Looking Back at Oscar, #9

For the next LBaO feature, we’re looking back at the Picture + acting Oscar nominees of the year 1936:

Anthony Adverse
Come and Get It
Dodsworth
General Died at Dawn
Gorgeous Hussy
Great Ziegfeld
Libeled Lady
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
My Man Godfrey
Pigskin Parade
Romeo and Juliet
San Francisco
Story of Louis Pasteur
Tale of Two Cities
Theodora Goes Wild
These Three
Three Smart Girls
Valiant is the Word for Carrie

For my full length reviews of the following films, click here to see my Top 20 of the year post:
Dodsworth
Libeled Lady
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
My Man Godfrey

Now for the rest! I did give a few of the following films some positive attention in my 1936 Year in Review post.

Anthony Adverse
Even at the time, the Academy’s massive embrace of Anthony Adverse for the very first Academy Awards where Supporting roles were a part of the acting category was noted as an odd decision, yet the victory in four out of seven categories wound up happening for reasons unknown, most notably with the very first winner of my favorite category in Gale Sondergaard’s scheming social climber named, inappropriately, Faith. There is definitely something amusing to be gained from an arc of a rich girl’s servant scheming her way into a marriage to a nobleman (get it girl), but rather than making us root for and against her, we see mostly generic vamping villainy over the course of her scenes in a long, two hours and change movie. Thank goodness she decided she did not want to play The Wicked Witch of the West once she got priority dibs on the part. It is a summary of the work as a whole, which is an epic melodrama with a confused plot. It feels a little like Erich von Stroheim’s movies without the commentary or the visual luster (although it must be said that it looks quite good, with some of the exteriors feeling like they have a touch of German Expressionism in a story that really only calls out for it in the occasional SHOCKING plot turn). Everything is a tangent in this, with a whopping forty minutes devoted to Fredric March’s leading man spending too much time in Africa and Cuba just for the purposes of separating him from the woman he loves. Everything in Anthony Adverse falls into the realm of “occasionally inspired.” March occasionally makes his leading man not so generic. Sondergaard manages to get in some great line readings later on even if most of her development is just tittering over how she is ever so wicked. On occasion, the narrative turns are weird and inspired. But in the end, the bulk of it is a parade of exposition and title cards surrounding the material that would seem juicier to any sort of screenwriter, with banging music playing above it all to really manipulate the saps who paid for this. I did not mention Olivia de Havilland in this entire writeup, and that is because she does not have anything to do other than look sad and in love. Her roles were always a bit frustrating outside of Captain Blood.

Come and Get It
My Brief Year in Review piece for Come and Get It: A mishmash of Hawks and Wyler where you can’t really tell who did what. Brennan an occasionally moving annoyance, but McCrea/Arnold and especially Farmer do great.

Howard Hawks. William Wyler. Richard Rosson?…well, anyway, two of the most well known and talented Hollywood directors and a footnote who did some very pretty logging scenes were responsible for adapting an Edna Ferber novel after an incredibly troubled production thanks to Samuel Goldwyn dipping in and out of involvement due to a sickness, a prospect which caused me to break out into nervous sweats by remembering the hamminess of Richard Dix in the dreadful Best Picture winner Cimarron, even with the much more reliable Joel McCrea and little known Jessica Lange subject Frances Farmer in the leading roles and Walter Brennan winning the first of three Oscars for Supporting Actor. Wyler would try and disown the project whenever he could, and Brennan’s Oscar is a mix of decent parts and moments that are a serious lowpoint for the category, with his attempt at playing a Swede resulting in an accent that sounds closer to “Muppet chef” than anyone further north of the Canadian border. Thankfully, when Farmer’s character shows up to seduce Edward Arnold’s character unsuccessfully, getting stuck with the annoying caricature of a Swedish person, and having a daughter who bears an uncanny resemblance to her and happens to be played by the same actress. As a Western melodrama, it is solid in all respects, with the transition between the two directors being far smoother than Wyler’s claims of the movie not belonging to him would have you think. Farmer’s the real star, with a real distinction between her parts and managing to overcome the ever present squawking of Brennan’s role (during a goddamn romantic scene with the lead, which shows that Hawks still did not quite get it yet-thankfully, he would finally hit the sweet spot when he got out of his brief stay in director jail for his next work) to carve out her own comic relief niche, stealing the show while being quieter about it. The distortion of the directorial visions is what really interests me, with neither portion really feeling like the work of a specific director even with history seeming to indicate that the first two-thirds are property of the original man in charge. The ending is an odd mixed bag anyway, so one has to wonder what we could have gotten if Goldwyn had remained ill for just a little while longer, and didn’t butcher the project in the editing room out of spite or some such thing. The broad strokes of the arc had potential.

