What Should Have Won the 1932/33 Best Picture Oscar?

Welcome to Year Six of the Best Picture discussion, concerning movies released between August 1st, 1932, and December 31st, 1933.

The Academy decided they needed to move to following the calendar year at last, so they extended the eligibility period to a year-and-a-half to bring things into line.

As a result, a far larger number of movies became eligible for Oscars this year, including some of the greatest classics ever made. The Academy, in its infinite wisdom, ignored those and continued to nominate movies which can only charitably be called movies at all when one is quite drunk, or finished taking finals.

I do applaud them, however: they brought in Duke Ellington and his Orchestra to play at the ceremony — and Will Rogers to host. There’s hope for the Academy yet!

The Best Picture winner that year was the execrable Cavalcade; the other original nominees included Gary Cooper and the botched A Farewell to Arms; 42nd Street; Paul Muni and the heart-rending I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang; the heart-warming Lady for a Day; Little Women, still far and away the best adaptation of that children’s classic; the naughty The Private Life of Henry VIII; the less naughty She Done Him Wrong; Smilin’ Through; and Will Rogers in the oddly bucolic State Fair.

Here’s what I had to say in V. 1: “Once again, they nominated a pile of films, and gave the Oscar to the worst of their choices. I will trade you Cavalcade, A Farewell to Arms, She Done Him Wrong, Smilin’ Through and State Fair for Duck Soup, The Invisible Man, King Kong, M, and The Mummy. The Academy’s prejudices against comedy and horror again prevented them from seeing genius. Let’s give the Academy credit however: they did nominate one of the best musicals (42nd Street), a groundbreaking film of social realism and injustice (Chain Gang), Frank Capra (Lady for a Day), George Cukor and Katherine Hepburn (Little Women), and Charles Laughton (The Private Life of Henry VIII). But as we shall see, they left out so many great films, in favor of garbage.”

Other options for your consideration: Katharine Hepburn and Morning Glory; Greta Garbo and Queen Christina; Jean Harlow’s Bombshell, one of the greatest satires on Hollywood ever made; the star-studded Alice in Wonderland; Claude Rains’ star-turn in James Whale’s The Invisible Man; Charles Laughton’s mad scientist in The Island of Dr. Moreau; the fresh and funny Dinner at Eight; Ernst Lubitsch’s Trouble in Paradise and downright subversive Design for Living; Walt Disney’s ground-breaking Three Little Pigs; the Marx Brothers’ finest film, Duck Soup; the myth-making King Kong; the terrifying M of Peter Lorre and Fritz Lang; Boris Karloff and The Mummy; the musicals Gold Diggers of 1933 and Footlight Parade; Bela Lugosi and the atmospheric White Zombie; Laurel and Hardy, Sons of the Desert; John Ford’s forgotten classic Pilgrimage; Jean Renoir’s hysterical Boudu Saved from Drowning; Barbara Stanwyck’s most unsettling pre-Code movie, Baby Face; Frank Capra’s examination of racism, The Bitter Tea of General Yen and his attack on the rich, American Madness; and the first pairing of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in the uneven Flying Down to Rio (okay, that’s not a great movie, but still…Astaire and Rogers!).

As always, I have much more to say in my book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OPEELH0

Please vote for your choice for the Best Picture!


  1. I voted Baby Face. I mean seriously how could Barbara Stanwyck not have at least 5 or 6 Oscars. Second choice would be Dinner at Eight for me.

  2. I voted for King Kong. A lot of people are uncomfortable with this film because of the racism, but this is an outstanding fantasy film that stands the test of time. It says a lot that neither remake of this film—both shot with more up-to-date visual effects and cinematography—touches it in terms of excitement or the way it moves the audience.

    I was nearly foaming at the mouth to see Snow White behind The Awful Truth which I don’t think is in Snow White‘s class. But Duck Soup—arguably the greatest Marx Brothers comedy of all time? I can’t fault anyone who would vote that film ahead of King Kong.

  3. Since it’s not a manly film, it won’t get many votes. For all around great performances it has to be “Little Women”…… A polished and well acted movie.

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