Hail the Conquering Hero
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Two Girls and a Sailor
Wing and a Prayer
While 1944 was a decent year for film, it was a dismal year for original screenplays. In fact, of the Oscar categories I care about, the only film that might be considered an original screenplay (maybe) from the nominated films is Lifeboat. If eligible, it definitely should have been here, because it’s a pretty good film, even if it’s second-tier Hitchcock. Virtually everything else from this year I looked at--Going My Way, Double Indemnity, The Uninvited, Murder My Sweet, Aresenic and Old Lace, To Have and Have Not all the way down to films like Mr. Skeffington came from books or plays. Even The Curse of the Cat People would probably be considered based on the first film, even though that relationships is pretty tangential. And seriously, I don’t even know if Lifeboat would qualify.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. The presence of Two Girls and a Sailor as a nominee is the best evidence I have that this was an incredibly thin year. There’s actually a lot of really good music in this movie, and that’s pretty much it. The plot could fit inside a fortune cookie, and that it’s evidently one of the five best original screenplays of the year is kind of depressing. If you consider the appearances of a lot of musical acts and performers as a part of the screenplay, it raises it in some respects, but it’s still an indictment on the year that this was even in the running, and that I could only find a single movie that might be eligible to replace it.
1. If we assume that I could slip in Lifeboat, my winner would still be Hail the Conquering Hero. Much like The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, this is a Preston Sturges film starring Eddie Bracken, but this one has some serious bite to it, especially coming in the middle of a war. This film plays with the concept of heroism and hero worship and how quickly we are prone to following someone simply based on not merely reputation, but our impressions of them. There’s a great deal here that is still relevant today, and it was completely relevant in 1944. It’s a hell of a movie and worth tracking down. It’s clearly the best screenplay from its year, and I’d have put it in the running in a lot of other years.