Ready for some penance? And no, I don’t mean self-flagellation — which doesn’t mean what some of you may think it means in your filthy heads. I don’t even mean the recitation of the rosary, the beating on the chest, or sending money to any of you (if I don’t have to pay alimony to my ex, why should I have to pay money to those of you who’ve never even slept with me? Your loss, by the way…).
I just mean putting in the work to cover those missing movies. Here are the regular categories of what I neglected to cover in the original publication of Who Won?!? in this chapter: Best Editing, Best Sound Recording, Best Short Subject (Novelty), and Best Short Subject (Comedy) — although on that last one, I just skipped over the nominations and jumped to more Laurel and Hardy (always a good choice!). Next year is going to get even longer, as the Academy added more categories I promptly ignored for the sake of my sleep, my love life, and the backs of the poor postal service who deliver these books to you… By the way, the Academy occasionally lists the order of voting for some of these early years; I include them below.
Best Sound Recording:
Naughty Marietta won, showing the general trend in this category to favor musicals (which is ironic, since musicals are done to pre-recorded sound-tracks after a certain point in their development, and so don’t really reflect typical recording procedures on film sets). If you really love hearing Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald knocking out “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life!” then this is the operetta for you. But the other candidates have their own distinct problems they solve: Bride of Frankenstein and the creation scene, with the thunder, lightning, and electrical equipment; Captain Blood, with clashing swords, booming cannon, and buckling swashes; The Dark Angel, with the sound of Merle Oberon’s eyelashes fluttering between Fredric March and Herbert Marshall, with WWI getting in the way; I Dream Too Much , with Lily Pons marrying struggling composer Henry Fonda when he was drunk, with assorted weeping among the musical bits; The Lives of a Bengal Lancer came in second, along with the sounds of galloping hooves, native attacks, and Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone trying to train a young recruit in the ways of soldiering and imperialism; Love Me Forever, in which Grace Moore returns once more to wow the Academy with her arias; $1,000 a Minute, a kind of early version of Brewster’s Millions, has two millionaires running an experiment to see if a newspaperman can spend a thousand bucks a minute for twelve hours straight ; and Thanks a Million, in which Dick Powell sings and dances his way past Ann Dvorak and some crooked politicians.
Of these, the ones I hadn’t yet seen were I Dream Too Much; Love Me Forever; and $1,000 a Minute. In I Dream Too Much, it’s a wonder Fonda can’t sell his songs, because his music sounds just like that of Jerome Kern (funny how that works out). My father had a copy, fortunately, because of his love of Fonda; and so I was able to see it. The nomination is for the songs, which include the title song and the novelty number, “The Jockey on the Carousel,” which can be seen here:
Wasn’t that kid annoying?
Love Me Forever is obviously nominated for the opera pieces, especially “Musetta’s Street Song” from Puccini’s La Bohème. Given the success of Grace Moore in the previous One Night of Love, which I have seen, one suspects a clone, but enjoyable for opera buffs. The movie itself doesn’t appear available in any commercial way, and UCLA doesn’t have a copy. Here is what appears to be a clip, however:
$1,000 a Minute exists in the UCLA archive, but is currently not available for viewing, so I have no idea why Poverty Row studio Republic Pictures snuck one in here.
As always, I’m glad when I’ve actually seen the movies that were nominated, because regardless of my Puritan roots and my nagging conscience, if I can avoid doing more work, who’s to blame me? (Shut up and put your hands down…).
The original winner was A Midsummer’s Nights Dream, which defeated the second-place Mutiny on the Bounty and the third-place The Informer, as well as David Copperfield, Les Miserables, and Lives of a Bengal Lancer. Part of the problem in judging editing is that most of the classic studio Hollywood product doesn’t really have that much difference from studio to studio, except for the rare director who controlled the editing during filming; John Ford and Howard Hawks both deliberately shot only what they wanted to be put in the final version of the film, effectively editing the film as they went along, and leaving very few choices to editors and meddling producers. Editing thus looks remarkably familiar from film to film, from studio to studio, because editors followed standard industry practices. As film scholars David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson point out in The Classical Hollywood Cinema, “classical editing makes the spectator an ideally placed onlooker.” Narrative continuity is everything — and editing was designed to reinforce story, and not call attention to itself. Even when editing jumps over space and chronology, we are led by the hand so as not to disrupt our enjoyment by leading us to ask any questions whatsoever about where we are or what is going on. The editing was supposed to be invisible — and largely was.
Given that all six of these films are classics of one variety or another, the editing branch did a good job selecting candidates. A Midsummer’s Nights Dream certainly has the most distinctive look, followed by the faded glory of The Informer. I’m inclined to leave the winner unchallenged. Here is one of the reasons to love this version of Shakespeare’s immortal play: Jimmy Cagney!
Best Short Subject (Novelty):
Gaumont British and Skibo Productions released Wings over Mt. Everest, beating out the Pete Smith specialty Audioscopiks and Universal’s Camera Thrills (both of which tied for second). Wings over Mt. Everest shows us a 1933 expedition in which Lord Clydesdale literally flew solo over the southern peak of Mt. Everest. The beginning of this very brief clip is the only footage I could locate (UCLA owns two nitrate copies, so the film still exists):
Audioscopiks has Pete Smith explaining to us how 3D works, and is itself shot in 3D — and in color, no less! The gimmick shots should be very familiar to anybody who has seen any 3D movie. The explanation before the effects is cogent. The short is available on the boxed set, Motion Picture Masterpieces, a collection of MGM classics, including David Copperfield. Here is the entire short — you’ll have to supply your own 3D glasses!
Finally, Camera Thrills. No copy seems to exist for public viewing; UCLA has no copy.
Best Short Subject (Comedy): I do give kudos to the Academy for at least nominating one of Laurel & Hardy’s best shorts, Tit for Tat, a sequel to Them Thar Hills — but then the voters put it in third place! The two shorts it should have beaten — easily, in a just and perceptive vote — were the original winner How to Sleep and the runner-up, Oh, My Nerves.
How to Sleep gives us Robert Benchley providing less-than-helpful advice on how to achieve slumber. Released by MGM, How to Sleep has been released on A Night at the Opera as a special feature, and as part of a Robert Benchley collection (and is available for viewing at UCLA). You can also cure your insomnia by watching it here:
Oh, My Nerves has a poor guy trying to relax, while the family disrupts his need to chill. The short was later remade by the Three Stooges not once, but twice (as Idiots Deluxe and Guns a Poppin!). I’ve seen those, but the original seems to have vanished into non-existence (UCLA has no copy). Seems like the guy finally managed to slip away into some peace and quiet — — which is what I’m about to do, having soothed my own nerves over completing 1935. As a closer, here is Lord Clydesdale in flight: