Monday, May 15, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 1950

The Contenders:

All About Eve (winner)
Born Yesterday
Father of the Bride
King Solomon’s Mines
Sunset Boulevard

What’s Missing

There’s plenty of room for improvement for our Best Picture category for 1950, although I think three of the nominations are warranted and two could be argued as winners. On the foreign front, Rashomon is the clear miss. Gun Crazy is alternately listed as a 1949 or 1950 movie, and I’m always happy to mention it. Also on the domestic front we have The Asphalt Jungle, which admittedly hasn’t aged very well. In a Lonely Place certainly has, though, and it’s a pretty big miss. Harvey probably isn’t serious enough to warrant a nomination, although it’s a fine way to spend a couple of hours. Winchester ‘73 may have been just too much of a change from the standard Western. A much bigger miss is Ace in the Hole, which only becomes more and more relevant as time goes on.

Weeding through the Nominees

5. I know I watched King Solomon’s Mines and I have some vague memory of it, but I don’t recall a great deal. That doesn’t bode well for a Best Picture nominee, even one that (shockingly) was the highest-grossing film of its year. Few problems in this film last longer than a couple of minutes, and most of them seem to be solved by having someone shoot an elephant. For an action movie, this is staggeringly dull, and I almost fell asleep watching it—and I watched it in the middle of the day. It shouldn’t be here.

4. Father of the Bride is a cute movie and it’s well made. I might even go so far as to say that it’s good and worth watching. But Best Picture? A flighty little nothing like this doesn’t deserve to be considered in the same category as the top films in this category and with most of the ones I mentioned in the first paragraph. This isn’t a knock on the movie. It’s fine as a movie. But this isn’t close to being the best movie of its year and shouldn’t be in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. It just doesn’t belong.

3. I like the fact that Born Yesterday was nominated for this award, even if in an open field it might not make my top five. Okay, it probably wouldn’t, but I still like the nomination because I like the film. It’s clearly a comedy, but it’s got its moments of darkness, and those moments work well. It’s beautifully cast and I love Judy Holliday in it. It’s still a good movie and one that I like very much. Honestly, it probably shouldn’t be in consideration, but it’s a hell of a lot more deserving than the two I’ve already gone through.

My Choices

2. I can’t really argue against All About Eve even if it wouldn’t be the movie that gets my vote. I understand exactly why it won, and if someone wants to tell me that this is where his or her vote goes, I can’t really say it’s a wrong vote. It is tightly wound and clicks along perfectly, containing great performances from everyone involved. It is a film that everyone should see at least once and probably more than once. I refuse to take its Oscar away completely, although I would vote differently.

1. My winner is Sunset Boulevard, which is one of that exclusive handful of films noir that absolutely epitomize the entire style. There isn’t a single frame of this movie I would change and not a single note that it hits that doesn’t work perfectly. It’s one of the great films not just of its year, but of its decade and its entire era, and absolutely one of my favorites of its decade as well. I could see All About Eve winning, but I would have preferred Sunset Boulevard to take the top position, although admittedly, that margin is a pretty slim one.

Final Analysis


  1. My choice is also Sunset Blvd. I am a big Billy Wilder fan. Clearly you also are, considering you little error.
    FYI Ace in the Hole was 1951. Just a heads up when you do Best Picture 1951 (And I am betting that that would be your choice for that year.)

    1. Some movies are listed with multiple release years, Ace in the Hole being one of them. It's why I also brought it up for 1951 when I did that year.

      Incidentally, you'd be wrong on my 1951 pick. I went with A Streetcar Named Desire with A Place in the Sun in close second.

    2. I will, though, change the picture at the top. That's fair.

  2. With those two movies nominated the rest becomes filler. Those are two very strong movies. If Ace in the Hole is eligible I would add that and Rashomon.
    As I understand it Rashomon and Kurosawa was discovered at the Venice film festival. That could have been at the Oscars if the Academy had looked up a bit from their belly.

    1. Rashomon would be one that I would fight for here. In fact, that's probably the biggest miss of all of the possible additions, and I would probably put it as a legitimate choice.

  3. I agree the real contest is between All About Eve and Sunset Blvd and in a way that’s a shame. Not necessarily for the other nominees but for all the other films that were somewhat diminished both at the time and going forward up until now because of the juggernaut those two created.

    This is one of the top years for Hollywood film so with so much worthy of inclusion what the hell is King Solomon’s Mines doing here!! I didn’t hate it but egad it wouldn’t even make my list if it was a top 20!!

    Father of the Bride is a charmer with a delicious inimitable performance by Spencer Tracy and charming ones by Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Bennett but top 5? No way.

    I’m not crazy for Born Yesterday despite Judy Holliday’s totally captivating work as Billie Dawn. It’s fine and in some instances very clever but again there are many films that are its superior that should have taken its place.

    Which takes us to the hot contest. Now as you said neither is a bad choice, both are brilliantly constructed, expertly directed and acted down to the smallest role so how to choose? I’m throwing my lot to All About Eve for a couple of reasons. While I could watch both endlessly Eve is more satisfying to me in the end and Mankiewicz provided a double whammy this year with his expert direction of the under-appreciated No Way Out. With all that I’d never complain nor fault anyone who came down on the side of Sunset Blvd. which is a great, great film.

