Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Katie-Bar-The-Door Awards (1937)

Stage Door is a perfect example of what the so-called "chick flick" used to be before they devolved into soulless paeans to crass consumerism—sharp, biting vehicles for great actresses playing characters who dream big and succeed or fail on a large scale, all while shedding men like ducks shed water. Maybe the fantasy in the 1930s, when real-life opportunities for women were limited, was the possibility of taking charge and doing anything. Now when opportunities are approaching something like unlimited, maybe the fantasy is to buy lots of crap and do nothing.

Or maybe it's just that Stage Door had Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers and Eve Arden and Gail Patrick, and Sex and the City had, well, the cast of Sex and the City. But I don't think so.

Anyway, I treated Stage Door—which is as full of funny lines as any movie of the era—as a drama because underneath its snarky wit is an undercurrent of desperation that motivates nearly every character in it, including the one played by Andrea Leeds whose personal tragedy is the engine that drives the plot.

As for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I wouldn't say it's Walt Disney's best animated feature, but it was the first—not just his first but anybody's first—a risk so bold it was known as "Disney's Folly" until it made a sackful of money and changed the future of animation forever. In its field, it was as influential as Citizen Kane—and the songs are just so damn catchy.

And by the way, while we're being chatty, Katie-Bar-The-Door and I saw Grand Illusion for the first time in a ratty mall three-plex in Greenbelt, Maryland, which is a little like saying you ate Beluga caviar for the first time in a Cracker Barrel off the side of the interstate. We figured it must have been either a mistake or a practical joke, and we were the only two people in the theater, but, boy, what a good movie.

winner: Stage Door (prod. Pandro S. Berman)
nominees: Make Way For Tomorrow (prod. Leo McCarey and Adolph Zukor); The Prisoner Of Zenda (prod. David O. Selznick); A Star Is Born (prod. David O. Selznick); You Only Live Once (prod. Walter Wanger)

PICTURE (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (prod. Walt Disney)
nominees: The Awful Truth (prod. Leo McCarey); Easy Living (prod. Arthur Hornblow Jr.); A Day At The Races (prod. Sam Wood); Nothing Sacred (prod. David O. Selznick); Shall We Dance (prod. Pandro S. Berman)

PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: Grand Illusion (prod. Albert Pinkovitch and Frank Rollmer)

ACTOR (Drama)
winner: Jean Gabin (Pepe Le Moko and Grand Illusion)
nominees: Ronald Colman (Lost Horizon and The Prisoner Of Zenda); Henry Fonda (You Only Live Once); Fredric March (A Star Is Born); Spencer Tracy (Captains Courageous)

ACTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Cary Grant (The Awful Truth)
nominees: Fred Astaire (Shall We Dance); Will Hay (Oh, Mr. Porter); Leslie Howard (It's Love I'm After); Fredric March (Nothing Sacred); The Marx Brothers (A Day At The Races)

winner: Shirley Temple (Wee Willie Winkie and Heidi)
nominees: Beulah Bondi (Make Way For Tomorrow); Janet Gaynor (A Star is Born); Katharine Hepburn (Stage Door); Ginger Rogers (Stage Door); Sylvia Sidney (You Only Live Once); Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas)

ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Jean Arthur (Easy Living)
nominees: Constance Bennett (Topper); Irene Dunne (The Awful Truth); Carole Lombard (Nothing Sacred); Ginger Rogers (Shall We Dance)

winner: Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion)
nominees: Gregory La Cava (Stage Door); Fritz Lang (You Only Live Once); Leo McCarey (Make Way For Tomorrow); William A. Wellman (A Star Is Born)

DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Leo McCarey (The Awful Truth)
nominees: Sam Wood (A Day At The Races)

winner: Ralph Bellamy (The Awful Truth)
nominees: Edward Arnold (Easy Living); Walter Connolly (Nothing Sacred); Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (The Prisoner Of Zenda); Adolphe Menjou (Stage Door and A Star Is Born); Erich von Stroheim (Grand Illusion); Roland Young (Topper)

winner: Eve Arden (Stage Door)
nominees: Constance Collier (Stage Door); Margaret Dumont (A Day At The Races); Andrea Leeds (Stage Door); Claire Trevor (Dead End); Dame May Whitty (Night Must Fall)

winner: Morris Ryskind and Anthony Veiller, from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman (Stage Door)
nominees: Preston Sturges, from a story by Vera Caspary (Easy Living); Charles Spaak and Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion); ViƱa Delmar, from a play by Helen and Nolan Leary, and a novel by Josephine Lawrence (Make Way For Tomorrow); Ben Hecht, from a story by James H. Street (Nothing Sacred)

Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith (Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs) (Score)


Erik Beck said...

