Archive for February, 2012

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38. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

Other Nominated Films:
Anthony Adverse, Dodsworth, Libeled Lady, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Romeo and Juliet, San Francisco, The Story of Louis Pasteur, A Tale of Two Cities, Three Smart Girls

Florenz Ziegfeld was one of the most famous theater producers of the early 1900’s, producing hits such as the Ziegfeld Follies and Show Boat. The Great Ziegfeld is an extravagant film with gigantic dance sequences, one of which featured 180 performers, 4,300 yards of rayon silk, and cost $220,000. The film in total cost M-G-M about $2 million to make, which, for today, would probably be a budget of $200 million. Luckily for M-G-M, the film was able to bring in over $40 million, and rightly so. Ziegfeld led an interesting life, one that started with little money, but like so many other Americans, he worked his way to the top. While I don’t know much about the man (aside from the fact that the Ziegfeld Theater in Manhattan is named after him), by watching William Powell’s portrayal, I saw how hard of a worker Ziegfeld was, or Flo, as many of his friends called him. But the real star of the show is Luise Rainer, who won an Oscar for playing Flo’s ex-wife Anna Held. Rainer was great from beginning to end, but the one scene that truly stands out for me is when after she finds out that Flo has married Broadway star Billie Burke, (who would go on the play Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz) and she phones him to pretend she’s glad for him. Rainer plays the heart-broken woman so well that many believe this is the scene that won her the Oscar. While The Great Ziegfeld takes many liberties with the life of Ziegfeld, it can’t take away the fact that Robert Z. Leonard creates a fun and exuberant film.

Nominated for 7 Oscars; Winner of 3
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Luise Rainer (WON)
Best Dance Direction – Seymour Felix for “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody(WON)
Best Picture – M-G-M (WON)
Best Art Direction – Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu, Edwin B. Willis (WON)
Best Director – Robert Z. Leonard
Best Film Editing – William S. Gray
Best Writing, Original Story – William Anthony McGuire

Anna Held: [on the phone with Ziegfeld after learning of his marriage to Billie Burke] Hello, Flo… Yes. Here’s Anna… I’m so happy for you today, I could not help calling you and congratulate you… Wonderful, Flo! Never better in my whole life!… I’m so excited about my new plans! I’m going to Paris… Yes, for a few weeks, and then I can get back, and then I’m doing a new show, and… Oh, it’s all so wonderful! I’m so happy!… Yes… And I hope you are happy, too… Yes?… Oh, I’m so glad for you, Flo… Sounds funny for ex-husband and ex-wife to tell how happy they are, oui?… Yes, Flo… Goodbye, Flo… Goodbye…

37. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Other Nominated Films:
Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments

There are very few films that can match the amount of fun that Around the World in 80 Days brings to a viewer. They travel to Spain to India to Hong Kong to Japan to San Francisco to..well..back to Britain. And in 80 days! It’s fantastic! And I don’t know how Michael Todd did it, but he was somehow able to convince a treasure trove of legendary actors to appear in the film, most of them as extras. The stars of the film are David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, and Robert Newton. The cameos? Well, I’ll just name a few to save time: Marlene Dietrich, George Raft, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, and I’ll just stop there. The film has a very simple plot: Phileas Fogg makes a wager with the fellow members of the Reform Club that he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. As for the production of the film…well…they really did travel all over the world to shoot the film. There were 74,685 costumes designed, the cast and crew flew over 4,000,000 miles, 68,894 extras were used, the film was shot in 13 countries, and the list goes on and on. Around The World in 80 Days is filled with laughs, and you find yourself pulling for Fogg to win the wager. And just one more thing to point one…if you watch the film, make sure you watch the seven-minute-long animated title sequence at the end of the film…it’s worth it.

