Friday, February 27, 2015

The 1939 Fisti Awards

[Images May Be Enlarged by Clicking on Them]

1939.  This is a year that is considered by many to be the greatest in all of cinematic history.  It's the year that brought us many cinematic treasures and the year that has brought us one particular film that is often touted as the greatest cinematic achievement of all time; Gone with the Wind.  One of the first things you'll notice as you view the Fistis for this year is that, well, Gone with the Wind is not a Best Picture nominee.  In fact, it's not even in my top twelve of the year.  Many are going to balk at this, especially when they see some of the films on that list, but Gone with the Wind is a film that I admire more than I love, a film that has never rested on me as a brilliant film; a good one, not a great one, and more of a spectacle for the eyes than the mind.  I do not expect everyone to agree with me, but that is why personal awards are so important, because this helps us articulate our own feelings on film.  I love this year.  It's so rich with a wide range of themes and emotions, and it represents why classic film is so, well, classic.  So, without any further explanation, I present to you the Fisti Awards for 1939!

Awards Tally

[5 Wins]
The Wizard of Oz

[3 Wins]
Gone with the Wind

[2 Wins]
Beau Geste
Le Jour se Leve
The Rules of the Game

[1 Win]
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Roaring Twenties


  1. It seems like you've gotten rid of your commentary underneath the nominees. Any particular reason?

    1. There are actually a few reasons, the biggest being that condensing my presentation in this way allowed me to make edits easier if I desired to do so. There are times when I finish a particular year and then, a year or two later have seen a movie I feel should have been included. Eliminating all the commentary allows for an easier editing process. It's also a time thing. The commentary takes a while to get done, and so there have been times when the awards and images were complete for 2+ weeks before I was able to post them because I never had time to write out all the commentary. I'm sad to see it go, but I feel like it was the best choice for me going forward.

  2. Some great choices. It was such an amazing year and there is such a quantity to pick from.

    I would be one of those who would choose GWTW but I know feelings on it vary. I'm not crazy for Wellman's direction of Beau Geste but my choice is one of your noms, Victor Fleming for Wizard of Oz.

    With the acting categories it's almost an embarrassment of riches. For instance except for Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith all my nominees for best actor would be different with Clark Gable as my winner-he and Rhett Butler are a perfect meeting of actor and part. But all your picks are awesome, I particularly like the Brian Aherne nod, he was brilliant in the otherwise turgid Juarez

    I would have included Jean Arthur in my picks and Vivien Leigh too as my winner but Bette Davis in Dark Victory, Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights and Myrna Loy in The Rains Came would be my actress lineup.

    Love all your actors in supporting but aside from Thomas Mitchell-who had an incredible year in '39, my choices would different with Lon Chaney, Jr. taking the prize for Of Mice and Men.

    Love that you chose Gladys George in The Roaring Twenties! She's so brilliant in it and would be my runner up but I'd pick Kay Francis's phenomenal work in In Name Only. You know it was a strong year when iconic performances from Olivia de Havilland and Margaret Hamilton end up as also rans!

    I'm in awe that you do that tech awards, I'd never have the patience but one thing that caught my eye was that in best song Judy Garland was involved with each one in some way! Probably just a coincidence, though Over the Rainbow was written especially for her. This was the year she really broke through and I think it shows how respected her talent was that the best material was funneled her way.

    1. YAY! I was awaiting your comment :-D

      Gone with the Wind is a very good movie, but it's one that has never really rested as a great film with me. The second half pales so much compared to the first that I just can't love it, but I understand the love many have for it. It's a spectacle, for sure.

      I just loved Beau Geste. I felt like it was a stunning adventure/war film, and such a richly told character piece as well.

      The acting categories were so rich. I didn't like Gable at all in GWTW, I'll be honest...I found him the film's weakest link. I also thought he was Supporting. Aherne was truly wonderful in a film that was pretty awful. I haven't seen The Rains Came. It was on my DVR for a while and I think I deleted it on accident. Now I wish I'd seen it.

      Francis was my #6! I almost nominated her over Best, but I just LOVE was Best did was such a cliched stock role. George is, without question, my favorite of the year.

      Garland really had a wonderful year in 1939.

    2. I love The Rains Came even though some of it is dated and borderline absurd, Tyrone Power as an Indian(!?). It was the first winner of an Oscar for special effects and a well earned one it is. It's no surprise that Myrna Loy is terrific but her role of a society tramp redeemed by love was an unusual one for her. The real eye opener is George Brent giving the only performance I've ever seen of his that was worthy of any sort of award recognition. He certainly wouldn't have been my winner but he's worthy of a nomination. Perhaps it's because for a change he has a role where he's required to do more than stand there while Davis, Stanwyck or Ann Sheridan steamroll right over him.