General Died at Dawn
My Brief Year in Review piece for General Died at Dawn: Watch this on mute (especially with the sound issues) and enjoy the pretty pictures.

Lewis Milestone’s incredibly bizarre and inconsistent career resulted in one masterpiece (All Quiet on the Western Front) and a whole lot of movies that no one really cares about nowadays, but occasionally he would gain some traction, with The General Died at Dawn snapping up a Supporting Actor nomination for Akim Tamiroff as the titular character, named Yang (and yes, it is a yellowface part). With Gary Cooper and Madeleine Carroll as the leads (former is fine if plain, latter is unfortunately just there as eye candy and she succeeds), we are set to go on a journey through Asia involving intrigue and spies. Sounds like Shanghai Express, right? Well, no. The story involves the two leading people going off on a journey to kill the man who is overtaxing them and making their lives miserable, so there is that inevitable awkwardness, with the plot being an excuse to string together a bunch of nonsense about spies and international plots and double crossing each other. The script is Odets at his most overwritten, and the sound quite frequently sounds off, with faint echoes in a lot of scenes. Where this movie really shines is the cinematography. I cannot say if I am in love with every shot, since the story is so uneven, but everything is lit and shot so exquisitely that it feels like the black and white picture is in full color thanks to the many shades of gray we can get out of something as simple as some villagers walking by. Even gimmicks such as a white billiard ball and doorknob connection, or the use of a split screen to answer questions Cooper has on the characters, are brilliantly weird. Just watch this on mute and enjoy 90 minutes of gorgeous vistas, but if you must watch it with the sound on, write me a thesis on how weird Milestone’s career was. I wound up liking this despite not expecting to, but things get hideous once Tamiroff’s awful performance enters the fray and he ends up showing his ass as a racist. Everyone was back then, but this is pretty close to the same neighborhood as Mickey Rooney’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s nightmare of a shrieking caricature. At least the score and cinematography rightly got their due with nominations of their own, and I would have remained ignorant to their merits had it not been for the attention in the acting realm.

Gorgeous Hussy
My eleventh grade history teacher was a fairly young looking man (I assume he was in his thirties, since he was married and had a child, but he looked younger) with a terrifying bass voice who had a few quirks, namely his obsession with Last of the Mohicans (meh) and his absolute hatred of Andrew Jackson outside of the Broadway musical based on his life that essentially pointed out he was a racist genocidal psychopath determined to have his way, and damn the will of the people. With the knowledge that yes, this was accurate, and he was fucking awful, I came into The Gorgeous Hussy (what a beautifully dated title) with some trepidation, even with Joan Crawford in the leading role of Peggy, especially knowing that this essentially romanticized the real infidelities of a total asshole. Is anyone going to be making a film giving Donald Trump a free pass for his inevitable cheating on Melania? (Don’t answer that, I’m genuinely terrified it exists.) To be fair, the wife is not irrelevant in this, with Beulah Bondi getting the first ever nomination for Supporting Actress if you go down the list alphabetically, and spending much of her time appearing to be the old cliche of an unattractive folksy old lady who secretly gives great advice. Bondi’s performance deserves props for making it clear that Rachel Jackson is a rather simple woman without turning her into an idiot savant as the script no doubt wants, but she also relies on tics and standbys, and her line deliveries don’t have much variation in a way that does not really add to the goings on with the controversy over her husband marrying her before she got divorced. She eventually lets Peggy take her husband from her because she is dying, but her subplot deserves props for being the least absurd. Crawford’s role is her taking on the states rights crowd, but she has to utter nonsense, even if it’s enjoyable in a cheap way thanks to some nice photography work (the only nominations were Bondi’s and the cinematography). The worst lines are physically painful (“I had no idea politics could be so exciting,” uttered by a man after an argument scene very early on, Crawford cheerfully saying she’ll trade her best slave), but most of the story is just dumb and zippy nonsense that is both charming and tedious in how it would never be made nowadays.