Nominated for 8 Oscars; Winner of 5
Best Cinematography, Color – Lionel Lindon (WON)
Best Film Editing – Gene Ruggiero, Paul Weatherwax (WON)
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture – Victor Young (Posthumously) [WON]
Best Picture – Michael Todd (WON)
Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Adapted – James Poe, John Farrow, S.J. Perelman (WON)
Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Color – James W. Sullivan, Ken Adam, Ross Dowd
Best Costume Design, Color – Miles White
Best Director – Michael Anderson

Sir Francis Gromarty: One thousand pounds for an elephant? It’s outrageous! You’ve been diddled.
Phileas Fogg: Undoubtedly. But it’s not often one needs an elephant in a hurry.

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40. Cavalcade (1933)

Other Nominated Films:
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, State Fair

At the time of it’s release, Cavalcade was a pretty big triumph. The 110 minute film spans around three decades of history, which is a tough challenge even for directors today. The film is defined by the big events that happen in the lives of the Jane and Robert Marryot, played by Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook. These include the Second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, and World War I. Cavalcade can easily be considered a tear-jerker due to the fact that the events we witness with this family are tragic on a more personal level. Using such tragic events in history is risky for a film, especially in a time where people are experimenting with cinema and figuring out what topics are proper or offensive to use in a movie. But by taking this risk, Frank Lloyd is able to bring out the best in his actors and allow the audience into the lives of these individuals and feel as they feel. Diane Wynyard is truly fantastic in her role as Jane. It doesn’t look as if she’s acting, but it looks as if she is Jane Marryot, and all of the pain and suffering that Jane has gone through in her life…well it seems as if Diane has been in her shoes before. This was the first Fox Studios film to be awarded Best Picture.

Nominated for 4 Oscars; Winner of 3
Best Art Direction William S. Darling (WON)
Best Director Frank Lloyd (WON)
Best Picture – Fox Studios (WON)
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Diana Wynyard

Jane Marryot: There should never be any good reason for neglecting someone that you love.

39. The Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929)

Other Nominated Films:
Alibi, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, In Old Arizona, The Patriot

The first talkie and the first musical to win Best Picture, The Broadway Melody was ahead of its time when it was released. The musical was one of the first to feature a Technicolor sequence, but the sequence is presumed lost. While The Broadway Melody may not be the strongest, or the best, musical on my countdown of top Best Picture films, it’s safe to say that this is the first complete example of the Hollywood musical. In a Hollywood musical, the songs and the dance help to move the plot along, as well as to help develop a character. In The Broadway Melody, this technique is used throughout the whole film for the sisters Harriet and Queenie Mahoney. Another trait of the Hollywood musical is the outrageous background scenery and the fantastic dance numbers that take place. Sometimes the dance numbers take place on a stage, sometimes they take place out in a street where a ton of people automatically know the dance moves. While this may confuse me sometimes, it doesn’t take any of the fun out of the film. While watching The Broadway Melody, I found myself tapping my feet along with some of the musical numbers and wanting to get up and dance (although, I will admit, I wouldn’t have known the dance moves myself. Must be a gift.) The music within the film is extremely catchy, and it’s just a fun film to watch. The success of The Broadway Melody brought about three sequels, Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, and Broadway Melody of 1940, all released by M-G-M. This is one of the first films to feature songs by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, who would together create the classics Singin’ in the Rain, Good Morning, and You Are My Lucky Star. The Broadway Melody will be known as the film that set the bar for the Hollywood musical, and will always be one of the pillars of the musical genre.

Nominated for 3 Oscars; Winner of 1
Best Picture – M-G-M (WON)
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Bessie Love
Best Director – Harry Beaumont

Eddie Kearns: Those men aren’t going to pay ten bucks to look at your face; this is Broadway!
Hank Mahoney: Yeah, “Broad’s way!”

