Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top 10 Overlooked Films of Oscar's Great Year

The Roaring Twenties starred Bogart and Cagney, but was overlooked.

1939 is generally regarded as the finest year at the Academy Awards, with a solid Best Picture lineup (of ten films, no less) and Gone with the Wind dominating the awards ceremony. I've watched several films in preparation for a 1939 CinSpec Awards update, and the Academy managed to leave out some great movies that year. Since my personal Best Picture lineup hasn't changed, it won't spoil anything before my awards update to highlight some of the best films the Academy left out.

Note: My #1 and #8 choices weren’t actually eligible that year, but they were still ignored by the Academy.

10. The Hound of the Baskervilles (dir. Sidney Lanfield)

9. Hollywood Cavalcade (dir. Irving Cummings)

8. Le Jour Se Leve (dir. Marcel Carné)

7. In Name Only (dir. John Cromwell)

6. Port of Shadows (dir. Marcel Carné)

5. Dodge City (dir. Michael Curtiz)

4. The Roaring Twenties (dir. Raoul Walsh)

3. Destry Rides Again (dir. George Marshall)

2. Midnight (dir. Mitchell Leisen)

1. The Rules of the Game (dir. Jean Renoir)


  1. YASSS! So glad to see love for Midnight and Le Jour Se Leve and Hollywood Cavalcade and In Name Only!!! This was such a great year. Can't wait for those CinSpec updates!

    1. This year was SO good! And the Oscars still left out some great ones!

  2. Well I haven't seen Le Jour se Leve and The Rules of the Game is very near the top of my queue so I can't speak to them yet but all the others are great films, glad to see you throwing a spotlight on them.

    You know I LOVE In Name Only and the trio of lead performances. Considering that those three were among the biggest stars of their day and Cary Grant still has a lot of cache added in with the quality of the picture it really is surprising how little known it is now.

    Dodge City might just be my favorite Flynn picture, I think if it had come out any other year it would have been much more acclaimed although it does have a big reputation among Western fans. If you ignore his totally out of place accent I also think it's one of Errol's best pieces of work.

    Love The Roaring Twenties as well and if Cagney and Bogart hadn't been such strong presences Gladys George would have stolen the whole picture, though she does a pretty good job of that even against the other two. Plus I've always had a weak spot for Priscilla Lane. She wasn't monumentally talented but she was a pleasing presence who definitely had something. Walsh does a great job of keeping the picture compelling while keeping it moving at a good clip.

    Destry and Midnight have their champions and they are terrific films but what really delights me is the appearance of Hollywood Cavalcade on this list! Alice Faye movies often get a bad rep seen as merely shiny junk, and some are, but some like this one are just loaded with wonders and of course that eye popping Technicolor.

    1. In Name Only is a wonderful little film. It could've just been lost in the shuffle of a great year. A shame, really.

      Yeah, Dodge City is great. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

      The Roaring Twenties is underrated as well. Such a fine gangster film. I've always liked Priscilla Lane, too, especially her performance in Arsenic and Old Lace.

      Hollywood Cavalcade is a lot of fun, and Faye is terrific in it. The film would make a good double feature with Singin' in the Rain.

    2. Yea another Priscilla Lane fan!! She's a lot of fun in her frazzled befuddlement in Arsenic, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

      I've never been overly fond of the films she made with her sisters, they're a bit precious, although Four Daughters is good because of John Garfield swooping in and totally blowing everyone else off the screen.

      Although many of her films are mediocre fodder I do love her in Saboteur, the one film that will prevent her from being forgotten, Dust be My Destiny and the odd noir Blues in the Night.

      Have you seen that last one? It's full of great music, one of the musicians in the itinerant band is played by Elia Kazan in one of his few acting roles and the woman that Priscilla plays is named Character. There's another member of the band named Jigger too!

      Avoid at all costs Love, Honor and Behave it's a vile thing that holds physical violence, including against your mate, up as something to aspire to.

    3. I really liked Four Daughters and Saboteur, though I'm not as familiar with Lane's work. I need to see Blues in the Night.

      I remember you mentioning Love, Honor and Behave once....I'll skip it.

  3. I also meant to say how nuts is it that Kay Francis was denied a nomination!? Both the GWTW actresses are solid nods as is Geraldine Fitzgerald in Wuthering Heights although I could see her being bumped for other work but despite the fact I'm a fan of both Edna May Oliver and Maria Ouspenskaya neither of their roles merit acknowledgement.

    Especially not when Kay, Gladys George, Margaret Hamilton, and both Mary Boland and Rosalind Russell in The Women were left waiting in the wings.

    1. Francis deserved a nomination, but I wonder if so many contenders cancelled each other out. Or maybe the Academy were just lazy in their voting.

  4. Of those films, I've only watched Rules of a Game.Keen to see Destry Rides Again, Port of Shadows and The Roaring Twenties. It really was a great year for cinema.

    1. Very interesting group of films. I highly recommend them.