And the Nominees Were — 1938
Austin Lugar, Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones started a podcast called And the Nominees Are. On this show they are attempting to review every single Best Picture nominee starting from the very beginning. Here, Austin recaps the plot summaries of each set while teasing the longer discussions.
We had a bit of a hiatus for several reasons, but now we’re back talking about the films of 1938. The films are becoming bigger. The next year will be full of epics, but this one continued to push the medium into new heights. Sometimes for good, sometimes not.
“The Adventures of Robin Hood”
This remains the most popular film from 1938, as it should. It’s everybody on their A-game — Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, Michael Curtiz directing, the amazing Technicolor. This remains a very fun family film that did something other Robin Hood films forgot to do: actually be fun. It holds up very well today.
“Alexander’s Ragtime Band”
This is another musical that is more interested in showing the music than the story. It’s about an up-and-coming ragtime band that becomes more and more popular as ragtime becomes the defining sound of the times. Love triangles and conflicst arise in the group, and there are a lot of ragtime songs. One of the few fun elements is seeing a young Don Ameche and a young Ethel Merman.
It really just isn’t the Academy Awards if Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney don’t eventually show up. Together, they made a charming coming-of-age movie. Tracy is Father Flanagan, who believes in all boys, especially the wrongdoers. He makes a special place for them where they can take care of each other and stay out of trouble.
Oh, another medical biopic. This one is too similar to the others we have watched thus far. Robert Donat is a young doctor examining medicine in a new way. He changes locations, he faces opposition, yadda yadda. This has all been done too many times before. Not even Rosalind Russell and Rex Harrison can spice this up.
This is another “Little Women”-like plotline, but there are some surprising aspects to this one. Everybody has their romantic plotlines, and the film can’t really juggle them all but a few things shine. There are some good romantic moments in this, and John Garfield does a great job with a fascinating character that really changes up the dynamic of the plot.
This is one of few foreign films to be nominated for Best Picture and it really deserved the trophy. So much has been said about Jean Renoir’s masterpiece. This is one that can really be enjoyed by all. It’s about a group of French soldiers sent to a German POW camp. They think the war is only going to last a few more weeks, but once more and more time has passed they decide they need to escape. Exciting filmmaking.
William Wyler remains one of the directors to keep an eye on. Sometimes he can add a lot to a movie, like “Dodsworth,” or his attempts fall a little short, as in “Dead End.” This one is a bit of a mixture. Bette Davis plays a Southern woman who decides to challenge the system by wearing a red dress to the ball. The rest of the movie deals with the ramifications, especially from the love of her life, Henry Fonda.
The musical version, “My Fair Lady,” has become more common nowadays, but it all started with a really great play. The playwright, George Bernard Shaw, also coined this screenplay, which remains incredibly clever and fun while also being a little dark. It’s about Professor Henry Higgins, who decides to teach flower girl Eliza Doolittle how to speak like a proper English woman. Great performances really make this worth watching.
Up in the sky, it’s … melodrama! Clark Gable is a test pilot who loves being in the mix of danger. He falls in love with the wonderful Myrna Loy but still continues his risky career despite protests from her and his best friend, played by Spencer Tracy. The story and the flying scenes aren’t the best but there are a few good moments sprinkled in between.
“You Can’t Take It With You” – WINNER
Frank Capra could do no wrong at this point, and his films continue to be successful and adored. This isn’t one of his all-time bests, but it’s very solid. Lionel Barrymore is the kind old man who runs a house where people can be what they want. They won’t listen to any suits or taxman! James Stewart is the son of a businessman who wants to marry Jean Arthur, a woman who lives in the big house. It’s very fun and charming. This is one of the few comedies ever to win Best Picture.
We discuss these movies with a lot more detail on our show And the Nominees Are, as well as discussing the other awards from 1938. This set was covered over two episodes, both of which can be found for free on iTunes. We’d love it if you left us a review! Our show is also on Facebook and Twitter and our brand new website.
If you’d like to play along with us, the next 10 films for 1939 are “Dark Victory,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” “Love Affair,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Ninotchka,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Stagecoach,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Wuthering Heights.”