Monday, January 23, 2012

The Katie-Bar-The-Door Awards (1945)

Joan Crawford was a complicated woman—which is to say that like all of us, she had her good points and her bad points. She was catty and cruel, she was uneducated and insecure about it, she had the morals of an alley cat and her failures as a mother are legendary. But she also had a tremendous work ethic, always tried to improve herself, and as far as I can tell, she never phoned in a performance, not even in the execrable sci-fi horror flick, Trog, which proved to be her last.

And she was always willing to take a shot at Norma Shearer, which is a plus all by itself.

A lot has been written over the years about Joan Crawford's private life, particularly with regard to her sexuality and her parenting skills, so much so that the scandals have completely obscured her work as an actress. But if I were handing out awards based on people's private lives, we'd wind up with a roster full of nice people and very few good movies. Only to the extent that I can discern a clear relationship between a person's off-screen life and their on-screen work will I tend to dwell on the former. Beyond that, celebrity gossip bores me. In fact, as far as I can tell, when they're not working, most celebrities are actually pretty dull people.

Besides, in his biography Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford, Donald Spoto states flatly that the infamous "No wire hangers!" incident never happened. But then a lot of famous incidents never happened—J. Edgar Hoover didn't wear dresses, Walt Disney wasn't cryogenically frozen, and the military-industrial complex didn't assassinate John F. Kennedy.

Fans of the novel might be tempted to complain that Hollywood sanitized and simplified James M. Cain's original vision. But let's face it, no novel ending with the line "Let's get stinko" was going to make it to the big screen intact in 1945. Besides, the final product is plenty violent for all but the most bloodthirsty among us and as cynical about human behavior as the darkest film noir. Mildred Pierce isn't a perfect movie, just a great one and Crawford gave her best performance in it.

What else do you need to know. Anchors Aweigh is the one where Gene Kelly dances with Jerry the Mouse, The Naughty Nineties is the one with the most complete (and best) version of Abbott and Costello's "Who's On First?" routine. And Children of Paradise is considered by many to be the best movie France has ever produced.

Have at it.

winner: Brief Encounter (prod. Noel Coward)
nominees: And Then There Were None (prod. René Clair); Detour (prod. Leon Fromkess); The Lost Weekend (prod. Charles Brackett); Mildred Pierce (prod. Jerry Wald); The Southerner (prod. Robert Hakim and David L. Loew); They Were Expendable (prod. John Ford); A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (prod. Louis D. Lighton)

PICTURE (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Anchors Aweigh (prod. Joe Pasternak)
nominees: Blithe Spirit (prod. Noel Coward); I Know Where I'm Going! (prod. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)

PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: Les enfants du paradis (Children Of Paradise) (prod.Raymond Borderie and Fred Orain)
nominees: Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City) (prod. Giuseppe Amato, Ferruccio De Martino and Roberto Rossellini)

ACTOR (Drama)
winner: Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend)
nominees: Jean-Louis Barrault (Les enfants du paradis a.k.a. Children Of Paradise); Trevor Howard (Brief Encounter); James Mason (The Seventh Veil); Robert Montgomery (They Were Expendable); Edward G. Robinson (Scarlet Street)

ACTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello (The Naughty Nineties)
nominees: Rex Harrison (Blithe Spirit); Gene Kelly (Anchors Aweigh); Roger Livesey (I Know Where I'm Going!)

winner: Joan Crawford (Mildred Pierce)
nominees: Arletty (Les enfants du paradis a.k.a. Children Of Paradise); Joan Bennett (Scarlet Street); Peggy Anne Garner (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn); Celia Johnson (Brief Encounter); Anna Magnani (Roma, città aperta a.ka. Rome, Open City); Gene Tierney (Leave Her To Heaven)

ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Wendy Hiller (I Know Where I'm Going!)
nominees: Kay Hammond (Blithe Spirit); Barbara Stanwyck (Christmas In Connecticut)

winner: Marcel Carné (Les enfants du paradis a.k.a. Children Of Paradise)
nominees: René Clair (And Then There Were None); Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce); John Ford (They Were Expendable); Elia Kazan (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn); Fritz Lang (Scarlet Street); David Lean (Brief Encounter); Jean Renoir (The Southerner); Billy Wilder (The Lost Weekend)

DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: George Sidney (Anchors Aweigh)
nominees: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (I Know Where I'm Going!)

winner: Boris Karloff (The Body Snatcher)
nominees: Jack Carson (Mildred Pierce); James Dunn (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn); Dan Duryea (Scarlet Street); Robert Mitchum (The Story Of G.I. Joe)

winner: Margaret Rutherford (Blithe Spirit)
nominees: Eve Arden (Mildred Pierce); Joan Blondell (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn); Ann Blyth (Mildred Pierce); Maria Casares (Les enfants du paradis a.k.a. Children of Paradise)

winner: Ted Slesinger and Frank Davis, from the novel by Betty Smith (A Tree Grows In Brooklyn)
nominees: Anthony Havelock-Allan, David Lean and Ronald Neame; from a play by Noel Coward (Brief Encounter); Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, from the novel by Charles R. Jackson (The Lost Weekend); Ranald MacDougall, from the novel by James M. Cain (Mildred Pierce); Frank Wead from a book by William L.White (They Were Expendable)

Joseph H. August (They Were Expendable) (Cinematography); Val Lewton (Career Achievement Award)

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