At this point y’all should be pretty well-versed in Pre-Code Hollywood and all its glory. The Warner Archive is at it again, releasing Vol. 7 of the ever-popular Forbidden Hollywood series. This set features film that, while not the “best” films of the era, feature some of the most salacious scenarios that Hollywood had to offer at the time. These are the kind of morally “loose” films that caused the Catholic church to call the industry indecent. They’re also more sexually charged than most current Hollywood films. The films included in this set are: William A. Wellman’s The Hatchet Man, Edgar Selwyn’s Skyscraper Souls, Roy Del Ruth’s Employees’ Entrance and Robert Florey’s Ex-Lady.
I first saw The Thin Man late on a Saturday night on PBS when I was in high school. I caught it from the very beginning (rare when you’re flipping through the channels!) and I fell in love. That PBS station then showed the film’s sequels every subsequent Saturday. It was a magical six weeks. I still wish I owned The Thin Man DVD collection. William Powell and Myrna Loy made 14 films together including 1936’s Libeled Lady with Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow. Powell and Loy have some of the best on-screen chemistry ever captured on film (hence their being paired together so many times), but nothing beats the work they did together as Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, though it didn’t win any: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor William Powell, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, The Gay Divorcee, Here Comes the Navy, The House of Rothschild, Imitation of Life, One Night of Love, Viva Villa!, The White Parade and winner It Happened One Night. As you can see, there were TWELVE Best Picture nominees. Oddly enough, there were only three Best Actor nominees that year, four Best Actress nominees (Bette Davis was the fourth, a write-in) and three Best Director nominees (Van Dyke, Victor Schertzinger for One Night of Love and winner Frank Capra for It Happened One Night).
I remember distinctly the first time I saw this film: it was about two days before I was moving away from San Francisco (that story is a whole other kettle of fish) and it came on PBS and I decided I would watch it. I was blown away. At that point I think I’d only seen about 8 other Woody Allen films (I’ve seen 31 now) and I just loved this film to pieces. I rewatched it again Saturday as part of TCM’s The Essentials and I fell in love with it all over again. Woody Allen won his only sole Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for this film (his only other writing win was for Annie Hall, which he shared with Marshall Brickman). The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning three: Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor Michael Caine (won), Best Supporting Actress Dianne Wiest (won), Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Director, Best Picture. The films also nominated for Best Picture that year were Children of a Lesser God, The Mission, A Room with a View and winner Platoon.