Frank Lloyd: Cavalcade (winner)
Frank Capra: Lady for a Day
George Cukor: Little Women
What the hell, Oscar? I mean, I realize that you’ve only given yourself three nominations for this Oscar ceremony that bridges the end of 1932 and the start of 1933, but these three? I’m aghast and appalled. Let’s start with the guys who had close to career years…or half-years. Lloyd Bacon directed both Footlight Parade and 42nd Street, which I think earns him a mention. More impressive (to me) is Rouben Mamoulian directing both a musical in Love Me Tonight and a romantic drama in Queen Christina. The weirdest duo comes from Ernest B. Schoedsack. He directed The Most Dangerous Game with Irving Pichel and also directed King Kong with Merian C. Cooper. Also in the mix here should be Frank Capra for The Bitter Tea of General Yen instead of what he was nominated for and especially Mervyn LeRoy for I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.
Weeding through the Nominees
3. Truthfully, I didn’t like any of the nominations, which makes this a rush for the bottom. I’m putting Cavalcade here for a specific reason: I remember this as being almost entirely a series of scenes of people standing in a room talking about current events rather than actually doing anything. I’m not sure how much talent or skill it takes to do this. If someone could show me exactly what Frank Lloyd did here to get him the win, I’d be happy to shut up, but from what I can see, he directed a stage play and filmed it.
2. Little Women was my least favorite of these three movies, but I’m putting George Cukor in second here because he at least tried to do something to turn this into a movie. It’s a big, blustery story and it’s inhabited by a collection of actresses playing half their age—including a 23-year-old Joan Bennett playing a 12-year-old. I have no reason to put this second except for the fact that Cukor actually did something more than just plant his camera and walk away, which moves him into second place.
1. Giving this to Capra for what I think is a completely uninspired film is pretty sad, but based on the three nominees we have, this is where I’m going to end up. The reason for this is that Capra at least tried to do something a little interesting here. While I think it failed, Lady for a Day has elements of comedy and drama, and Capra does his best to combine them. This is a terribly weak endorsement on my part, though. I know that there are people who like this film more than I do, but I still don’t like this and don’t really think Capra should have won.
What a miserable slate of nominees. I’d be willing to consider anyone I mentioned in my top paragraph. Rouben Mamoulian would probably ultimately be my choice here because of such a strong year with such varied films. Ernest B. Schoedsack would be an interesting choice as well, since his hand was in two classics. But I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, while very much a product of its time, is still a really effective film, and much of that comes from Mervyn LeRoy. In any event, any of these would be better choices than any of the three nominations.