Leo McCarey

I stumbled into this week’s theme after me and my wife just took a random film to watch based on the genre (comedy) and run time (under two hours). After enjoying the film so much I didn’t hesitate to delve into the oscar filmography of Leo McCarey. Luckily I have many of his films in my collection just waiting to be seen (too bad Make Way for Tomorrow was not nominated, so I have to put it on hold) and the rest was easy to get my hands on.

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
This jumped straight into my all time favorite list. Pitch perfect in tone and pace. Funny without being too silly, likeable character without being caricatures, involving without being too dramatic. A nice “hang-out” movie that makes you feel like you have known the characters and settings all your life.
Nominated for best picture in 1936.

The Awful Truth (1937)
Such a fun and charming film. The chemistry between all the characters are smooth and effortless. Many of the gags (especially the dog and the piano) took me by surprise and had me laughing.
Winner of best director. Nominated for best picture, best actress in a leading role (Irene Dunne), best actor in a supporting role (Ralph Bellamy), best writing-screenplay and best film editing in 1938.

Love Affair (1939)
I have seen McCarey’s own remake of this film (An Affair to Remember) earlier and really enjoyed it, and I think the main difference between the two is mood. An affair to Remember is much more dreamlike, while Love Affair seems more down to earth. I think I enjoy both of them pretty much equally, but that is mostly because the first half hour or so of Love Affair feel a bit rushed. If the pacing would have been as good as the rest of the film, it would have been my favorite of the two.
Nominated for best picture, best actress in a leading role (Irene Dunne), best actress in a supporting role (Maria Ouspenskaya), best writing-original story, best art direction and best music-original song for “Wishing” in 1940.

Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
This one was rough. A straight up mess of a film tonally. Beginning as a whimsical comedy going straight into holocaust territory and back to comedy again. Uninspired drama, unclever comedy, shallow war propaganda. I would say that it seemed like Leo McCarey had a tug-of-way with the producers, except he was the producer. So I guess he had a tug-of-war with himself.
Nominated for best sound-recording in 1943.

Going My Way (1944)
Although both this and Once Upon a Honeymoon was released during wartime, this film takes a different direction. No real drama or conflict. Just nice people, in nice settings doing nice things. It’s nice! The wonderful ending is worth the price of admission alone.
Winner of best picture, best actor in a leading role (Bing Crosby), best actor in a supporting role (Barry Fitzgerald), best director, best writing-original story, best writing-screenplay, best music-original song for “Swinging on a Star”. Nominated for best actor in a leading role (Barry Fitzgerald), best cinematography-black-and-white and best film editing in 1945.

The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
A direct sequel to Going My Way following the character Father O’Malley played by Crosby. In Going My Way he is lovable and progressive, but in this he has become manipulative and unsympathetic, but it is kind of subtle, so I am not sure if it is deliberate. Either way, Ingrid Bergman is just great and saves the movie from being kind of forgettable.
Winner of best sound-recording. Nominated for best picture, best actor in a leading role (Bing Crosby), best actress in a leading role (Ingrid Bergman), best director, best film editing, best music-original song for “Aren’t You Glad You’re You” and best music-scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture in 1946.

My Son John (1952)
After an extremely tedious and boring first half, this film becomes quite interesting. Not because of the film quality in itself, but because it’s fueled by cold war paranoia. Watching it present day it is hard to figure out that the man accused of being a russian spy (it is later revealed he is) is supposed to be the bad guy because of his criticism against religion and the american way of living (get married, get children, go to war for your country without question). I you didn’t have concerns regarding this nowadays, people would be suspicious of you. But, the movie is still boring as hell.
Nominated for best writing-motion picture story in 1953.

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