Musical Monday-Academy Award Winners: Naughty Marietta (1935)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

naughtyThis week’s musical:
Naughty Marietta” (1935)– Musical #242

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke and Robert Z. Leonard

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan, Elsa Lanchester, Douglass Dumbrille, Joseph Cawthorn, Cecilia Parker, Akim Tamiroff, Cora Sue Collins (uncredited)

Plot:
Princess Marie (MacDonald) is ordered by her uncle (Dumbrille) to marry elderly Don Carlos (Kingsford). To avoid this, Marie dresses up like her maid, who plans to sail on a ship headed to New Orleans that is full of brides for the colonists. En-route to New Orleans, the ship taken over by pirates who kill the crew and turn their attention to the women. Before this can escalate, a troop of mercenaries rescue the women and get them safely to New Orleans. The leader of the troop Warrington (Eddy), takes a fancy to Marie, who does not return the feeling. The women are welcomed by the Governor (Morgan) and his wife (Lanchester), and Marie announces that she doesn’t want to marry anyone. While she is disgraced and housed in a different area of the town, the Governor is sure he has seen her somewhere before.

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“But first and foremost, I remember mama”

An actress won an Academy Award in 1948 for not saying a word.

But the actress I feel should have won, spoke with a Norwegian accent.

Jane Wyman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role as a deaf/mute in “Johnny Belinda.”

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

Jane Wyman winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Johnny Belinda

“I accept this very graciously for keeping my mouth shut once, I think I’ll do it again,” Wyman said when she accepted the award.

While I enjoy the movie “Johnny Belinda” and think Wyman did a good job, she isn’t the actress I would have picked.

The nominations that year were:

•Jane Wyman for “Johnny Belinda

•Ingrid Bergman for “Joan of Arc

•Olivia de Havilland for “The Snake Pit

•Irene Dunne for “I Remember Mama

•Barbara Stanwyck for Sorry, Wrong Number

Of the five women, I would have picked Olivia de Havilland or Irene Dunne.

I’m a huge Stanwyck fan, but her performance in “Sorry, Wrong Number” annoys me. I’ve never seen “Joan of Arc.” Olivia de Havilland gives a convincing, heartbreaking performance of a woman who can’t remember how she got into a state asylum in “The Snake Pit.”

But today I’m here to recognize Irene Dunne for her role as Martha “Mama”Hanson in “I Remember Mama.”

The movie, narrated by her daughter Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes), follows a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco as they grow up and face joys and sadness.

“For long as I could remember, the house on the Larkin Street Hill had been home. Papa and Mama had both born in Norway but they came to San Francisco because Mama’s sisters were here, all of us were born here. Nels, the oldest and the only boy, my sister Christine and the littlest sister Dagmar but first and foremost I remember Mama,” she narrates.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

The Hanson family gathered, counting their expenses.

And every night the family would gather together, counting their expenses and the money brought into the house. The family never wanted to go “to the bank,” a little box kept in a closet with money that was supposed to be saved to get Mama a warm winter coat.

When the family wouldn’t have to take money from the bank, Mama would sigh happily and say, “It’s good, we do not have to go to the bank.”

The movie is filled with memorable scenes:

•Dagmar (June Hedin) has surgery and Mama isn’t allowed to see her. “I’m not a visitor, I’m her mama,” she says. Mama knows Dagmar is afraid staying in the hospital overnight, so pretends to be a cleaning woman and cleans the hospital floors working her way to the children’s ward. She then sings Dagmar, and all the other children to sleep.

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

Mama (Irene Dunne) pretends to be a wash woman in the hospital to see her daughter, Dagmar. (LIFE photo by Allan Grant)

•Papa (Philip Dorn) is watching as his son Nels (Steve Brown) tries to smoke a pipe for the first time. He lights the pipe for Nels, knowing his son will get sick, and then comforts him when he does-teaching him a lesson in smoking.

•Aunt Trina (Ellen Corby) wants to marry Mr. Thorkelson (Edgar Bergen), the shy funeral director, and her sisters make fun of her. Mama makes them stop by subtly reminding them about how one cried all night on her wedding night and the other’s husband tried to run away before the wedding.

•Mama (Dunne) goes to see famous writer Florence Dana Moorhead (Florence Bates) to help Katrin with her writing. Mama gives Miss Moorhead, a lover of food, recipes in exchange for Miss Moorhead to read Katrin’s stories.

I found Dunne’s role to be heartwarming and believable. In the film she handled situations firmly, with tenderness or humor.  The warm nature of the film may not have made it memorable to the Academy, but I like movies about families. I suppose it makes me think of my own and how my mother likes this movie as well.

