Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1950s.
The Third Man (1950, dir by Carol Reed)
Now, it should be noted that The Third Man was not ignored by the Academy. It won the Oscar for Best Cinematography and it was nominated for both editing and Carol Reed’s direction. But, even with that in mind, it’s somewhat amazing to consider all of the nominations that it didn’t get. The screenplay went unnominated. So did the famous zither score. No nominations for Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, or even Orson Welles! And finally, no Best Picture nomination. 1950 was a good year for the movies so competition was tight but still, it’s hard to believe that the Academy found room to nominate King Solomon’s Mines but not The Third Man.
Rear Window (1954, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)
Alfred Hitchcock directed some of his best films in the 50s, though few of them really got the recognition that they deserved upon their initial release. Vertigo is often described as being Hitchcock’s masterpiece but, to be honest, I actually prefer Rear Window. This film finds the master of suspense at his most playful and, at the same time, at his most subversive. Casting Jimmy Stewart as a voyeur was a brilliant decision. This film features one of my favorite Grace Kelly performances. Meanwhile, Raymond Burr is the perfect schlubby murderer. Like The Third Man, Rear Window was not ignored by the academy. Hitchcock was nominated and the film also picked up nods for its screenplay, cinematography, and sound design. However, it was not nominated for best picture.
Rebel Without A Cause (1955, dir by Nicholas Ray)
Nicholas Ray’s classic film changed the way that teenagers were portrayed on film and it still remains influential today. James Dean is still pretty much the standard to which most young, male actors are held. Dean was not nominated for his performance here. (He was, however, nominated for East of Eden that same year.) Instead, nominations went to Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, and the film’s screenplay. Amazingly, in the same year that the forgettable Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing was nominated for best picture, this popular and influential film was not.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955, dir by Robert Aldrich)
It’s unfortunate but not surprising that Kiss Me Deadly was totally ignored by the Academy. In the mid-to-late 50s, the Academy tended to embrace big productions. There was no way they were going to nominate a satirical film noir that featured a psychotic hero and ended with the end of the world. That’s a shame, of course, because Kiss Me Deadly has proven itself to be more memorable and influential than many of the films that were nominated in its place.
Touch of Evil (1958, dir by Orson Welles)
Speaking of underappreciated film noirs, Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil is one of the craftiest and most brilliant films ever made. So, of course, no one appreciated it when it was originally released. This cheerfully sordid film features Welles at his best. Starting with a memorable (and oft-imitated) tracking shot, the film proceeds to take the audience into the darkest and most eccentric corners of a small border town. Everyone in the cast, from the stars to the bit players, is memorably odd. Even the much mocked casting of Charlton Heston as a Mexican pays off wonderfully in the end.
The 400 Blows (1959, dir by Francois Truffaut)
Francois Truffaut’s autobiographical directorial debut was released in the United States in 1959 and it was Oscar-eligible. Unfortunately, it only picked up a screenplay nomination. Of course, in the late 50s, the last thing that the Academy was going to embrace was a French art film from a leftist director. However, The 400 Blows didn’t need a best picture nomination to inspire a generation of new filmmakers.
Up next, in an hour or so, we continue on to the 60s!