Beginning in November 2019, I embarked on the Old Hollywood Best Picture Challenge, where I will endeavor to watch all 270 films that were nominated and/or won for Best Picture at the Academy Awards between the years 1927-1969. For a list of all films and reviews, please see my original post.
Nominees & Winner of 1927/28:
What was happening in 1927/28?:
- My grandfather was born in April of 1927. A photo of Clark Gable hung in his basement (over the pool table) for as long as I can remember and he was a huge fan of Jimmy Cagney.
- May 1927, the same month 7th Heaven was released, aviator Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop, solo flight across the Atlantic. Amelia Earhart would be the first woman to do so in June of 1928.
- August 1927, the same month Wings was released, Italian anarchists Sacco & Vanzetti were sentenced to death and electrocuted, becoming symbols of anti-immigrant and anti-Italian prejudice in America.
- The Jazz Singer premiered in October 1927, becoming the first feature length film that included snippets of speech and synchronized music with singing that matched the actors’ mouth movements onscreen. Its numbers at the box office ran miles ahead of all other films that year, doubling that of 1927’s second highest grossing film Wings. After The Jazz Singer, talkies would rise and silents would fade.
- November 1928, the same month The Racket was released, Herbert Hoover won the United States Presidential election and Leo the Lion (real name Jackie), MGM’s mascot, would be heard roaring for the first time at the beginning of a film – MGM’s first film with pre-recorded sound, White Shadows in the South Seas.
- Music by Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmichael, and Ruth Etting is all the rage.
Academy Awards Summary and Trivia for 1927/28 (1929 ceremony):
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was formed in 1927 and held the first Academy Awards ceremony on May 16, 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to recognize films released between August 1, 1927 and August 1, 1928. 3 films were nominated for Outstanding Picture (which would be renamed Best Picture in 1962 after going through a couple other name changes in between) at this first Academy Awards ceremony: 7th Heaven, The Racket, and Wings. The amount of films to choose from would never again be this small and would thereafter range from 5-12 nominees.
This was the first and only year that the category Unique and Artistic Picture would constitute an award (Sunrise won) alongside Outstanding Picture. After this, the categories were combined and what would become the Best Picture award went though its first name change to Outstanding Production the following year.
This was also the first and only year that all of the nominees were silent films and the only year a silent film would win (with the so-so exception of 2011’s winner The Artist, which wasn’t a true silent as it included moments of sound).
President of the Academy, Douglas Fairbanks, presided over the ceremony, which was held in the Blossom Room of Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and went on as the guests ate dinner.
Other Academy Award Winners for 1927/28:
- Best Directing (Dramatic Picture): Frank Borzage for 7th Heaven
- Best Directing (Comedy Picture): Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Nights
- Best Actor: Emil Jannings for The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh
- Best Actress: Janet Gaynor for 7th Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise
- Art Direction: The Dove and Tempest (William Cameron Menzies)
- Cinematography: Sunrise (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss)
- Engineering Effects: Wings (Roy Pomeroy)
- Writing (Adaptation): 7th Heaven (Benjamin Glazer)
- Writing (Original Story): Underworld (Ben Hecht)
- Writing (Title Writing): Joseph Farnham
Oscar Snubs or Misses:
The Jazz Singer (1927) was not nominated despite being groundbreaking and the highest grossing film of 1927, outgrossing the next highest (Wings) by twice as much as it made. However, unable to ignore its impact, the Academy did issue it a special award at the ceremony.
…other notable and/or excellent films (in hindsight or otherwise):
- The Cat and the Canary (1927)
- College (1927)
- The Gaucho (1927)
- Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
Ranking these films was incredibly hard for me. Though there were only 3 films to choose from, they all really packed a punch. All 3 films had compelling characters with excellent actors portraying them, interesting storylines, and were visually appealing. Ultimately, my ranking is as follows:
- Winner = Wings
- 7th Heaven
- The Racket
The most difficult choice for me came between Wings and 7th Heaven. While 7th Heaven was soul lifting and gorgeous all around, it feels more niche than Wings. The breathtaking effects and creative cinematography gave Wings the edge for me, though.