The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

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willoneill
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#326 Post by willoneill » Tue Feb 04, 2014 8:54 am

domino harvey wrote:This month is TCM's annual Oscar month and on a couple nights they're running all of a year's Best Picture nominees, so you YES YOU could start fully participating in this thread just by setting a few DVRs:

Feb 15: 1930
No rights to Love Parade on the Canadian feed ... which is weird, because I'm sure I watched Love Parade on TCM during last year's Oscar month.

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#327 Post by knives » Wed Aug 10, 2016 2:57 pm

1954
The Caine Mutiny
This is okay with reasonable performances from everyone and some pedestrian direction which works enough. The film stands out this year with the script being the best thing here offering some pretty decent drama and a few twists which in a more energetic adaptation could be really effective. This could have been a good film given all of the individual elements, but alas it isn't.

The Country Girl
Wow is this a stinker that just does not work on any level. The direction is that lame television stiffness which was so poplar in the '50s done without any of the talent that even Delbert Mann did. The script based on a play by curiously famous Clifford Odets is also just awful trying to be this serious alcoholism and relationship drama dealing with guilt, but only really delivers on hysterical sexism that seems out of place even in the '50s. Everyone except William Holden in miscast. Bing Crosby simply does not have the talent for this sort of role even if his personality was all wrong. The role is screaming for more of a Frederic March type of actor not some Hal Roach spectacle. Grace Kelly wins her oscar pretty exclusively for wearing glasses and unconvincingly pretending to be frumpy.

On the Waterfront
I've pissed on this film before on the forum so I won't stand too long. Kazan's direction almost convinces that this is a good film. Every bit of passion is pretty clear and forceful so even though the movie doesn't work I maintain my respect for him as an artist. Everyone else does terrible work. The actors either underplay or overplay their parts making each scene a schizophrenic mess which is just awkward. The script also is hilariously overegged with the metaphor just not making sense in this context and being surprisingly wishy washy on the elements you'd think they'd be most forthright about.

Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
It's really only a race for these last two which are both aesthetic joys even if they aren't great pictures. The musical numbers are good even if only the big dance is memorable and Donen lights up the screen with some fine use of colours. Even Howard Keel does his typical smarmy bit with an unusual amount of finesse.

Three Coins in the Fountain
This is a stupid film, but enjoyable so with Negulesco doing his typical thing resulting in some beautiful location porn and fun performances. Maggie McNamara is a delight as usual. Not her best performance, but hey no one this year is the best anything of anything so being enjoyable is good enough. I'm putting this over the Donen pretty exclusively because its a more fun film. It achieves all of the same things and has all of the same failings, but with just an inch more success.

My Vote: Three Coins in the Fountain

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dustybooks
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#328 Post by dustybooks » Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:13 pm

domino harvey wrote:A Thousand Clowns As evidenced as recently as Beasts of the Southern Wild, there's nothing squarer than the Academy trying to prove they're hip, and this is one of the more egregious examples. TV director Fred Coe is competent in the film's many set-bound segments, but outside of those the film engages in amateurish, non-sensical editing that is quite frankly second-hand embarrassing to sit through. Jason Robards plays one of those characters like the next year's Alfie who is a total obnoxious piece of shit starring in a film that loves him. The movie actually makes a pretty good case against Robards retaining custody of his nephew, I thought, and Barbara Harris' comments that his behavior would only be cute if she were twelve are spot-on. But then again, she and everyone else eventually capitulates to his alleged charm, so whatever. Martin Balsam is usually a reliable character actor but he's on screen for maybe five minutes here and does nothing in particular of interest and yet somehow won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in one of the more inexplicable wins ever-- if any category ever consistently makes less sense than Best Picture, it's the supporting acting categories!

Darling This was the year of Julie Christie and her win was as inevitable as any, but both her perf and the film itself are pretty disposable relics and additional proof of the danger in the Academy trying to get its finger on the pulse of anything resembling hipness. Forgivable but forgettable.
I think I just snapped my neck from the whiplash of how much I agree with this Thousand Clowns assessment and how much I disagree with the Darling review. The latter actually emotionally devastated me both times I saw it. But I just saw A Thousand Clowns and actually came online to wonder aloud how in the world Balsam bagged that Oscar -- I love him generally and was looking forward to the movie for that reason -- and the lurching between third-rate Godardian editing and stagebound dullness is incredibly off-putting. I did think Robards gave a good performance but agree that he played a tiresome overgrown adolescent used on the pretext of some pretty dim sub-Annie Hall commentary on what it's like to be a NYC comedy writer. I did think that one of the few really interesting elements of the movie (and presumably the play) was the ending, which actually seems to resign itself a bit to growing up as an actual solution, sort of a decent antidote to the very '60s ode to "nonconformity" I was expecting.

