You know I like to champion underrated folks. From screenwriters, which is frankly most of them, to under-appreciated actors to composers whose music you know but whose name you don’t. That’s my jam!
Nicholas Musuraca is one of those people. In the pantheon of legendary cinematographers from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Musuraca’s name should rightfully be up there with John Alton and Leon Shamroy. And yet, it… isn’t.
He began his career as a chauffeur for producer J. Stuart Blackton in the 1920s while working behind the scenes in silent pictures. RKO took notice and he became one of their top cinematographers the following decade. Among his greatest films are… *deep breath* Golden Boy (1939), Cat People (1942), The Seventh Victim (1943), The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Spiral Staircase (1947), Out of the Past (1947), I Remember Mama (1948), The Hitch-hiker (1953), and many, many others… You may have noticed a theme there. Horror and Noir were his thing, especially in collaboration with producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur, and having seen and consequently written about many of these pictures, I have always loved Musuraca’s work. His remarkable use of light and shadows gave us some of the most iconic shots from the 1940s and 50s. The staircase scene in The Spiral Staircase? Spooky. The swimming pool scene in Cat People? Terrifying. William Talman’s face in pretty much every shot in The Hitch-hiker? Ditto.
None of these, however, were nominated for an Oscar, and weirdly enough, Musuraca only received one nomination in his entire career. For I Remember Mama, which he lost to William Daniels for The Naked City (1948), which, to be honest, is fair enough – I adore that film and that’s a well-deserved Oscar. Nicholas Musuraca, however, remains an overlooked genius. I mean, just look at his IMDb page. One wonders how that’s even possible.
May 16th is National Classic Movie Day (What? What do you mean, you didn’t know?!). So naturally I want to celebrate it! A few years ago, I did a sort of miscellaneous post about 23 classic movie moments I love – ‘cause I was 23 at the time. And so, because I’m super old now, I shall be re-doing said post, but with 30 moments. Here they are:
When William Powell puts Carole Lombard in the shower in My Man Godfrey (1936)
When Lee J. Cobb breaks down in 12 Angry Men (1957)
When Linda Darnell laughs at Dana Andrews in Fallen Angel (1945)
When Grace Kelly kisses Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window (1954)
When George Sanders shades everyone, everywhere in All About Eve (1950)
When Judy Garland sings The Trolley Song in Meet Me in St Louis (1944)
When Barbara Stanwyck seduces Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve (1941)
When Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant try to keep their cool at dinner in Bringing up Baby (1938)
When the gang performs an unbelievable, perfect heist in Rififi (1955)
When Simone Simon stands over Jane Randolph in the pool in Cat People (1942)
When Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains walk off in the sunset in Casablanca (1942)
When Donald O’Connor performs Make ‘em Laugh in Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
When Harriet Andersson breaks the fourth wall in Summer With Monika (1953)
When Edward Arnold and Jean Arthur argue in the back of a taxi in Easy Living (1937)
When Jean Harlow takes a bath in a barrel in Red Dust (1932)
When Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine play gin rummy in The Apartment (1960)
When Robert Mitchum comes over the hill in The Night of the Hunter (1955)
When Charles Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton do their double-takes in Trouble in Paradise (1932)
When Richard Widmark and Jean Peters seduce each other in Pickup on South Street (1953)
When Rita Hayworth sings Put the Blame on Mame in Gilda (1946)
When Greta Garbo laughs in Ninotchka (1939)
When Gene Tierney sits perfectly still on the boat in Leave Her To Heaven (1945)
When Marlon Brando plays with Eva Marie Saint’s glove in On The Waterfront (1954)
When Joan Crawford smashes her glass on the wall in Humoresque (1947)
When Montgomery Clift and John Ireland talk about ‘guns’ in Red River (1948)
When Charles McGraw comes out of the alleyway in T-Men (1947)
When Alain Delon walks through the market in Purple Noon (1960)
When Gary Cooper makes his farewell speech in Pride of the Yankees (1942)
When Bette Davis steps onto the boat in Now, Voyager (1942)
When Spencer Tracy says goodbye to Katharine Hepburn and to us in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967)
Here we are. The ultimate ‘I can’t believe he never won an Oscar!’ Oscar-less genius of all time. I didn’t want to do this – or did I? – but it seems like I can’t resist an blogathon! My friend Maddy over at the Classic Film and TV Corner is hosting a blogathon about Alfred Hitchcock and I thought, what better way to participate than to combine it with my own series of posts, AND THE OSCAR DOESN’T GO TO…? As we all know, Alfred Hitchcock never won a competitive Oscar, despite being nominated 5 times. I shall go through all the nominations, who won instead, and why that might have been. Here we go!