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42. Cimarron (1931)

Other Nominated Films:
East Lynne, The Front Page, Skippy, Trader Horn

One of the first films to ever win an Oscar, it’s interesting watching it now, to say the least. It’s one of those films that, for the time it was released, I can understand why it was a big hit. It has some pretty solid gun slinging sequences, and the story is able to hold up for the majority of the film. I also must compliment the acting of Irene Dunne, who did a dynamite job portraying a wife who must deal with the actions of her husband who keeps on riding out on her to find bigger and better things. It does tend to be racist, and not just to one race, but at some points, to all. I do realize that this is accurate to how attitudes were back in the day and to how movies were written at this time, but the only time I, myself, have seen a film so racist would have to be The Birth of a Nation directed by D.W. Griffith, one of the pioneers of filmmaking. Cimarron is the first Western to win a Best Picture award, and one of only three Westerns to win the award throughout the history of cinema (Unforgiven and Dances with Wolves are the only other ones.)

Nominated for 7 Oscars; Winner of 3
Best Art Direction – Max Rée (WON)
Best Picture – RKO Radio (WON)
Best Writing, Adaptation – Howard Estabrook (WON)
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Richard Dix
Best Actress in a Leading Role – Irene Dunne
Best Cinematography – Edward Cronjagor
Best Direction – Wesley Ruggles

Sabra Cravat: Did you have to kill him?
Yancy Cravat: No, I could have let him kill me.

41. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Other Nominated Films:
High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man

I will admit, this film winning Best Picture does confuse me. The film was given the Best Picture award against classics such as High Noon, which was the favorite, and Singin’ in the Rain, which wasn’t nominated. High Noon wound up being one of the greatest Western films of all time, while Singin’ in the Rain wound up being one of the best musicals of all time. One theory as to why many believed Greatest Show won over High Noon is due to the fact that writer Carl Foreman, who was a writer for High Noon, was eventually blacklisted for once having associations with the Communist party. But, focusing back on The Greatest Show on Earth, I will give it credit for being an enjoyable film at times, and a very suspenseful film during some of the trapeze sequences. The film has a very solid cast with Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, and James Stewart leading the way (although it was creepy seeing James Stewart as a clown.) The appearances of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby are also pleasant surprises in the film. This film wound up being the lone Best Picture win for famous director and producer Cecil B. DeMille.

Nominated for 5 Oscars; Winner of 2
Best Picture – Cecil B. DeMille (WON)
Best Writing, Motion Picture Story – Fredric M. Frank, Theodore St. John, Frank Cavett (WON)
Best Costume Design, Color – Edith Head, Dorothy Jeakins, Miles White
Best Director – Cecil B. DeMille
Best Film Editing – Anne Bauchens

Buttons: How long do you think this can go on before something happens?
Brad Braden: It’s circus, isn’t it?

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Why hello there! Welcome to the first blog post for ClassicMovieHub. I’ll be your co-host on this fine journey, and as your co-host, let me introduce myself. I’m Josh Kaye, a Cinema Studies major at SUNY Purchase. I won’t say that I’m anything close to an expert on Classic Cinema, as I will be learning more about the Classics as I go on, but watching and learning more about them has always been something I’ve wanted to do. This blog will focus on some of the greatest movies of all time, ranging from the silent classics of Chaplin to the haunting films of Hitchcock, and everything else in between.

For my first series on this blog, to commemorate the Academy Awards, which are on February 26th, I have watched every Best Picture winner between the years of 1927 – 1969. While watching all of these movies, I created a list of what I feel are the best films to win the Oscar based on the film itself, how the film has stuck with me since I first watched it, and every other cinematic aspect such as the acting, the directing, the music, and the cinematography. Beginning Thursday February 2nd, I shall list the films two at time until I reach the Top 10. From there, each film will be listed individually, and on February 27th, the #1 movie will be posted, as will a comparison between the Best Picture of 2011 and the Best Picture of All Time, at least to me.

There may be plenty of surprises as to where I put some films, and I expect not everyone will agree, but that’s the glory of movies…we each gather our own opinion and each feel so differently about one movie compared to the other. All I can hope for is that you spend your precious time to visiting here and reading, as well as giving a piece of your mind.

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