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Oscar Vault Monday – In Old Arizona, 1928 (dir. Irving Cummings)

This film was advertised as “100% All-Talking” and its tagline was “You Hear What You See While Enjoying In Old Arizona.” This film was a real game-changer in several aspects. It was the first major studio western to use sound technology and the first talkie to be filmed outdoors. They filmed it in Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in Utah and the San Fernando Mission and the Mojave Desert. I’ve got several beautiful shots from it that I will share later on. Also, Raoul Walsh was supposed to direct and star in this film, but a jackrabbit jumped through a windshield of a vehicle he was driving, Walsh lost an eye and had to abandon the project. I always wanted to know why Walsh wore an eye-patch. A jackrabbit in the eye is kind of fantastic. I wonder if those Monty Python boys knew about that? In Old Arizona was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one: Best Writing, Best Cinematography, Best Actor Warner Baxter (won), Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were: Alibi, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The Patriot (this Ernst Lubitsch film is considered a lost film) and winner The Broadway Melody. I must point out, however, that at this ceremony, the 2nd ever, there were no official nominees announced, just the winners. Research by AMPAS has resulted in an unofficial list of nominees based on records of which films were evaluated by the judges. It’s also the only year where no movie won more than one Oscar.

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Oscar Vault Monday – The Racket, 1928 (dir. Lewis Milestone)

The Racket was long thought a lost film. After the death of Howard Hughes, however, one surviving print was recovered. It was restored with help from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As you can probably tell from the date, it was one of the first Best Picture nominees. This is a tricky ceremony, as the Academy had two Best Picture categories, one for Best Production and one for Most Unique and Artistic Production. After they dropped the latter category, the Academy tends to count the former as the official “Best Picture” nominees. Thus I decided to write about a film that was nominated in that category, but I am going to list all six films that were nominated in both categories. It’s important that you watch them all because you can really see why a split category like this was necessary at the tail-end of the Silent Era. But with the invention of sound, artistry got lost in the mire while the industry struggled to get back to the basics, only this time with sound. The nominees for Best Production were: The Racket, Seventh Heaven and winner Wings and the nominees for Most Unique and Artistic Production were: Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, The Crowd and winner Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.

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