Best Screenplay 1943

1927/28 through 1997

What were the best Original and Adapted screenplays of 1943?

Air Force (Dudley Nichols)
2
10%
In which We Serve (Noel Coward)
6
29%
The North Star (Lillian Hellman)
0
No votes
Princess O'Rourke (Norman Krasna)
0
No votes
So Proudly We Hail! (Allan Scott)
0
No votes
Casablanca (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch)
10
48%
Holy Matrimony (Nunnally Johnson)
1
5%
The More the Merrier (Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster, Frank Ross, Robert Russell)
1
5%
The Song of Bernadette (George Seaton)
1
5%
Watch on the Rhine (Dashiell Hammett)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 21

The Original BJ
Emeritus
Posts: 4250
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 8:49 pm

Re: Best Screenplay 1943

Postby The Original BJ » Wed May 24, 2017 10:10 pm

Of the excluded options under Adapted, I agree that The Ox-Bow Incident definitely should have been there. (Kudos, though, to the writers for being basically the only branch to pass on For Whom the Bell Tolls.)

Watch on the Rhine is the weakest nominee. There’s the usual filmed play problem -- and this adaptation certainly FEELS like a filmed play -- but I also find Paul Lukas’s noble heroism sort of dull, and lacking the shadings of Bogart's similar hero in Casablanca. While I understand that a strict “rally the troops” message served a worthy purpose during the war, today it just makes the writing seem simplistic.

I knew virtually nothing about Holy Matrimony before I watched it, and was pleased to find it had a fun premise that remained entertaining throughout its running time. It's a fairly lightweight movie, and the ultimate resolution of the court room plot feels a bit too simple, but it's easy to see why it was singled out in this category.

The More the Merrier is a perfectly winning comedy, with funny dialogue, a well-plotted story, and a trio of compelling characters. It isn’t, for me, an all-time great comedy, but it’s a smart piece of social commentary that mines issues of its era for humor, and its screenplay is a very solid nominee here.

The Song of Bernadette gets a lot of credit for its thoughtful treatment of religion -- it’s clearly respectful toward Catholicism (as one would expect a movie of its era to be), but isn’t afraid to shy away from the elements of religion that provoke doubt and pain in its characters as well. At two and a half hours, the movie is definitely longer than it needs to be, but I found it to be an unexpectedly moving drama.

But Casablanca is the obvious choice, and I see no need to dissent from that consensus. Over the decades, Casablanca has gained a reputation for being the greatest screenplay ever, often according to people who I think are kind of ridiculous (i.e. the Robert McKee crowd for whom structure is everything). And it’s clear that the movie’s efficient plotting -- which is classical in every sense of the term -- is what has made the script such a fixture of Screenwriting 101 classes. But a screenplay doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to achieve excellence, not when the level of execution is this high -- in addition to the countless all-time great one-liners, the quality of the writing from scene to scene is superb, moving story along swiftly while also revealing rich details about the characters, and reveling in the pleasure of smart, cynical language throughout. Casablanca’s script is the finest element of a legendary movie, and one of the most deserving winners in this category’s history.

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15822
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Re: Best Screenplay 1943

Postby Big Magilla » Tue Aug 30, 2016 3:24 pm

Mister Tee wrote:But Casablanca is here, and, though I didn’t line up with all of you who designated it 1943’s best picture, I’m happy to single out its script as an exceptional element. Magilla speaks of it as a movie of clichés, something the Tiimes capsule review has always said about it, but I can’t say I see it that way. If there are elements that FEEL like cliches, is that possibly because of the extraordinary impact the film has had on the culture over 70 years? I mean, was “Here’s looking at you, kid” familiar the first time around? I guarantee “Round up the usual suspects” wasn’t – when I watched the film at college, the whole room burst into applause at the line. And there’s so much about the film that has such a devil-may-care aspect – the flip dialogue (“Occupation?” “Drunkard”; the immortal “I was misinformed”), the casual corruption of Capt. Renault – that it easily stands out from other films of the era. It’s also notable that, while we remember many elements of the plot, we just as quickly recall lines of dialogue associated with those turns (culminating in “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”); that tells us this is a real writer’s work. I’ll never take the film fully seriously – it’s got too much wish-fulfillment nobility in it to pass for realism. But there’s such a thing as great writing within a pulpy genre, and Casablanca achieves it. Thus, winning my vote.