1941 – Nominated for Rebecca, lost to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath – Hitchcock and John Ford are two of the greatest filmmakers of all time. So to have them up against each other was quite something – the other nominees were Sam Wood for Kitty Foyle, George Cukor for The Philadelphia Story and William Wyler for The Letter. Of the five nominees, Hitchcock and Ford had the best chance of winning, with Cukor a close third. But Hitchcock’s rift with David O. Selznick may or may not have contributed to his loss. John Ford was reliable and well-liked; and this was his second Oscar. Alfred Hitchcock was new in Hollywood and, while Rebecca went on to win Best Picture, Ford may have seemed like the safest choice for Director. This isn’t to say he was plain ‘safe’, just that in Hollywood circles, people’s familiarity with Ford, coupled with their relative unfamiliarity with Hitch at that point may have contributed to Ford’s win.
1945 – Nominated for Lifeboat, lost to Leo McCarey for Going My Way– Now, in retrospect, neither of them should have won. This should have been Billy Wilder’s to lose. Again, in retrospect. Wilder was nominated for Double Indemnity, which is the strongest movie / direction of all five; Otto Preminger for Laura (which you know I also love) and Henry King for Wilson being the other two. It seems that Going My Way’s loveliness won Hollywood over that year. I personally love McCarey, I think his versatility is vastly under-appreciated – he directed the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup AND Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember? Come on. This, however, should have maybe gone to Wilder. Which brings me to…
1946 – Nominated for Spellbound, lost to Billy Wilder for The Lost Weekend – Alas, Wilder won his first Oscar the following year, this time for the heart-wrenching Lost Weekend. With Ray Milland at the forefront, both on screen and in the hearts and minds of Academy voters (talk about a deserved Oscar!), this wasn’t going to anybody but Wilder. Not McCarey again for TheBells of St Mary’s, not Clarence Brown for National Velvet nor Jean Renoir for The Southerner. The 1940s were Wilder’s first foray into directing, having written scripts for several directors in the 1930s, so this was, in a sort of way, the right time to award him, after over a decade in the business and a prolific one at that.
1955 – Nominated for Rear Window, lost to Elia Kazan for On The Waterfront– I’ve often said that I think On TheWaterfront is one of the most perfect films ever made. The acting, he script, the cinematography and, of course, the direction come together in such a powerful way that I don’t think anything could have beaten it that year, for either Director or Picture. The other nominees being Wilder again for Sabrina, George Seaton for The Country Girl and William A. Wellman for The High and The Mighty. For some inexplicable reason, this was Hitchcock’s only nomination in the 1950s, which I personally consider to be his best ever decade. Rear Window was a director’s picture. The sheer ingeniousness of it, is something to behold. But… On The Waterfront is an equally fantastic movie and Kazan’s… shenanigans…. aside, he was objectively a brilliant director. But should this have been one of those times when Director and Picture go to two different movies? Perhaps… Just… perhaps.
1961 – Nominated for Psycho, lost to Billy Wilder for The Apartment – Now… everyone knows The Apartment is my favorite film of all time, so I am absolutely not going to complain about this. In retrospect, I think this, along with Rear Window, was his best shot at winning, but then Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine started playing gin rummy and it was all over. The other nominees, Jules Dassin for Never on Sunday (another Oscar-less genius), Jack Cardiff for Sons and Lovers and Fred Zinnemann for The Sundowners, just prove once again that 1960 really was a phenomenal year for cinema. And how wonderful it is that we got two of the greatest films ever made out of it! And on a final note, I’d like to point that, upon the release of The Apartment, Hitchcock wrote a note to Wilder saying, ‘Dear Mr Wilder, I saw THE APARTMENT the other day. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it and how beautifully made. I felt this so much that I was impelled to drop you this note. Kindest regards, Alfred Hitchcock.’. Absolutely magnificent.
A few other things I want to point out as well:
I think he should received other nominations. I think Vertigo (1958) is a massive, massive oversight. Also Notorious, though 1946 was a fiercely competitive year. North By Northwest (1959) should have gotten a nod too.
I also think he had fairly decent competition every time he was nominated and that may explain why he went Oscar-less his whole career. That isn’t to say I agree with every choice, but as I said, I think the actual problem was that he missed out on other nods that could have sealed the deal.
Finally, the Oscars are by no means indicative of someone’s talent or longevity, as evidenced. You know I love the Oscars, but I fully acknowledge their lack of merit. Still, doesn’t mean I won’t keep banging on about them!
See you at the next AND THE OSCAR DOESN’T GO TO, and check out the other entries in this blogathon here.
