So, it’s that time when Hollywood gets all dolled up and congratulates itself for the films produced in the previous year, so I thought the best of film noir series should have something to do with the Oscars. Love or hate the Oscars, they are almost as big as the Super Bowl. And film noir has its place in Oscar lore.
The Best of Film Noir – Oscar History
It’s interesting to note that Louis B. Mayer, studio boss at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, originally created the Oscars in the hope of improving the industry’s image and to help mediate labor disputes. The first awards were barely noticed. Not so now. Also, the Oscar statuette is officially called the Academy Award of Merit (you can get a lot more Oscar trivia in my second Reed Ferguson mystery, Reel Estate Rip-off).
The Best of Film Noir – Best Picture
Where does film noir fit into the Oscar landscape? Rarely as winners, and not necessarily for the big Oscars (picture, director, actor, actress). Double Indemnity scored big with seven nominations. It garnered a best picture nod, along with The Letter, The Maltese Falcon, Mildred Pierce, and Sunset Boulevard. All of these are stellar pictures and worth watching. One of the reasons many film noir were not nominated was because many of the movies were considered B movies, low-budget and not worthy of the Oscar.
The Best of Film Noir – Best Director
Some of the pictures listed above also had their directors nominated (William Wyler – The Letter, Billy Wilder – Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder – Sunset Boulevard), but it’s interesting to note that the following directors, Otto Preminger – Laura, Robert Siodmak – The Killers, Carol Reed – The Fallen Idol and The Third Man, and John Huston – The Asphalt Jungle, had their films overlooked in the best picture category. Why? It rarely occurs that the director of best picture does not win as well. This very well could be because it takes a great director to create and put together a best picture.
The Best of Film Noir – Best Actor and Actress
We have a variety of performances in the actor/actress categories. For actor: John Garfield - Body and Soul, William Holden – Sunset Boulevard. For actress: Bette Davis – The Letter, Barbara Stanwyck – Double Indemnity, Joan Crawford – Mildred Pierce, Gene Tierney – Leave Her to Heaven, Gloria Swanson – Sunset Boulevard. Fabulous performances, but the only one to win was Joan Crawford. Think of all the countless performances that were overlooked as well.
The Best of Film Noir – Other Winners
Claire Trevor won a best supporting Oscar for Key Largo. The score for Sunset Boulevard, by Franz Waxman won in 1950. Laura, The Naked City and The Third Man all won best B&W cinematography and Leave Her To Heaven won best color cinematography. Body and Soul and The Naked City both won for best film editing.
The Best of Film Noir – The Writing
As an indie author, here’s what I find fascinating about film noir and the Oscars: the academy awards noticed the genre for its stellar writing. If you look at the number of film noir that garnered Oscar nods in the writing categories, it’s staggering. Some film noir nominated: Sunset Boulevard, The Maltese Falcon, Laura, Double Indemnity, Shadow Of A Doubt, The Killers, Mildred Pierce, Body And Soul, Crossfire, Kiss of Death, White Heat, The Fallen Idol, Ace In The Hole and more. Sunset Boulevard was the only one to win.
My take on this: you can’t have a great movie without first having a great script. And it goes with writing a novel. You can’t have a great book, and one that people will want to buy and read, without great writing. You indie authors, that’s your takeaway for this post :). It may seem simple, but too many people publish before they’ve written a good, solidly written book. I encourage you to hone your craft before you publish.
So, it’s time for the Oscars. Who is going to win this year (and do we care lol)? Enjoy!