Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Katie-Bar-The-Door Awards Redux (1929-1930)

The Academy did us amateur film historians a real disservice by using their wacky split-year eligibility scheme (August 1 through July 31 of the following year) for the first few years of the Oscars. Not only was it confusing and completely unnecessary, it also disguised just how much the quality of American movies suffered as Hollywood made the transition from the silent era to sound.

As you can see from yesterday's post, the tail-end of 1928 was chockful of some of the best silent movies in history. (Peter Bogdanovich says 1928 was the best year for movies ever. Who am I to disagree?) And this year's winner, All Quiet On The Western Front from 1930, is one of the best movies of the entire era.

But in between? Well ...

Let's put it this way. My list of the five best movies of 1929 would probably include Un Chien Andalou, Man With A Movie Camera, Pandora's Box, Diary of a Lost Girl and maybe The Iron Mask, the first four being foreign films and the fifth being Douglas Fairbanks's last silent movie. The best talkie of the year? Not sure. The Cocoanuts? Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail? The Skeleton Dance from Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks?

Fortunately, things got better.

winner: All Quiet On The Western Front (prod. Carl Laemmle, Jr.)
nominees: Anna Christie (prod. Clarence Brown); The Big House (prod. Irving Thalberg); Bulldog Drummond (prod. Samuel Goldwyn); City Girl (prod. William Fox)
Must-See Drama: All Quiet On The Western Front; Anna Christie; The Big House; Bulldog Drummond; City Girl; Our Modern Maidens; Raffles; The Virginian

PICTURE (Comedy/Musical)
winner: The Cocoanuts (prod. Monta Bella)
nominees: Applause (prod. Monta Bell); Hallelujah! (prod. King Vidor) The Love Parade (prod. Ernst Lubitsch); The Skeleton Dance (prod. Walt Disney)
Must-See Comedy/Musical: The Cocoanuts; Hallelujah!; The Love Parade

PICTURE (Foreign Language)
winner: The Blue Angel (prod. Erich Pommer)
nominees: The Blood Of A Poet (prod. Le Vicomte de Noailles); Diary Of A Lost Girl (prod. Georg Wilhelm Pabst); Earth (prod. VUFKU); Pandora's Box (prod. Heinz Landsmann); Under the Roofs Of Paris (prod. Films Sonores Tobis)
Must-See Foreign Language Pictures: The Blood Of A Poet; The Blue Angel; Diary Of A Lost Girl; Earth; Menschen am Sonntag; Pandora's Box; Under The Roofs Of Paris

ACTOR (Drama)
winner: Ronald Colman (Bulldog Drummond)
nominees: George Arliss (Disraeli); Lew Ayres (All Quiet On The Western Front); Emil Jannings (The Blue Angel)

ACTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Maurice Chevalier (The Love Parade)
nominees: The Marx Brothers (The Cocoanuts); Albert Préjean (Under The Roofs Of Paris)

winner: Louise Brooks (Pandora's Box and Diary Of A Lost Girl)
nominees: Marlene Dietrich (The Blue Angel); Greta Garbo (Anna Christie)

ACTRESS (Comedy/Musical)
winner: Nina Mae McKinney (Hallelujah!)
nominees: Jeanette MacDonald (The Love Parade); Helen Morgan (Applause)

winner: Lewis Milestone (All Quiet On The Western Front)
nominees: Aleksandr Dovzhenko (Earth); F.W. Murnau (City Girl); G.W. Pabst (Pandora's Box and Diary Of A Lost Girl); Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel)

DIRECTOR (Comedy/Musical)
winner: King Vidor (Hallelujah!)
nominees: René Clair (Under The Roofs Of Paris); Ernst Lubitsch (The Love Parade); Rouben Mamoulian (Applause)

winner: Wallace Beery (The Big House)
nominees: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Our Modern Maidens); Lupino Lane (The Love Parade); Francis Lederer (Pandora's Box); Louis Wolheim (All Quiet On The Western Front)

winner: Marie Dressler (Anna Christie)
nominees: Leila Hyams (The Big House); Seena Owen (Queen Kelly); Anita Page (Our Modern Maidens); Lilyan Tashman (Bulldog Drummond)

winner: George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson and Del Andrews; from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet On The Western Front)
nominees: Elliott Lester; adaptation and scenario by Marion Orth and Gerthold Viertel; titles by H.H. Caldwell and Katherine Hilliker (City Girl); Frances Marion; additional dialogue by Joseph Farnham and Martin Flavin (The Big House)

"Swanee Shuffle" (Hallelujah!) (Best Song); Arthur Edeson (All Quiet On The Western Front) (Cinematography); Rouben Mamoulian (Applause) and C. Roy Hunter and Lewis Milestone (All Quiet On The Western Front) (Special Achievement In The Use Of Sound)


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

One of the common threads in your picks seems to be movies that (as you said in reviewing The Big House) are so well-told and acted, that despite having a point to make, they're not a chore to watch.

I really LIKE that criterion :-)

Mythical Monkey said...

Who, this is my Monkey Guarantee: I never go to the movies to be hectored or educated, and I resolutely refuse to take my cultural castor oil. I want to be entertained, absorbed or moved. If the movie is also coincidentally good for me, well, that's icing on the cake.

Ginger Ingenue said...


I'd say Harpo topped all the brothers in COCOANUTS. He's almost otherworldly in that one!

I need to see DIARY OF A LOST GIRL...would you say it's better than PANDORA'S BOX??

Erik Beck said...

Personally, I rate Pandora's Box a little higher.

And you're right about the quality here. All Quiet is so much better than any other film this year, it's not even funny. Only four films even made my ***.5 Best Picture threshold - All Quiet, City Girl, Lucky Star and Arsenal.

But All Quiet is so good it keeps the actual Oscar nominees from sinking to the depths of the surrounding years.

Mythical Monkey said...

I need to see DIARY OF A LOST GIRL...would you say it's better than PANDORA'S BOX??

I'd say as a movie, Pandora's Box is better, but Louise Brooks's performance in Diary of a Lost Girl might be better. But she's great in both.