It’s been a crazy few weeks in the blogging world for and so I thought I’d share a few things with you guys. So, most of you probably know that I’ve got a few more blogging platforms outside WordPress. I am now making money from it, and it is such a joy to be able to say that!
Medium has been great, and I am now also on Substack, talking about… film noir! You know it’s my favorite film genre (or, moooood!) and I really wanted to do something with it. So, The Losers of Film Noir is finally a thing! How it works is that, you subscribe to it, either paid or unpaid, and you get an email whenever I post something. So stay tuned fo Walter Neff, Jeff Bailey, Margot Shelby and many other film noir ‘losers’! Here’s the link if you want to check it out: https://carolsaintmartin.substack.com/
I am now also on Buy Me A Coffee! This is a wonderful platform where people can donate, or ‘buy someone a coffee’ for their services, creative output, etc. This could be anything! Blogging, life advice, poetry… And as I’ve been blogging for 8 years, I thought I would get on it and hope that people have liked my stuff and want to make a small contribution. So here’s the link if this interests you: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/saintmartiZ
And finally, later this month, I’ll be continuing my AND THE OSCAR DOESN’T GO TO series with perhaps THE ultimate ‘I can’t believe they never won an Oscar!’ contender of all time, as part of a blogathon. Can you guess who that might be? Leave a comment!
There are some actors you just love to see on screen. Those actors you just know will deliver a great performance, no matter what. Thelma Ritter is one of those people. You see her name in the credits, and you think, fantastic, we’re in good hands! Ritter, like Walter Brennan, Thomas Mitchell or Fay Bainter is one of the great character performers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. But, unlike Brennan, Mitchell or Bainter, Thema Ritter never won an Academy Award. She was nominated 6 (SIX!) times, which makes her one of three women to be nominated, in any category, that many times without a win, along with Deborah Kerr and Amy Adams (all three of them are surpassed by Glenn Close), as well as the most nominated actress in the Supporting category without a win – I love these Oscar tidbits!
Thelma Ritter’s quick wit, delivery, comic timing and heart made her one of the most versatile actresses of her generation. I mean, All About Eve (1950, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Rear Window (1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock) AND Birdman of Alcatraz (1962, dir. John Frankenheimer)? Come on! She received her six nominations over the course of twelve years: All About Eve was the first, which she lost to Josephine Hull for Harvey (1950); then came The Mating Season (1951), which she lost to Kim Hunter for A Streetcar Named Desire (1951); then, With a Song in My Heart (1952), which I wrote about here. Gloria Grahame took the Oscar for The Bad and The Beautiful (1952); her last nomination in a row was for a movie I adore, Pickup on South Street (1953), which she lost to Donna Reed for FromHere To Eternity (1953). A few years later, she was nominated again for Pillow Talk (1959). This time, Shelley Winters won it for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959); her last-ever nomination was for Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), and she lost to Patty Duke for TheMiracle Worker (1962). Her career lasted decades, across many genres, and despite never winning an Oscar, her movies live on. Also, she’s one of the best people to do an impression of. Try it, it’s really fun!
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Here we are again, Oscar season and isn’t that exciting! The thing is, I’ve posted about all things Oscars every February/March/April, these past 8 years and I thought I was running out of ideas. Until I went back on one of my posts, the one where I foolishly thought I could go up against Bob Hope with silly jokes, and realized… I haven’t written about Bob Hope yet! As we all know, he has hosted the Oscars a record 19 times and to put it into context, Billy Crystal (whom I adore) is in second place, with 9. So, Bob Hope really was the Oscars. And so I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite jokes from his many, many opening monologues. And for the record, I’ve included one George C. Scott joke, but I love ALL of Bob Hope’s jokes about Scott, pre and post-Patton. I’ve also dispensed with the Bing Crosby jokes and all the movies that are supposedly about him (‘Sons and Lovers’, ‘The Babymaker’, etc), because there are so many of them, it would be hard to pick just one; likewise, I also haven’t included the many things the ceremony is known as in Bob Hope’s house (‘Passover’, ‘Cape Fear’, ‘The Fugitive’, etc…) because, again, too many.
Here they are, in chronological order:
‘It (3D) is the biggest thing to hit the movies since Cecil B. DeMille began re-writing the Bible.’ 1953 – Ahh, when 3D was a new thing… What I love about this is, you can make the same joke about DeMille today and most people would probably still get immediately.
‘There is a special award for bravery for the producer who made a picture without Grace Kelly.’ 1954 – This was Grace Kelly’s year: Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and, of course, The Country Girl, for which she won the Oscar.
