Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Best Animated Short - 1935
We are coming ever so close to the end of the line. Thankfully there's still the 2013 Oscar race to start preparing for, but the question now is what to do with this blog once I get through these last four reviews. Do I just sit around for a year and then spring into action every November when the next year's Oscar race comes into being? Do I make random posts about some other animation topics once in a while? Do I go ahead and review the Best Animated Feature nominees? That actually doesn't sound like a bad idea, but it'll take much longer than these reviews of short films whose films are short, but it still takes me hours to write them. I was toying around with posting these reviews on tumblr, but it hasn't amounted to much. We shall see.
Anyways, we're now at 1935, the year the Detroit Tigers finally won their first ever World series after four previous losses. That year also featured 12 nominees for Best Picture, the second straight year that featured this record-setting nomination total. At the top of the pack was Munity on the Bounty, the epic adaptation of revolt against the cruel Captain Blight. It received eight nominations, including three in the Best Actor category. Second in nominations was the Indian war film The Lives of a Bengal Lancer with seven, while John Ford's gritty Irish film The Informer followed with six nominees. The rest of the nominees include the 1935 adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables (four nominations), the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers romantic musical Top Hat (four nominations), the wildly successful MGM musical Broadway Melody of 1936 (three nominations), the adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (three nominations), The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger (three nominations), the Katharine Hepburn romantic drama Alice Adams (two nominations), the Errol Flynn swashbuckling adventure film Captain Blood (two nominations), the Cajun musical Naughty Marietta (two nominations), and the comedy film Ruggles of Red Gap (one nomination). The Best Director nominees went to John Ford (for The Informer), Henry Hathway (The Lives of a Bengal Lancer), and Frank Lloyd (for Mutiny on the Bounty).
Oscar voting was very different back in 1935. At the time the winner were announced before the actual ceremony, including who finished in the top three. And to throw a wrench into the proceedings, write-in votes were welcomed, which led to several very interesting results. For example, while The Informer won Best Music (Score), Captain Blood placed third as a write-in. Meanwhile, Dave Gould won Best Dance Direction for his work in Broadway Melody of 1936 and Folies Bergere de Paris, barely beating out Hermes Pan and his work in Top Hat. The famous song "Lullaby of Broadway" from Gold Diggers of 1935 won for Best Original Song, beating out "Cheek to Cheek" from Top Hat. Meanwhile Naughty Marietta won Best Sound. Oscar history was made in the visual technical categories as cinematography Hal Mohr became the first write-in candidate to win the Oscar for his work on A Midsummer Night's Dream, denying a win for Gregg Toland from Les Miserables, who finished second. The Dark Angel won Best Art Direction in a category with no write-in involvement. A Midsummer Night's Dream also took home Best Editing in an officially nominated category, leaving Mutiny on the Bounty still winless.
Write-in candidates were all over the writing categories as well, with G-Men finishing second in the Writing (Original Story) category and Captain Blood finishing third in Writing (Screenplay). The awards still went for regular nominees The Scoundrel and The Informer respectively, although the latter created another history when writer Dudley Nichols refused the award over union matters. The Lives of a Bengal Lancer won for Best Assistant Director. At the time there were only two acting categories. Best Actress had six nominees, with Bette Davis capturing her first Oscar as a down-on-luck actress with terrible secrets in Dangerous, denying Katharine Hepburn her second Oscar. Meanwhile Best Actor had only four nominees, including three from Mutiny on the Bounty. Can any of them help the film win its first award of the night? No, as Victor McLaglen won for his role in The Informer. In fact, none of the trio finished second as Paul Muni took the runner-up role as a write-in candidate for the crime film Black Fury.
The night had been a disaster for Mutiny on the Bounty. Despite going in with the most nominations it found itself winless by the time the final two awards came about. Its second-place finish in three awards doesn't come close to making up for actual wins, especially since The Informer has three actual wins. It soon became four when John Ford win his first Best Director award. Mutiny's Frank Lloyd didn't even place, as Michael Curtiz finished second as a write-in candidate for his work on Captain Blood. Things looked dismal at best as most people were expecting The Informer to win its fifth Oscar to tie with It Happened One Night for the most wins. That was not to be, as in a surprising move Mutiny on the Bounty was announced as the Outstanding Production, beating out The Informer. It was the third time in the first eight years of the Academy Awards that a film would make Best Picture its only win of the night. Mutiny's eight nominations were the most of any of those. The feat would never again be replicated.
Meanwhile, what sort of drama would hope to unfold in the Best Animated Short category?
The Calico Dragon
Where Can I Watch It?
Three Orphan Kittens
own set of films. The animation of the kittens are very well done, and the film also seemed to be experimenting with simulation of a camera pan with animation, a technique that must have seemed tricky in 1935 due to the changing perspective of items. They had several shots with the technique creating an interesting effect. The animation is also quite complex in the player piano scene featuring most appropriately Zez Confey's "Kittens on the Keys." Three Orphan Kittens isn't going to dazzle you with a complicated plot, but it is one of the cutest films in the Disney canon. Because kittens!
Where Can I Watch It?
Who Killed Cock Robin?
Rooty Toot Toot. However, Ravenscroft was only 21 and just getting started in show business when the film was released, and Bletcher's vocal qualities could be heard in speaking lines. Who Killed Cock Robin? is one of the old films that was featured in the final frantic scenes of the Oscar winning It's Tough to Be a Bird 34 years later, but beyond that it is a great film and ranks as one of the top Silly Symphonies.
Where Can I Watch It?
Well, here you have the three nominees. It should be pretty clear that I regard Who Killed Cock Robin? as being the best from this year. It's the one that has the most coherent story as well as its ambitious handling of sensitive subject materials and its expert caricature and that judge's voice. While I think I like Three Orphan Kittens more because it was a film I grew up with as a kid and because kittens, I don't think that it matched up with the quality of Who Killed Cock Robin?. In the end, however, the Academy also had their hearts won by the presence of the cute kittens, and awarded them the Oscar. Oh well, it's not an end of the world type win.
My rankings (by preference and quality)
Who Killed Cock Robin? > Three Orphan Kittens > The Calico Dragon