Citadel, The (1938) B-
This screen adaptation of A. J. Cronin's best-selling novel represents MGM's classy productions at their best and fakest. Even so, as the doctor who goes from treating poor Welch miners to rich London patients, Robert Donat gives a dignified performance and he's surrounded by an excellent ensemble that includes the vet stage actors Ralph Richardson and Emlyn Williams (a playwright who also contributed uncredited to the script), as well as the young Rosalind Russell and Rex Harrison. Production values are polished, particularly Harry Stradling's lighting.
Robert Donat had appeared in “The Private Life of Henry VIII,” which boasted Charles Laughton's Oscar-winning turn, and then in the adventure “The Count of Monet Cristo,” both of which were commercially popular. “The Citadel” was shot on location, in England, where Donat lived and performed at the time, before returning to Hollywood for “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” the following year, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar.
Oscar Nominations: 4
Picture, produced by Victor Saville
Director: King Vidor
Actor: Robert Donat
Screenplay: Ian Dalrymple, Elizabeth Hill, and Frank Wead
Oscar Awards: None
King Vidor's “The Citadel” competed for the Best Picture with nine other films: Frank Capra's “You Can't Take It Away,” which won, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Alexander's Ragtime Band,” “Boys Town,” “Four Daughters,” “La Grande Illusion” (“Grand Illusion,” by Renoir, the first foreign-language film in this category), “Jezebel,” “Pygmalion,” and “Test Pilot.”
The two studios that had the largest number of nominated films were MGM and Warner, each with three. The most nominated film was Columbia's “You Can't Take It Away from Me,” surprisingly a comedy, with 7 nods, winning 3.
Co-screenwriter Ian Dalrymple won the Screenplay Oscar that year for another honorable adaptation, George Bernard Shaw's “Pygmalion.”
Spencer Tracy won a second consecutive Best Actor for “Boys Town,” thus becoming the Oscar-winner to achieve that, following Luise Rainer, who won the Best Actress in 1936 and 1937.
Frank Capra became the first filmmaker to win three Director Oscars in a very short period of time (1934, 1936, 1938). Vidor would be nominated again, but would never win a legit directing Oscar; in compensation, the Academy bestowed on him an Honorary Oscar.
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