This was Dunne’s last of five Oscar nominations she would receive. The others were “Cimarron,” “Theodora Goes Wild,” “The Awful Truth” and “Love Affair.”

While the performances by Jane Wyman and Olivia De Havilland were good, for me “first and foremost, I remember mama.”

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This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Once Upon a ScreenOutspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. It runs Feb. 1 – Mar. 3, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.

Did that performance deserve an Oscar?: Luise Rainer in “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936)

This post is part of the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon, hosted by Once Upon a ScreenOutspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. It runs Feb. 1 – Mar. 3, in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar.

 Occasionally you look at Academy Award winners, raise an eyebrow and say, “Really?”

Luise Rainer’s 1936 Best Actress win for “The Great Ziegfeld” is one of those for me.

Now don’t get me wrong. I adore Rainer, nicknamed “The Viennese Teardrop.”

Luise Rainer as Anna Held in "The Great Ziegfeld"

Luise Rainer as Anna Held in “The Great Ziegfeld”

It’s amazing that she was the first actress to win two Best Actress Awards back to back and is still with us at age 103. She did a good job with her role in “The Great Ziegfeld” but it did not leave me wowed.

The Great Ziegfeld” is a fictionalized biography of Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld, played by William Powell.

Rainer plays Anna Held, who the film says is Ziegfeld’s first wife. In reality, Held and Ziegfeld lived together for a year while she was getting divorced. After the divorce was finalized, the couple announced that they considered themselves married, though they never officially were, according to Musicals 101. Ziegfeld later went on to marry Billie Burke, who many people know as Glenda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). Burke is played by Myrna Loy in the film.

Out of the nearly three hour movie, Rainer is in roughly 40 minutes.

In the film, Held is a bit of a diva. For example, she throws a temper tantrum (and orchids) when Ziegfeld tells the press that Held bathes in milk for publicity. Another time she gets upset because Ziegfeld is producing two shows, and will only let her be in one.

“I’m so disappointed in you I could scream,” she cries. “I thought you loved me more than anything else in the world. I thought I was your one ideal, your only ambition.”

In the end, Ziegfeld treats Held rather badly, going after a character played by Virginia Bruce in the film. I think Bruce’s character is supposed to be Lilliane Lorraine, who Ziegfeld left Held for in real life. In the movie, Anna Held leaves Ziegfeld after seeing him embracing another woman.

So let’s see who was Rainer up against in 1936:

-Irene Dunne for “Theodora Goes Wild

-Gladys George for Valiant is the Word for Carrie

-Carole Lombard for My Man Godfrey

-Norma Shearer for Romeo and Juliet

Of those films, the only one I haven’t seen is “Valiant is the Word for Carrie.”

Shearer, Dunne and Lombard were already established stars and are all excellent in their films.

However here is why I don’t believe they won:

1. “Theodora Goes Wild” and “My Man Godfrey” both were comedic roles. Though comedy is usually more difficult to perform, it doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously with awards.

2. Shearer is good as Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” but she is a 34-year-old woman playing a 16-year-old girl. That may not have had anything to do with her not winning the award, but it does make the role less believable.

The 1936 Academy Awards had other odd nominations:

-Deanna Durbin musical “Three Smart Girls” was nominated for Best Picture

-Stuart Erwin was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for “Pigskin Parade

-Best Song nomination for “Do I Remember?” from “Suzy,” a song performed by a dubbed Jean Harlow.

Apparently, Rainer’s win was also controversial at the time, since she was still rather unknown and the role was considered more a supporting one.

Luise Rainer (center in black) performing "It's Delightful to Be Married."

Luise Rainer (center in black) performing “It’s Delightful to Be Married.”

Some say she won because of the $2 million budget MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer spent on the film (though this doesn’t make since to me, since it also won Best Picture). Others say it’s because of the broken hearted telephone call to Ziegfeld, congratulating him on his marriage to Billie Burke.

Why do I think Rainer won the 1936 Best Actress Award?

I personally wonder if it was process of elimination and reluctance to give the award for a comedic performance.

Who do I feel deserved the award? Either Dunne or Lombard.

Rainer went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1937 for her role as O-Lan, a Chinese woman, in “The Good Earth.” The role is a personal favorite of Rainer’s, and an award I feel she deserved.

Winning the Academy Award two years in a row is something Rainer said was one of the worse things that could have happened to her.

“The Oscar is not the curse,” she said. “The real curse is that once you have an Oscar, they think you can do anything.”

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