Welcome to the 1947 Best Picture of the Year poll!
The Academy began to reach out to world cinema this year, as the United States began chilling off in the Cold War. The British did extremely well, as we showed our allies some love with recognition for movies by David Lean, Michael Powell, Jack Cardiff, and Emeric Pressburger. Vittoria de Sica was recognized with an honorary Oscar for Shoeshine.
Things also began chilling off in Hollywood, as HUAC began their investigations, which would lead to the Hollywood Ten and the blacklist eventually. Unfortunately, this would lead directly to Hollywood pulling away from the kind of socially conscious, challenging films it began experimenting with in the late days of WWII and the period immediately afterward. Film noir (Out of the Past) and the problem picture (Gentleman’s Agreement) would go into decline as a result, but for now, Hollywood reveled in the dark, as well as the harsh light of the spotlight on our ills.
One step forward, two steps back.
Gentleman’s Agreement won originally. Here’s what I had to say about it in WHO Won?!?, v.2, 1944-1952: “In 1947, the only non-Jewish studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck, made the first movie openly attacking anti-Semitism. The other studio heads attempted to dissuade him from making Gentleman’s Agreement, because they didn’t want to rock the boat. Zanuck had an ace up his sleeve: he cast the improbably handsome, utterly inoffensive, gravitas-filled Gregory Peck as the reporter pretending to be Jewish. As writer Arthur Laurents described it, “the movie that says you better be nice to a Jew because he might turn out to be a gentile.” The boat got rocked when HUAC decided the film was anti-American and communist. Anne Revere refused to testify; John Garfield refused to name names (and may have had his early death accelerated from the stress). Director Elia Kazan named names, and faced a mixture of revulsion and adoration the rest of his life. As for the movie itself, Gentleman’s Agreement is one of a slew of problem pictures which dominated the postwar Oscars (others would include The Lost Weekend and Pinky). Gentleman’s Agreement has a somewhat cowardly gimmick at its heart, as a movie about anti-Semitism which can’t possibly offend a WASP audience because the main character isn’t Jewish: he is only pretending. Still, Gentleman’s Agreement must have seemed very brave in 1947, and still merits a view today. Occasionally, I wonder if anti-Semitism was really this obviously stated, but then again, on the day I saw this movie for the first time, I heard two openly hostile comments about illegal immigrants, which I doubt would have been made to me if I was Latino. Human beings always seem to be struck in tribal thinking, and this movie explores that primal problem of human nature. A good nomination, even if the movie has become a little creaky, with just enough arthritis to send the Oscar elsewhere.”
Your other choices include the original Academy nominees: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven in the delicate romantic fantasy, The Bishop’s Wife; Robert Ryan as an anti-Semite murderer in Crossfire; avid Lean directing what may be the best non-Christmas Carol Dickens adaptation ever, Great Expectations; and the wonderful comic fantasy of Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O’Hara in Miracle on 34th Street;
You might prefer something that wasn’t nominated: Victor Moore as a gentle con man in It Happened on Fifth Avenue; Susan Hayward on a drunken spree in Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman; D Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney, and Bernard Herrmann’s fabulous score in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; John Garfield as a boxer in Body and Soul; Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer in what may be the greatest of all films noir, Out of the Past; nuns and sexual desire with Black Narcissus; William Powell and Irene Dunne show us Life with Father; David Niven hangs onto life as Heaven judges him on trial in A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven); Disney’s most problematic mixing of brilliant animation and live action, Song of the South; Tyrone Power bites off the head of a chicken in Nightmare Alley; Jean Cocteau produces what may be the greatest fairy tale adaptation ever in Beauty and the Beast; Ronald Colman goes psycho in A Double Life; Loretta Young goes Swedish in The Farmer’s Daughter; Cary Grant is ordered to date Shirley Temple in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer; Eugene O’Neill gets the serious treatment in Mourning Becomes Electra; Joan Crawford becomes Possessed; Richard Widmark pushes a wheelchair-bound granny down the stairs in Kiss of Death; Ma and Pa Kettles steal The Egg and I; Hitchcock and Gregory Peck go legal in The Paradine Case; Charlie Chaplin goes murderous in Monsieur Verdoux; Dana Andrews investigates in Boomerang!; and college kids go wild in the best musical you’ve never seen, Good News.
As always, I have much more to say in my book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PKK8MBY
Time for you to vote!