I will be watching all 10 nominees from 1937 before I move on to the next year. The goal here is to watch them and have an internal discussion among them to try to piece together a “history” of the year. Let’s get to it.
Nearly eighty years later, In Old Chicago reads as representative of the film industry working many kinks out. For one, movies strove (and maybe still strive) to find the very difference between stage and screen, mostly with obvious differences to do with scale, scope and budget. For another, cinematographers, directors, producers and actors needed to work within technology available: gel film, mechanical cameras, low-light projectors, etc, etc.
The fact that any film existed before a majority of modern technology was commercially feasible is incredible, and we should watch older movies with such-colored glasses. In Old Chicago followed San Francisco as a quasi-blockbuster to feature a miniaturized disaster as precursor to modern computer generated images. To compare, performing in front of a live audience a stage troupe would never be able to convince an audience that a 1:100 scale of anything was supposed to represent “real,” and the choice of medium should be clear. Yet in the case of older film, predating digital film (surely), but also larger and more specific budgets, the cast and crew usually could muster perhaps two chances for the expensive, but visually stunning scenery and subsequent destruction. Make fun of the primitive at will and watch a modern post-produced action film with awe, but respect the vision and execution of the original action sequence for its vision. Continue reading