Friday, April 10, 2020

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Original Screenplay 1945

The Contenders:

Marie-Louise (winner)
Music for Millions
Salty O’Rourke
What Next, Corporal Hargrove?

What’s Missing

It hasn’t happened often, but it does happen. There’s not a single nomination in this category that I actually liked that much. I disliked two of these movies a great deal and didn’t love the other three, so I’m going to clearly be unenthusiastic about anything I put at the top. Truthfully, at least for the movies I’ve seen, there’s not a lot here to put in place of the nominations. My first choice, Children of Paradise, got its nominations the following year. I could see a lot of people wanting I Know Where I’m Going! here, and while I don’t love that movie, it’s probably better than the choices we have. Three potential choices, Detour, Christmas in Connecticut, and Rome, Open City are all based on stories that might be published (making them ineligible) or not (making them eligible). I’d be willing to change the rules for this sorry collection to make them eligible, though.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I disliked Music for Millions a great deal. It’s unbelievably sappy, and I think the message that we ultimately get here (because of the desperate need for this to reach a happy ending) is actually dangerous. This film actually made me angry, and all of that comes from the plot. In fact, for my money, the only reasons to watch this film are the talents of Jose Iturbi and the fact that Jimmy Durante really was a hell of a showman. In terms of story, there’s nothing here worth seeing at all.

4. Next off the list is What Next, Corporal Hargrove, or the second of these movies that you’ve probably never heard of. The biggest problem with this movie, other than the fact that it’s not that good and not that funny for a comedy, is that it has no idea what it really wants to be. It’s a comedy and a war film and potentially a romance, and just about everything else. This is a movie that wants to be everything for everyone, and thus (as generally happens) ends up being not much of anything for anyone. It’s disappointing.

3. With Salty O’Rourke, we have another movie where the issues are going to be almost entirely from the nominated screenplay. The central romance here is one that happens specifically because the plot requires the romance to happen. The characters in question would never become a romantic item. That’s an issue when it’s the central focus of the film. Salty O’Rourke is incredibly difficult to find. I searched for it for about five years before I got a copy of it, and it was definitely not worth the wait.

2. I didn’t like Dillinger very much, but I didn’t hate it, either. Once again, the biggest issue I have with the movie comes from the nominated screenplay. In this case, that’s a cobbled and forced romance plot, since evidently we needed to have a romance in pretty much every movie from this era. But it is a case where the performances, particularly that of Lawrence Tierney, are the main reason to watch this. Something like Scarface: The Shame of a Nation or even I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang would be better choices, as would anything in the Little Caesar/Public Enemy line.

1. What this means is, that given the lackluster collection of nominations that we have, I’m going to go with the actual winner, if I’m limited to these five. The truth is that I didn’t really like Marie-Louise that much, but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. So much of what I ended up seeing in this movie had to be figured out as well as I could, because I couldn’t find a copy of this with English subtitles. That means I lost a great deal of the story here. The fact that I liked it as well as I did compared with the rest of the nominations indicates that it might actually be a movie worthy of the win.

My Choice

But I have to stick with what I have in terms of what I have seen, but I’m not limited to our five nominations if I don’t want to be. Rome, Open City is probably the best movie from the collection I suggested above, and it’s at the very least the most important of those movies. I do love Christmas in Connecticut as well, even if it’s a bit predictable. Still, it’s at least good fun.

Final Analysis


  1. I haven't seen Marie-Louise so I can't comment on its win but I can sympathize with the difficulty of watching a film in a language you don't speak. I don't do it very often at all but if you really want to see something sometimes you have to do it. I finally found my final Linda Darnell film I'd been searching decades for called Donne Proibite (Angels of Darkness) but only in its original undubbed Italian (which I do not speak) version, I didn't care I was watching that film! Fortunately the plot was pretty easy to follow (and time worn-about the problems of a group of ladies of the pavement) and as a bonus the cast include Valentina Cortese, Guiletta Masina and Anthony Quinn!! So it was a win-win but it did require a different kind of concentration from normal movie viewing.

    Anyway back to this lot. I share your less than enthusiastic feeling for the other four, at least in terms of being Oscar nomination worthy. Though I think I liked three of them more than you I don't see them as deserving of any sort of award recognition. But Music for Millions is a glugfest despite Iturbi & Durante's skill. I like June Allyson too but they made her such a simp she adds nothing to the movie either.

    I can't even say who I think should have won out of the three that I sort of liked.

    It seems like a thin year for original screenplays but there were enough to make up a stronger five than this although even there only three are ones I fully endorse! My list would run this way and in this order:

    Christmas in Connecticut
    Pardon My Past
    I Know Where I'm Going! (I don't love the film but it's screenplay is a hell of a lot better than what's actually nominated)
    Shady Lady

    I'd love to include Rome, Open City but it competed the next year since it didn't make it stateside until 1946. So with what I'd rather was there I'd absolutely go with Christmas in Connecticut. Love that movie!

    1. I wouldn't have a problem with Christmas in Connecticut winning. I like the movie even if it's exactly what you expect it to be and the story is exactly what you know it's going to be. It's a great example of the style and the basic story. It's not charming in spite of itself; it's actually charming.

  2. The only one that is mildly defensible is Children of Paradise, which was nominated the following year.