Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Katie-Bar-The-Door Awards (1943)

The best film of 1943 was The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, a brilliant comedy of manners from England's Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger that gently and wittily took Britain's military leaders to task—pretty daring considering that Britain was at the time still locked in a death struggle with Nazi Germany. Winston Churchill responded by trying (unsuccessfully) to suppress the film and it was a big hit in its home country. When it arrived in America two years later, Hollywood showed the prime minister how it's donestraightening out the film's flashback chronology and so chopping it up as to render it an incomprehensible mess and a box office flop, promptly forgotten.

Fortunately, it has been restored to its full glory, and features Deborah Kerr in not one but three star-making roles.

Over here, Hollywood produced a trio of outstanding films—The Ox-Bow Incident, Wild Bill Wellman's tense story of a mob determined to mete out its own brand of justice; Shadow of a Doubt, Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant tale of a serial killer come home to visit his family; and I Walked With A Zombie, a voodoo-infused retelling of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre from the master of atmospheric horror, Val Lewton.

I tried on all three of them for the top prize in drama, finally opting for The Ox-Bow Incident. Not only is it a gripping story with terrific performances all around, it's also a prime example of America grappling (albeit indirectly) with the question of why we were fighting the war—merely to survive at any cost or to preserve our higher ideals as well? It's an uncompromising film from beginning to end, a real achievement with a war on and the Production Code in effect. It's also entertaining, a tribute to Wellman, actors Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews, and author-producer Lamar Trotti. A real must-see.

winner: The Ox-Bow Incident (prod. Lamar Trotti)
nominees: I Walked With A Zombie (prod. Val Lewton); Sahara (prod. Harry Joe Brown); Shadow Of A Doubt (prod. Jack H. Skirball); So Proudly We Hail! (prod. Mark Sandrich); The Song of Bernadette (prod. William Perlberg)

PICTURE (Comedy/Musical)
winner: The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp (prod. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
nominees: Cabin In The Sky (prod. Arthur Freed); Heaven Can Wait (prod. Ernst Lubitsch); The More The Merrier (George Stevens)

PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: Vredens dag (Day of Wrath) (prod. Carl Theodor Dreyer and Tage Nielsen)

ACTOR (Drama)
winner: Joseph Cotten (Shadow Of A Doubt)
nominees: Humphrey Bogart (Sahara); Henry Fonda (The Ox-Bow Incident); Paul Lukas (Watch on the Rhine); Mickey Rooney (The Human Comedy)

ACTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Joel McCrea (The More The Merrier)
nominees: Don Ameche (Heaven Can Wait); Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson (Cabin in the Sky); Roger Livesey (The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp)

winner: Teresa Wright (Shadow Of A Doubt)
nominees: Anne Baxter (Five Graves To Cairo); Ingrid Bergman (For Whom The Bell Tolls); Jennifer Jones (The Song Of Bernadette); Ida Lupino (The Hard Way)

ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Deborah Kerr (The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp)
nominees: Jean Arthur (The More The Merrier); Gene Tierney (Heaven Can Wait); Ethel Waters (Cabin In The Sky)

winner: William A. Wellman (The Ox-Bow Incident)
nominees: Carl Theodor Dreyer (Vredens dag a.k.a. Day of Wrath); Alfred Hitchcock (Shadow Of A Doubt); Jacques Tourneur (I Walked With A Zombie)

DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp)
nominees: Ernst Lubitsch (Heaven Can Wait); Vincente Minnelli (Cabin in the Sky); George Stevens (The More The Merrier)

winner: Charles Coburn (The More The Merrier)
nominees: Dana Andrews (The Ox-Bow Incident); Rex Ingram (Cabin in the Sky and Sahara); Erich von Stroheim (Five Graves to Cairo); Anton Walbrook (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp)

winner: Lena Horne (Cabin In The Sky and Stormy Weather)
nominees: Jean Brooks (The Seventh Victim); Jane Darwell (The Ox-Bow Incident); Veronica Lake (So Proudly We Hail!); Katina Paxinou (For Whom The Bell Tolls)

winner: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp)
nominees: Lamar Trotti, from the novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (The Ox-Bow Incident); Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson and Alma Reville, from a story by Gordon McDonell (Shadow of a Doubt)

"Happiness is a Thing Called Joe" (Cabin in the Sky) music by Harold Arlen; lyrics by E.Y. Harburg (Song)

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