This is a film I saw for the first time last summer because I had fallen in love with Lew Ayres and tried to watch everything he had ever been in. Which reminders me, don’t forget to pre-order Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector on Amazon. I wrote the foreword and y’all are gonna love it. Anyways, I love this movie. I saw the musical version first and as much as I love Dana Andrews and Vivian Blaine’s amazing Technicolor red hair, I prefer this early version. It’s directed by Henry King, who also directed the 1925 silent version of Stella Dallas, a film I recently saw at the SF Silent Film Festival and also find superior to the later version. I see a pattern forming. I would be lying if I didn’t say after the cut you are in for A LOT of screencaps of Lew Ayres. But like I said earlier, you’ll love it. State Fair was nominated for two Academy Awards, though it didn’t win any: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were 42nd Street, A Farewell To Arms, I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, Lady For A Day, Little Women, The Private Life of Henry VIII, She Done Him Wrong, Smilin’ Through and winner Cavalcade.
So I had planned to take a little break from Oscar Vault Monday last December when I finally wrote my 83rd piece, then somehow that little break became an eight month break. I’m sorry it took me so long to get back in the swing of things. For those who don’t remember how Oscar Vault Monday works, basically I take a look at a film that was nominated for Best Picture, but did not win. If you go through the archives there are some really great articles on some of the best cinema there ever was. I am excited to finally start again. I decided to start at the beginning this time around. I want to note that in the first year of the Academy Awards, there were actually two categories for Best Picture: Best Production, which is what is the equivalent of what we have now and Best Unique and Artistic Production. The latter category only existed in that first year and the films nominated were King Vidor’s The Crowd, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness and winner F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. I cannot recommend those three films enough. The films nominated in the category that is equivalent to what we have now were Seventh Heaven, Lewis Milestone’s The Racket and winner William A. Wellman’s Wings. Again, three films I cannot recommend highly enough. Seventh Heaven was also nominated for Best Actress Janet Gaynor (she won, and was also nominated for her work in Borzage’s Street Angel and Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans; this was the only year that performers could be nominated for multiple performances in the same category), Best Director, Drama Frank Borzage (he won; this is also a year where Best Director was split between Drama and Comedy, Lewis Milestone won Best Director, Comedy for Two Arabian Knights), Best Adapted Screenplay (won) and Best Art Direction. Beware, there are SOME SPOILERS, including the ending, after the cut.
The original version of the twice re-made A Star is Born (though, the plot quite resembles 1932’s What Price Hollywood?), is quite wonderful. Perhaps not as memorable as the George Cukor/Judy Garland 1954 musical adaptation, the 1937 version is miles and miles better than the mediocre 1976 Barbra Streisand version. It’s also in the public domain, so it’s available to watch for free in various quality all over the internet. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning one: Best Writing Original Story (won), Best Writing Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Assistant Director, Best Director, Best Picture. W. Howard Greene was rewarded an honorary plaque for the color photography of the film, an award that was “recommended by a committee of leading cinematographers after viewing all the color pictures made during the year”. The other films up for Best Picture that year were: The Awful Truth, Captains Courageous, Dead End, The Good Earth, In Old Chicago, Lost Horizon, One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door and winner The Life of Emile Zola.