Awards season has begun, which unashamedly makes me giddy. I've already seen a lot of the films that could potentially be recognised over the coming months but there are still plenty to go. One that I am particularly looking forward to is The Artist, especially after being named the favourite of the New York Film Critics yesterday. I'll be attending a screening of it (sadly, sans Q&A) on Friday, and will report on its merit soon.
Time now to discuss another nominee from the 1929/30 Best Picture contest...
Alfred E. Green
(based on the play by Louis N. Parker)
George Arliss, Joan Bennett, Florence Arliss, Anthony Bushell, David Torrence, Ivan F. Simpson, Doris Lloyd
1 win, for Best Actor (Arliss)
19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (Arliss) is having a tough time of it. His political rival, William Gladstone, has helped to undercut Disraeli's plans for a more far-reaching British Empire. But when Egypt puts the Suez Canal on the market, Disraeli sets his sights on purchasing it in order to secure control of India. Only trouble is the head of the Bank of England (Torrence) won't release the needed funds. Not one to give up, Disraeli calls upon wealthy Jewish banker Hugh Meyers (Simpson) for a loan and, with the help of his aide Charles (Bushell), Disraeli makes every last effort to ensure the transaction is successful.
With a generous helping of dialogue, the film's genesis as a play is unmistakable. There is very little action among the mostly political discussions until at least an hour into the story when a sense of urgency is finally introduced. At this point, the tale becomes exponentially more involving. Interestingly, the plot devices used are incredibly similar to those of farce, just without the humour. Disreali observes a foreign agent sneak an important piece of paper into her sleeve and excuse herself so she can secretly read it. Our inimitable hero ushers one of his allies to pester the rival, making sure she is not alone. It's like a doorless version of Noises Off. While exciting, this sequence is clearly far from historically accurate, along with much of the film's story, I imagine. The spy element, in particular, seems rather unlikely. Nonetheless, the picture is certainly not intended to be a documentary.
You will probably find parts of this picture dull, but it is certainly worth watching, if for George Arliss's (pictured) intelligent performance alone. He became the first British actor to win an Oscar, and was arguably also the first to benefit from the Academy's penchant for transformational character work.