‘Some of the pictures were grim, but what realism. In fact, I’m surprised to see Susan Hayward here tonight.’ 1959. This only works if you’re familiar with I Want to Live! (1958), for which Hayward won an Oscar that night.
‘Mr William Wyler, will you please see the cop out front, your chariot is double parked.’ 1960 – William Wyler, of course, won the Best Director Oscar that night for Ben-Hur.
‘This was the year Marlon Brando became the director of a Western. It was the first picture ever made with Method horses.’ 1960 – Splendid.
‘We all know how Jack Lemmon got in there, lending his apartment to members of the Academy.’ 1961. You know why I love this joke.
‘Mary Poppins, or how I learned to stop worrying and love Jack Warner.’ 1965. Easily one of the best written jokes he ever did at the Oscars.
‘But isn’t it exciting? All over America, people are saying to each other, ‘I wonder who’ll win?’, and all over Beverly Hills, psychiatrics are dusting off their couches saying ‘I wonder who’ll lose’. 1965 – This is a dark one that I just adore.
‘This is the big night. What tension, what drama, what suspense. And what was just deciding whether the show was going on or not.’ 1967 – This is a reference to the fact that there was a strike that was resolved only thirty minutes before the show started.
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, before I begin, I have an announcement. After much soul-searching, I have concluded that the awesome job of emcee should not become involved in partisan bickering. At all costs, we must preserve unity and avoid further divisiveness in our great industry. Accordingly, I have decided that I will not seek nor will I accept an Oscar.’ 1968 – One of the best self-deprecating jokes he’s ever made.
‘What a fine turnout for the awards this year. So crowded, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice had to sit in the same seat.’ 1970. If you know the film Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, this is a wonderful joke.
‘How about those Swedish movies? When they shoot outside the bedroom, it’s called going on location.’ 1970 – Damn.
‘Patton was the story of a man who wanted to win the war, but not the Oscar’ 1971. Self-explanatory. One of the best.
‘I think The Godfather Part II has an excellent chance of winning. Neither Mr Price or Mr Waterhouse have been heard from in four days.’ – 1975 Oscars – Godfather jokes will always be funny.
‘He (Fred Astaire) got it for Towering Inferno. You know, it’s easy to dance good when the floor below you is on fire.’ 1975 – This is seriously one of my all-time favourites. Makes me laugh every single time.
Oscar season is here and the ceremony is fast approaching! March 12th, to be precise. And here on the Garden, we shall continue our AND THE OSCAR DOESN’T GO TO series, with the second instalment going out to David Raksin, one of my personal favorite film composers.
David Raksin is a sort of anomaly in the film composers canon. While his contemporaries – Miklos Rosza, Max Steiner, and, in particular, Alfred Newman, who still holds the record in this category, among others – have won multiple Oscars each, Raksin won none. In fact, his most famous score, Laura (1944, dir. Otto Preminger) wasn’t even nominated! Seems ludicrous today, as it is probably one of the iconic film scores of all time – you’re hearing it in your head, right now, aren’t you? Raksin’s ethereal and enchanting melody for one of the greatest film noirs ever lives on and while it is certainly his masterpiece, his other compositions can’t be overlooked. He was nominated for two Oscars. The first one was for Forever Amber (1947, dir. Otto Preminger), which he lost to Miklos Rosza for A Double Life (1947, dir. George Cukor); his second nomination was for Separate Tables (1958, dir. Delbert Mann), which he lost to Dimitri Tiomkin for The Old Man and The Sea (1958, dir. John Sturges). One can’t help but think he could have gotten a few more nods. The Big Combo (1955, dir. Joseph H. Lewis) comes to mind. Or Whirlpool, another Preminger noir from 1950. Or Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). And so many others. Raksin’s name isn’t too overly well-knows these days, unlike some other composers, but his music is. And I named one of the characters in my TV pilot after him. So there’s that too.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, so obviously I’m going to talk about four messed-up romances from some classics to make things awkward for everyone. Here they are:
Gilda and Johnny from Gilda (1946, dir. Charles Vidor) – Man, those two… Love triangle with Gilda’s husband, check, complicated past, check, sizzling chemistry, ooooohhh check. Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford deliver looks and lines like nobody’s business in this outrageously sexy noir.
Tracy and Dexter from The Philadelphia Story (1940, dir. George Cukor) – One of the great soph-coms of its era, The Philadelphia Story could not be any more classy if it tried, so logically former couple Tracy (Katharine Hepburn) and Dexter (Cary Grant) tell each to get lost in the most marvellous ways.
