Frank Capra: It Happened One Night (winner)
Victor Schertzinger: One Night of Love
W.S. Van Dyke: The Thin Man
I’m a bit lacking in my viewings of 1934 films, so I don’t have a lot of suggestions here. Frankly, I’m kind of glad that there are only three nominees. I think a case could be made for bringing in Cecil B. DeMille for his work on Cleopatra, although the sets and the costumes are the real standouts for this film. I think I might also suggest Mark Sandrich for The Gay Divorcee, a musical that demonstrates the best thing about what a musical should be. I’m sure there are some others. Honestly, it would be a stretch in 1934 to give a nomination to Yonggang Wu for his work on The Goddess.
Weeding through the Nominees
3. In a year with only three nominees where I don’t really have a lot of suggestions, there’s no clear reason why Victor Schertzinger was nominated for a drippy mess like One Night of Love. For whatever reason, this film got a great deal of play come Oscar time. I guess it was a popular film when it was made, but there’s no really good reason to watch this one any more. It’s the sort of film where love is indicated by singing a lot of high notes really loudly. It gave me a headache and I kind of wish I didn’t have to talk about it.
2. I understand the win for Frank Capra and It Happened One Night. In many ways, it was the right film in the right place to sweep the big categories. I like the film pretty well and I have a hard time arguing against it. It’s iconic in a lot of ways, a film that has still got a great deal of legs in terms of entertaining a general audience. In a lot of other years, I wouldn’t have a problem with this win and I absolutely don’t have a problem with the nomination. The truth is that I just like another film more.
1. W.S. Van Dyke wins this for me with his work on The Thin Man, which is probably my favorite movie from this decade. Everything I said about It Happened One Night could be just as easily said about The Thin Man and with more intensity. This is a movie that plays entirely on the perfect chemistry between its two leads and the whipcrack speed at which the insanely clever dialogue is ripped through. The Thin Man has dialogue for days, and it never misses a beat. Van Dyke tells the story as well as it could be told, and I’d give him the statue.