Alas, I've not seen Ship of Fools, but given the track record of its director I can pretty much proclaim Darling as my 1965 choice in a walk.

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#329 Post by knives » Mon Feb 13, 2017 12:15 am

1961
Fanny
Pagnol comes through quite loudly here resulting in a surprisingly involving and successful film. There are a lot of bad '60s affectations here that prevent it from being a great film. Still, enough of these old Hollywood faces bring their A game to allow even that to have its charm. Though the structure proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that every film is better without Horst Buchholz.

Guns of Navarone
Fun film, nothing else to say.

The Hustler
This and Lilith show how criminal reality can be. They highlight a major auteur at a transitional phase of his already unfortunately shrunken career turning into something that could have been unprecedented. Of all the major transformations in the '60s by old school directors these two films suggest that given more Rossen could have even beat Preminger in turning into a revolution completely a part of the young cinema. Making Paul Newman a compelling tragic figure for the era isn't hard; even Stuart Rosenberg could do that. What really seals the deal is how Rossen makes Fred Flinstone into this dangerous enigma. That's the work of a director on top of his game. His work with Eugene Shuftan, a pretty old gun himself, with expert blocking and a sense of lighting that's really unparalleled only makes this expert example of cinema all the more new even today.

Judgment at Nuremberg
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West Side Story
Robert Wise gets out of the play's way and just let's it be a theatrical experience which is probably the smartest move of his career for the best film of it. Robbins' choreography and Sondheim's music really is all the film needs though the production design really helps give this a full sense. In most years this would be the best film and this is certainly one of the best to be awarded as such, just not this year.

My vote: The Hustler

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#330 Post by knives » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:11 am

1963
America, America
It's weird to me that this film has fallen by the wayside so much. Not only is it obviously Kazan's most personal film, but the way he tells it is so smart in mixing styles that you would think at the very least it would have become a film school staple to teach acting and blocking.

Cleopatra
This isn't the best film in Mank's career, but the sheer scale and audacity of the thing is utterly unique for him and probably even to sound cinema on the whole with some jaw dropping feats that are effective to this day. I'll admit Richard Burton, an actor I'm not fond of, isn't the best here, but Taylor going just over the top enough for the part manages to even make his later sequences scream fun. A lot of the side elements work the best like the gay old time had with McDowell and Landau. Any film bordering on four hours that feels like a third that automatically has my respect.

How the West Was Won
This is certainly better than it has any right to be, but beyond the technical bravado there's nothing really to talk about. I imagine a high quality making of would probably result in a better picture actually.

Lilies of the Field
Poitier winning for this film is such a joke. There's absolutely nothing going on here and Poitier just spends the full 90 minutes either yelling at the German nuns or complaining about them. There's no character, no style, and no themes. Occasionally the film threatens to do something, but then decides to be congenial instead. Definitely the greatest shrug I've seen nominated for BP.

Tom Jones
I have to assume much like Anchors Aweigh the academy went for this lesser film because Richardson hadn't yet made The Charge of the Light Brigade nor Joseph Andrews. There's a lot to love here of course, but this is primarily a transitional film with the sort of awkwardness and unsuccessful fits one should expect from the first attempt at a pretty radical experiment especially in such cartoonish satire. The performances here, particularly by a drunk Hugh Griffith, are amazing and manage to capture the earthy perversity of the past in a way that mirrors Pasolini's Life Trilogy quite nicely. It's also incredibly beautiful with a very active use of colour. It is merely in relief of Richardson's career (and some of the other films nominated this year) that Tom Jones comes across as a less than picture.

My vote: Cleopatra

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dustybooks
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#331 Post by dustybooks » Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:49 pm

I'm working on filling out the remainder of the Best Picture nominees I haven't seen, after reading all the posts in these threads for years. May as well share my progress here, and also write a little about the years I've completed so far. Going to try my best not to double up on the observations of DH and others but forgive me if I fail.

