Saturday, June 29, 2013

Non-Nominated Highlight - Canary Row (1949)

So I started the Non-Nominated Highlight to introduce films that are great but did not get an Oscar nomination. I haven't done very many of these because I've been too lazy to write extra about films, and many of the really great ones have been dissected to death by people that actually know what they're talking about. So so far I've only written about The Cat Piano, Oink, and What's Opera Doc. However, in this particular year there's a film that I have to write about, because it's closely tied with the history of the Best Animated Short category.

So if you've read the 1949 review, you might have noticed that there were four official nominees. However, what you may not have known as that when the nominees were announced in early 1950 there were five nominations! What happened to the fifth nominee? Well, this was the controversy I was talking about. Apparently shortly after the nominations were announced the producer actively withdrew the nomination. This was a highly unusual move. There's been plenty of times that the Academy rescinded a nomination because of eligibility issues*, but having the nominated party actually withdraw their own nomination was a highly unusual move. It happened only four times, twice times in the Best Art Direction category in 1941 and 1944, and once in the Best Motion Picture Story category in 1956. And once was of course in the Best Animated Short category. The film that got its heart ripped out? The Tweety and Sylvester film Canary Row.

*The most notorious case of a rescinded nomination was with Young Americans, the documentary that was nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 1969 only to have it declared ineligible AFTER it had WON the Oscar. It was one of a few time that somebody had to return an Oscar they thought they had won.

That bad ol putty tat Sylvester is lusting after poor Tweety again. This time he is stalking Tweety in Tweety's home in the Broken Arms Apartments. However, dogs and cats are not allowed in the apartment building, so Sylvester has to come up with other ways to sneak in. And even when he does get in he has to deal with another nemesis: Tweety's owner Granny. He comes up with many devious plans to get his hands on Tweety? Is he ever going to succeed?

The character of Granny is a pretty seminal role in the Sylvester and Tweety series, even getting to be an important character in the spinoff TV series "Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries." It's hard to imagine that there was a time when she wasn't around, but Canary Row marked her first appearance. The presence of a character that served as Tweety's owner and helping to thwart Sylvester's plans made for some quite original comedy. Indeed the scene with Granny are the highlights of this film, with amusing sequences such as hiding in a cage to ambush Sylvester. Her violent assault with an umbrella certainly belies her appearance as a sweet old granny, but that's just what makes it so funny. Unfortunately, only half of the gags involve Granny. There are some other moments such as Tweety's song in the beginning, the adorable little street monkey and Tweety's one liners, but otherwise the film is a pretty standard Sylvester and Tweety affair with lots of violent slapstick that toy with the laws of physics. There are some interesting things in the background, such as a "Drink Friz" advertisement* and the fact that you can park for 50 cents per day.

*Friz Freleng directed this film, but he was credited under his birth name Isadore, and even then it was with his first initials.

And as for why Canary Row was withdrawn? I can't find an official reason, but I suspect it's Edward Selzer being Edward Selzer. Edward Selzer was the head of the animation department starting in 1944 and he has the reputation of being hard-headed with no sense of humor. There have been many stories of people making films just to spite Selzer, who claims that the idea wouldn't be funny. Yet he has no qualms accepting the Oscars that his talented directors won. Well, before 1949 he had never been nominated more than once, but all of a sudden here he is with two of his films receiving nominations. Perhaps he was worried that the two films would split the vote leading to the Oscar going to some other film, so to reduce that chance he withdrew one of the nominations. Of course that is just speculation, and after all eight years later he allowed for two of his films competing in the same category*.

*1957 had both Birds Anonymous and Tabasco Road. Birds Anonymous won. Of course everybody knows that if there was justice in the world What's Opera, Doc? would be there instead.

And as for whether or not the withdrawal was the right decision, let's just say that the film that remained, For Scent-imental Reason, won the Oscar. And it wouldn't be the only Oscar that Edward Selzer would win. Stay tuned...

Meanwhile, here's there film, courtesy of Warner Bros. finally making an official YouTube channel for old Looney Tunes classics.

And here's Rainbow Dash attacking Twilight Sparkle with a soccer ball.

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