God I love this film. It’s so sweet and melancholic, as are most of Vidor’s films. If you read last week’s post, you’ll notice this film was released the same year as Skippy, however since that film was released before August of 1931, it was part of the 4th Academy Awards and The Champ, which was released in the fall, was considered for the 5th Academy Awards. This is because for the first six years, the Oscar year was August 1st – July 31st, until 1934, when it was changed to January 1st – December 31st, as we now have it. The Champ was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning two: Best Actor Wallace Beery (won; tie, more on this later), Best Story Frances Marion (won), Best Director and Best Picture. The other films up for Best Picture that year were Arrowsmith, Bad Girl, Five Star Final, One Hour With You, Shanghai Express, The Smiling Lieutenant and winner Grand Hotel.
I first saw this movie during that crazy month of February in 2011 when I watched 131 films in 28 days. That was a good month. Jackie Cooper, the star of this film, died just a few months after I watched it. Skippy was inspired by a very popular comic strip from the era by Percy Crosby. I could see how the film today might be a tough watch for modern audiences. It’s a bit rough as it was made during the sound transition and it shows aspects of American life we try to forget existed (although they still exist). I mean by this, child abuse and classism. Only one of the parents int he film (from the wrong side of the tracks, natural) appears to be what we would call abusive, most of the adults treat the kids rather harshly. This can be jarring in an era where, if you saw someone talking to their kid they way they do in this film, you’d probably interfere. Skippy was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning one: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Director (won) and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were East Lynne, The Front Page, Trader Horn and winner Cimarron.