September 29, 2014

Now Entering: the Forties

Here we are: the 1940's! Admittedly this is not a decade that I'm excited about whatsoever. It'll probably be a bitter struggle for me to get through it all, and let me count the reasons why:

1. WORLD WAR II - the U.S. entering WWII in 1941 ensures us copious amounts of wartime films. Hell, WWII is a subject that still bleeds into the films of today pretty heartily and it's been some 70 years later, but what makes old Hollywood war films particularly annoying in my eyes is the unbridled patriotism that comes with them. These movies were made (often times with Government interest) with the intent to boost the country's morale, encourage war bond buying, and are pretty much propagandic in nature. I'm all for my country as much as the next person but the thought of sitting through hours and hours of land-of-the-free-proud-to-be-an-American fluff while a sappy score plays in the background makes me want to dry heave. (namely: Sergeant York, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Pride of the Yankees, Wilson, The Pied Piper, Since You Went Away, Sands of Iwo Jima, and The Hasty Heart, just to name a few)

2. RELIGION - with the Production Code being strictly enforced back in 1934, I consider the 1940's to be pretty much the prime time in which Hollywood happily adhered to the morals of the Code. The Hollywood studio system does start to crack by the end of the decade with the outcome of The United States vs. Paramount, but you don't really start to see people rebelling against the Production Code or testing the limits of the code with touchy material until the 1950's. It was wartime after all, so it's understandable if the movies of the forties would be all goody and clean and Godly...but I'm about as religious as Luise Rainer is Asian in real life, so I'm dreading all the God/Church/Father/Sister stuff that'll be thrown in my face throughout this decade. Looking through synopses of some of the films I find a singing priest taking over a parish from another priest, a priest and a nun trying to keep a school from being closed down, some chick claiming to see visions of the Virgin Mary, some chick fighting in a war claiming to hear voices from Heaven, two nuns trying to build a children's hospital, and a man's family trying to convince him to get baptized...all of this is indicative of how puritanical a time the forties were, and all of this makes me want to scream violently.

3. REPETITION - going through the shortlists of nominated actresses you can see that the forties were also the time in which the Academy nominated people in a robotically reflexive manner. I know it's customary for Oscar to play favorites regardless of the decade, but the 1940s was especially brutal in its favoritism...Leading the pack is Greer Garson with five consecutive Best Actress nominations (and a total of 6 in 7 years), with Bette Davis (3 consecutive nominations, 4 in 5 years in the 1940's, 6 in 7 years if you include her Jezebel and Dark Victory nods), Olivia de Havilland and Ingrid Bergman each picking up four nods and Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, and Jennifer Jones each picking up three...together that makes up almost 6 years worth of Best Actress slots. In fact, the decade as a whole only had 11 ladies total with single nominations--which is kind of ridiculous if you compare that to 2000-2009, where a total of 30 ladies got a single nomination. What's more, actors back then weren't known for their versatility, so it'll be frustrating to see the same faces and same types of acting over and over again. Don't be surprised if my tone is bitterly pointed by the time I get to Davis' Mr. Skeffington or Garson's The Valley of Decision.

4. SAFE AND BORING - What's even more frustrating is that many of the performances from the forties that we've come to associate with certain actors weren't even nominated by the Academy. Instead of Stanwyck's The Lady Eve, we get Ball of Fire. Instead of Bergman's Casablanca, Spellbound, or Notorious, we get For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Bells of St. Mary's, and Joan of Arc. Instead of Russell's His Girl Friday, we get Sister Kenny, My Sister Eileen, and Mourning Becomes Electra. Cary Grant, who by this point had been snubbed over and over again for his comedic work in The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby, gets his only two nominations for stiff dramas Penny Serenade and None But the Lonely Heart and not His Girl Friday or Arsenic and Old Lace. There's How Green is my damn Valley and Going My Way triumphing over Citizen Kane and Double Indemnity. There's Ida Lupino for The Hard Way, Tallulah Bankhead for Lifeboat, and Deborah Kerr for Black Narcissus, all winners of the Best Actress prize through the New York Film Critics Circle and all snubbed for the same old same old by the same folks. Practically no film noir pics are recognized whatsoever...where are all the great femme fatales?? It just seems to me as though the 1940's was the period in which the Academy hit a rut, opting for a bunch of uninspired junk over anything that might be viewed as daring or refreshing.

So I might have made it through the Dark Ages, but it looks like I've got 10 years of banality waiting for me up ahead. But there's still much to look forward toa number of great performances scattered through the decade that are worth the excitementRonald Colman in Random Harvest, Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter, John Garfield in Body and Soul, Montgomery Clift prefacing a new style of acting in The Search, Olivia de Havilland with The Heiress...just to name a few. So sit back, relax, and enjoy as I bitch and moan my way through this newalbeit frustratingdecade.


  1. Woho, can't wait! :)

    Just for fun, here are my acting predictions:

    40: Fonda and Fontaine
    41: Welles and Stanwyck
    42: Cagnes and Davis
    43: Bogart and Jones
    44: Fitzgerald and Stanwyck
    45: Milland and Crawford
    46: Stewart and Johnson
    47: Garfield and Russell
    48: Olivier and de Havilland
    49: Crawford and de Havilland

    1. Fritz, it'd be funny and a little bit shameful if you guessed most of these that would just mean that I'm predictable and easy to read :P

    2. No chance Allen goes for Fitzgerald, he's gonna really dislike Going My Way. :)

  2. The worst decade for best actress, but there are great performances and I hope you end up being a fan of de Havilland as I am.

    1. Worst decade...yikes! My anticipation is even less now!

      But I'm sure I'll take to de Havilland very well. If she's anywhere as good as her Melanie Wilkes then I'll be at least satisfied!

  3. I hope I'll be allowed to defend Song of Bernadette. :) Seeing it as a teenager was influential in me traveling to Lourdes almost a decade later. Come to the Stable isn't bad either.

    what I can't defend is Going My Way. :)

    1. haha, well I guess I am sort of looking forward to Jennifer Jones' perf, I'm just not looking forward the movie and the God business.

      Come to the Stable and Going My Way just sound awful to me. This decade of nominees really is a collection of all the things I hate. I didn't even bother to mention my hatred of children because that goes without saying, and I've noticed a number of nominees with their inclusion.... :( :( :(