If you weren’t overly thrilled by this year’s crop of Oscar winners, take heart. Some of the best-loved films that have stood the test of time didn’t receive the coveted statuette, as others who took home the little gold fella have faded out of most people’s knowledge. Films such as Cimarron (1931–32), Grand Hotel (1932–33), All the King’s Men (1950) and Mrs Miniver (1943) don’t tend to appear on the television schedules, but they were all Best Picture winners.
Mrs Miniver is, in fact, an excellent film, but isn’t even celebrated as a British classic in that way that we do Brief Encounter or This Happy Breed, once a film no-one ever saw but which is now enjoyed a resurgence due to being shown on digital film channels. And who’s even heard of Greer Garson nowadays.
Similarly, the most profitable British films ever are never seen (once you adjust box-office receipts for inflation). They’re a series of late-1940s films starring Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding, including Spring in Park Lane and Maytime in Mayfair. They’re frothy and fun romances, but are never shown on TV and are unavailable on DVD and video, so have slipped from most people’s knowledge. What a shame.
We all tend to assume that, because Citizen Kane is routinely voted as the best film ever made, it must have been a big Oscar winner, but in fact it only won for its screenplay. That year (1942), the big winner was How Green Was My Valley. How many of you have seen that, and yet it beat Kane and The Maltese Falcon.
A recent poll revealed that The Shawshank Redemption was people’s favourite film that didn’t win an Oscar. It was up for seven awards in 1995, a year that was dominated by Forrest Gump. Few saw it at the cinema and most people seem confused by the title, but, thanks to DVD, it’s now regarded as a modern classic.
Also on the list were The Sixth Sense (2000, lost out to American Beauty), Fight Club, Blade Runner, It’s a Wonderful Life (nominated for five Oscars in 1946), The Great Escape, Taxi Driver, Psycho, Singin’ in the Rain (two nominations) and Dr Strangelove (1965, four nominations, lost out to My Fair Lady).
Chances are you have at least one of them on your shelf, and for many of them, it’s really release on DVD or being on television often that’s cemented them in our affections. It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t successful at the box office (mostly due to its high production costs and stiff competition that year), and lost out to The Best Years of our Lives at the Oscars, but when it was shown on the new medium of television, it became a sure sign of Christmas. Similarly, it hardly feels like Easter without The Great Escape.
Comedies and musicals are generally under-rewarded at the Academy Awards, members somehow feeling like they take less effort. At the Golden Globes, they have a separate category to the dramas, better reflecting what we’re actually seeing as opposed to what we feel we ought to be seeing. Perhaps we should campaign for a Guilty Pleasures Oscar?
What do you think will be the films we won’t be able to live without in the future?
* Coens triumph at low key Oscars