Great Ziegfeld
Watching The Great Ziegfeld all in one dose might not be the best idea, as it is all of three hours and does not shy away from letting you feel it. Sometimes when you see a picture that lasts this long, you get nonstop masterful work like in Robert Altman’s Nashville. Other times, you get Inarritu’s The Revenant and the complete lack of content other than Leonardo DiCaprio grunting and moaning his way through the snow in a deeply boring display of technical craft. This falls somewhere in the middle, with a humongous opening overture resulting in a lot of unneeded minutes before we finally start going into the story of Ziegfeld himself, played safely by William Powell in a performance that tellingly did not net a Best Actor nod, a man whose entire life seemed to revolve around his fucking horrible financial management. There is a whole lot of losing money, then getting it back, then losing it again going on here. Myrna Loy plays Billie Burke and sadly does not do an impersonation of Glinda the Good Witch due to this movie having the nerve to come out first. Luise Rainer straddles the Lead/Supporting line and wins her first of consecutive Oscars in a choice that has not aged well, with her acting consisting mostly of putting on a French accent that is frequently quite spotty (“OOOOH LAAAA LAAA!”). A literal hour goes by with the single most important musical number being someone shrieking “gallons of milk” when that causes a detour in the plot. Characters frequently make vaguely meta remarks about how there is not much occurring and they want to move on with the show. Roy Bolger, better known as the Scarecrow, does an absolutely amazing tap dancing performance (and they make a joke about him missing a…heart), but the film won the now retired Dance Direction Oscar for A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody, which mostly just features a twirling wedding cake and is preceded and followed by much better songs and dances, although it is admittedly the lushest in terms of details, with such an abundance of mise en scene in the staging that you could be lost for ages in trying to add up the costs for both the movie’s production team and Ziegfeld’s. It is a long and boring movie, but it also has more to recommend than some of the stronger ones.

Pigskin Parade
Pigskin Parade was one of the very first movies to get a Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards and nothing else, a dubious category. You can basically gauge the quality from that statement alone, along with the title being clear that this is a movie about football, one of many boring sports. But wait! It is Judy Garland’s feature film debut (only fifteen years old at the time), and it has Betty Grable before she became a famous pin up! Surely there is something to look forward to even if the story is the same old schlock about New England elitists facing off against idiot hillbillies from the South, with Stuart Erwin (category frauded, honestly) as a Texan who is a complete idiot but can throw balls like a champion…right? And maybe the running time will be entirely justified and not filled with nonsense? All right, you get where this joke is going, this movie is boring and not necessary at all. There is thankfully a plot that is just used as an excuse for Garland’s singing to pop up at plenty of opportunities, but none of this stuff is on the level of Somewhere Over the Rainbow or The Man That Got Away. The desperate enthusiasm that is so prevalent in the days of the Great Depression here comes off as manic and caffeinated rather than buoyant and charming, and the really creepy part is just how many middle aged men are attending this school as students. Where things become truly interesting and terrible at the same moment is in both the final game and a scene where a Communist (who is played hammily and with bugging out eyes, but still gets along fairly well with people) tries to sabotage the economy with a goddamned musical number themed around the glory of the hammer and the sickle. Kind of amazing. Shame that the main star of the story, Erwin’s character, got so badly outclassed by his sister even if she would go on to do and suffer far more memorable things than this little mediocrity. The numbers are cute and harmless, but I cannot say I felt like a happier person after watching them. Still, you could do worse for musicals this year, with Three Smart Girls’ opera torture making this come across as some kind of musical masterpiece with inspired dancing rather than passable in every respect that you could summon up.

Romeo and Juliet
This was the first time I allowed myself to get involved in an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet after a very critical moment for me in my understanding of the text. You see, I recently took a course entitled History of the English Language, and we had plenty of free reign for our final project. Mine was on the history of anthropomorphism in the language, but I saw a presentation which changed my life, with a girl talking about how this particular Shakespeare play changed the way we talk about love, and the speeches have entered pop culture…via such masterworks as (wait for it) GNOMEO AND JULIET. Beautiful. Who could forget the monologue focused on the divide of the red and blue hats before the Tiki Room song starts playing? What a beautiful twist on everything the Bard held dear. Truly masterful. No way could Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard top that! And they failed (the sarcasm just ended), but it was a noble effort on their parts. George Cukor later admitted he wished he was able to do the damn thing over again when interviewed, and it is hard to blame him when Howard and Shearer’s performances were made as they were in their thirties as opposed to teenagers, with Shearer only getting cast because of Irving Thalberg doing the casting in the first place. Still, compared to Basil Rathbone’s godawful take on Tybalt and John Barrymore hamming it up as yet another too old cast member, Mercutio, the two leads are merely bland looking. Publicly, this movie did not do well in the public eye, but prestige won out and it got into the Academy Awards (with Rathbone’s nomination in the premiere year of Supporting Actor as a category being among the most terrible choices they ever pulled out of their ass even in an overall lousy debut slate). All the wit is played with caricatures to really EMPHASIZE how funny it all is, but there is not much to be found, with everything looking and sounding tedious. What this needed more than anything was Cukor returning to this material with more experience and his consistency set straight, as he was not among the most consistent of talents until later in the decade, finally giving us Camille and The Women. For now, though, we must struggle our way into the days of mediocre prestige projects of a time long gone by.

