Did They Get it Right? – Best Picture – Oscars 1938

dtgirbp-1938Here are the ten nominees: (Winner in Bold)

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Boys Town
The Citadel
Four Daughters
Grand Illusion
Test Pilot
You Can’t Take it With You

Biggest Snub:

The Lady Vanishes

My Overall Thoughts:

Nice year of nominees.

All 5 of the nominees that I’ve seen are great films but in the end, the choice by the Academy members was to go with the Capra helmed feel good film which is witty, clever and fun to watch.

It’s too bad tho that they couldn’t make a bold choice and vote for the first non-English language film nominated for this award ever because that film is so amazing to watch even after nearly 80 years.

My Rankings:


  • 10.- Alexander’s Ragtime Band – Great music, but the story is almost totally insignificant. None of the characters are memorable but some of the songs have some great catchy tunes. This is yet another film that baffles me that it could get a nomination for best picture, let alone another 5 nominations. Its win for Best Musical Score I can actually understand tho.
  • 9.- Jezebel – Story that doesn’t work as well as it might have. The performances are quite good, but the story moves along too slowly. Davis and Bainter both won Oscars for their roles and Fonda is quite good here too (as he usually was). One of the best things about this film is the characterization of Davis’ character as a Jezebel because it comes across really well.
  • 8. – Four Daughters – This film is really soap opera-py and I found it to be quite tedious in its storytelling. The plot is razor thin and the characters are all too similar to differentiate well enough. The few musical numbers are nice to listen to and help make this film bearable. Yet another Best Picture nominee that I think doesn’t deserve to be in the company of so many other great films.
  • 7. – Pygmalion – Great adaptation of the Shaw play. The characters are fun to watch (despite expecting them to constantly break out in song.) Howard and Hiller have such great chemistry together which makes this work even better.  Amazing dialogue.
  • 6.- Test PilotGreat idea that is even more poignant knowing what will become of test pilots and their work just a few years after this film was made. Gable, Loy and Tracy are all great here and we get a real sense of the danger these men face day in, day out and the arrogant way that they look at the world since they know that they live on the edge. Nicely made movie but not one that I would think really deserved to be included as one of the Best of that year or any year for that matter.
  • 5. – Boys Town – Excellent acting job by Tracy (as usual) which earned him his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar. Emotional story, but the movie feels too subdued in certain parts. Rooney is also great as the most difficult pupil Flanagan ever encountered.
  • 4. – You Can’t Take it With You – Excellent film that shows that there may be vast differences between the classes, but one thing will always stay the same no matter what and that’s the fact that we all came from the same place and will end up in the same place and nothing can ever change that. Excellent cast helps bring out the story so well. Capra does a superb job with this story that he was quite deserving on winning his 3rd Best Director Oscar for this film. Excellent script is filled with very witty and crisp dialogue that works on numerous levels. Winner of Best Picture that year.
  • 3. – The Adventures of Robin Hood – Great retelling of the famous tale of Robin Hood. Flynn and deHaviland are both great as the two main characters and Rathbone and Raines are perfect as the devious enemies. The music works so well with the flow of the film.  One of the best swashbucklers of it’s day and still stands the test of time after 80 years. The fight scenes are breathtaking and it still amazes me how they manages to present this story so well using just the skills and technology of the time.
  • 2. – The CitadelReally well made film that gives us a great arc for a doctor who wants to change the world.  The various stops on his journey are all interesting to watch and unfortunately not much has changed in the 80 years since this came out.  Russell and Donat are both great here and once again prove how great actors they truly were. One of the best films that year and was most definitely deserving of the nomination for Best Picture.
  • 1. – Grand Illusion – Excellent film that really seems like it was made well before its time. The way that the film deals with POW’s and the class system works really well because it tries to show that in some circles, nationality means less than class structure.  The cast is superb and Renoir did a great job writing and directing this film.  So easy to see how this film helped shape some of the best POW camp films that came years afterwards with it’s themes and storyline.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Not Really.  YCTIWY is a great film but it was the easy – feel good choice that year because of the lasting effects of the Depression on society, but a bolder choice would have been Grand Illusion which is truly a prison film ahead of its time, unfortunately, it’s in French which already put a few strike against it.  That being said, the fact that it became the very first non-English language film to be nominated in the 10 years since the awards inception says so much about how amazing the film really is despite the language it was made in.

Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!

2 thoughts on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Picture – Oscars 1938

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