It’s Oscar night tonight (I may be live-blogging over at So here’s part 2 of the list of Obscure Oscar Nominees.

Our Town (1940)
It’s hard to believe than an adaptation of one of the greatest plays ever written, starring William Holden, which was nominated for Best Picture, is practically forgotten today. It’s not quite as brilliant as most stage productions you’ll find of it, but it’s an extremely poetic movie.

Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
This was one of the more worthy nominees of this year, and sadly the most forgotten. With the trio of Charles Boyer, Olivia DeHaviland, and Paulette Goddard, it’s a sexy, romantic tale.

The Talk of the Town (1942)
Cary Grant, Ronald Coleman, and Jean Arthur are delightful in this wonderful mix of comedy, drama, and suspense. It’s not a perfect movie, but at the same time it’s hard to really look at it as having any faults. It’s just a delightful movie.

Watch on the Rhine (1943)
I think if this were released on DVD it would find a new life. It’s an incredibly powerful film about self-sacrifice and nobility. Paul Lukas, who I sometimes find dull, especially in the last two films I watched with him (Downstairs and Ladies In Love), but he gives an incredible performance here, which beat out Bogart’s Casablanca performance for Best Actor.

Crossfire (1947)
A gritty as all get-out film noir starring three Roberts (Young, Mitchum, and Ryan) that gets nominated for Best Picture? And not even one of those early, ten nominees years, but the later, much more selective five nominees a tear Oscars? AWESOME.

The Snake Pit (1948)
This is an eerie, unsettling drama about life in an insane asylum. DeHavilland’s performance in this is incredible, one of her very best.  DeHavilland lost the Best Actress Oscar to Johnny Belinda‘s Jane Wyman. It’s definitely a close race, but I’d give it to DeHavilland.

And that’s all I’ve got for you, folks. Enjoy the Oscars tonight!


Year: 1947

Director: Edward Dmytryck

Cast: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame

Crossfire starts with a fight seen only in shadows on the wall. A man is killed but you don’t know who, and you don’t know who the murderer is. Crossfire is filmed as a fairly standard murder mystery, someone is murdered and the wrong person is blamed. As the investigation continues the real killer is eventually identified and caught. Seems pretty standard, right? As the story unfolds you will see that the real story here is one of bigotry and religious intolerance. A topic that was never attempted before (Gentleman’s Agreement was released later the same year).

Captain Finlay, (Robert Young) is investigating the murder of Joseph Samuels (Sam Levene) a Jew who met up with the wrong people. The suspects are soldiers just returned from the war. Among them are Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and George Cooper. As the story unfolds with each soldier telling his version of the story it slowly becomes clear as to who the killer is. But that is not the point as you will know by now.

The film was done on a low budget because no one felt there was an audience for this kind of picture. In the end, the film not only made money but was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, (Edward Dmytryk), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Ryan) and Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame).

Dmytryk has said that he used the film noir style because it was cheap and they had no budget, and noir required less lighting. True story or not, the use of low lighting, dark streets, cheap hotels and shadows created a noir classic.

Robert Young holds his own amongst some heavyweight company, but its Robert Ryan who provides a classic performance as the sadistic bigot Montgomery. Ryan, of course would go on to play a long assorted list of vicious characters in his career. Interesting enough Robert Mitchum is given a supporting role in this film even though by now he was a star. Crossfire was produced by RKO Pictures who Mitchum was under contract to and probably was forced to do the film, even if the role was not the lead. Gloria Grahame is on screen for only six to eight minutes but gives a tremendous performance as a dance hall girl, who spends time with Mitchell (George Cooper) the soldier who is at first incorrectly identified as the killer. From what I have read, Grahame, who has an abusive husband on screen, was going through a similar situation in real life and that may have led to some added authenticity that otherwise might have been missing.
Either way she is fantastic as usual. In the short, that accompanies the film on the DVD, it’s mentioned that Dmytryk used different lens when filming Robert Ryan. In the beginning, he used a standard 50mm lens showing Ryan’s character as normal. Later on he used a 40mm and still later, a 35mm and finally a 25mm on Ryan so he could reflect the distorted craziness of Ryan’s character, Montgomery. Crossfire is a film not to be missed.

By John Greco