San Francisco
My Brief Year in Review piece for San Francisco: A very good stupid disaster movie thanks to the ticking clock structure, but that also undoes it a bit.

There is something odd about how Clark Gable was able to endure in the cultural memory thanks to Gone With the Wind, yet Jeanette MacDonald, who probably had a far better track record in what movies she starred in and how good she was in them, and could sing to boot, is basically forgotten. San Francisco, at the time, was a pairing between two of the most popular stars of the age even though nowadays it looks unbalanced. (It also has Spencer Tracy as a priest trying to save souls thanks to the criminal influences running amok, to which I can only say: pass!) When the movie starts off, we are reminded of just when the infamous 1906 earthquake that brought the city down took place, and then we rewind to just before that, adding a ticking clock element as the romance proceeds and we know tragedy is inevitable. It also goes into “look at what kind of people would live in a brand new town like this” mode, but I would say this works more often than not. The bulk of everything leading up to this is Gable’s character looking for a new singer for his glamorous tacky hellhole of a nightclub while fending off the mob that he has a complicated relationship with, but she is too talented and classically trained to be anything other than an opera singer, and career feuds begin between the club and an opera house, while the director of The Thin Man shoots himself in the foot a little by foreshadowing the impending doom and destruction a little too much. Still, the earthquake that eventually happens is genuinely surprising as it shows up, and it is a marvel of visual effects and editing that feels blatantly borrowed from Eisenstein’s montage work in the Soviet Union, all quick cuts and incoherent craziness, not shying away in the least from the fact that a lot of people died in absolutely brutal ways. Take a hint, modern blockbusters and superhero movies. That ever shaking set and Gable’s performance, sort of a diet version of his work in It Happened One Night, are what make the film so reasonable for an oddly small Best Picture nominee. I wish it ended on a better note, with the Blackie character actually embracing his atheism, but I suppose that is too much to ask for something from this particular era.

Story of Louis Pasteur
You have no doubt seen this fucking biopic a million times before, and The Story of Louis Pasteur is an unexceptional entry to arguably the worst genre in the movies. The main claim to fame this might have, aside from focusing on vaccines rather than the pasteurization process of the title (probably a wise decision), is that it actually makes an attempt to explain the science, even if it is in the most basic of terms, rather than saying “too highbrow for the audience!” We even get some shots of germs boiling away beneath the body. The main asset this has it thankfully not coming across like a certain brand of annoying bro (hi The Martian) or Hollywood head who just views science as the most logical thing in the world and uses it as a substitute for anything they please just to keep it sanitized for the more religious types (read: idiots). Paul Muni won his Academy Award for this (possibly as compensation thanks to the write in campaign that gave him second in the prior award ceremony), but I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang and Scarface were a fluke once he discovered his true calling in playing people from real life and vaguely hamming it up under thick, disguising layers of makeup so that he really captured the person’s image (gag). Thankfully, this does not have his Swedish Chef accent, and he actually plays it straight albeit boring, delivering his explanations of how yes, germs can kill people despite the fact that they are tiny, with a straight face with some minor frustration mixed in. Nothing groundbreaking, but not offensively hammy as he could be. The ultimate problem here is that there is no tension to be found. Spoiler alert: rabies is caused by mad dogs and is, in fact, a disease! The majority of the drama is in the romance…which is focused on the daughter, as Louis is a married man. Really, though, the rest of the arc is “make a claim, have it be doubted, prove it, fame and fortune and success and a movie of your life will follow.” Scintillating stuff. Cannot imagine why this was so beloved outside of the voters generally being too fond of the leading man. Such a shame, as the leading male lineup had quite a bit of potential this year. There is no justice in this world.