Shirley Temple? Really? Over Janet Gaynor? Really???

And I must admit, in spite of it's melancholy climax, I have always viewed Stage Door as a Comedy. But with you having it as a drama, it makes the award to Temple even more perplexing.

Mythical Monkey said...

Shirley Temple? Sure. She was Hollywood's #1 box office star from 1935 to 1938, she still has a substantial fanbase and Wee Willie Winkie is her best performance. I wouldn't choose her to play Hamlet, but since the full title of the Oscar is "Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role" -- distinct, to my mind, from "best acting by an actress in a leading role" -- I'm comfortable handing an award to an iconic figure who still has a hold on her audience seventy-five years after most of her contemporaries have turned to dust and been forgotten.

With a thousand other entertainment options available, the ability to cut through the clutter and draw people's attention, not just in the original context but for generations thereafter, is the real screen talent. It's that ability to appeal across generations that distinguishes Shirley Temple from, say, Ali McGraw, who was a hot commodity for a couple of years but who couldn't get arrested now. It's why we still watch John Wayne, Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart, when there were probably better technical actors competing against them.

Something like that. One day, decades from now when I get to 1937, I'll write a lengthy essay on the subject.

theduckthief said...

Glad to see that "Stage Door" is getting its due!

I know you're very busy but will you ever be putting together a list of essential films for the film lover?

I'm always on the lookout for good older films but I don't really trust the books with published lists. It always feels like I'm only ever getting half the story and they're leaving out screen gems I should know about.

Ginger Ingenue said... best picture nominations, drama wise, for two (more) of my absolute favorites!! CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS and DEAD END.

Don't you think the Dead End Kids deserve some special award for it? For being so darn wonderful? How 'bout one for Freddie Bartholomew for being so darn cute? ;)

I think Joel McCrea really does deserve a nomination for best actor in DEAD END.

And I'd nominate Ginger for best supporting actress in STAGE DOOR a million years before I'd nominate her for lead in SHALL WE DANCE. I thought she was pretty rotten in that one; too mean-spirited or something; like she was tired of making movies with Fred and it showed.

As for your winner and nominees for best picture in a comedy/musical: I got to say...I don't care how groundbreaking it was, overall SNOW WHITE just isn't that great. It's really good, and yes, I'm impressed, but...I don't know; I much prefer EASY LIVING and A DAY AT THE RACES.

Glad to see a win for Jean Arthur, anyway! :)

Mythical Monkey said...

I know you're very busy but will you ever be putting together a list of essential films for the film lover?

I could do that -- say, ten top films in various categories or for various moods. The lists would be weighted toward watch-ability rather than castor-oil-swallowing character building exercises.

Maybe when I'm done with the Katie Awards. How long do you think people will put up with this nonsense? I can go until about 2004, but I may not have any readers left by that time.

Katie said...

What the Monkey didn't mention about Grand Illusion was that we we sitting in a very large movie theater, all by ourselves, and about halfway through the movie two people come in and sit DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF US. We looked at each other, silently said WTF, and moved over a couple of seats. They stayed about 5 minutes and then left.

theduckthief said...

How long do you think people will put up with this nonsense? I can go until about 2004, but I may not have any readers left by that time.

I can't speak for everyone else but I know I would. It's nice to get a second opinion, especially for films that came out before I existed.

Mythical Monkey said...

Realistically, I'll probably go up to about 1969 then start getting ready for Monty's Greatest Actresses Tournament starting on March 5. I'll be hosting the Silent Era/1930s bracket, 32 actresses in all.

Then we'll see what happens ...