Well, I’m not going to feel guilty about this one. The Academy added a new category, for assistant directors. They then proceeded to nominate EIGHTEEN of these bad boys — and hand out SEVEN Oscars, in the same area?!? All I can say, either some assistant director got some dirt on somebody, or they were just really, really good at kissing naked Oscar butt.
Since that was the only category I really skipped entirely — I even did Best Sound Recording! — all I want to do is again fill in some of the areas I flew over quickly, in two of the short subject categories.
Best Short Subject (Novelty):
Here’s all I had to say about this one in V. 1 of WHO Won?!?: “I’m beginning the trend of ignoring short subjects, this time for Novelty. Krakatoa won. I’m not going to argue with a volcano – are you?”
I’m still not going to argue with a volcano, but Krakatoa beat out a Pete Smith Specialty from MGM, Menu, and Educational Pictures’ The Sea. Educational Pictures, which also released Krakatoa, also did some short film with Buster Keaton in the Thirties. Their silent film library was lost in a fire in 1937. The company shut down production in 1939.
Krakatoa is available for viewing at UCLA. Here is the poster for Krakatoa:
The Pete Smith special, Menu, is a sexist little comedy making fun of an ordinary housewife incapable of cooking anything decent, until a male chef shows up and shows her properly. Una Merkel and Franklin Pangborn show up in bit parts. Menu is based on a story by Thorne Smith, most famous for the Topper novels (which themselves were the basis for a fun series of ghostly movies).
For those who wish to indulge, here is the entire short:
Finally, The Sea was actually a Polish picture, released by Educational. I was unable to locate a copy, as it was apparently sunk by Krakatoa.
Best Short Subject (Comedy):
My fury on this was the complete omission of Laurel and Hardy, in a year in which they released so many classic shorts. Here is what I had to say in V. 1, WHO Won?!?: “Laurel and Hardy made Scram!; Their First Mistake; Towed in a Hole; Twice Two; Me and My Pal; Midnight Patrol; Busy Bodies; and Dirty Work. Talk about an embarrassment of riches – especially when you consider they made the full-length Pack up Your Troubles, Fra Diavolo, and Sons of the Desert that year too. Some of their greatest moments came in these shorts. In Scram!, they play vagrants who have an hour to get out of town; trouble ensues with a rich drunk, rain, a piece of gum, a key, an umbrella, a storm drain, and a policeman – and that’s just in the second scene. Their First Mistake was in bringing home an adopted baby without checking with Oliver’s wife first. As Stan says, “You know, I’m not as dumb as you look.” The boys also play with confusing some sexual stereotypes (something they did again in Twice Two). Towed in a Hole has the boys selling fresh fish; Stan suggests they catch the fish too, and cut out the middleman. They buy a boat…and it doesn’t go well, except for our laughter. Stan plays tic-tac-toe with himself. Twice Two is cross-dressing, gender-bending at its funniest. Stan marries Ollie’s sister, and Ollie marries Stan’s sister. Guess who plays the sisters? Me and My Pal is all about the wedding and the jigsaw puzzle, and that damned last missing piece. Midnight Patrol has Stan and Ollie playing cops on the night beat; for once, they get to be the authority figures (and screw up even worse than usual). Busy Bodies takes place in a sawmill. Whatever doesn’t get destroyed gets cut in half – literally! Dirty Work has Stan, Ollie, and a mad scientist. I need say no more than this: Chimney sweep Ollie gets turned into a chimp.”
Yet, the Academy went with an Oscar for RKO’s So This Is Harris!, and nominations for RKO’s A Preferred List and Universal’s Mr. Mugg. And you wonder why people think the awards were rigged…
So This Is Harris! is about Phil Harris, best remembered today as the voice of Baloo the Bear in Disney’s The Jungle Book. James Finlayson has a part as well. Walter Catlett can’t stand Phil’s singing, until he realizes girls like Harris — which might let Walter get in on the attraction too.
Here is a clip, complete with demure cheesecake:
A Preferred List stars Ken Murray, best known today as Doc Willoughby in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and Dorothy Lee, who appeared in a number of Wheeler and Woolsey comedies in the early Thirties. The short seems to be unavailable; UCLA has no copy.
Mister Mugg stars James Gleason — who does indeed have a mugg, best remembered today for any number of supporting roles as a cantankerous wise-cracker. The short itself seems to be unavailable; UCLA has no copy. But here is Gleason’s mugg:
We’ll see you next year as we continue my penance for minor omissions. It gets worse as times goes on…