Tale of Two Cities
I’ll confess at the start of this review to a minor Charles Dickens allergy, with his grand sweeping works that focus on the nature of Britain itself like this or Great Expectations inspiring nothing but irritating memories of my parents trying to force me to read it when I was far too young for it (and in some ways, I still feel the same way). Despite just watching this two hour long movie, I will confess to having issues paying attention in a substantial way, with the unceasing parade of spectacle being a bit wearying. Still, the sequences like the storming of the Bastille and the uncomplicated emotions associated with the heroes and villains of the production definitely cause a certain overpowering sensation of emotions surging, but I continue to not really vibe with the sensibilities of the time that come across so clearly in this production. Jack Conway was a director always more concerned with spectacle anyway, with Red Headed Woman being devoted to making the titular role look as ridiculously conniving as possible while Viva Villa went for the most cartoonish level of achievement in everything from the Wallace Beery performance that unfortunately headlined it to the scenes of the raids that echo the attack sequences in this one too. I have yet to see his most well regarded work in Libeled Lady, but I eagerly anticipate seeing him channel it into something more powerful than this. For now, I suppose I could try and summon up any opinions whatsoever on the non-performances of the cast, with Ronald Colman in particular getting nothing to do as usual in the same vein as the blandly functional leads of the prestige works of the 1930s. While the Best Picture nomination really does not meet my approval even if I do not actively have a problem with it, the Best Editing slot is a fairly reasonable way to recognize what the picture does right, even if it is an awfully thin list of things for a film that has been preserved by virtue of getting acclaimed by the film making institution of the time. Standard melodramas of this kind get ignored on all occasions from the body of voters, but prestige outweighs all, particularly with an author who carried respect during his day (a sure sign that he was a little too easy to get, in my deeply contradictory and pretentious opinion).

Theodora Goes Wild
My Brief Year in Review piece for Theodora Goes Wild: Dunne is amazing, the rest is bizarrely stupid, particularly the ending.

Any believer in auteur theory (and I think it basically falls into the category of a worthy practice no matter how badly it gets abused and used for all the wrong people) can peg right away how Theodora Goes Wild fits into the career of Richard Boleslawski. Between grabbing onto the reins of Queen Kelly as that particular horse ran wildly amok before coming to rest in 1950, and his solid but quickly forgotten adaptation of Les Miserables that was a pretty terrible Victor Hugo adaptation, the theme of his movies is prestige that comes close but does not quite hit the bulls-eye. The titular woman and Sunday school teacher, played by Irene Dunne, just wants to have fun, rather than being a beautiful girl that is forced to hide away from the rest of the world rather than being the one to walk in the sun. So she writes a novel under a pen name that sends her town into a frenzy despite having about as much scandal as an innuendo riddled film made under the Code. (“Sexy trash” is used as a slur on the book’s quality in an early meeting of angry old ladies.) Her identity is eventually coaxed out of her publisher, but the man who finds out decides to use it to mess with her and break her out of her confining small town routine. You can guess where things go from there, and Melvyn Douglas as the one who breaks her out of her confining routine is incredibly annoying with his whistling and behavior that vaults between charming and creepy (ah, romantic comedy), but thank goodness for Irene Dunne. She is not my pick for the best of the nominees, but she puts up a good fight against the much funnier and better regarded My Man Godfrey that got a Carole Lombard performance nominated. (Rainer and Shearer are weak in movies that are fairly weaker than TGW, while George’s movie is pretty lousy.) With everything else ranging from “adequate as a vehicle for the leading lady” to “vaguely incompetent,” it is up to her to deliver the goods, and her slow development from a woman who undergoes the most minor of personality shifts but makes it seem titanic is a thoroughly sketched out portrait of someone who gradually learns to tolerate the irritants of both the more conservative and free spirited brands. Bonus points for a fun drunk scene.

These Three
My Brief Year in Review piece for These Three: Despite the homophobic censorship, this is still pretty interesting thanks to all the supporting actressing going on.