1930
All Quiet on the Western Front - What can you say? My favorite of all war films I've seen, and an extraordinarily lively and uncompromised example of a strong, sincere antiwar message surviving intact to the screen. The battle scenes are truly harrowing and intimate, and the quieter moments tend toward an unforced sense of heartbreak and futility that I don't even think Grand Illusion totally matches, at least for me. We were shown this in a junior high school social studies class and our teacher positioned it as a warning, which I've thought of often ever since (this was four years before 9/11). Jon Voight's speech at the end of Coming Home (which I'm otherwise lukewarm on) is the only thing I've seen that's come close to hitting me so hard.

The Big House - sometimes it's difficult to judge films that essentially created or defined entire subgenres, but this is great fun, and admirably gritty for MGM, and I appreciate that Frances Marion's screenplay doesn't demonize any of the prisoners, a handy demonstration (like All Quiet) of what we potentially lost with the Hays Code. Films like this that are so economical in their storytelling, even if they're presented by competent workhorse studio directors like George Hill (who also made one of my favorite films from this year, Min and Bill), are a big reason why I find myself drawn so much to the American films of the 1930s above everything else. My only wish here is that Robert Montgomery was given more to do; otherwise, Wallace Beery's character in particular is surprisingly robust and believable. And without showing the actual process or the cell, this has one of the most disturbing solitary-confinement sequences I've ever seen.

Disraeli - the sort of film that's built around a single performance, and it's now a bit hard to see why George Arliss' work as the Prime Minister was so celebrated. I find movies like this technically interesting because I enjoy seeing how early talkies play now, but that was honestly the only thing keeping me awake (and it's compromised in that regard anyway, as the uncut sound-on-disc version is lost). Points for some of the dialogue and for Arliss' hair, though.

The Divorcee - a strange one. I barely remember it now so I'm going to break the rules (probably) and reproduce what I wrote on Lboxd:
Like a lot of films from this era with proto-feminist implications, this cops out completely by the finale... and it's all the more annoying here because its method of doing so is to invoke a completely arbitrary plot point from early on (a traumatic car crash that results in a disfigurement and what the film offensively characterizes as a pity marriage) that was already tonally at odds with the rest of the film. Maybe if you shut this down two thirds in, when Norma Shearer's heroine is rightly peeved by her husband's hypocrisy and writes him out of her life, its treatment of her free spirit and passion would ring true. Instead it's absurdly moralistic and highly dependent on abhorrent double standards. A pity, because at its liveliest moments this is a kinetic treat -- like a film that wishes it could be a screwball Comedy of Remarriage but can't get there -- and Shearer is magical as always.
The Love Parade - I'm only just this year becoming a great fan of Lubitsch and have fallen head over heels for several of his films, namely Trouble in Paradise, Design for Living, The Smiling Lieutenant and the less celebrated Eternal Love. But this didn't ingratiate itself quite as well with me, maybe because so much of it hinges on Chevalier's mugging and a rather thin story and I just didn't find it as funny as the later comedies and musicals. That said, I was blown away at how technically slick it is -- easily unseating Blackmail as the handsomest, most seamless 1920s talkie I've seen to date. And I truly adored the two numbers dominated by Lupito Lane and Lillian Roth and ended up wishing they were the center of attention throughout.

My vote: All Quiet

***

1948
Hamlet - I love Shakespeare and I find it interesting to see how directors visualize the plays cinematically but this, while quite lovely to look at most of the time (I particularly love the closing shot), is less inspired in its technique than Olivier's Henry V. Most of my other issues with it come down to textual differences, and I liked Olivier's performance as Hamlet, but it was kind of exactly what I expected on the whole.

Johnny Belinda - Everything about this suffering-narrative movie seems silly and wrongheaded, right down to the bizarre phony-violin rape scene, and I really don't care for Jane Wyman even when she's not trying to play a deaf-mute character, but for some reason I kind of got a kick out of the film. I don't think it was all because of Agnes Moorehead but she helped.

The Red Shoes - It's hard to remember sometimes that the Academy ever nominated classics this infallible. I've always felt it lost a lot of momentum after the magnificent ballet sequence, but that really doesn't matter, does it? I don't have to say it's one of the most beautiful films ever made because you know that.

the snake pit - Our identification with the great Olivia de Havilland as an asylum patient runs so deep, and her environment feels so distressingly real, that you can forgive a lot of this film's social-problem excesses; indeed, at its best this is very perceptive and quite disturbing.