I don't recall when exactly I first saw Casablanca, probably sometime in the 60s. I think it was the 70s before l fell under its spell.

The notion of clichés may have come about because in the late 50s and early 60s there were a lot of films I saw both on TV and in the movies with similar plots and lines. While they've all fallen from memory, Casablanca just gets more interesting with every viewing.

There was no mention of clichés in Bosley Crowther's original review of 11/27/42.

Here it is:

Against the electric background of a sleek cafe in a North African port, through which swirls a backwash of connivers, crooks and fleeing European refugees, the Warner Brothers are telling a rich, suave, exciting and moving tale in their new film, "Casablanca," which came to the Hollywood yesterday. They are telling it in the high tradition of their hard-boiled romantic-adventure style. And to make it all the more tempting they have given it a top-notch thriller cast of Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veldt and even Claude Rains, and have capped it magnificently with Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and a Negro "find" named Dooley Wilson.

Yes, indeed, the Warners here have a picture which makes the spine tingle and the heart take a leap. For once more, as in recent Bogart pictures, they have turned the incisive trick of draping a tender love story within the folds of a tight topical theme. They have used Mr. Bogart's personality, so well established in other brilliant films, to inject a cold point of tough resistance to evil forces afoot in Europe today. And they have so combined sentiment, humor and pathos with taut melodrama and bristling intrigue that the result is a highly entertaining and even inspiring film.

The story, as would be natural, has its devious convolutions of plot. But mainly it tells of a tough fellow named Rick who runs a Casablanca cafe and of what happens (or what happened last December) when there shows up in his joint one night a girl whom he had previously loved in Paris in company with a fugitive Czech patriot. The Nazis are tailing the young Czech; the Vichy officials offer only brief refuge—and Rick holds the only two sure passports which will guarantee his and the girl's escape. But Rick loves the girl very dearly, she is now married to this other man—and whenever his Negro pianist sits there in the dark and sings "As Time Goes By" that old, irresistible feeling consumes him in a choking, maddening wave.

Don't worry; we won't tell you how it all comes out. That would be rankest sabotage. But we will tell you that the urbane detail and the crackling dialogue which has been packed into this film by the scriptwriters, the Epstein brothers and Howard Koch, is of the best. We will tell you that Michael Curtiz has directed for slow suspense and that his camera is always conveying grim tension and uncertainty. Some of the significant incidents, too, are affecting—such as that in which the passionate Czech patriot rouses the customers in Rick's cafe to drown out a chorus of Nazis by singing the Marseillaise, or any moment in which Dooley Wilson is remembering past popular songs in a hushed room.

We will tell you also that the performances of the actors are all of the first order, but especially those of Mr. Bogart and Miss Bergman in the leading roles. Mr. Bogart is, as usual, the cool, cynical, efficient and super-wise guy who operates his business strictly for profit but has a core of sentiment and idealism inside. Conflict becomes his inner character, and he handles it credibly. Miss Bergman is surpassingly lovely, crisp and natural as the girl and lights the romantic passages with a warm and genuine glow.

Mr. Rains is properly slippery and crafty as a minion of Vichy perfidy, and Mr. Veidt plays again a Nazi officer with cold and implacable resolve. Very little is demanded of Mr. Greenstreet as a shrewd black-market trader, but that is good, and Mr. Henreid is forthright and simple as the imperiled Czech patriot. Mr. Wilson's performance as Rick's devoted friend, though rather brief, is filled with a sweetness and compassion which lend a helpful mood to the whole film, and other small roles are played ably by S. Z. Sakall, Joy Page, Leonid Kinskey and Mr. Lorre.