These Three was based off the hit play The Children’s Hour, which focused on two teachers undergoing a vicious smear campaign as a result of their supposed lesbianism and children being utterly malicious. Unfortunately, the Production Code forced William Wyler to engineer a workaround in making the two ladies (Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon) merely friends who were rumored to be breaking up as a result of a supposed affair with the latter’s fiancee (Joel McCrea). Happily, he would get a second chance several years later with The Children’s Hour to include the supposedly scandalous parts. Much less happily, it would not be quite as good as the original, in part due to the three leads giving solid work to introduce a parade of absolutely astounding supporting actresses at the girl’s school. Bonita Granville nabbed the only Oscar nomination for playing the nasty little sociopath that drags the school under, but Marcia Mae Jones as her traumatized and unwitting conspirator also dominates. One great child performance is amazing, a second is a miracle, and that is before you even factor in the adults. Alma Kruger as Granville’s grandmother gets a whole lot of complicated maternal feelings to contend with, from buying into the lies to realizing just how wrong she was, and Catherine Doucet as an annoying fellow teacher that is unintentionally helpful when least expected gets the fun broad comedy notes to play. The leads are harmlessly likable (Hopkins is the standout, as per usual), but they are merely blandly vanilla and an excuse to revel in the complicated dynamics of the groups of women who react to their subsequent slander, marriage dynamics, and trial in their own deeply felt ways. The homophobia baked into this movie’s existence definitely bothers me, but let us also be grateful for something that is so clearly celebratory of female friendship and even rivalries in all their messy emotions. The insane styles that would later become Wyler’s trademark are slowly coming into the forefront, with some fun choices in cuts and transitions leaking into what is otherwise something that is very much a filmed piece of theater. Not the pinnacle of that form, but a more interesting piece of work than its faded reputation would tell you. The world falls apart all around us, and what we choose to focus on is the most irrelevant thing-people’s reactions. No wonder apocalypse movies hold such cache.

Three Smart Girls
What sort of musical style would you expect when you hear that there is one from the mid 1930s with the name of Three Smart Girls, and it starred teenage singer turned actress Deanna Durbin? Would it surprise you to hear that this was an opera musical, and that it made absolute bucketloads of money that saved Universal from bankruptcy, because back then opera had enough of a market to save entire studios and begat two sequels that thankfully were not as beloved by the Academy in getting Best Picture nominations for no reason, thus making it practically a franchise back in those days? One must question the audience’s general sanity upon hearing the sounds of Durbin’s shrieking over the picturesque hills of Switzerland, which I can only describe as scary for reasons I cannot quite put my finger on. I suspect it is because she sounds so much older than she looks and she really draws out those high notes. Some people might call that talent, and it is, but it is not the brand of talent that I go to the movies for. The plot quickly turns into a sort of version of The Parent Trap, with the titular women trying to get their divorced parents together again upon hearing that their father is remarrying after ten years, with the mother still not being over the breakup after ten years (this is deeply emotionally unhealthy, particularly with the father being the kind of dickhead who has to take a few seconds to remember his daughter’s names and then gets them wrong in a weirdly unfunny throwaway joke, along with shouting all the time-it runs in the family, with everyone acting so loudly). His new wife is especially established as evil, giving the kind of frigidly European reactions to the girls’ existence that establishes her as the real evil, even though she is actually pretty rational for getting annoyed by three shrieking Europeans who are not particularly smart or interesting. It all ends predictably, but this is really not the healthiest of messages to be peddling, especially with how ridiculous the divorce rates in this country are and the depressing fact that they are usually justified. Hollywood was never very good at expressing reasonable morals and values in those days, and they still are fully trapped in conservative mode, but I am sure this looks bad in retrospect too.

Valiant is the Word for Carrie
You can sometimes just guess a movie’s quality based off the title (or where it is coming from, i.e. DC Comics movies being pure shit), and Valiant is the Word for Carrie is exactly the sort of name for a picture that characterized this time period, particularly when you learn that the story focuses on a prostitute who ends up becoming friendly with a boy whose mother does not approve of their relationship (and boy in this case refers to a child). Add in another girl into the relationship who was rescued from a fire, and you have yet another silly melodrama from the time that got attention at the Academy Awards…except on this occasion, it was warranted. Gladys George really is deserving of her nomination…maybe not in my top five since it was a fairly strong year for leading ladies, but she is definitely in the running. Her early scenes are admittedly her best work by a long shot since she does not have to do anything beyond play her character without any redeeming qualities, but she just makes the hard knock life look so thrilling in its nastiness. Unfortunately, when the kids enter the picture and they make their way towards the resolution of running a laundry business as her sort of redemption, the character gets into ridiculous territory, so thank goodness for George playing the role as if the possibility of becoming a nice person was always there even in the most mean spirited of her scenes. Her nomination almost certainly came from the love for hooker with a heart of gold roles in the same vein of The Sin of Madelon Claudet, but she also did it better than most of her contemporaries, even if she was arguably as guilty of showiness. The early aspects of the story were always the best anyway, with the tale of small town attitudes being inevitably more interesting than young love that we know perfectly well is going to work out anyway, especially with the movie going to the surprisingly long length of an hour and forty eight minutes that it cannot possibly justify. Shame about the print quality as well, as this is a movie that already looks grubby and has plenty of visuals that do not make a strong enough case for themselves to justify a viewing of this from that perspective, with everything looking rather green and groggy.

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