Treasure of the Sierra Madre - I recently saw someone complain that this is narrative that relies far too much on convenient coincidences; maybe it says a lot about me that I never even noticed. I love practically everything about this, likely Huston's best film, from its nasty Wages of Fear-predicting cynicism to Bogart's almost eerily convincing work as a total cad to the lump I always get in my throat when the dead man's letter is read aloud. Walter Huston, unrecognizable from Dodsworth just a hair over a decade earlier, does an extraordinary job of rendering a cartoon of a character in three dimensions.

My vote: Treasure of the Sierra Madre

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Drucker
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#332 Post by Drucker » Mon Sep 18, 2017 2:07 pm

Treasure is surely one of my favorite Huston films, and the earliest classic film I remember watching as it was my father's favorite. Of course, seeing it as a 10 (12?) year old, my immediate thought was the Rugrats episode that borrows the plotline. I would later use the film in a junior year high school English class to discuss the ever-elusive American Dream. Tim Holt also deserves a ton of praise for his role here, easily my favorite of his.

Wages of Fear is a great comparison, and it's so clear, so early on that Bogart is going to lose it. But the film does a great job of pacing his descent, as well as taking its time with Holt's shooting, and Bogart's solo journey down the rest of the mountain.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#333 Post by dustybooks » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:55 pm

Drucker wrote:Of course, seeing it as a 10 (12?) year old, my immediate thought was the Rugrats episode that borrows the plotline.
I think my first association with it was via Tiny Toon Adventures, so I feel you.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#334 Post by domino harvey » Mon Sep 18, 2017 6:39 pm

Uh, "Three Men and a Comic Book" or GTFO

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Drucker
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#335 Post by Drucker » Mon Sep 18, 2017 10:24 pm

I have to revisit Three Men, but is that quite the shot-for-shot remake of an ending as The Rugrats episode is?

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#336 Post by dustybooks » Mon Sep 18, 2017 11:11 pm

It's more thematic / structural (and is a brilliant parody in that sense), with Bart's odd jobs for Mrs. Glick matching up with Bogart and Holt doing a week's work for no pay. Bart's increasingly unhinged behavior is the most direct allusion to the film I think.

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#337 Post by knives » Sun Nov 12, 2017 12:22 pm

domino harvey wrote: 1952
the Greatest Show on Earth
Unsurprisingly, conventional Oscar wisdom is wrong once again. By no means is this the worst film to ever win Best Picture. It's actually a pretty entertaining, if overlong, piece of good ol' fashioned star-studded Hollywood spectacle. The film works best when DeMille indulges the documentary aspects of the picture, and there are certainly no shortage of interesting diversions up on the screen. The narrative itself is a little silly and of little consequence, but that's hardly why anyone came to see this anyways. Gloria Grahame is sexy fun and Cornel Wilde always shines in showboat roles like this. Apologies to modern cinema pundits, but it would have been far more embarrassing for High Noon to win.

High Noon If Grace Kelly came a matrimonying at my door, I'd say screw the town. Gary Cooper thinks otherwise. Moral lesson ensues. Thomas Mitchell stars in the only good scene, where he single-handedly turns a church congregation away from their christian instincts-- it's a moment of intelligence in a film otherwise devoid of such pressing matters. But really, the problem above all else, and this cannot be understated, is the combination of Zinnemann's direction and the "modern" editing style. High Noon is still popular because it comes across like a crummy contemporary film-- but that's not continued relevance, that's the first shot fired in a war we lost. As far as I'm concerned, this film's horribly cut, fast-paced nightmare of a climactic fight ruined motion pictures.

Ivanhoe Overcomes Thorpe's unimaginative direction and an overbearing, trite score to be quite entertaining. The cast is well-utilized and though I only have a passing familiarity with the source text, the dialog and narrative thrust of the film is very strong. This ostentatious spectacle is way more fun than the so-called entertainment of Curtiz' Robin Hood to my eyes.

