Continuing our look at the Best Picture races of the past, it’s now time to enter the 50s! World War II was over. Eisenhower was President. Everyone was worried about communist spies. And the Hollywood studios still reigned supreme, even while actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean challenged the establishment.
Won: All About Eve
Should Have Won: The Academy started out the decade by getting it right. While I love Sunset Boulevard and could definitely make a case for why it could have won, All About Eve was the best film nominated and one of the best films ever made.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Won: An American In Paris
Should Have Won: An American In Paris was a bit of an unexpected winner. A Streetcar Named Desire swept almost all of the acting prizes (only Marlon Brando failed to take home an Oscar) but the film itself is a bit too theatrical for me. As much as I Like An American In Paris, my personal vote would have gone to A Place In The Sun.
Won: The Greatest Show on Earth
Should Have Won: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show On Earth is often described as being the worst film to ever win best picture. I don’t know if I’d go that far but the Oscar still should have gone to either High Noon or The Quiet Man. With The Greatest Show on Earth, the Academy went for spectacle over …. well, everything else. It was not the first time the Academy did so, nor would it be the last.
From Here To Eternity
Won: From Here To Eternity
Should Have Won: I love both Julius Caesar and Roman Holiday but, in this case, the Academy picked the right film.
The Country Girl
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
Won: On the Waterfront
Should Have Won: I want to say Rear Window but it wasn’t even nominated. On The Waterfront is the best made and the best acted of all the nominees but that the film’s support for “naming names” will never sit well with me. Like many of Elia Kazan’s films, it also gets a bit too heavy-handed towards the end. (One always got the feeling that Kazan didn’t trust his audience to figure out things on their own.) I’ll go with The Caine Mutiny, if just for Humphrey Bogart’s amazing performance as Queeg.
The Rose Tattoo
Should Have Won: This is a difficult one for me. All of the nominated films are fairly weak. The best remember films of 1955 — Rebel Without A Cause, Kiss Me Deadly, East of Eden — weren’t even nominated. Marty‘s likable but it still feels like a made-for-TV movie. I’ll go with Picnic, just for the scene where William Holden and Kim Novak dance on the dock.
The King and I
Won: Around The World In 80 Days
Should Have Won: In a year in which all of the nominees were epic in scope, Around The World In 80 Days won because it featured a cameo from nearly everyone in Hollywood. It’s a bit of a drag to watch today, despite the charm of David Niven. Personally, of the nominated films, I would have gone with …. mock me if you will …. The Ten Commandments. As flawed as it may be, it’s still incredibly watchable and never dull. If I couldn’t vote for The Ten Commandments, I’d probably vote for Giant, just because it’s a movie about my home state.
Won: The Bridge on the River Kwai
Should Have Won: The Bridge on the River Kwai is a worthy winner but my favorite of the nominees is definitely 12 Angry Men. And I’ll admit that I’ve always enjoyed Peyton Place as well.
Should Have Won: Gigi’s good but I would have to vote for the overheated but always entertaining melodrama of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Of course, the best films of the year — Vertigo and Touch of Evil — were not nominated.
Room At The Top
Should Have Won: I actually like Ben-Hur but I absolutely love Anatomy of a Murder. It’s one of the best courtroom films ever made and it features James Stewart at his absolute best.
Up next, in about an hour — the 60s!