Classic Hollywood: Righting Oscar’s wrongs
Every cinéaste has a list of films and performers they wish would have won Academy Awards, or even been nominated. But tastes were often different during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and what was considered superb back then might seem dated and creaky these days. Whereas, numerous films that were overlooked for awards in their day have since been embraced by critics, historians and film buffs.
So, on the eve of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, Classic Hollywood tries to make up for past mistakes — or at least reward deserving films — with our own retro film awards. Let’s call them the Classics. Here are our picks for films and performers that should have won.
The Classics: Best Films
Charlie Chaplin had been nominated for the first Academy Awards in the lead acting and comedy direction categories for 1928’s “The Circus.” Those nominations were withdrawn, however, when the Board of Governors gave him a special award for the comedy. But three years later, his beloved masterpiece, which finds the Little Tramp trying to earn money to help a blind flower girl, was totally neglected.
“The Shop Around the Corner”
The great Ernst Lubitsch directed this delightful 1940 romantic comedy, which was totally ignored by the Oscars. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play feuding clerks at a gift shop who don’t know they are having a romantic pen-pal relationship. The comedy moves like a dream — the script is delicate and subtle, and the performances are sublime.
“Singin’ in the Rain”
Widely considered the best movie musical ever made, this sophisticated, funny and beautifully performed 1952 spoof of the early sound era only managed nominations for supporting actress for Jean Hagen and for scoring of a motion picture. Sit back and enjoy Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s innovative direction, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s flawless script and those musical numbers, including Kelly’s dancing in the rain and Donald O’ Connor’s astonishing “Make ‘Em Laugh.”
The Classics: Lead Actor
Humphrey Bogart “In a Lonely Place”
Bogart would finally win his Oscar for 1951’s “The African Queen,” but he deserves a Classic for his brave, disturbing turn in this 1950 film noir directed by Nicholas Ray. He plays a screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper who is accused of murdering a young woman.
Laurence Olivier “Carrie”
Olivier, who made 1939’s “Wuthering Heights” with William Wyler, reunited with the director for this dour, little-known 1952 drama based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel “Sister Carrie.” Olivier gives a revelatory performance as a married manager of a Chicago restaurant who loses everything when he falls in love with a young woman (Jennifer Jones). Olivier, who won his only lead actor Oscar for 1948’s “Hamlet,” doesn’t need dialogue — his finest moments are just close-ups of his face.
Kirk Douglas “Ace in the Hole”
Nobody could play the callous, ambitious jerk like Douglas. In Billy Wilder’s cynical 1951 drama, Douglas gives his greatest performance as a disgraced big-city reporter working for a small newspaper in Albuquerque. Douglas has been nominated for three Academy Awards, but not for this dark drama.
The Classics: Lead Actress
Judy Garland “A Star Is Born”
In 1955, everyone thought the lead actress Oscar was Garland’s, but the award went to Grace Kelly for “The Country Girl.” The lavish “Star” — produced by Garland’s then-husband, Sid Luft, and directed by George Cukor — was her comeback role. Garland doesn’t give a false note in this Hollywood tale of love and loss.
Bette Davis “The Letter”
Davis earned 10 nominations and won two Academy Awards. But she was never better than in her wickedly delicious Oscar-nominated turn in William Wyler’s 1940 version of the Somerset Maugham melodrama. She plays the bored, manipulative wife of a milquetoast rubber plantation administrator (Herbert Marshall).
Barbara Stanwyck “Double Indemnity”
Stanwyck earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Wilder’s crackling 1944 adaptation of the James M. Cain novel. Though the Oscar eluded her, Stanwyck receives the Classic as the ultimate femme fatale who proves to be the downfall of a weak-willed insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray, also never better).
This Oscar-winning British actor and heartthrob was one of the first eight stars chosen for the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which were unveiled Aug. 15, 1958 at Hollywood and Highland.
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