Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Katie-Bar-The-Door Awards (1940)

That pop-pop-popping sound you've been hearing all morning is people's heads exploding as they scroll down the page and see that the Three Stooges have won an award for best actor in a comedy.

The Three Stooges?! What the what?!

And yet the fact is, the Stooges are the best known comedy team in the history of film, still popular (or passionately unpopular) after all these years and I think they are long overdue for some critical recognition.

Did you know they once got an Oscar nomination? They did—or their work did anyway—for the 1934 two-reeler Men in Black. And in 2002, Punch Drunks was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. 1940 represents the team at their peak, with arguably the two finest shorts of their career, You Nazty Spy!—a pointed satire of Hitler that beat Chaplin's The Great Dictator into theaters by ten months—and A Plumbing We Will Go, with Curly's attempts to fix a leaky shower serving as the funniest demonstration of the worthlessness of good intentions ever committed to film.

As for Joan Fontaine, the first (I think) living recipient of a Katie-Bar-The-Door Award and my pick for the year's best actress in a drama, she might be the most one-note actress ever to create an indelible screen image. She played submissive, cringing doormats better than anybody—in not only Rebecca, but also Suspicion, Letter From An Unknown Woman, and in a supporting role in The Women—but she couldn't do much else, and I often wonder whether her primary talent was for getting cast in parts perfectly suited to her limited gifts. If so, she's still ahead of me, and I imagine she'll be around feuding with her sister long after I'm gone.

Speaking of her ongoing feud with Olivia de Havilland, I don't know about you, but I find it strangely comforting that they're still at it, like knowing that the sun will come up in the morning. They've been fighting longer than the Cleveland Indians have gone without a World Series title, if that means anything to you, since Franklin Roosevelt was president and there were 48 stars on the flag. Think of all the people who were born, lived, grew old and died during the time that Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland haven't been speaking to each other. That's constancy, man, a strange sort of fidelity more enduring than most marriages.

Just because you're related to somebody doesn't mean you have to like them, I guess.

winner: The Grapes Of Wrath (prod. Darryl F. Zanuck)
nominees: Foreign Correspondent (prod. Walter Wanger); The Letter (prod. William Wyler); Rebecca (prod. David O. Selznick); The Thief Of Bagdad (prod. Alexander Korda)

PICTURE (Comedy/Musical)
winner: The Philadelphia Story (prod. Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
nominees: The Great Dictator (prod. Charles Chaplin); His Girl Friday (prod. Howard Hawks); Pinocchio (prod. Walt Disney); The Shop Around The Corner (prod. Ernst Lubitsch)

PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: Ahí está el detalle (You're Missing The Point) (prod. Jesús Grovas)

ACTOR (Drama)
winner: Henry Fonda (The Grapes Of Wrath)
nominees: Gary Cooper (The Westerner); Errol Flynn (The Sea Hawk); Raymond Massey (Abe Lincoln In Illinois); Laurence Olivier (Rebecca); Conrad Veidt (The Thief Of Bagdad)

ACTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: The Three Stooges (You Nazty Spy!; A Plumbing We Will Go; Nutty But Nice; How High Is Up?; From Nurse To Worse; No Census, No Feeling; Cookoo Cavaliers; and Boobs In Arms)
nominees: Charles Chaplin (The Great Dictator); Brian Donlevy (The Great McGinty); W.C. Fields (The Bank Dick); Cary Grant (His Girl Friday and My Favorite Wife); William Powell (I Love You Again); James Stewart (The Philadelphia Story and The Shop Around The Corner)

winner: Joan Fontaine (Rebecca)
nominees: Bette Davis (All This, And Heaven Too and The Letter); Vivien Leigh (Waterloo Bridge)

ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Rosalind Russell (His Girl Friday)
nominees: Irene Dunne (My Favorite Wife); Katharine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story); Ann Sheridan (Torrid Zone); Margaret Sullavan (The Shop Around The Corner)

winner: John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath)
nominees: Michael Curtiz (The Sea Hawk); Alfred Hitchcock (Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent); William Wyler (The Westerner and The Letter)

DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story)
nominees: Charles Chaplin (The Great Dictator); Howard Hawks (His Girl Friday); Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around The Corner); Preston Sturges (The Great McGinty and Christmas in July)

winner: Cary Grant (The Philadelphia Story)
nominees: Ralph Bellamy (His Girl Friday); Walter Brennan (The Westerner); Jack Oakie (The Great Dictator); George Sanders (Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent); John Carradine (The Grapes of Wrath)

winner: Judith Anderson (Rebecca)
nominees: Jane Dorwell (The Grapes Of Wrath); Ruth Hussey (The Philadelphia Story); Gail Patrick (My Favorite Wife); Virginia Weidler (The Philadelphia Story)

winner: Nunnally Johnson, from the novel by John Steinbeck (The Grapes Of Wrath)
nominees: Charles Chaplin (The Great Dictator); Donald Ogden Stewart, from the play by Philip Barry (The Philadelphia Story); Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison (screenplay), Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan (adaptation), from the novel by Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca); Samuel Raphelson, from a play by Miklós László (The Shop Around The Corner)

George Barnes (Rebecca) (Cinematography); Lodge Cunningham (His Girl Friday) (Sound); "When You Wish Upon A Star" (Pinocchio) music by Leigh Harline; lyrics by Ned Washington (Song)


mister muleboy said...

It was good to see an award for The Grapes of Wrath -- I was hoping that one of the Carradine Brothers would get some Monkey Love!

Mythical Monkey said...

The Grapes of Wrath would be my pick for bets picture of the year if I were picking only one. With Fonda, Ford and Nunnally Johnson winning the same awards.

By the way, I don't know how to make this site go dark in support of the Stop SOPA protest, but my mind and wit will go suitably dim.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

The only pop-pop-popping you'll hear from me over the great Stooges news will be coming from the sounds of the bubble wrap that enshrined our brand new Toro snowblower ... ahhh ... bubble wrap. I can stop any time i want, mind you. But all those great Stooges films in one year -- it's humbling to realize how hard some people work to make me laugh! But a wonderful nay brave choice in the comedy/musical category, Mr. Monkey, and "I com-mend ... you ... FOR ... it," as Al Gore used to say. And although I don't recall what film Curly's brilliant Oyster Stew skit came from, nor what year, it is proof positive that you don't HAVE to be a Neanderthal to appreciate the Stooges -- although admittedly, science shows that it wouldn't hurt. :-)

Mythical Monkey said...

I think the oyster stew bit -- one of their best -- comes from Dutiful But Dumb, a 1941 short.

1941, by the way, was also a great year for the Stooges, including I'll Never Heil Again (spoofing Hitler again), An Ache In Every Stake (where Curly "shaves" some ice), So Long Mr. Chumps and In The Sweet Pie and Pie among others.

Boy, wouldn't you like to edit You Nazty Spy, I'll Never Heil Again and They Stooge To Conga together into the Stooges' version of The Great Dictator? Well, I would anyway.