Awards season always brings out the movie critic in us all. Opining and critiquing become part of daily exchanges in all manner of social media. The fact that the 2013 Oscars are now history deters Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and its legion of fans not. We continue to pay attention to Oscars past and offer opinions and commentary, choosing favorite performances and films, and complaining to and about The Academy whenever we feel they snub those we deem worthy of a nomination or award. Along that vein I thought I’d potentially awaken my own outrage and take a look back at some of my favorite films to see what kind of recognition they’d received from The Academy in their time. And man am I outraged. It turns out there are quite a few films I consider among the best ever made for one reason or another that were completely ignored.
Recognizing that decades of accrued, and in some cases collective, love for some of these (and I note only a few) may have played havoc with my views, I post this is honor of the films and personalities I was quite surprised to learn didn’t make the Oscars cut. Never! Not one nomination! This is for fun…but I mean it!
Oh no they didn’t!
I hate you too, Oscar. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.
Lucky is what we are. We have many films and film roles to adore and quote and remember…forever. I mean, I don’t know about you but the films I love I never tire of. Here’s one – a memorable story, gerat performances, beautifully shot, wonderfully written. That is, the dark beauty of film noir, intrigue, murder, romance, and thrills. This film features one of the most iconic film roles ever performed by one of our most iconic movie stars. That is so true that they become one – the woman and the role. Decades later we need only think, “Gilda,” to evoke very specific images and moments on film that are etched in our minds. Not one nomination!
“I was true to one man once… and look what happened…”
Gilda (1946), Charles Vidor, director
Listen, you insignificant, square-toed, pimpled-headed statuette!
I stood in front of the class to present my choice for that week’s assignment. Nervous, as usual, I focused only on the instructor, a long-time producer for a popular newsmagazine show. The course was Writing for Mass Media and that week’s assignment required we find an example of what we felt was great writing for…well, mass media. Some students brought in copies of parts of the screenplays of recent popular films. Others presented recent magazine articles, news stories, and a few the lyrics to popular songs – the Beatles, among them. I brought in my DVD of Howard Hawks’, His Girl Friday (1940).
I did well on that assignment, despite my nerves associated with public speaking. The professor seemed impressed anyone would think to bring in a classic film as an example. The other students? Not so much. Every time I looked at them they were in varying stages of stupor. Not impressed in the least. So I ventured away from my prepared ending and, with admirable conviction declared, “You will never find a better example of writing for the screen. In any medium. Nor will you ever find better interpreters of such a screenplay. What you have just witnessed is genius.”
I felt that way about the screenplay of His Girl Friday when I was a student and I feel that way about it today. Forgetting for a moment – assuming I could - the inspired performances of the film’s stars, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell and the fact they too were ignored - it is unfathomable that the script was not recognized. Written by Charles Lederer, based on “The Front Page,” a play by Ben Hecht and MacArthur, His Girl Friday is fast-paced, smart and hilarious. Oscar, TALK TO THE HAND!
Well Oscar, looks like you’ve got yourself surrounded.
I have a friend who is obsessed with John Ford films, adoring The Searchers, in particular. Discussing that film one day, I said, “It’s good.” He was flabbergasted. The next day he went out of his way to bring me what must have been a dozen articles that discuss the film in-depth - its intricacies, its messages, its symbolism. In short, its status as a legend in the realm of filmmaking - from one of the best directors who ever lived, his most influential and revered work. THE Ford masterpiece for most. I still can’t say I “get it” – even after reading all that he gave me to read – although there is a lot in this film I enjoy, mostly the magnificent spectacle that shines through John Ford’s camera. I can’t deny it’s a gorgeous film. Listed on most “great films” lists by fans and critics alike, exalted by most film directors of note, I expected The Searchers to have received tons of Academy Award nominations – but not a one!
The Searchers (1956), John Ford, director
“We think too much and feel too little.”
It’s well-known The Academy didn’t have a fondness for Charlie Chaplin. Yet, during its first year in the ”awarding” business, the grand body of filmdom couldn’t help but give the writer/director an honorary Oscar for his 1928 film, The Circus. It seems they sometimes had to recognize pure talent. Subsequently, Chaplin received four Academy Award nominations - Best Writing, Original Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Great Dictator (1940), Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Monsieur Verdoux (1947) and won one in 1972 for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score for 1952′s, Limelight. (The last was awarded twenty years after the film was made because it was never released in Los Angeles until 1972.) Don’t ask me how that makes any sense.
Anyway, although not completely ignored given the instances I just noted, Charlie Chaplin was never nominated as a director, which is mind-boggling. His work, silent or not remains as “high” as high art in film can be and as heartwarming, deliciously funny and fresh as if he’d just turned the camera off an hour ago. An astounding talent on whose behalf I repeat Oscar’s own words back at them in regards to this artist, ”For the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century” THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!
Come back, Oscar… I wanna chastise you…
“The Motion Picture That Will Never Be Forgiven… Or Forgotten!”