Joe and Pat from Raw Deal (1948, dir. Anthony Mann) – A film noir on a messed-up romances list isn’t necessarily a surprise, but Raw Deal is particularly heart-breaking, because of Pat (Claire Trevor). Homme fatale Joe Sullivan (Dennis O’Keefe) manipulates her into getting him out of prison, then goes on the run with her AND Ann (Marsha Hunt), the woman he’s actually in love with. Crazy stuff.
Vienna and Johnny from Johnny Guitar (1954, dir. Nicholas Ray) – Saloonkeeper Vienna (Joan Crawford) and gunslinger Johnny ‘Guitar’ Logan (Sterling Hayden) are old lovers and boy, do they own this colourful Western with their intense love-hate relationship. It’s as hot and vibrant as the cinematography.
Well, here it is, it’s 2023 and I’m already tired. Happy New Year, everyone! I had a good 2002, movie-wise and otherwise-wise. I started my Cinema Museum screenings, my Medium blog started being monetized, I had reviews published in magazines and I met some wonderful people in this wonderful city we call the Big Smoke – nobody calls it that. So, here it is, 2023 and, as per, it’s January and I give you the series of posts for this year. I realised that I’ve talked about soooo many things on my blog, particularly my several series. Screenwriters (which is now the basis or my Cinema Museum screenings – check them out), Comedy, World Cinema, etc… and I’ve yet to talk about the Oscars! Well, that’s not entirely true. But I’ve said for years that I wish the Oscars were on every day, so I shall make that happen… on this blog, once a month. AND THE OSCAR DOESN’T GO TO… will focus on the people who… never won an Oscar. I wrote three articles about this a few years and they were fairly popular. So I want to explore it a bit more.
So let’s start with one of biggest film directors of his generation, the great Ernst Lubitsch. That’s right, despite being nominated three times, Lubitsch never own a Best Director Oscar. He was nominated for The Patriot (1928), The Love Parade (1929) and Heaven Can Wait (1943), and lost to Frank Lloyd for The Divine Lady, Lewis Milestone for All Quiet on the Western Front, and Michael Curtiz for Casablanca, respectively. You probably know that Billy Wilder had a sign in his office that read How Would Lubitsch Do it?. This is not surprising. Lubitsch could craft a story like nobody’s business – look no further than Trouble in Paradise (1932), an impeccably written soph-com if there ever was one. Or Design for Living (1933), a ground-breaking sex comedy. Or Ninotchka (1939), in which Greta Garbo finally laughed. His sense of subtlety, exposition and sophistication, or the Lubitsch Touch, is the stuff of legends and it is still being copied and homaged to this day. His famous ‘Touch’ is pretty hard to put into words, but if one were to attempt it, one could argue that Lubitsch knew what to put in and what to leave out, when and in which order, for the audience to catch up, all wrapped up in the most delicious champagne-filled haze.
William Wyler and Billy Wilder’s exchange at Lubitsch’s funeral in 1947 says it all: ‘No more Lubitsch’, says Wyler. ‘Worse than that, no more Lubitsch pictures’, Wilder replies.
It’s Chriiiiistmaaaas! December’s ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES goes out to one of the best…. New Year’s Eve movies?? That’s right, The Apartment (1960, dir. Billy Wilder) doubles as a Christmas movie AND a New Year’s Eve movie, and, because I went to see it on the big screen at the BFI a few weeks ago, I thought I’d pay tribute to it once more. Some of you may know that it is my all-time favorite movie and part of the reason is that unbelievable screenplay. I think Wilder and Diamond’s script is one of the greatest original screenplays ever written and while it’s hard to pick just three quotes from it, I’m going to give it a good ol’ go! You know the story: C. C Baxter (Jack Lemmon) lends his apartment to his senior executives for them to bring their mistresses, so he can move up the office ladder. Things turn sweet and sour when he fals in love with elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). Here are the quotes:
‘Mildred! He’s at it again!’ Dr Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen) – Dr Dreyfuss delivers some of the funniest lines in the film, but this one, when he thinks Baxter has someone else in his apartment ‘again’, is surely his crowning moment.
‘The mirror… it’s broken…’ ‘Yes I know, makes me look the way I feel.’ C. C. Baxter and Miss Kubelik – I love this exchange. Not only is this scene a fantastic plot point, but the dialogue is exquisite.
‘Did you hear what I said, Miss Kubelik? I absolutely adore you.’ ‘Shut up and deal.’ C. C. Baxter and Miss Kubelik – I know, I know, obvious one. But what an ending and it sums up their characters and their arcs perfectly.
Honestly, I didn’t even include my actual favorite one because I thought that was too obvious and, since this is such a great screenplay, I thought it’d change things up! Oh and if I had a band, I would totally call it The Kubeliks. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!