    Now to what could and should have been in the running, despite not having a chance of winning but would have made a more competitive race and added deserved luster to the films. I’ll lead with the fact that Rashomon is my biggest blind spot for the year. But of the others you mention I’m all in for In a Lonely Place! An inky black noir that is amazing all the way to its dark heart. Were Lonely Place in the mix Gun Crazy as good as it is just wouldn’t compete. I also like Winchester ’73 but never saw it as an Oscar film. Asphalt Jungle might not have quite the impact it had on release but it’s still a substantial viewing experience and certainly better and more deserving than King Solomon or FOTB. I hated Harvey, oddly I really enjoyed the play. I’ve always seen Ace in the Hole referenced as a ’51 film and there it would be my winner but here despite going hammer and tongs with the top two it would never manage better than third this year in spite of its genius.

    Others not mentioned but worthy. The one which stands out the most for me is the magnificent The Breaking Point (John Garfield would be my Best Actor winner for it as well). A more faithful version of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not than the Bogie & Bacall movie it would actually be my number 3 and in another year an easy winner. Next up would be No Way Out, which like Ace in the Hole has become increasingly prescient over the years. Not quite at the same level but worth consideration are Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Furies, Night and the City and Les Enfants Terribles (which was released this year but didn’t hit the States until ’52 so might not be qualified.)

    If I had my way the list of nominees would run this way:

    All About Eve-Winner
    The Breaking Point
    In a Lonely Place
    No Way Out
    Sunset Blvd.

    Some years it’s difficult to even pull a top 5 together but this year to show how exemplary it was has so many excellent films that wouldn’t quite make the competition list but are lurking just beneath like D.O.A., The Men, Woman on the Run, Dark City, So Long at the Fair, Three Came Home and probably over a dozen more it makes it a pleasure to explore.

    1. The Men is an interesting mention and one I thought about. I don't know that there's enough "there" there, though. It's a solid breakout performance for Brando, but it seems too maudlin toward the end for me, and too damn short.

      No Way Out is a straight miss at the top on my part. That should have been mentioned.

      I have a very large soft spot for Gun Crazy, soft enough that I don't care that it is, time-wise, about as insubstantial as The Men. That's a personal love for that film, though, which is why I really didn't put it into serious contention here.

      This is a much stronger year than the nominees would indicate.

    2. The Men would never have made my list this year but in other years where the field wasn't so rich, and most years didn't have a crop so thick with worthy contenders, it might have stood a stronger chance. Same goes for all those others that I mentioned as being quality but not quite able to go against the abundance of truly magnificent films in play. However I would have rather seen ANY of them get a nod than King Solomon's Mines!

      No Way Out is a classic example of a madly deserving film being sidelined by the work of its own director. Mankiewicz was so on this year and Eve so instantly venerated that No Way Out became in a way the redheaded stepchild. Really unfortunate since not only was the film worthy of a nomination for Picture but it contained two award level performances from Richard Widmark and Linda Darnell that were swept aside by Eve's praise.

    3. It's rare that a director can manage to get two great films in one year to get the acclaim they both deserve. It happened with Coppola in 1974 and it happened with Victor Fleming in 1939, but it's rare.

      I tend to like Richard Widmark in general, so I'm always happy to suggest that he deserves some recognition.

      And yes, Pretty much ever movie mentioned by anyone on this thread deserves to be here before King Solomon's Mines should have been here. It's not bad; it's just not nearly as good as the other movies mentioned.

  4. I haven't recently seen King Solomon's Mines. I remember it vaguely as a rollicking adventure but far from Best Film material.

    I would definitely place Father of the Bride in 3rd and Born Yesterday in 4th. I tolerated Born Yesterday but do not consider it much more than a filmed play with one good performance. FoTB is a much better rounded experience, but a distant third in this year.

    The top two should really be a tie! If I had to choose I would likely go for All About Eve by the thinnest of margins. I quite enjoy the deliciously careerist, backstabbing storyline, and the many terrific performances.

    Others worth a view and not yet mentioned: the criminally underrated Fred Astaire musical Three Little Words, and the little-remembered but brothy Bright Leaf with Gary Cooper, Lauren Bacall and Patricia Neal all in fine form.

    1. I don't offer any objection to anyone putting All About Eve at the top. My vote for Sunset Boulevard is also by a wafer-thin margin, and I can't fault the different choice at all.

      I probably like Born Yesterday more than I should, but Judy Holliday really kills that role, but I like Holden and Broderick Crawford in it pretty well, too.

  5. I'm with you all the way though I have not seen King Solomon's Mines. Willing to keep that one on my List of Shame indefinitely really.

    1. Yeah, you're not missing a ton. It's not a bad movie, it's just not that memorable or necessary.

  6. Definitely a slim margin on this one, but I'm with you. Sunset edges out Eve, even if it is barely. And great to see Ace in the Hole getting a mention. Certainly should have earned a nom.

    1. The more I do this, the more I find that there are a lot of pictures that should have been in consideration for most of these awards. So far, virtually every group of nominations has needed some improvement.

  7. Wow, this is quite a group of films from 1950. Trying to pick between All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard is tough (I'd pick All About Eve). In a Lonely Place is also an inspired choice. I only caught up with it a few years ago, and it sticks with me. Winchester '73 is something else too. And Ace in the Hole too! This is getting ridiculous.

    1. Crazy year, and Oscar did poorly with the nominations. Sometimes, you just have to shake your head at what you're offered.