For a few years, I’ve made a resolution to watch all of the Academy Award winning Best Pictures, in order. I finally started, yesterday, with the winner of the 1927/28 award for Most Unique and Artistic Film. The first Academy Awards was an interesting little ceremony. Used primarily as a public relations stunt, the award winners were known beforehand and the best picture race was only between three films. In addition, the Academy decided that they would also award the film that achieved a special level of artistry. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans is often ignored in Best Picture lists, but it really shouldn’t be. After all, how could you ignore the film that you said was the most unique and the most artistic? I do not know.
Quite simply, if you want to see one of the most lovely films of the silent era and in filmmaking history, see Sunrise. George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor are so compelling in this tale of a young couple in a strained marriage. Gaynor won the first Best Actress award for her performance in this film, as well as her work in 7th Heaven and Street Angel. Gaynor was nominated for Best Actress a few years later for her work in the original A Star is Born. (Yes, Lady Gaga is not the first “star” to be “born.”)
So, yeah to me, for starting this goal of mine. Today, I’ll be watching Wings, the Best Picture ‘winner.’ In my heart, however, Sunrise will always be the first, best winner.
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) 94 minutes Directed by F.W. Murnau; Starring George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing.