The 1950s don’t get much respect from film historians. The decade is often written off as being an age of conformity, when Hollywood reacted to the treat of television by producing empty spectacle. In some instance, that may have been the case but I think it can also be argued that the 50s saw its share of good films and good performances and some of them were even honored by the Academy.
Here are six times that the Academy got it right in the 50s.
- All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard are nominated for Best Picture of 1950
The decade got off to a good start with the Academy two of the best films ever for Best Picture. Personally, I think All About Eve was the correct winner but I don’t think anyone, even all these years later, would have complained if the Oscar had gone to Sunset Boulevard instead. Somehow, neither Bette Davis nor Gloria Swanson won Best Actress that year.
2. Gloria Grahame wins Best Supporting Actress For The Bad and the Beautiful
Grahame’s role was a small one and she didn’t even appear in the film until it was close to over but she more than deserved to win her Oscar for 1952’s The Bad and The Beautiful. The often-underrated Grahame gave a wonderful performance as the writer’s wife, who is tragically seduced by Hollywood. Along with her nominated performance in Crossfire and her unnominated work in It’s A Wonderful Life, The Bad and the Beautiful features the underrated Grahame at her best.
3. Audrey Hepburn wins Best Actress for Roman Holiday
The great Audrey Hepburn’s performance in 1953’s Roman Holiday is one of my favorite Oscar-winning performances of all time.
4. James Dean Is Nominated For East of Eden and Giant
It’s tempting to speculate about what type of career James Dean would have had if not for his tragic and early death. Would he have gone on to become a Brando-style eccentric or would he have become a more conventional leading man? Would he still be as powerful an actor once he was no longer a young rebel but instead a middle-aged suburbanite? One likes to think that Dean would have continued to be an icon but it’s easy to imagine him getting lost in the Hollywood counter culture like Dennis Hopper did for most of the 60s.
All that’s just speculation though. What we do know is that James Dean received two posthumous Oscar nominations after his death, one for 1955’s East of Eden and one for 1956’s Giant. The Academy, long-derided as being out of touch, obviously understood that Dean was a phenomena.
5. Peyton Place Is Nominated For Best Picture of 1957
Yes, it’s incredibly trashy and a little dumb but I don’t care. I love it. It’s exactly the type of overproduced, overheated, but fun film that deserves to be nominated but which doesn’t necessarily deserve to win.
6. The Academy Nominates 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder
Personally, I wish it had won but you know what? I’ll be happy with the nomination. Jimmy Stewart received his final Oscar nomination for his role in Anatomy of a Murder. Again, I wish he had won but, at the same time, I’m also happy that it at least got a nomination.
Up next: The 60s!