In short, we will say that "Casablanca" is one of the year's most exciting and trenchant films. It certainly won't make Vichy happy—but that's just another point for it.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6581
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Best Screenplay 1943

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:31 pm

The original field is lackluster enough that I’d love to make substitutions, but I’m guessing the bizarre rules that draw a line between original story and original screenplay would prevent my choosing Shadow of a Doubt or The Human Comedy, both of which were original scripts by modern (and any sensible) standards.

The winner, Princess O’Rourke, is set up in pretty lame fashion – an over-tranquilized princess, a regular guy who doesn’t know he’s out with royalty -- and it’s followed by a predictable fancy-dame-realizes-how-great-the-common-folk-are storyline, culminating in an almost unbearable climax that has FDR taking time out from managing the war to negotiate a marriage inside the White House. It’s not easy in this group, but Princess O’Rourke is the worst of the nominees, and it somehow became the winner.

I’d started to watch The North Star a number of years ago and couldn’t crack the 15-minute mark; those simple, smiling workers sent me running from the room. My devotion to this set of threads forced me to go back and watch the whole thing. As it turns out, once the Nazis invade, the film becomes an adequate enough resistance movie. But that early portion is still really hard to take: you can feel the joy Hollywood lefties like Hellman took in, after decades of being stifled, at last being able to openly display their admiration for the Soviet model. The characters are presented as salt of the earth folk who, when the Nazis strike, instantly become the fervent anti-fascists they always were at heart (the Nazi-Soviet pact for some reason never comes up). A movie more notable for the HUAC testimony it ignited than for anything up on the screen.

The rest of the roster is all war films, none of them terrible. I’ve always enjoyed So Proudly We Hail – I think it’s got some gripping action sequences – though, in writing terms, it’s nothing special.

What you can say for Air Force is, it’s got a fairly strong premise and structure: what if a crew sets out on a routine exercise to Hawaii, and the attack on Pearl Harbor happens while they’re en route? – how would they respond; what steps would they take to reset their mission? It makes for a decently engrossing two hours, though, again, nothing that jumps out as great screenwriting.

It’s long enough since I’ve seen In Which We Serve that my recollection of specific storylines is rather hazy. I certainly recall the structure – naval survivors clinging to a raft, each recollecting the life left behind, offering a portrait of the Britain being defended in the battle. It was Noel Coward at his stiff-upper-lippest, and, like much of his work when dealing with the proles, unconsciously condescending. But it’s a moving portrait, and, in terms of sheer writing, it’s easily the best offering on this list, and must get my vote.

As Magilla notes, The Ox-Bow Incident would have been a solid substitute under adapted; the same could be said for Hangmen Also Die.

Lillian Hellman was never my idea of a great playwright, and Watch on the Rhine is one of her weaker efforts, likely honored here (and at the NY Critics) more for its wartime spirit than its quality. It’s not unwatchable, but it’s a humdrum play brought to the screen without distinction. And a pretty lackluster credit for Dashiell Hammett’s only Oscar recognition.

The Song of Bernadette, as many of us have discussed in other threads, is a surprisingly nuanced, serious look at a religious event that gives plenty of screen-time to both skeptics and believers. It’s George Seaton’s most impressive Oscar contender, worth saluting, even if it won’t get my vote.

I praised The More the Merrier in the Original Story thread, and don’t feel up to writing about it again. Suffice to say that, here as well as there, I admired its achievement but found something else more worthy of my vote.

Holy Matrimony was a film that had eluded me for decades; I only finally got to it a year or so back, and, happily, it wasn’t a disappointment. It’s a film with a jaunty premise, and lots of fun dialogue, delivered with panache by Monty Woolley and Gracie Fields. The latter was new to me, but a real find (I subsequently watched her follow-up with Woolley, Molly and Me, which isn’t as good but still quite enjoyable.) Anyway, it’s easy to see why the writers singled this out – it’s a very witty piece, and in another year might contend for my vote.

