Monday, March 13, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 1955

The Contenders:

Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
Marty (winner)
Mister Roberts
The Rose Tattoo

What’s Missing

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.

My Choice

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.

Final Analysis


  1. All I really should say is UGH! While I like a couple of these films not a single one would stay on my list.

    I don't think I need to add anything to your comment on Splendored Thing other than I love the theme song. But when that's the only positive it's hardly a ringing endorsement for the movie.

    Bill Holden, I'm a big fan of his as well, felt the same way as you about his involvement in Picnic but by appearing he was able to complete his long term Columbia contract and he figured better a decent script than some piece of junk but he's very wrong for the part. Kim Novak is lovely in her bruised longing but again I don't think she's the right girl for the part. Roz Russell IS amazing but that should have scored her a nomination not the film (she refused to submit her name in the supporting category feeling, probably rightly considering the period, that it would end her starring career)

    Outside of Anna Magnani I hated The Rose Tattoo so I don't understand its inclusion at all, I'd keep Picnic over it.

    I'm not as fond of Mister Roberts as you but it is a good picture just not the best of the year.

    Marty is a charmer, a lovely small movie with a beautiful performance from Ernest Borgnine and out of the five my choice but the frustrating part of that is it isn't anywhere near the best of its year.

    All the alternate films you mentioned are excellent and I'd rather see any on the list than what's there but I'd add East of Eden which would be my choice for winner with a whisper thin advantage over Night of the Hunter simply because I enjoy Eden more.

    My list would run this way:

    All That Heaven Allows
    Bad Day at Black Rock
    East of Eden-Winner
    Night of the Hunter

    If Diabolique hadn't been eligible, which would make me sad since it would be my third choice right on the heels of Hunter, I'd substitute Smiles on a Summer Night.

    1. I don't dislike East of Eden and I think it's a film that I clearly could have included at the time. I didn't because I like Rebel without a Cause more, which is why it barely scrapes into my top five. I freely admit that Rebel has some real problems, but the good greatly outweighs the bad for me.

      Beyond that, I can't really disagree with any of your picks. I like All That Heaven Allows, although Written on the Wind is my favorite from Sirk. I also like Black Rock. There are some great moments in it, even if I question how substantial it is compared with the other entries. That said, I could see it being nominated--it is laden with social issues and some pretty good action and it has a lot of the things that Oscar seems to like in a Best Picture nominee.

      Les Diaboliques is my favorite, though. The only real question I have about it is whether or not it belongs to 1954 or 1955. The Night of the Hunter is my favorite otherwise, even if parts of it don't work.

  2. I am the first to admit that my own favorites from 55 are not really Best Picture material, but neither do the nominees sound like being, so I will not be shy and name Bad Day at Black Rock as the movie I picked and remembered and would go back to from 55. Night of the Hunter would be my runner up.

    1. It's a damn fine movie. I tend to like Spencer Tracy as a rule, and I like his character a lot in this one. I also love Ernest Borgnine as one of the heavies here. I'm consistently amused by the fact that in movie, Borgning faces off against Tracy and loses, while in the Oscar battle, the two squared off and Borgnine won.

  3. I've only seen two of the movies - Marty and Mister Roberts - (and I keep meaning to watch The Rose Tattoo because it's on the MOVIES! channel all the time), so I don't have too much to say.

    I have Smiles of a Summer Night listed as my favorite movie of 1955 on my IMDB list. So I'll go with that, much as I love Bad Day at Black Rock, Night of the Hunter and Diabolique.

    1. I don't think it's a bad choice. It's not my favorite Bergman, but I think it's his best under-known movie. It's so different from so much of his other, existentially heavy work that it almost feels like it's not Bergman at all.

  4. I’m with you, not the biggest fan of these nominees. Rebel, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Night of the Hunter… where were they!?

    1. Yeah, it's a bad collection of nominees based on the films that were available.