Sam Bauman: How about Senior Academy Awards for older movies?



On Feb. 22 the Motion Picture Academy will announce in Hollywood its choices as the best of everything in movies, sure to be a sparkling evening on ABC television.

Never much in the way of sure things but “American Sniper” is an odds on favorite for male actor and best film (directed by Clint Eastwood who didn’t make the “best director” category.) The film is controversial but audiences loved it. Best actress is multiple choice with this writer voting (meaninglessly) for Reese Witherspoon for her epic hike in “Wild.” I guess the hiking aspect interested me.

But for seniors there a wealth of old past favorites, not necessarily Oscar winners. Let’s remember some those seniors enjoyed.

“The Wizard of Oz,” starring Judy Garland as a Kansas teenager who gets caught in a whirlwind and finds herself in a strange country after singing of her dreams in “Over the Rainbow.” And to think the producers of the movie considered cutting the scene because the movie was “too long.”

Along with Judy are Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Ray Bolger as the Tin Man, Jack Haley as the Woodsman and Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow. Plus Terry as Judy’s dog Toto and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch. And a flock of winged monkeys. Frank Morgan is the Wizard who winds up giving them all their dreams.

Another favorite which has recently been getting a lot of press lately is “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” a sequel to which has recently turned up. This was one of the first Hollywood films to portray small-town racial prejudice.

Gregory Peck stars as Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in the Deep South. He is widowed and lives with his children, “Scout” his daughter and son “Jem”. Robert Duvall also appears as “Boo.” Screenplay was by Horton Foote based on the novel by Harper Lee. Peck won an Oscar for his performance. Director was Robert Mulligan.

A faithful adaptation of the book, the movie was profitable and has become a critical and popular favorite.

“Singin’ in the Rain,” from 1952, stars Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds and includes a delightful solo scene by Kelly in which he dances and sings amid a rainstorm.

It takes place at a time when movies were switching from silent to “talkies.” Much of the comedy hinges on the problems established stars has in switching to talkies. It was directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen and also featured Jean Hagen and Cyd Charisse. Betty Comden and Adolf Green coauthored the screenplay.

In 1939, “Gunga Din” starred Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as three sergeants in the British army in India. It was loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem. Joan Fontain was the love interest. And Sam Jaffe is Gunga Din, a lowly water bearer for the troops. The epic film was written by Joel Sayre and Fred Guiol from a storyline by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, with uncredited contributions by Lester Cohen, John Colton,William Faulkner, Vincent Lawrence, Dudley Nicholsand Anthony Veiller.

In the 1880s the Brits rule India but lose contact with the outpost at Tanrtapur and HQ decides to send a detachment of 25 troops led by the three sergeants plus water bearers, including Gunga Din. Sam Jaffe who longs to become a corporal in the British army.

At the outpost they find evidence of a cult called the Thuggee.

The three NCOs are trapped in the temple along with Din. The cult guru (Eduardo Ciannelli is taken prisoner by the Brits but throws himself in a pit of cobras. Gin dies amid the battle and graveside he is make a corporal as Kipling reads his poem:

“So I’ll meet ‘im later on

At the place where ‘e is gone --

Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;

‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals

Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,

An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!

Yes, Din! Din! Din!

You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!

Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,

By the livin’ Gawd that made you,

You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

We don’t get much of Kipling so I thought it might be nice read a bit of him. Next week I’ll offer some more choice oldies: How about Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights”? Or “Grapes of Wrath?”

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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