Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
The Rose Tattoo
I have to say I’m not a huge fan several of the movies nominated for Best Picture in 1955. There’s a lot of room for improvement. Let’s start with a few that might get mentioned even if I might not put them on my list. Kiss Me Deadly is fun, but too weird to be really considered. All that Heaven Allows isn’t my favorite Douglas Sirk film, but again, I think some might bring it up. The Trouble with Harry is lesser Hitchcock, but still fun. Oklahoma is strangely dark, but borders on what I might consider. Ditto for Blackboard Jungle. Bad Day at Black Rock may not have been serious enough or substantial enough, and the same is true of The Ladykillers. Now for the ones I might think about considering seriously. We’ll start with The Man with the Golden Arm, which I like more than most people. I really like quite a bit of Rebel without a Cause. On the foreign front, we have Smiles of a Summer Night. We also have the American release of Les Diabolique, even though it came out in 1954. The big one, though, is The Night of the Hunter.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Bluntly, I hated Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, so there was no question I was going to drop it first. I like William Holden, but as I’ve said before, I am not a fan of Jennifer Jones. I’m less of a fan of Jennifer Jones in a whitewashed role. The chemistry between our two leads is completely non-existent and it damages the entire film, because that romance is the point of the entire film. I honestly can’t think of a good reason why this should be nominated when there are vastly better films left ignored.
4. Deciding between third and fourth place here was the hardest decision I had to make for this post. I’m putting Picnic here for one significant reason. This film is cast so poorly that it staggers me. William Holden is playing a role that is half his actual age and it shows in every frame. In fact, Rosalind Russell is the only thing I really like about Picnic. The whole thing feels off in some respect, like it all moves too quickly and doesn’t really build in any way. This is another one that shouldn’t have been nominated.
3. The Rose Tattoo comes in third on the strength of Anna Magnini, who I love. This is a movie that I liked less and less the longer it went on. I consider myself a fan of Burt Lancaster, but I don’t like his character or his performance in this. It feels so forced. I liked this when it started, and by the time the film ended, I was desperately happy that it was done. In an open field, I probably wouldn’t nominate this one, either. I’d keep Anna Magnini’s nomination, though. She’s what’s worth watching here.
2. Finally, we get to a film that I actually like: eventual winner Marty. Marty is a sweet movie, one that has real heart. I like this because of how real it comes across. Hollywood put together a movie that gave us Ernest Borgnine—Ernest Goddam Borgnine—as a legitimate romantic lead because of how the film is put together. It’s a little film, one that probably didn’t really deserve to be nominated in a lot of respects, but I’m happy it was. It’s not close to my favorite movie of 1955, but I do like it.
1. Of the five nominations, my vote would have gone to Mister Roberts, a war movie in which we don’t see a single shot fired in anger. There’s a lot to love with this, from Henry Fonda’s angry dignity to James Cagney’s twisted martinet to Jack Lemmon’s brilliant comic turn. It’s a great movie, and one that goes through a believable and wonderful emotional gamut in the last 15 minutes. It’s clearly the best and most deserving of the five nominations, but in an open field, it’s not the film I’d want to win.
Had I the ability to create my own list of nominations, I’d definitely keep Mister Roberts and I’d probably keep Marty. I’d also nominate The Night of the Hunter despite its critical jugular slitting at the time and The Man with the Golden Arm. The fifth movie would be Les Diaboliques if it were eligible. If it wasn’t, I’d go with Rebel without a Cause. My winner would be either Les Diaboliques or The Night of the Hunter if I couldn’t have Clouzot’s masterpiece in the mix.