Jospeh L. Mankiewicz: All About Eve (winner)
John Huston: The Asphalt Jungle
George Cukor: Born Yesterday
Billy Wilder: Sunset Boulevard
Carol Reed: The Third Man
Here’s a strong class of pictures and directors. I can’t off the top of my head suggest one that I think should be eliminated to make room for others, which will make the next part of this difficult. I might suggest Henry Koster for Harvey, but I’m not sure what Koster did is specifically worthy of a Best Director nod. Someone might well suggest Vincente Minnelli’s Father of the Bride, but I haven’t seen that yet. I will offer up Joseph H. Lewis for Gun Crazy, which is a film that deserves more love. I also like Winchester ‘73 from Anthony Mann, but I don’t think it’s more deserving than the five nominees in place. Some may suggest Jean Cocteau for Orphee, but that wouldn’t be me at all. You want a foreign film? Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. I’d nominate that.
Weeding through the Nominees
5: If I had to make room for a different nominee, I suppose the one I might cut is Born Yesterday
, and probably to make room for Gun Crazy
. Born Yesterday
is a great film and it’s wonderfully made, but it’s not that ambitious from a directorial standpoint. When you have a solid script and a stage play to build on, a lot of the director’s work is already done in terms of setting up the action. Don’t get me wrong—I like this film a lot and really have no issue with it being named, but of the five nominees, this is the one that tries to do the least.
4: I really like The Asphalt Jungle
, and I like what John Huston did with it. Like Born Yesterday
, though, I’m not sure he did anything that unique or special with the film. This is a beautifully made film with the kind of iconic and beautiful lighting that makes great film noir really great. I guess I’m less impressed with Huston’s work here than I am with the other nominated directors. That’s not a slam on the film, since he’s up against some fantastic competition.
3: All About Eve
is the film that turned me into a Bette Davis fan, and I won’t complain too hard about Mankiewicz’s win here. That said, this is a film I love for the whip-cracking script and the rich characters, not specifically because of anything Mankiewicz did. There’s something to be said for a directorial style that simply gets out of the way of a film and lets a great story play out. It’s a great decision when it’s made for the right film, and this was the right film. But seamless and invisible direction by itself doesn’t garner the top spot for me.
2: I know there are Billy Wilder haters out there even if that idea seems completely foreign and weird to me. Sunset Boulevard
is Wilder as good as he gets, again with a brilliant script and some of the best performances in a couple of careers filled with best performances. Even more, I like how Wilder used the camera here. There are moments that are iconic in this film as much as in any other. Could Norma Desmond’s descent down the staircase at the end have been handled in a better way? I don’t think so. This is a story enhanced by what Wilder brought to it, which is saying something for a film this great.
1: Even with that gushing love for Sunset Boulevard
, my vote still goes to Carol Reed and The Third Man
. I admit that there’s a little bit of bias here because it’s a Graham Greene script and I genuinely love Greene’s work. But there are moments here of pure genius from Reed. He lets the story tell itself, but manages beautiful little hints and clues along the way. The Ferris wheel scene, where Holly and Harry spar back and forth while the carriage rocks, first one above the other then positions reversed is a beautiful nod to the back and forth of the conversation. The Third Man
is littered with these small, enhancing touches that add and never detract. This is flawless work.
I'm with you all the way on this one. I had forgotten 1950 was such an awesome year! Some pretty great films noir went under the Academy's radar. Aside from Gun Crazy, which is an absolute classic, were In a Lonely Place, Night and the City, and the noirish western Winchester '93.ReplyDelete
No love for Nicholas Ray and IN A LONELY PLACE? He would've gotten my nom over Cukor and Huston for sure. It was definitely a rich year.ReplyDelete
There are probably always going to be ones I miss. In a Lonely Place is a worthy addition to the list above, although I'd be more prone to bring it up when we talk about Best Actor 1950, and possibly Best Actress, since I think it's Gloria Grahame's best work.Delete
Man, that's a hell of a set of nominees. I really couldn't pick among them myself.ReplyDelete
Steve, that's a stunning top three, and The Asphalt Jungle is no slouch. I'm inclined to agree with you in picking The Third Man, though All About Eve is really close for me. The staying power of that trio has been pretty remarkable.ReplyDelete
Evidently, 1950 was a hell of a good year. This one was difficult.Delete
Judy Holliday winning for Born Yesterday that year is still considered one of the great surprises in Oscar history, over the likes of Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. Even though I haven't seen Eve or Sunset in years, I would venture to say Oscar may have missed the boat on this one too.ReplyDelete
I would've said the same thing until I watched Born Yesterday. But we'll get there eventually.Delete
Now that I have completed 1950 I have returned to look at your Academy evaluation of 1950. At first I was shocked to see that you have Sunset Boulevard as only number two, but then I realized that The Third Man is considered a 1950 movie. What a difficult choice! Had it been Best Picture I would have reversed the order, but for director's effort The Third Man is just pure genius.ReplyDelete
I might reverse them, too, but we'd still have All About Eve in the mix for Best Picture, and it's no slouch. This was a tough call for me, but The Third Man is a go-to for me when I think of a film that is directed within an inch of its life and is regularly enhanced by the decisions made behind the camera.Delete