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Entries in Oscars (40s) (94)

Wednesday
Jul182018

The Furniture: Mattes, Moons and Mountains in For Whom the Bell Tolls

Daniel Walber's series on Production Design. Click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Sam Wood directing Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper in 1943's top picture

It can seem kind of crazy that For Whom the Bell Tolls was the top box office hit of 1943. The star power of Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper played into it, of course. So did the fact that it was an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s popular and recent novel. And there’s the obvious appeal of Cooper fighting a bunch of Fascists, a year and a half after America’s entry into World War Two.

The thing is, he doesn’t actually do all that much fighting. No one in the film does. It’s mostly a contemplative interlude on the fringes of the Spanish Civil War, a brutal vacation with a band of hardened guerrillas, a doomed love story built from trauma and consummated on the high rocks. It’s 165 minutes of memory, frustration and stasis.

It also wound up with nine Oscar nominations, including both cinematography and art direction. And the collaboration between cinematographer Ray Rennahan and the design team of Hans Dreier, Haldane Douglas and Bertram C. Granger is really the highlight of the film, even against the life-giving energy of Katina Paxinou’s Oscar-winning performance...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun282018

1943 is coming...

by Nathaniel R

Thanks to all the wonderful readers who've commented on or shared or expressed enthusiasm for the Supporting Actress Smackdowns this summer. So far we've looked at 1970 and 1994. Our 'year of the month' for July will be 1943.

On Sunday July 29th "The Supporting Actress Smackdown of 1943"

Balloting opens July 1st and closes July 26th. Please do not vote before balloting is open as your ballot will likely be lost in the shuffle. HOW TO VOTE: E-mail with "1943" in the subject line and each performance that you've seen rated on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (stupendous) hearts. You don't have to include the reasons behind your votes but if you do we might quote you at the smackdown. (If you wish include a secondary list of your preferred shortlist in this category feel free.)

Cabin in the Sky (1943)

Also because we want to do better about helping ourselves and you contextualize these events after the jump a list of 1943 films that are available without too much expense on various streaming services...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Mar102018

Retro Randomness: Come to the Stable (1949)

by Nathaniel R

Have you ever queued up an old movie no one talks about anymore hoping to discover a gem?

You imagine that it's only been forgotten or is underdiscussed due to the vagaries of when and where movies are available in the ever changing landcape of viewing technologies, Such was my fantasy when I sat down to watch Come to the Stable (1949). This French nuns in New England comedy was my biggest viewing gap in 1949 Oscar history. In fact, I didn't even know it was a comedy.

Alas the fantasy of stumbling upon a forgotten gem didn't last long. Still, Come to the Stable's tagline must have been true in 1949. It read...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Feb052018

The Furniture: Into the Marshes with Ida Lupino and Elsa Lanchester

"The Furniture," by Daniel Walber, is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

This week marks 100 years since the birth of pioneering director and actress Ida Lupino. Twitter has been full of tributes to her work, including the eight feature films she directed. We've discussed a few of her films here before as well. For my part, I highly recommend her two episodes of The Twilight Zone.

However, I’m going to look at a movie from before she made the leap to directing, the only one in her filmography to receive a Best Art Direction nomination. 1941’s Ladies in Retirement is both a thriller and a play adaptation, a genre we don’t see too often anymore. But in that era it was fairly common, from comedies like Arsenic and Old Lace to the more explicitly malevolent Night Must Fall and Gaslight.

The setting of Ladies in Retirement, according to Reginald Denham and Edward Percy’s original play, is the “Living Room of an Old House on the Marshes of the Thames Estuary Some Ten Miles to the East of Gravesend, 1885.”

Of course, this being 1941, a location shoot in Kent would have been impossible even if the studio had wanted it. Instead, the marshes were built into a sound stage. The team was so proud of their ersatz swamp that they even set the opening credits in the muddy water!

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov102017

114 days until Oscar

This season's Oscar ceremony, the Academy's 90th annual shindig, is on March 4th, 2018. Did you know that only two Oscar ceremonies have ever happened on a March 4th? Late February, Late March, and early April have been the most frequent time frames over the decades.

the acting winners of '42: Van Heflin, Greer Garson, James Cagney, and Teresa Wright

Both of the March 4th ceremonies were very early in Oscar history:The 1936 Oscars honoring The Great Ziegfeld (March 4th, 1937 at the Biltmore Hotel) and the 1942 Oscars honoring Mrs Miniver (March 4th, 1943 at the Cocoanut Grove in the Ambassador Hotel). I was delighted to realize that we've written about a few of the winners from those years in the past: the dance direction in The Great Ziegfeld,  My Gal Sal's Art Direction, Mrs Miniver as Best Picture, The Great Ziegfeld as Best Picture, and Black Swan's Cinematography

Sunday
Nov052017

Podcast Smackdown Companion: Gaslight, Since You Went Away...

Please read the Supporting Actress Smackdown of 1944 before listening please!

After voting in the Smackdown Nathaniel and the panel which included Mark Harris, Loren King, Farran Smith Nehme, Molly Pope, and Matthew Rettenmund got together to talk about the five films we watched and that era in Hollywood during World War II. We hope you enjoy the conversation!

Index (62 minutes)
00:01 Introductions of the Panel
03:00 Dragon Seed, yellowface, production trouble, and Oscar theories
11:50 Since You Went Away, war propaganda, and acting styles
24:00 None but the Lonely Heart, Cary Grant, Barrymore and "great lady" acting
38:50 Gaslight and Mrs Parkington
51:30 Our favorites of 1944 including Meet Me in St Louis and Double Indemnity
57:30 The forgotten Wilson, final Oscar notes and goodbyes.

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunesContinue the conversations in the comments, won't you?

Gladys Cooper downing the drinks! Was she watching Dragon Seed, too?

FYC after listening...
Mark's "Five Came Back" as a miniseries on Netflix
Matthew's new nostalgia site Gr8ter Days
Molly co-stars in Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses (previews begin Nov 25th)
Farran's book "Missing Reel"

Smackdown 1944