Best Original Story 1930/31

1927/28 through 1997

What was the Best Original Story of 1930/31?

The Dawn Patrol (John Monk Saunders)
1
11%
The Doorway to Hell (Rowland Brown)
0
No votes
Laughter (Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast, Douglas Z. Doty, Donald Ogden Stewart)
1
11%
The Public Enemy (John Bright, Kubec Glasmon)
7
78%
Smart Money (Lucien Hubbard, Joseph Jackson)
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 9

Big Magilla
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Re: Best Original Story 1930/31

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Aug 25, 2017 8:00 pm

I saw Laughter again recently in a better transfer. It's not great, and although it's only been a few weeks, I've pretty much forgotten it again, but I did appreciate the actors more this time. I found Diane Ellis, who played Frank Morgan's daughter, especially interesting. I wondered why I'd never seen her in anything else, only to learn that she died of a sudden illness at the age of 20 two months after the film's release while on her honeymoon in India.

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Re: Best Original Story 1930/31

Postby The Original BJ » Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:49 pm

This category (and its adapted counterpart) offer a lot of evidence for the argument that it took filmmakers a few years to figure out how to properly pace sound films -- a lot of these movies are sluggish, part of the reason it took me so long to get through this roster.

I watched Laughter on what looks like a bad VHS transfer on YouTube, complete with washed out images and hissy sound, so it certainly wasn't the ideal viewing experience. But I'd be hard-pressed to argue that the movie merits any more spiffed-up treatment -- the plot line is pretty rudderless, with a lot of meandering story threads, and a bunch of love triangles that cause the characters to behave in ways that often seem wholly unmotivated.

Gangster movies in the early '30's must have been what superhero movies are now -- a genre audiences kept flocking to despite the fact that most of their plots are exactly the same. The Doorway to Hell is a pretty rote story of warring mob factions, with a script that doesn't seem to have a handle on which plot points the audience actually needs to see on-screen to stay with the story. And as has been said, Lew Ayres as the leader of the gangsters is miscasting of the highest magnitude.

Smart Money is definitely better -- there's certainly some kick to watching Robinson and Cagney go toe-to-toe in this movie. (It's like the Pre-Code equivalent of the Pacino/De Niro teaming in Heat.) But it, too, has a pretty thin storyline -- I found it more engaging than some contemporaneous films, but I barely remember it, and I saw it two WEEKS ago.

The Dawn Patrol handles its subject with honesty and sensitivity, capturing the emotional toll of warfare and the challenge the veteran commanders have with sending young men into battle. Given the options, it's not an indefensible choice, but I have a hard time giving writing prizes to movies where so much of the run time amounts to sequences of fighting. (This, too, is another early sound movie that was clearly elevated by Howard Hawks's touch.)

The Public Enemy is the movie that holds up best today, and I give it my vote. Like a lot of gangster movies from the era, its storyline doesn't necessarily come off wildly inventive today, but the details throughout elevate it beyond the run-of-the-mill -- I remember being shocked at how nasty the grapefruit scene came off when I first saw it -- and it feels like the right movie to reward in tandem with Little Caesar, as the standout early efforts (along with Scarface) of this popular genre.

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Re: Best Original Story 1930/31

Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 21, 2017 4:42 pm

Laughter is a really odd film, swaying back and forth between quippy comedy and melodrama. I can credit it with being unpredictable -- since I never knew where it was going, I never knew what to expect next -- but that doesn't means it's good. Oh, and Fredric March/Nancy Carroll have a scene where they break into a house on Long Island and are caught by police -- the treatment they receive is what we today would call extreme white privilege.

Doorway to Hell is notable for one reason: Lew Ayres, as the top-lined gangster, is so outshone by James Cagney that it's clear Cagney is the star of the two -- something that not only bore out over the next three decades, it populated much of the remainder of this category.

To wit: Smart Money, the only screen teaming of Warners' two primary gangster stars, Cagney and Robinson. The plot is pretty generic -- I honestly barely remember it, and I've seen it in the past 15 years or so -- but it's an acceptable nominee.

The Dawn Patrol -- which I almost missed when it ran on TCM, because it ran under the title Flight Command (or maybe Commander; I can't recall) -- is, for its time, relatively complex. It deals with some of the same issues as Twelve O'Clock High: the strain that's felt not only by those going on dangerous flying missions, but also those commanders who send men to very likely death. It's a perfectly acceptable winner.

But I'm going for The Public Enemy, one of the seminal gangster films, full of memorable moments (the grapefruit scene), dialogue ("I ain't so tough") and details (the incongruous use of "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"). This is the most enduring film on the slate, for very good reason.

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Re: Best Original Story 1930/31

Postby Big Magilla » Thu Apr 13, 2017 8:08 am

I saw Laughter just once and hardly remember it.

Smart Money was a gangster comedy that was easily eclipsed by stars Robinson and Cagney in their other films during the eligibility period.

Doorway to Hell was a good gangster movie, but if you're gong to vote for a gangster film, The Public Enemy is the cream of the crop.

I think, though, that the Academy made the right choice with The Dawn Patrol, written by John Monk Saunders, Fay Wray's first husband, who also wrote the story for Wings.

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Best Original Story 1930/31

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:00 am

Getting close to the end now...


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