Anatomy of a Murder
The Nun’s Story
A Room at the Top (winner)
Some Like It Hot
We’ve got a good crop of nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay for 1959, but as usual, there’s a little room for improvement. The biggest surprise for me is that The Diary of Anne Frank wasn’t nominated. I wouldn’t nominated it, either, but it seems like a natural. I’m less surprised by Eyes without a Face not being here, since gory horror films aren’t typically on the list (and this one is alternately listed as a 1959 or 1960 release). On the Beach might have been too much science fiction for 1959. Rio Bravo, though, seems like it should be here. The one that I’d most like to add, though, is Suddenly, Last Summer.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I’m not going to apologize for not loving The Nun’s Story. I liked it a little more than I thought I would, but I still didn’t like it much. It’s overlong, and that’s probably the biggest crime it commits. I like that it goes in some unusual directions; it’s easy to write a religious story that is predictable, and The Nun’s Story doesn’t go there. I don’t even really hate that it was nominated. Suddenly, Last Summer and Rio Bravo deserved to be here more, though, and I’ll stand by that.
4. As much as I’m surprised at the missing nominations of a few films, I’m a little surprised that Ben-Hur didn’t win. I wouldn’t want it to win, but it was a big, blustery Biblical epic in a time when that sort of thing had a lot of fans. This is an indication that even when Oscar doesn’t get the right film, it sometimes manages not to compound its errors by getting swept up in the moment. Ben-Hur is all about the chariot race. It’s the heart of the film and the sequence that almost certainly won the film all of the Oscars it did. And really, you have to wonder how much of that is actually in the screenplay.
3. Anatomy of a Murder is a film that had the bad luck of being nominated and released in a year where the competition was simply too stiff. This is a good movie and a tightly-written script that manages to stay tense and interesting for its entire running time. It also managed to push the envelope on what could be said in the movies by including language that wasn’t really what nice people talked about in 1959. In a different year, it would have more of a shot from me, and I like that it was nominated. It just doesn’t get to win.
2. My guess is that by the time the comments stop coming in on this post, the area below will be filled with people pushing for Some Like It Hot to have won. I get that, and had it won, I’m not sure I would disagree that strongly. It is a wonderful film and still funny after nearly 60 years, a feat that most comedies can’t manage. I would pick it in almost every other year in the ‘50s and most of the ‘60s. Just not in 1959, where it is barely edged out by another film. If you’d pick Some Like It Hot, I won’t tell you you’re wrong, but I will tell you that I disagree.
1. A Room at the Top is the best adapted screenplay of its year. What makes this film work, aside from some great performances, including a career-defining role for Simone Signoret, is a screenplay so tightly wound that it is just about to break. The beauty of A Room at the Top is that our main character slowly gets everything he wants, and with everything he gets, he becomes more and more dissatisfied with his life. It is as if someone wanted to write “The Monkey’s Paw,” but set it entirely in the real world. It works perfectly and the film was righty rewarded.