Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Best Picture Winners: 1932-1937


1932/1933
Winner: Cavalcade
Director: Frank Lloyd
Distributed by: Fox

The movie poster boasts that this is the "Picture of a Generation" and it's not kidding. The whole movie is about a well-to-do English family from 1899 to 1933. Through the movie you get to see English history through the families eyes, going through such events as the Second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, and WWI. It's like Forrest Gump, except it's British and there's no mention of shrimp. Loved in its day, the proof being that it was the second most popular movie released that year, it has now been considered a weak entry. Modern critics consider it to be "stilted and overacted." I can only take that as meaning that the cast was entirely on stilts. I'd watch that. I'd watch that a couple times. King Kong also came out that year but received no nominations whatsoever. Would that have made a better winner? Probably, but if you ever want to see for yourself how good this movie is, good luck finding a copy.


1934
Winner: It Happened One Night
Director: Frank Capra
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

It Happened One Night is a comedy starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The movie is one of the few comedies to win Best Picture, and one of three to win the "High Five," meaning it won Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. The movie details the story of a young woman that basically wants to drive her rich father crazy by marrying this fortune-seeking guy named King. She runs away when he won't let her get married and along her travels she meets Gable's character, an out-of-work reporter. In return for her story, he'll help her reach her love. Of course, they end up falling in love instead. The movie is probably most famous for the scene below where Colbert uses her exposed leg to stop a car. They were hitchhiking...it sounds funny if I don't elaborate. Anyway, this is one of those films that truly deserved the Best Picture award, though it did have some competition from The Thin Man and Cleopatra.


1935
Winner: Mutiny on the Bounty
Director: Frank Lloyd
Distributed by: MGM

Based on the book by the same name, it remains the best film about the infamous mutiny aboard the HMS Bounty, though historians have questioned some of the film's accuracy. The film is about exactly what the title says it's about. Charles Laughton plays the brute of a captain, Clark Gable the compassionate leader of the mutineers, and Franchot Tone the man stuck in the middle of the whole thing. The film had some pretty stiff competition, including Top Hat, Captain Blood, The Informer, and David Copperfield. What probably propelled it above the others was the star power of the three men. All would be nominated for Best Actor, but would lose to Victor McLagen for The Informer. *Sad Trombone.*


1936
Winner: The Great Ziegfeld
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Distributed by: MGM

A loose interpretation of Forenz Ziegfeld's life, the movie details the showman's need to have as many hits on Broadway as possible. In the end, we find out that the public really doesn't care as much about stage shows anymore, and would rather go to the movies. The movie stars William Powell as Ziegfeld, better known as Nick Charles in the Thin Man movies. What helped the movie win was the appeal of the story, since Ziegfeld was someone everyone knew about, the long running time which gave the story an epic feel, and a bunch of dance numbers with girls. What more could you want? This movie marks the first of many biopics to win the big prize. The Great Ziegfeld is today considered a weak entry and should have probably lost to Dodsworth, A Tale of Two Cities, or Mr. Deeds goes to Town.


1937
Winner: The Life of Emile Zola
Director: William Dieterle
Distributed by: Warner Bros.

I guess Hollywood was in the mood for biopics because here's another one! This one is about the writer Emile Zola. Sound familiar? I didn't think so. Emile Zola is most noted for his book J'accuse which was an open letter published in a Paris newspaper about the framing of Alfred Dreyfus during the Dreyfus Affair in France in the late 19th/early 20th century. The film was pretty popular at the time, but not as popular as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a film that wasn't even nominated. So what led this biopic to nab Best Picture? It didn't hurt that it received 10 nominations. Also, the Dreyfus Affair was something that people still knew about so the name recognition was there. It won over other quality films like A Star is Born, and Lost Horizon.


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