Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Luckiest Guy in the World (1947)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Short films are often both the most frustrating and most rewarding part of the Every Oscar Ever project. Locating short films that are more than a few years old is beyond difficult, with prints often existing only in a few libraries, and sometimes not existing at all. I have even spoken to a few filmmakers who no longer have copies of their own short films from the past. These short films are often highly enjoyable, well-crafted films that manage to pack as much quality into one or two reels as their feature-length cousins do in a much longer running time.

One of the best venues for viewing short films of yesteryear is Turner Classic Movies. While TCM sometimes gets in a bit of a rut, playing the same few films repeatedly, it still remains a great way of viewing short films that might otherwise be challenging to track down. I had recorded Member of the Wedding during the recent 31 Days of Oscar, and attached to the recording was the short film "The Luckiest Guy in the World," the final entry in MGM's "Crime Does Not Pay" series of shorts. In this series, dating back to 1935, a character's greed leads them into a life of crime, only to receive his or her comeuppance by the end of the short. In "The Luckiest Guy in the World," Charlie (Barry Nelson, who would later play the manager of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining) is a compulsive gambler who finds a large sum of money after he accidentally kills his wife.

As is typical of the "Crime Does Not Pay" series, the bad guys are bad and the good guys are good and no one is in between, and the purpose of the film seems to be little more than to moralize about the ills of crime. The film isn't particularly entertaining or clever, though Barry Nelson turns in a solid performance. The best short films tell a story that is compact enough to be told in a shorter length of time, while lesser shorts tell a story that isn't fleshed out enough to fill a feature length running time. "The Luckiest Guy in the World" is an instance of the latter, and as a result is a forgettable short.

Remaining: 3165 films, 880 Oscars, 5448 nominations

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