Wonderful script – great acting by both Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis – memorable “look” resulting from inspired lighting. Add to that the fact that this is an important film, by my estimation. The low-down, dirty side of the press has not gotten a better treatment on celluloid. Well, from this perspective anyway. “Every dog will have his day” and I’m giving this one a bit of its own. How it leaves a bad taste in your mouth – deliciously cynical and not one nomination!
Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Alexander Mackendrick, director
I liked you better as a bum, Oscar!
“A Happy-Go Lucky Hitch-Hiker on the Highway to happiness! He wanted to see the world . . . but wound up in Lover’s Lane!”
It’s a surprise that Oscar chose to ignore a film with such a strong, positive message in this case. Haven’t those Academy members always loved message films? This film received mixed reviews when released in 1941 - the New York Times called the film “the most brilliant picture yet this year” but The Hollywood Reporter said it “lacked down-to-Earth quality.” I’m not sure I understand the latter comment given this film makes its point rather clearly as it focuses on “ordinary people” - as down to Earth as it can get. This is also a beautiful picture to look at with many memorable scenes – one of the best films ever made about the movies, an intelligent and heartwarming film. Audiences also gave it a luke warm reception at first – this one made money over time. From much heralded writer/director, Preston Sturges, this film is considered one of his best. Not one nomination!
Sullivan’s Travels (1941), Preston Sturges, director
Open that door, Oscar, you spawn of the devil’s own strumpet!
Let me at ‘em! This one is beyond all reason. One of the most memorable films ever made. Astoundingly beautiful, a portrait is each scene. Robert Mitchum is what could easily be considered the greatest villain ever to sinister-up the silver screen. The legendary Lillian Gish delivers a wonderful performance. Shelley Winters as her “method” self making yet another bad choice in men. Nearly six decades after its release, this one still packs a tattooed punch! I don’t understand how anyone can watch it – then or now – and the response not be in an audible, WOW. But it didn’t “wow” them as it was both a critical and commercial failure. This is – to me – as outstanding a directorial debut as any ever made. Jaysus, what a film! Yet, not one nomination!
The Night of the Hunter (1955), Charles Laughton, director
For you Orson Welles, “the genius” fans, The Night of the Hunter was his favorite movie of all time.
Oscar, you’re awfully cold around the heart!
“A guy without a fortune! A girl with too much past!”
By no means am I a film historian but it seems film noir as a genre was ignored almost completely by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I must give a shout out to one of my favorites, the one I’d recommend to anyone wanting to watch a noir standard. Endlessly entertaining and stunningly beautiful, this one was ignored for the gorgeous black and white cinematography of Nicholas Musuraca. He deserved a nod for his work on this picture – but it received not one nomination!
Out of the Past (1947), Jacques Tourneur, director
It was Oscar ignored the beast.
“Out-leaping the maddest imaginings! Out-thrilling the wildest thrills!”
Seriously, someone please tell me - what does the Eighth Wonder of the World have to do to get a little Oscar love?
A king who fights against his oppressors and to the death for the woman he loves. Although his fight is one he didn’t ask for, he remains a supreme, yet innocent force against the worst man has to offer – himself.
Audiences recognized greatness this time! This film grossed $90,000 its opening weekend, the biggest opening ever at the time – its success is credited for saving RKO Pictures from bankruptcy. This is the only film to debut at the two largest theaters in New York, the Roxy and Radio City Music Hall, simultaneously. And it sold out every performance at both theaters. And I’ll be a monkey’s aunt if this isn’t one of the greatest movies ever made.
Since the early days of motion pictures, with the epics of Cecil B. DeMille, visual effects have been used in film. The Academy didn’t ignore the fact and an “Engineering Effects” award was presented at the very first Oscars. The award was dropped from the list, however, after the first year and wasn’t reinstated until 1939 as “Special Effects.” What happened in between those years was the release of a motion picture that is still impressive in this day of CGI “magic.” The film’s producer, David O. Selznick, then production head at RKO Studios, petitioned the Academy Board of Governors to recognize the work of animator Willis O’Brien for his groundbreaking work on this film but nothing came of it. As a result of Mr. O’Brien and the writers, this film features, without a doubt, one of the most memorable characters in cinema history – a huge, ugly, wild ape that breaks our collective heart. I pound my chest for this one.
King Kong (1933), Directors (uncredited) – Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
I’ll end this simply, interpreting the silence of one completely ignored by Oscar herself although she was infinitely fabulous and supremely talented - she may not have said it but on behalf of Myrna Loy…WHATEVER!
This entry is one of my contributions to the 31 Days of Oscar blogathon – now in its last week - in what we hope will be an annual event, which both celebrates our love of film and the Oscars – an event that coincides with the month-long Oscars celebration on Turner Classic Movies,
To read more posts dedicated to Oscars past and present, films and filmmakers that have left a mark, please visit any of the following sites, co-hosts of the 31 Days of Oscar blogathon. As I am one of them, I can attest to the fact we have an impressive array of entries by great bloggers and passionate cinephiles.
Kellee at Outspoken & Freckled
Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club
and yours truly, Aurora at Once Upon a Screen