      That's so cool that Kay Francis is your #6. She is so fantastic in In Name Only, a movie whose obscurity puzzles me. It's a good film with that star heavy cast of Cary Grant(who alone should raise its profile), Carole Lombard and Kay that was a big hit. It's lack of availability and renown is odd, though they have been showing it more on TCM lately.

      It's a shame this didn't revitalize Francis's career, in fact it was almost the end of it. She had fought with Warners where she had been top dog before Bette Davis came along and they effectively blackballed her. She got the role in In Name Only because her close friend Carole Lombard used her influence to fight for her. After this she bounced from studio to studio eventually in lesser and lesser projects ending up at the poverty row Monogram for three cheapies after which she slipped into a life of alcoholism and seclusion. Part of it might have been her choice as well since she was heavily involved in war work, touring with Martha Raye, Carole Landis and Mitzi Mayfair near the front lines with a show called Four Jills in a Jeep of which a film version was made. That film is not great but a fun piece of propaganda. Still it's too bad, she would have made a great noir villainess but by the time noir came into vogue she was through in films.

      One note-did you realize that's a picture of Ingrid Bergman above Edna Best's name for Intermezzo.

    3. Good lord, that's embarrassing. I just corrected that. I had pulled images for both, because I was debating nominating Bergman, and I don't know how I mixed them up without noticing. Whoops!

      And In Name Only is so good. It's sad to me that it is so little known.

      As per always, your knowledge of Old Hollywood astounds me.

  3. Love the thoroughness and passion you've shown in this project!
    Here, for what it's worth, are my 1939 choices in the acting categories:
    HENRY FONDA "Drums Along the Mohawk"
    LOUIS HAYWARD "The Man in the Iron Mask"
    CHARLES LAUGHTON "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
    TYRONE POWER "Second Fiddle"
    JAMES STEWART "Destry Rides Again"

    Clark Gable "Gone with the Wind"
    Tyrone Power "Day-time Wife"
    Basil Rathbone "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" "

    JEAN ARTHUR "Only Angels Have Wings"
    BETTE DAVIS "Juarez"
    JUDY GARLAND "The Wizard of Oz"
    VIVIEN LEIGH "Gone with the Wind"
    CAROLE LOMBARD "Made for Each Other"

    Runners Up:
    Madeleine Carroll "Honeymoon in Bali"
    Claudette Colbert "Drums Along the Mohawk"
    Linda Darnell "Day-time Wife"
    Bette Davis "The Old Maid"
    Irene Dunne "Love Affair"
    Judy Garland "Babes in Arms"
    Ida Lupino "The Light That Failed"
    Merle Oberon "Over the Moon"
    Maureen O'Hara "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"

    BRIAN AHERNE "Juarez"
    LIONEL ATWILL "Son of Frankenstein"
    SIR CEDRIC HARDWICKE "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
    DONALD MEEK "Blondie Takes a Vacation"
    EUGENE PALLETTE "First Love"

    Runner Up:
    Roman Bohnen "Of Mice and Men"
    Henry Brandon "The Marshal of Mesa City"
    Walter Connolly "Fifth Avenue Girl"
    Robert Douglas "Over the Moon"
    Henry Fonda "Jesse James"
    Sydney Grenville "The Mikado"
    Seymour Hicks "Young Man's Fancy"
    Roger Imhof "Drums Along the Mohawk"
    J. Farrell MacDonald "Susannah of the Mounties"
    Donald Meek "Stagecoach"
    George McLeod "the Saint in London"
    Joseph Schildkraut "The Man in the Iron Mask"
    George Zucco "the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"

    OLIVIA de HAVILLAND "Gone with the Wind"
    MARGARET HAMILTON "The Wizard of Oz"
    HATTIE McDANIEL "Gone with the Wind"
    HELEN PARRISH "First Love"
    LUCILE WATSON "Made for Each Other"

    Runners Up:
    Sheila Bromley "Waterfront"
    Jane Bryan "Invisible Stripes"
    Billie Burke "Remember?"
    Kay Francis "In Name Only"
    Irene Hervey "Destry Rides Again"
    Martita Hunt "Young Man's Fancy"
    Ursula Jeans "Over the Moon"
    Kay Johnson "The Real Glory"
    Butterfly McQueen "Gone with the Wind"
    Edna May Oliver "Drums Along the Mohawk"
    June Preisser "Babes in Arms"
    Verree Teasdale "Fifth Avenue Girl"

    I haven't seen "Intermezzo" in decades but your spirited praise of Edna Best has me thinking I should watch it again. Hopefully something on my list might intrigue you too. As for "Juarez", I'm generally comfortable sticking with the categories the Academy members picked. They had Aherne in supporting. So do I. And I think - if they'd chosen to nominate Davis for it - her billing and star status would have led them to enter her as a lead.

