It Happened One Night (winner)
The Thin Man
With only three nominations, there has to be some room for additions, right? Let’s start with The Gay Divorcee, which is an entertaining little romp of a story, if ultimately not that weighty. Imitation of Life seems like it belongs as well, since I like it better than at least one of the nominations, and since the list is so small to begin with. I didn’t like Of Human Bondage much, but from what I understand, it’s a good adaptation. It’s a Gift probably didn’t have enough weight, either, although it’s quite funny. I can only add Manhattan Melodrama by reputation since I haven’t seen it.
Weeding through the Nominees
2. It Happened One Night is a hell of a good screenplay, honestly one of the best from its decade. It’s funny from start to finish and very clever from start to finish. It may well be credited for creating the entire genre of screwball comedies, coming out a few scant months before Twentieth Century. Even if there were similar films before this one, it has cast a very long shadow over the entire comedy genre, and many of the tropes that appear in comedies to this day started here. I’d pick this in almost any other year of the 1930s. It’s just not the best screenplay of 1934.
1. That belongs to The Thin Man now and forever. The Thin Man is one of those incredibly rare films that manages to still be just as funny now as it was when it was first made. That’s difficult for comedy in general, harder for a talkie (silents are still funny because pratfalls are funny), and nearly impossible for a film that is more than 80 years old. The dialogue is whip-crack smart and even the parts that don’t advance the plot give us so much about the characters we are seeing. There’s a reason this spawned five sequels. It’s near-perfect from the opening scene to the closing line. There’s no question it’s my winner.