Moulin Rouge The highest compliment I can pay this one, beyond saying it's the best film nominated this year or one of the best films ever nominated in this category or that it's John Huston's best film, is that it made me forget I was watching a Hollywood biopic. All of the rest is true though-- Houston's vulgarity gets a full workout here, but the film utilizes this tendency in his direction to play as strength, not weakness, to grand result. The two fantastic performances here were both correctly nominated. Jose Ferrer disappears into the role and distracts from what could have been gimmick set-up after gimmick set-up to hide the mechanics behind his dwarfism with a genuine panache and gusto. Colette Marchand, though, steals the film with her intense and complicated streetwalker, and the wonderful emotional abuse the two lovers play out is as realistic and intriguing as any found in a studio film of this era. While Oscar generally did right by this film with seven noms, two of its best attributes, its witty script and jaw-dropping visual palette, went neglected.

the Quiet Man A charming, quaint film that sums up most of Ford's strengths as a filmmaker. Maureen O'Hara was never lovelier, and John Wayne really dials it back for a change. The rest of the Ford regulars do what you'd expect, and a good time is had by all. This is Ford's most beautiful film, though that's more of a hypothetical proclamation given the dire state of all available releases of the pic.

My Vote: Moulin Rouge
Finally finished this set with Ivanhoe and while I'm not as positive on it (Thorpe really ruins what could have been a fun film for me not helped by the rubber sets) nor The Quiet Man you've summed up my feelings almost perfectly. Particularly with the DeMille which I still don't understand the problems people have with.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#338 Post by movielocke » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:12 pm

I've also thought that greatest show is not terrible, it's lower tier and three of the other films are better but it's not nearly as bad as other winners.

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knives
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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#339 Post by knives » Sun Nov 12, 2017 5:54 pm

Exactly. No one is seriously going to say it is better than the Huston, but as a fun piece of old time silliness it works.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#340 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:15 am

dustybooks wrote:
Drucker wrote:Of course, seeing it as a 10 (12?) year old, my immediate thought was the Rugrats episode that borrows the plotline.
I think my first association with it was via Tiny Toon Adventures, so I feel you.
Surely I'm not the only one who first became familiar with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre through 8 Ball Bunny? Saw that Bugs Bunnys short dozens of times, either on Saturday morning on ABC or on weekday afternoon re-runs of WB cartoons, before I finally saw the film as a junior in high school.

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#341 Post by domino harvey » Sat Aug 11, 2018 7:12 pm

I'm having a blast reading Inside Oscar, which covers the lead up to and ceremony of each year through 1984. I was surprised to read that at the ceremony for 1952's awards, Gary Cooper's award was accepted by... John Wayne. Contrary to what I've always heard about how he hated High Noon, this is what he had to say on stage when accepting for Cooper:
John Wayne wrote:I'm glad to see they're giving this to a man who has conducted himself throughout the years in this business in a manner that we can all be proud of him. And now, I'm going to go back and find my business manager, agent, producer, and three name writers and find out why I didn't get High Noon instead of Cooper. Since I can't fire any of these very expensive fellas, I can at least run my 1930 Chevrolet into one of their big black new Cadillacs.
This is hardly something someone who allegedly worked behind the scenes to sabotage the film on ideological grounds would say...

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#342 Post by Dr Amicus » Mon Aug 13, 2018 9:27 am

I remember reading somewhere that at the time Wayne did indeed like the film - it was only later when he worked out / was told about its political leanings that he turned against it and looked for a conservative response, which would end up as Rio Bravo...

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Re: The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture (1927-1968)

#343 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:04 pm

Another interesting tidbit from Inside Oscar: In response to Wallace Berry mistakenly being almost left out of his tie with Fredric March the previous year, the Academy announced the second and third place runners up in order of votes. The second place runner up to the truly horrendous Cavalcade for Best Picture? The not much better A Farewell to Arms (with only half the votes of Cavalcade, which is even more depressing), with Little Women in third (Capra, Muni, and Robson were second place in Director, Actor, and Actress)

1934: Frank Morgan, Norma Shearer (Best Pic and Director not mentioned)
1935: the Informer (2nd), Captain Blood (3rd), Henry Hathaway, Paul Muni (write-in), Katharine Hepburn
1936: the Story of Louis Pasteur, WS Van Dyke (2nd), Gregory La Cava (3rd), Gary Cooper, Carole Lombard (2nd), Norma Shearer (3rd)

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