    1. Thank you so much for the comment, and all the suggested viewing! I always think I have a year covered and then someone comes along and suggests films I've never even heard of. It's hard to cover a lot of these years so thoroughly, relying on TCM and Netflix and so many of these films don't even have DVD releases, so that makes it even harder.

      Best is truly wonderful. I hope you give it a rewatch. The film is quite good as well.

      For me, Davis is Supporting in Juarez, but I'm pretty sure they would have pushed her Lead due to her status as an actress at the time. Still, with my awards, I allow myself to decide who goes where.

      Thank you so much for reading. I'm going to try and post a new ballot every Friday, so be on the lookout for those :-D

  4. I appreciate GWTW but it is not my favourite although I still would give Vivien Leigh the best Actress because she played a part that every actress wanted and few could do and she was in almost every scene. It is hard to make Scarlet "likable" but she seems to pull it off so, even though I adore Jean Arthur-Vivien still gets my vote. I would have given Fleming the Best Director for having to be on 2 huge films with major problems (David O anyone??). I love Jimmy Stewart and he is in one of my favourite films (Mr. Smith) but I would have given the award to Charles Laughton. His acting is a tour de force and he put such pathos into his part. I have not seen The Roaring 20's but I am glad the Olivia De Havilland did not win because I can't stand that character. I would be like Scarlett and I thought she was so sickeningly sweet i was going to get a toothache. I did like Hattie McDaniel in the part and felt she kept the family together.

    1. NO!!! De Havilland is my favorite aspect of GWTW!!! She's so good in that. Vivien is great, but I wanted to smack the hell out of her character by the end.


      Laughton was extremely good in Hunchback.

    2. OK I will smack Melonhead and you can smack Scarlett:) and then we can both smack David O Selznick:)

  5. Great post! I grew up in an era without VCRs -- we waited ALL YEAR to see The Wizard of Oz. It was probably the 3rd biggest event of my year, after Christmas and my birthday. Therefore I love it, now and forever. (My brother and I were surprised that our kids found it underwhelming.)

    I liked GwtW, but I have no desire to see it again. I agree with the last commenter, that Leigh did so much with that role. As Birgit said, she didn't make her character likable (and she wasn't supposed to), but viewers do grow to have some respect for Scarlet.

    1. I'm pretty sure that no one will agree with my Leigh loss here, but she does get my vote in 1951!

  6. I LOVE Jean Arthur in Mr. Smith..., but that feels like such a supporting performance to me. Kind of surprised that the only member of the brilliant cast of The Women who you nominated was Joan Crawford. Love her, but I would easily nominate Rosalind Russell in Supporting Actress for that film as well.

    I get the love for Gone With the Wind, and I'd probably have voted for it for BP were I voting back then as it's such an astonishing production overall. But the character of Scarlett is so frustrating that I have trouble connecting to it. That said, I think Leigh is brilliant in the part and she would easily get my win for Best Actress. It's not an easy part to play and while the character is maddening, Leigh makes it clear she has Scarlett pretty pegged, and plays every line just right.

    This is a super impressive undertaking. I'm in awe.

    1. Thanks Daniel!

      I've heard a lot of people say they felt Arthur was Supporting, but I always found her the heart and soul of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It's one of my favorite comedic performances, and it also introduced me to her as an actress, so I'm a bit partial.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Not sure why you deleted your comment, but I read the email notification :-D

      Yeah, those are the three biggies most remember from this year (GWTW, Wizard and Mr. Smith), and as you can see, my personal wins mostly go to Wizard and GWTW, which are visual delights.

      I hope you do dig into the year's so rich!

  8. Love the new design! The tallies are a great idea as well. I still need to see about 10 of the nominated films, but I've caught all the major players.

    Great to see those two wins for Renoir, as well as Beau Geste. Your acting picks are awesome! I nominate all of your winners. :)

    1. Yeah, the tallies were a last minute decision, but I'm glad I went with them.