Friday, December 21, 2018

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1955

The Contenders:

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell
Interrupted Melody (winner)
It’s Always Fair Weather
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
The Seven Little Foys

What’s Missing

This is one of those years where the bulk of the films that I really like are adapted screenplays, evidently. When I started looking for alternate nominations, I wrote down a bunch, and several were actually nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. This is especially important for me here, because I don’t like most of the actual nominations. I’d love to see The Ladykillers here, but it got its nomination the following year. This was still a time when foreign films were rare on the Oscar stage, which leaves out the delightful Smiles of a Summer Night. I seem to like Rebel Without a Cause more than a lot of people, and it does have its problems, but I like it pretty well. I’d also love to see a nomination for All that Heaven Allows, if only to demonstrate that really good melodrama is possible when it’s placed in the hands of a competent director.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I really dislike two of the films that were nominated for this award and it made it difficult for me to pick a bottom. I ultimately decided to go with The Seven Little Foys because from what I can see, this movie is complete garbage at depicting the life of the actual Eddie Foy. In the film, he’s a terrible father and does nothing but make snide comments in the style of Bob Hope. In reality, Foy was such a stand-up guy that James Cagney refused to be paid for appearing in his biopic. Why do this?

4. I didn’t like Interrupted Melody at about the same level. This was a movie that I liked best when it was giving us opera. Freakin’ opera! Outside of that, our main character acts like a 14-year-old girl in just about every moment, and her husband is alternately the height of cruelty and an all-but-the-halo saint. A whiny but talented star isn’t someone compelling or someone that I want to spend time with, especially when changing this character isn’t the point or eventual goal of the movie. I can’t believe this won.

3. Boy, I had high expectations for The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell and they were not fulfilled at all. While it would seem that this was accurate in terms of the events, Gary Cooper was apparently the polar opposite of the real Billy Mitchell. Frankly, I found this movie really boring in so many ways. It felt like half of the film consisted of Cooper looking stoic into the middle distance, waiting for his chance to defend himself. Maybe with a more fiery star, this would have been closer to interesting.

2. I am incredibly surprised that It’s Always Fair Weather managed to claw its way into second place here, but this is a musical that does some interesting things. It’s much darker than might be expected. This is a film that feels its post-war malaise in spades and doesn’t care who it brings down. Sure, there’s a song and a dance to help us get there, but this is a film about intense disappointment and failure. I like it almost in spite of itself, and while it still does have its problems, I think it’s a fascinating piece of cinema.

My Choice

1. I think I can say without much chance of being contradicted that I am the biggest fan of Jacques Tati than anyone who reads this blog. Based on that, it’s not a shock that I’ve put Mr. Hulot’s Holiday in the top position. This is a little comedic joy, a film that works at times like a clockwork toy. There’s not a lot of dialogue, but that’s not all that a screenplay does. This film has tremendous heart and makes its characters real people. I stand by Tati being a comedic genius, and I stand by the idea that this film is proof of that fact.

Final Analysis


  1. I'm not sure I could trust the judgment of anybody who wouldn't pick Mr. Hulot's Holiday out of this batch of screenplays.

    1. Well, sure...but there are other possibilities beyond the nominations.

  2. Replies
    1. I always get such grief when I talk about Tati...

  3. Interrupted Melody won this! Why? How? How did it even get nominated, it took Marjorie Lawrence's compelling real life crisis and made a slog of it. Especially shocking when the far superior, better constructed and much more involving Love Me or Leave Me came out the same year and was also an original screenplay so it should have been here instead.

    Out of these five it should have been Mr. Hulot which I didn't love, I liked it but having only seen it a few years ago I think all the lavish praise I heard prior to watching set me up for an experience the film didn't deliver, but of these five it's by far the best.

    I like all your suggestions, all are better than 4/5ths of what made it in and I'd probably chose Smiles on a Summer Night in an open field even though it's not a Bergman that I love. Aside from Love Me or Leave Me (which had the Code allowed the more corrosive aspects of the lead pair's relationship to be shown might have been my winner) I'd add Killer's Kiss as a viable alternative.

    1. I don't know how Interrupted Melody won. The only parts of the film I liked at all were the singing bits. Everything else felt like a fever dream of a 14-year-old girl.

      I do genuinely like Mr. Hulot's Holiday, though.

  4. Sign me on as Tati fan. This should have been an easy win for him.

    1. So happy to hear it. My memory of talking about Tati is that I feel like his lone defender.