DVR ALert! Five Best Picture Winners on TCM's 31 Days of Oscar Ceremony

DVR ALert! Five Best Picture Winners on TCM's 31 Days of Oscar Ceremony

 

Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar Festival enters its 15th day on Friday, February 15th and it arguably features the best slate of films since this event began. The first day featuring Oscar nominated or winning films from MGM, includes five Best Picture winners as well as three award-winning performances.  Here are the highlights:

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Mutiny on the Bounty – The second film version recounting the ill-fated voyage of the HMS Bounty is the best as it features two powerhouse performances from its two leads, Clark Gable and Charles Laughton as Fletcher Christian and Captain Bligh respectively.  Though the movie runs over two hours, director Frank Lloyd keeps things moving along at a crisp pace as morale on the ship breaks down rapidly with the captain’s iron-fisted rule raising the ire of the crew who eventually mutiny.  Laughton is fantastic here, restraining himself as best he can but letting loose once things go wrong and he’s set adrift with the few loyal members of his crew.  Gable is great as well, obviously raising the bar in an effort to match his co-star’s efforts and he does so at every turn.  Curiously, producer Irving Thalberg cast the two stars knowing they would come to hate one another as he knew Gable would resent the fact that Laughton was gay and hoped that the animosity that would develop between them would translate to the screen.  He couldn’t have been more correct.  Ironically, Gable was unaware of Laughton’s sexual preference at the beginning of the shoot and took him to a brothel as a bonding experience. Great fun and great filmmaking, the movie only won the Best Picture Oscar, though it was nominated for eight including three for Best Actor (Gable, Laughton and Franchot Tone).  This logjam led to the creation of the Best Supporting Actor and Actress category that went into effect the next year.  (9:45 am)

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The Champ – Want your heart to break?  Check out this tearjerker starring Wallace Berry as a broken-down boxer who’s trying to retain custody of his son (Jackie Cooper) while resurrecting his pugilistic career.  This is cornball stuff to be sure but there’s a sincerity to it that’s irresistible. The final sequence is the stuff of legend as Cooper’s emotional response to the tragic turn of events that ensues is so natural that you can’t help but be moved.  The story goes that director King Vidor told the young actor that a car had hit his dog before filming the scene in order to get the desired reaction.  (For the record, the dog was fine.)  The scenes between Berry and Cooper are equally effective yet ironically, they didn’t get along off screen, a situation that got worse when they reunited for Treasure Island in 1934.  Berry won the Oscar for Best Actor, an award he shared with Frederic March in the Academy’s first tie.  Make sure to grab a hanky before sitting down for this one. (7:00 pm)

 

 

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Grand Hotel – “People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” So says Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone) about the Grand Hotel and he couldn’t be more wrong.  Melodrama aplenty occurs behind closed doors as MGM set out to make a film featuring their biggest stars and they succeed handsomely here.  Charisma abounds as Greta Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Berry and Joan Crawford jockey for screen time and it’s a delight to see them interact.  Garbo is a ballerina who lets everyone know she wants to be alone, while John is a jewel thief who needs to make a big score, and Lionel is enjoying his retirement before he dies.  Meanwhile, Berry tries to seduce his stenographer (Crawford) on the eve of a major merger.  The off-screen drama was just as compelling as Crawford was resentful that Garbo would receive top billing so she took her revenge by loudly playing Marlene Dietrich records, who she hated, and showing up late whenever she could, a habit she detested.  After initial screenings, extra scenes with Garbo were shot as it became obvious that Crawford had more screen time and walked away with the movie.  The film was a run-away success with ticket prices as high as $1.50 during roadshow engagements at a time when a dime was the going price for admission.  The only Best Picture Oscar winner not to be nominated for any other awards. (8:45 pm)

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