But Casablanca is here, and, though I didn’t line up with all of you who designated it 1943’s best picture, I’m happy to single out its script as an exceptional element. Magilla speaks of it as a movie of clichés, something the Tiimes capsule review has always said about it, but I can’t say I see it that way. If there are elements that FEEL like cliches, is that possibly because of the extraordinary impact the film has had on the culture over 70 years? I mean, was “Here’s looking at you, kid” familiar the first time around? I guarantee “Round up the usual suspects” wasn’t – when I watched the film at college, the whole room burst into applause at the line. And there’s so much about the film that has such a devil-may-care aspect – the flip dialogue (“Occupation?” “Drunkard”; the immortal “I was misinformed”), the casual corruption of Capt. Renault – that it easily stands out from other films of the era. It’s also notable that, while we remember many elements of the plot, we just as quickly recall lines of dialogue associated with those turns (culminating in “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”); that tells us this is a real writer’s work. I’ll never take the film fully seriously – it’s got too much wish-fulfillment nobility in it to pass for realism. But there’s such a thing as great writing within a pulpy genre, and Casablanca achieves it. Thus, winning my vote.

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15822
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Re: Best Screenplay 1943

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:09 am

Original

This is an unusual group of nominees in that all of them are by single writers.

Norman Krasna's screenplay for Princess O'Rourke is nothing special. One can only conclude that it won by splitting the vote between the four superior war-related scripts.

Lillian Hellman's script for The North Star is good in segments, but the whole is too unfocused to really consider it for the win.

Allan Scott's screenplay for So Proudly We Hail! is certainly vivid but when you look beyond the focus of its women in war setting it's standard WWII fare.

Dudley Nichols' screenplay for Air Force is vivid and moving. In every way this was one of the best of the WW II films, from its Oscar winning editing to the nominated cinematography and special effects to Howard Hawks' stalwart direction of a mostly unknown and under-utilized cast.

But Noel Coward's epic British film In Which We Serve is the sturdiest, most complex screenplay here and deserves the win.

Adapted

Most conspicuous by its absence is Lamar Trotti's screenplay for The Ox-Bow Incident which certainly deserved more than its sole nomination for Best Picture.

It would be an easy replacement for me for Dashiell Hammett's adaptation of paramour Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine which does little to open up a very talky play. The speeches are the thing, and they were in the original.

George Seaton did a commendable job of adapting Franz Werfel's novel, The Song of Bernadette, but as strong as his screenplay was, there were three others that were even more remarkable.

Nunnally Johnson's adaptation of Arnold Bennett's novel, Buried Alive was not the first, nor would it be the last, but Holy Matrimony is one of those films that just the mention of it brings a smile to my lips.

Frank Ross and company wrote the perfect screenplay for his wife, Jean Arthur, good enough to get her the only Oscar nomination of long career, and she wasn't even the primary focus of The More the Merrier in which she and Joel McCrea, as good as they are, are secondary in audience's affections to Charles Coburn as their little old matchmaker.

But then there's Casablanca which is made up entirely of clichés, but such golden clichés, that we love every one of them. The Epstein brothers and Howard Koch get my salute and my win, though in truth I would be happy with a win for any of the nominees other than Watch on the Rhine here.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15822
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Re: Best Screenplay 1944

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Aug 25, 2016 2:56 am

Mister Tee wrote:I think you've probably realized by now, this should read 1943.

Nope, thanks for pointing it out! I'll fix it right away.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6581
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Best Screenplay 1944

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 24, 2016 10:05 pm

I think you've probably realized by now, this should read 1943.

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15822
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Best Screenplay 1943

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Aug 24, 2016 8:26 pm

The poll is open.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire


Return to “The Damien Bona Memorial Oscar History Thread”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests