Saturday, March 30, 2013

Best Picture of 1942

Choosing which Best Picture nominee I would have voted for is always challenging, but when there are ten contenders, as is the case for 1942, the difficulty obviously increases. As such, the possibility exists that my decision will be inadvertently influenced by a film's longevity and position in cinematic history. There's a good chance that subconscious phenomenon has occurred for this verdict, but so be it.

The nominees for Best Picture of 1942 are:
  • Kings Row
  • The Invaders
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • Mrs. Miniver
  • The Pied Piper
  • The Pride of the Yankees
  • Random Harvest
  • The Talk of the Town
  • Wake Island
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
Since 1942 was the first full year in which the U.S. participated in World War II, there were understandably a great deal of pictures that dealt with war themes. Four of the Best Picture nominees use the war as a main focus, while Yankee Doodle Dandy's unabashedly patriotic style features the war towards the end of the film.

Separating these films is certainly no easy task, but I managed to at least divide them into two groups, thereby leaving half of them out of the running. In no particular order, the bottom five are Kings Row, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Pride of the Yankees, Wake Island and Yankee Doodle Dandy. A lot of quality cinema right there. Indeed, many of those films are considered classics, yet for whatever reason, I found myself more fascinated by The Invaders, The Pied Piper, The Talk of the Town, Random Harvest and Mrs. Miniver.

In the end, however, and perhaps partly due to the Academy's influence, my choice for Best Picture of 1942 is the same as theirs, Mrs. Miniver.

Best Picture of 1942
Academy's choice:

Mrs. Miniver

Matt's choice:

Mrs. Miniver

Your choice:

What's your pick? Vote in the poll above for your favourite of 1942. You may have noticed that, during my review of 1942, I did not have the usual poll to allow for my readers to select the next year of review. That was mostly absent-mindedness, but towards the end of the review, I had hoped to be wrapped up in time to go see most of 1932/33's nominees at the Film Forum, an independent cinema here in New York which recently held a month-long retrospective of pre-Code films from 1933. Alas, I didn't come close to finishing this review, so instead, due to one of its nominees having a screening soon nearby, we'll now take a look at the 1961 race.

And the nominees for Best Picture of 1961 are:
  • Fanny
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • The Hustler
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • West Side Story
Stay tuned...


  1. I’m sorry to say that my evaluation of the ten nominees for 1942 fell short due to various commitments, not the least of which was this year’s Academy Awards slate of films. So with not seeing Wake Island, and relying on past viewings of The Invaders and The Magnificent Ambersons, my final rankings are just a bit suspect.

    I would, as always, like to point out the omissions. With ten nominees, it is unfortunate that there wasn’t room for Sullivan’s Travels, To Be or Not to Be and Woman of the Year. Film noir was still in its infancy, but a few titles of note were The Glass Key (of major influence years later for the Coen Brothers Miller’s Crossing), I Wake Up Screaming and especially This Gun for Hire.

    A special mention must be noted for two films made in 1942, but due to problems being released in Los Angeles before the cutoff date, found themselves waiting until 1943 to compete for Best Picture - In Which We Serve and Casablanca. In Which We Serve won the 1942 New York Film Critics Award and was clearly the favorite film having already won the top prize from The National Board of Review, but a year later, the story was different.

    So, as you did Matt, I’ll split the group and lump Wake Island, The Pied Piper, The Invaders, The Pride of the Yankees and The Talk of the Town in the lower grouping. The top five would be:
    5. Yankee Doodle Dandy
    4. King’s Row
    3. The Magnificent Ambersons
    2. Mrs. Miniver
    1. Random Harvest

    The Magnificent Ambersons was certainly manhandled in 1942 most probably due to Orson Welles and the studio’s bad relationship. It is easily the critics’ choice today. It has many strengths, but I can’t say I find its story of comeuppance that enjoyable. I have no qualms about Mrs. Miniver’s win and your agreement. In 1942, it was the clear and obvious choice. Random Harvest, on the other hand, is unabashedly manipulative, contrived and sentimental. What can I say except I have a soft spot for it, and find myself watching it about once a year.

    I’m glad you are continuing your quest. I was worried that you might be thinking of a hiatus. I always look forward to the decade of the 1960s. For 1961 there’s a great mix of genres, which always make comparisons challenging.

  2. I look forward to your review of West Side Story! :)