1949 saw Hollywood embrace WWII again, with Battleground, Sands of Iwo Jima, and Twelve O’Clock High; the gangster picture, with White Heat; the Western, with She Wore a Yellow Ribbon; and a number of other classic films, including The Heiress and Champion.
1949 saw me embrace once more the six lost children, the six categories I didn’t cover in the published versions of WHO Won?!? These six need love and hugs too!
Well, so do I, but I’m happily married. Just need to establish the proper boundaries, don’t you know?
Let’s start with the sound bites!
Why give this bomber film the Sound award? Because it’s really noisy, that’s why! I can’t imagine any other reason.
Again, why nominate this? Bang, bang, shoot, shoot! Not a particularly distinguished set of sounds, other than that one bullet at the end…
Once More, My Darling is a kind of screwball comedy/romance/mystery amalgamation. Amusing, but minor — and essentially, I have no clue why it was nominated.
If we’re going to go for noisy, I’d prefer this classic boxing film for the fight sounds:
Best Documentary (Feature):
The winner Daybreak in Udi is a British attempt to portray opposing forces in its colony of Nigeria, between the traditionalists and the modernists, between those who want to retain African ways and those who want to westernize. Will they build a maternity hospital or not? An interesting record of the conflicts of the post-WWII world as it was about to experience the wave of independence throughout Africa. Here is the full film:
Kenji Comes Home is from the Protestant Film Commission. No, I don’t know what that means either, but one assumes God would approve. Kenji is a Japanese name, so perhaps this has something to do with Christian missionaries in Japan, or a returning Japanese veteran. Nobody seems to have any information.
Best Documentary (Short):
A Chance to Live won, showing the construction and operations of a boys’ home in Italy run by Monsignor John Patrick Caroll-Ebbing. Or so I’m told. I can’t find the short.
So Much for So Little also won, in a rare tie. Chuck Jones animated this plea for public health care, in order that all babies can grow up healthy and strong. The short can be found on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection v. 2 — and here:
1848 explains the French Revolution of 1848. I’d like to see this one — but I could not locate it (I did find more recent shorts, so if you go looking, be careful not to confuse these).
The Rising Tides tells of Canadian fishing cooperatives. Let’s hope they cooperate with the fish. No clue how it turned out — not available.
Best Short Subject (One-Reel):
Aquatic House Party won, proving that performing seals will always be popular. I saw this years ago on TCM.
Roller Derby Girl is a short inspired by the increasing popularity of skating girls out to beta the crap out of each other for the sake of a ball. Midge “Tuffy” Brashun was a star from television broadcasts, and played the bad girl. Jean Porter plays a new recruit, going through the training to play. I saw this years ago (I think). It doesn’t seem to be available these days.
So You Think You’re Not Guilty — well, not as much as I did before I started these Special Features, so no, but thanks for asking. Actually, this is another Joe McDoakes comedy, about a traffic ticket escalating into serious jail time. You can go into the slammer with him by watching this on the DVD of White Heat.
No, Spills and Chills is not a mashup of Aquatic House Party and Roller Derby Girl. Instead, this is one of those compilations of silent era airplane stunts and such, and I suspect, is the one we’ve all seen used over and over again in other places. Think of this as the forerunner to David Letterman’s “stupid human tricks.” Robert Youngson put this together; he would go on to make those comedy compilations that played such a large role in returning the silent film comedians to prominence, The Golden Age of Comedy and When Comedy Was King.
Water Trix is one of those water skiing shorts showing stunts, this one filmed from a helicopter. This one can be found on the Esther Williams DVD box set, v. 1.
Best Short Subject (Two-Reel):
Van Gogh won for Alain Resnais, later famous (or infamous) for his groundbreaking films Hiroshima, mon amour and Last Year at Marienbad. Here, he tells the life story of Vincent Van Gogh, in voiceover narration, using black & white photographs of Van Gogh’s work. Sadly, the film cries out for color. Still, it’s a classy if unexpectedly mundane presentation from a director who would become known for his avant-garde work. Here’s the short:
The Boy and the Eagle has Dickie Moore as a crippled boy who finds a wounded bald eagle and nurses it back to health. Later on, the eagle returns the favor. I saw this one years ago on TCM, but it seems to have vanished.
Chase of Death is another mystery short. I have no clue; nobody else seems to either.
The Grass Is Always Greener is on the second volume of the DVD box-set of Doris Day movies. Chill Wills and Vince Barnett star in this comedy short. I’ve put this one on the to-see list, to see when I get access to the DVD box set.
Snow Carnival has Gary Cooper narrating a snow carnival in Aspen, Colorado. This is essentially a public service announcement for Aspen, in color. Cooper loved skiing (there are photos of him skiing with Ernest Hemingway I’ve seen elsewhere). Several skiing tricks are shown as well. I think TCM showed this one years ago during one of their Cooper festivals over the last twenty years.
Champion won — well, they do, you know. Understandable, given the fight scenes. Boxing movies always seem to bring out the best in editors. A good win.
The other nominees are a mixed bag.
An excellent choice, and one which could have easily won as well (the cinematography is top-notch as well).
Having seen this thirty years (or more) ago, I had forgotten this good film noir, with the unusual choice of having a child, Bobby Driscoll, as the focal point. The plot has been endlessly re-used. Driscoll sees a murder while sleeping one hot summer night out on the fire escape. Nobody will believe him, because he’s always telling whoppers. I’d like to see this one in a restoration on the big screen someday, given that Ted Tetzlaff, the cinematographer for Notorious, directed.  . Driscoll went on to provide the lead voice for Disney’s Peter Pan. Now available on DVD, after many years of unavailability.
I was underwhelmed by much of this movie, particularly Broderick Crawford’s overrated performance. Much of the filmmaking seemed badly dated, including the editing, which could have used a little more grease in the creaking joints in the transitions and latter half.
Finally, Sands of Iwo Jima struck me as a poorly made recruiting poster for the Marines, with an ending that still seems completely contrived and manipulative. I found much of this to be unimaginatively made, including the editing.
The marvelously named Oswald Hafnerichter should have been nominated for editing one of Carol Reed’s finest films, The Fallen Idol. Like The Window, the point-of-view of a child is rendered quite convincingly, and the editing is a huge part of that.
And on that high point, I now close out the Forties! Unless you’re one of those people that insists on counting to ten, of course…in which case, see you next year for 1950!
If you’re interested in the more mainstream categories, please see my book! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PKK8MBY