Friday, July 5, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1947

The Contenders:

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (winner)
Body and Soul
A Double Life
Monsieur Verdoux

What’s Missing

I haven’t seen a lot of movies from 1947, and most of the ones I have seen have been adapted. I’ve also learned that I was wrong about Black Narcissus, which I thought earned nominations in the following year. It didn’t, which means that the places I’ve thought it didn’t really belong…it did. It doesn’t belong here, though, because it was adapted from a novel. Truthfully, the only two I can find that could be here are Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman and Possessed, both of which I like better than at least one nomination, so I’m going to include them here.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. When I said above that I liked those two movies better than at least one of the nominations, I was speaking specifically about Monsieur Verdoux. I realize that there are a lot of people (including some who read this blog) who will happily stand up for this movie. I get that, even if I don’t specifically agree. I find the movie mean-spirited, and the Chaplin character, rather than being lovable and a bit hapless, is cruel and conniving. Movies with despicable main characters can work, but not when they are hateful, and Verdoux is.

4. Ronald Colman, along with a young and tragic Shelley Winters, are the best parts of A Double Life, a film that really wants to be seen as a film noir. There’s a lot to like in this movie, and I don’t really hate the nomination. The problem with it is that the biggest issues with the movie are with the screenplay. The story goes off the rails in the third act, and as much as I would love for it all to hold together, it simply doesn’t. That’s a problem when we’re talking about one of the best screenplays of its year.

3. I genuinely like the movie Body and Soul. It’s a good reminder that film noir is not a specific genre, but more of a style since this is clearly a sports movie, but a sports movie through that lens. It has the benefit of starring John Garfield, which is always a good thing. The problem with Body and Soul is that it does slide into the realm of cliché, which isn’t a surprise given the basic plot and the characters involved. I like the nomination here and I’m always happy to push the talents of Garfield, but the problems here are the screenplay.

2. What can I say about Shoeshine? Of the five nominations, I think this is objectively the best film. It also happens to be depressing as all hell, and the sort of film I don’t want to watch a second time. The problem here isn’t the clichés that we get from Body and Soul, but the inevitability of the way the plot is going to work for us. Once we get to a certain point, we know that these innocent kids are going to be screwed terribly and there’s nothing we can do. It’s good writing, but there’s something here that prevents me from putting it first.

My Choice

1. As a movie, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer can’t hold a candle to either Body and Soul or Shoeshine. This is the definition of light and fluffy nonsense, and it doesn’t make any sense on its face. That’s okay, though, because we pretty much know that going in. The ridiculousness of the plot works because we expect it to be ridiculous. This is a farce, and it’s a very good farce that is sold as well as it can be by a great cast. Sure, we know where it’s going, but the screenplay makes it a joy getting there. I have no real issues with this as Oscar’s choice.

Final Analysis


  1. Ah, I see where you're coming from with this. Personally, I would've chosen Monsieur Verdoux though I haven't seen a lot of films that year. I know why Black Narcissus wasn't picked as it was based on a book.

    What about Record of a Tenement Gentleman by Yasujiro Ozu and co-writer Tadao Ikeda as that is the only other film from what I've seen in 1947 that is an original script?

    1. Evidently it is. I haven't seen it, though.

      I realize I'm very much in the minority on Monsieur Verdoux and I'm okay with that.

  2. 1947 was a very thin year in most categories. This one in particular. What a step down from 46.

    1. Yeah, there are good years and bad years. This appears to be a very weak year in general. That said, there are some real highlights--just not in this category.

  3. I love, love, LOVE The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and I love that it won. Usually comedies are shunted to the side seen as lesser achievements which is so odd since good comedy is such a tricky balancing act. This is the definition of silly, albeit played by super professionals ideally cast, but it's a joy from beginning to end. Cary & Myrna had other great comedies in their careers but this is I think without question Shirley Temple's best adult film and performance.

    Even with the very good films you suggested as substitutions B&B would still be my pick.

    I can't agree about it being a thin year though. This is one of the top noir years, perhaps it's not 1939 in terms of enduring well-known classics but there were a slew of wonderful films made this year.

    1. Thin in this category, for what I've seen. The majority of the movies I like from this year are adapted.

  4. What a bunch of duds! I like the top three of your nominees but not necessarily for their screenplay. Hate Monsieur Verdoux with a passion. Can't say I'm crazy about Possessed and haven't seen Smash-Up. These writing categories are certainly a pain, no?

    1. They are. It's weird, because this is a pretty solid year for adapted screenplays.