As usual, I am slow to catch up. A few years ago, the BBC relinquished the rights to televising the Oscars; and since we are not subscribing to the premium channel that does air them, I am relying on the old wireless to transport me to the events. So, here I am listening to . . . the 17th Academy Awards. Considering that Claudette Colbert is nominated for Since You Went Away, I just had to tune in. Also among the nominees, for his supporting role in the same picture, is Monty Woolley, the man to whom our terrier owes his name. This year, the event is hosted by Bob Hope (it was rival radio comic Jack Benny last time). There will be scenes from the nominated pictures, which are going to be explained to us radio listeners. While the president of the Academy, Walter Wanger, is saying a few words (at sixty minutes, this is a rather overblown affair), I might as well share my predictions with you.
As much as I enjoyed Since You Went Away, my money is on Double Indemnity in the Best Picture category. Gaslight is just a one dark note affair, and I don’t think that Wilson, which I haven’t seen, or Going My Way got much of a chance. Stanwyck should get the trophy for Best Actress; but, as you may know, I am partial to Colbert, who hasn’t won in a decade. Besides, she’s delivered a beautifully restrained performance, rather than going all maudlin or hysterical.
Hush, the ceremony is getting under way. It is broadcast live from Grauman’s Chinese. Hope just quipped that he never knew it was a theater, but thought “that it was where Darryl Zanuck had his laundry done.” He can joke; after all, he is being honored with a lifetime membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his many services to the Academy (“Now I know how Roosevelt feels”).
Could Agnes Moorehead win this time for Mrs. Parkington, her second Best Supporting Actress nomination? I certainly like her radio acting. Did you catch “Sorry, Wrong Number”? Mark my word: if it ever gets adapted for the screen, she’s sure to get the Oscar for that role. She also was terrific in the brief scenes she had in Since You Went Away, in which Joseph Cotten’s character refers to hers as the voice that haunted him across the Atlantic. I don’t think Angela Lansbury got much of a chance in this category; Hollywood doesn’t quite know what to do with her. Maybe she’ll find her medium one day.
Gosh, can you imagine all those stars in one big auditorium? According to Hope, “it’s informal dress”—“they only had to send Bing Crosby home twice.” Now, the winner for Short Subjects (Cartoon) is announced; the award goes to Fred Quimby’s “Mouse Trouble”—what’s next, rats winning best animated feature?—and Max Steiner just scored for scoring Since You Went Away.
I know this makes me sound like a nance, but I’d be terribly upset if Art Direction (Color), did not go to the team behind Mitchell Leisen’s Lady in the Dark; the film faces tougher competition in the Cinematography (Color) category, though, where it is up against Kismet and Meet Me in St. Louis. For Black and White, Joseph LaShelle for Laura should come out on top. I was rooting for Leisen’s No Time for Love and its clever dream sequence to win the Oscar for Art Direction (Black and White), which just lost to Gaslight.
Hang on, there is some mix-up about the trophies. Sure sounds unscripted. In fact, Hope, the old pro at the microphone, seems to have forgotten the audience outside the theater, folks like me who don’t get to see what’s going on. At least we are being treated to a few notes from the twelve nominated songs and the voices of Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.
Meanwhile, I am testing out my second sight. Best Director is going to be either Wilder or Hitchcock, who faced such tough competition a few years back when Rebecca lost, rightly, to The Grapes of Wrath. A shame, really, that Tallulah wasn’t even nominated for Life Boat, for the Original Motion Picture Story of which John Steinbeck is likely to get awarded. Original Screenplay, of course, will go to Preston Sturges, who, after all is nominated twice (for Hail the Conquering Hero and Miracle of Morgan’s Creek). And if the Screenplay Oscar doesn’t go to Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder, then I don’t know what what is . . .