Tag Archives: The Forties

Losers we love (or Never mind the Oscar)

12 fev

Until 1989, the Hollywood Academy announced the Oscar results with the sentence: “And the winner is…”, which, from that year on, was changed to: “And the Oscar goes to…”

The linguistic change seems to have occurred out of a conscience crisis. The Academy suddenly realized that pronouncing the word ´winner´ implied, by inevitable contrast, the notion of ´loser´, a notion which is highly negative within the capitalistic and competitive context of American life.

Well, the sentence changed, but not the situation: the one who does not win is still a loser…

No Oscar for "It´s a wonderful life".

No Oscar for “It´s a wonderful life”.

The fact is: since the Academy foundation, in 1927, History has been giving Hollywood some rough lessons.

Take the case of “Citizen Kane”, for instance. Despite its high quality, Orson Welles´ 1941 movie had a single award for Herman Mankiewicz´ script; ironically enough, the movie gained the position, given by international criticism, of best movie ever made, and kept this position for half a century.

Another typical case is director John Ford, who always described himself as a ´western maker´. Ford won some Oscars throughout his career, but, never won any for the making of his great westerns, like, “Stagecoach”, “My darling Clementine”, “The searchers”, “The man who shot Liberty Valence”.

Kim Novak and William Holden in "Picnic"

Kim Novak and William Holden in “Picnic”

But I don´t intend to write about the mistakes of the Academy; I have done it already, so many times, and I don´t want to repeat myself.

I´d rather do as follows: since the word ´loser´ carries such a weight, I´d like to present here a certain list of movies which, although nominees at their times, were not awarded, were the elections fair or not. They are all great movies of the classical era which lost the Oscar for best movies of the year, but, in compensation, won in the category that matters most for the passionate moviegoer: the category of time, for, even today, we think of them as great unforgetable films.

Who would consider losers movies like, say, “It´s a wonderful life” (1946), or “Sunset Boulevard” (1950), or “Picnic” (1955)? And yet, the desired prize did not go to the hands of their respective authors, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder and Joshua Logan.

"Sunset Boulevard" (Billy Wilder, 1950).

“Sunset Boulevard” (Billy Wilder, 1950).

So, check here some of the ´losers we love´, which I list by decade.

The Forties:

“The great dictator” (Charles Chaplin, 1940); “The little foxes” (William Wyler, 1941); “Double indemnity” (Billy Wilder, 1944); “Great expectations” (David Lean, 1947); “The treasure of Sierra Madre” (John Huston, 1948); “The heiress” (William Wyler, 1949).

The Fifties:

“High Noon” (Fred Zinnemann, 1952); “Shane” (George Stevens, 1953), “Seven brides for seven Brothers” (Stanley Donen, 1954); “Giant” (George Stevens, 1956); “Twelve angry men” (Sidney Lumet, 1957); “Anatony of a murder” (Otto Preminger, 1959).

The Sixties:

“Elmer Gantry” (Richard Brooks, 1960); “America, América” (Elia Kazan, 1963); “Zorba” (Michael Cacoyannis, 1964); “Dr Jivago” (David Lean, 1965); “Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Mike Nichols, 1966); “Bonnie and Clyde” (Arthur Penn, 1967); “The graduate” (Mike Nichols, 1967).

And notice I have not mentioned all the losers of the period.

Ava Gardner, one of our dear ´losers´...

Ava Gardner, one of our dear ´losers´…

Well, I´d stop here, but, if you wish to be more extensive, you can think of the other Oscar categories. For instance, great actors and actresses who never won an Oscar at all. Here are some names of the classic era:

Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Janet Leigh, Richard Burton, Peter Sellers, Steve McQueen, Joseph Cotten, etc…

All this losing stuff reminds me of the Russian plot in Claude Lelouch´s “Bolero” (“Les uns et les autres”, 1981). In this French film, the one who deserves to have her life narrated all over is not the girl that wins the famous Ballet Contest, shown at the opening scene: this winner disappears from the screen in the next shot. The one who ´wins the film´ is exactly the girl who loses the Contest. For some reason, losers seem to be far more captivating than winners. Lelouch knew it when he conceived the scene.

So, on coming February 28, if your preferences are not favored, just don´t make a fuss about it.

A seven times nominee who never won the Oscar.

A seven times nominee who never won the Oscar.