Did They Get it Right? – Best Director – Oscars 1936

Here are the five nominees: (Winner in Bold)

Frank Capra (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)
Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey)
Robert Z. Leonard (The Great Ziegfeld)
William Wyler (Dodsworth)
W.S. Van Dyke (San Francisco)

Biggest Snub:

Charlie Chaplin – Modern Times

My Overall Thoughts:

This was another year with 4 good nominees and one who doesn’t seem to be deserving of being included. None of these films are perfect, but two stand out among them as being the best and most timeless of the lot.

My Rankings:


5. W.S. Van Dyke
4. William Wyler
3. Gregory La Cava
2. Frank Capra
1. Robert Z. Leonard


5. San FranciscoAnother mediocre Best Picture nominee. This film does a nice job of showing what saloon life was like during that time period and the musical numbers are catchy, but the story itself meanders along too much and just doesn’t manage to really make us care about the characters or the situations they find themselves in.
4. DodsworthHuston is really great here because we can feel both his yearning to return to his busy old life yet also explore the freedom that one has when retired. His wife has the opposite opinions and is more concerned with exploring the world she didn’t know as a millionaires wife in a small town in middle America. The themes discussed here are still relevant 80 years later because it begs to ask the question of what people really want in life and whether they are even aware themselves of their own desires.
3. My Man GodfreyGreat and fun story that manages to show how the Depression affected some more parts of society more severely than others. The way that the story plays out works really well and stays humorous the entire time. The chemistry between Powell and (his ex-wife) Lombard is great onscreen and they are able to give us such a great screwball comedy feeling throughout the film. This film is a great parable for the difference in classes in society and how its possible to try and break through such seemingly insurmountable barriers. Both Powell and Lombard were nominated for Oscars for this film as were Auer and Brady, but none managed to win.
2. Mr. Deeds Goes to TownVery well done film by Capra that includes his usual message about the “common man” versus the system. Cooper and Arthur have great chemistry together and make the story even more interesting to follow. Capra won his second Best Director Oscar for this film. Such a timely film during the Depression Era to show how the “common man” would try and use wealth to help his fellow man instead of only wanting to exploit them.
1. The Great ZiegfeldGreat idea, just not followed through well enough. Too many musical numbers and too little of a real plot but this was the beginning of the “epic” biopic.

Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yes and No!  I can understand how Capra could win this year with his work on MDGTT but Leonard does a much better job creating an epic biopic and was slightly more deserving of the win for his work.

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

One thought on “Did They Get it Right? – Best Director – Oscars 1936

  1. Excellent call on Chaplin. Good call on the rest. I’m a huge fan of DODSWORTH, which I actually saw ona big screen as a part of an AFI 100 Greatest Films of All Time marathon – so I’d go with Wyler on that one.


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