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"Cimarron" (1931) at the Academy Theater (1 Viewer)

Jonathan Burk

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Cimarron at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Cimarron, the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 1930/31. This was part of the ongoing screenings of every Best Picture winner, in chronological order.
The pre-screening entertainment included a recording of "Yes, Yes", as performed by Eddie Cantor in Palmy Days (1931). Next was a newsreel highlighting the gala premiere of Grand Hotel at the Chinese Theater. It was hilarious to see the Hollywood publicity machine of 1931 in full swing, and every movie star I knew (and many I didn't) from that era was interviewed. Starting next week, they'll be showing the winner for Best Animated Short with each show. Next week we get Flowers and Trees, and after that The Three Little Pigs (any bets on whether it is an original version?)
Before the screening began, Randy Haberkamp (the Academy official who is organizing the series) addressed the audience. As I've mentioned before, they were selling $75 passes which would get you into all the films. These are sold out. From here on out, you must buy a $5 ticket to get into a screening. I don't know how they'll handle the demand for tickets, considering that they've sold enough passes to fill the theater for every show. Randy then gave a little history on the film, asking us to remember the era in which it was filmed (read: it has some racist undertones). This was also one of the first epic films, based on a book by the popular author Edna Ferber (who also penned "Giant"). He also apologized for the quality of the print, which wasn't nearly as good as the fully restored All Quiet on the Western Front, which we saw last week.
As for the movie itself, I liked it. The story starts with the Oklahoma land rush, and I found the portrayal of this scene to be more exciting than the Far and Away version. While the portrayals of the black servants, Jewish peddlers and Indians were jaw-droppingly awful, I found the overacting and melodrama to be so sincere that I was drawn in, in spite of myself. The print was in terrible condition, with scratches and missing frames throughout, but it was tolerable knowing this was the best existing print in the world.
In addition to enjoying each film, I've found the chronology of seeing a slightly newer film each week to be very educational. You can see how the language of film started to devolop, especially with camera movement, sound and editing. It will be interesting to see the progression of film from black and white, 1.37:1 mono to the widescreen films of the 60's, to the digital sound of the 90's.
I plan to go to just about every single screening, and seating will get really tight for the more popular ones (Cimarron was about 80% full), so if any HTF members are planning on going, let me know and maybe I can save you a seat.
 

Patrick McCart

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It's interesting to see how the Academy's picks were.
It's mind boggling that masterpieces like City Lights, Frankenstein, The Public Enemy, and others were not nominated or won the awards.
Cimarron is a WB-owned movie (from RKO), so I think the awful condition of the print reinforces their statement about the shoddy condition of the RKO library. :frowning:
 

Jefferson

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I love Irene Dunne and Edna Ferber, but I've never seen Cimarron (either version). I have heard its Best Picture status debated, what do you think?
What a treat! I've seen so few classics on the movie theater screen, despite having moved to the "big city".
 

Jonathan Burk

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I have heard its Best Picture status debated, what do you think?
The other nominees from that year were East Lynne, The Front Page, Skippy, and Trader Horn. Since I haven't seen any of these, I can't debate the worthiness of Cimarron winning.
But when I see Annie Hall, it will be 90 minutes of wishing Star Wars had won. :angry:
 

Rob Willey

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Jonathan, what an incredible opportunity, I'm so jealous!

I haven't seen Cimarron in a couple of years, but it's a really good movie (although debatable whether it was the best Hollywood had to offer that year). I'm a big Irene Dunne fan and this is some of her best early work. Recommended.

As I recall, some time in the early 30's, the Academy switched to calendar years for their eligibility period and one period was actually 16 months long. Can you confirm that?

Rob
 

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