend that it’s even remotely okay, even though it means nothing.
BEST ACTOR – 1941
And the nominees were…
Gary Cooper, Sergeant York
Cary Grant, Penny Serenade
Walter Huston, The Devil and Daniel Webster
Robert Montgomery, Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Orson Welles, Citizen Kane (more…)