I first saw this film on Elizabeth Taylor day during the 2010 Summer under the Stars on TCM and I’ll admit I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. I was unsure why it was considered one of the greatest American movies. Then I saw it a second time, about six months later, on the big screen at the Egyptian Theatre during the TCM Film Festival in 2011 and suddenly I got it. That’s not to say it doesn’t necessarily translate well on the small screen (I’ve seen it many times since at home), but there was just something about seeing it on the big screen that made the magic come alive for me. I love this film so dearly and it is one I just cannot recommend enough. It was one AFI’s 100 Years. . .100 Movies list ranking at #92, but when they did their ten-year anniversary it fell off the list. It also ranked #53 on AFI’s 100 Years. . .100 Passions list. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning six. It lost Best Picture to An American in Paris, which was nominated for only eight Academy Awards, but won six as well. The only two awards An American In Paris lost (Director/Film Editing) were to A Place in the Sun, which was nominated for: Best B&W Cinematography (won), Best B&W Costume Design (won), Best Score (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Film Editing (won), Best Actor Montgomery Clift, Best Actress Shelley Winters, Best Director (won) and Best Picture. The other films nominated that year were Decision Before Dawn, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire and winner An American in Paris. This was also a strange year because three of the acting awards went to A Streetcar Named Desire (the fourth went Bogart in The African Queen). Also, if you look at the awards both A Place in the Sun and An American in Paris won, the only way they could have won them was because they were in separate categories (B&W vs. color, musical vs. not musical). This is part of why I love looking at the older Academy Awards ceremonies; they have a fun evolutionary history.
It’s hard to write about any film that was nominated for Best Picture in 1943 since the winner that year is almost universally thought to be one of, if not the greatest film of all time – Casablanca. That being said, there were some other really great films that came out in 1943. I decided to go with one of my favorite recently discovered classic comedies, George Stevens’ The More the Merrier. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning one: Best Writing – Original Story, Best Writing – Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor Charles Coburn (won), Best Actress Jean Arthur, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best Picture that year were: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, The Human Comedy, In Which We Serve, Madame Curie, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Song of Bernadette, Watch on the Rhine and winner Casablanca.
The 1956 film Giant is one of my favorite films of all time. George Stevens won the Best Director Oscar that year and the film was nominated for a total of nine awards – Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Score, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design – Color, Best Art Direction – Color, Best Supporting Actress – Mercedes McCambridge (she won the award for 1949’s All The King’s Men), Best Actor Rock Hudson, Best Actor James Dean (this was his second posthumous nomination in a row) and Best Picture. It lost to Around The World In 80 Days. I recently watched that film and I would say there is no way it is a better film than Giant. The other nominated films were Friendly Persuasion, The King and I and The Ten Commandments. Last week I also watched Gigi which beat Cat On A Hot Tin Roof in 1959, another year where the winner is in no way as good as some of its competition. I think the reason 80 Days won is because it’s a giant Technicolor travelogue, and 60 years ago it was filled with images that many people didn’t get to see in everyday life, whereas today all you have to do is flip to the Travel Channel. But if you compare the stories and the performances and the lasting power of the films, Giant is a classic in every definition of the word and is just as compelling now as it was in 1956 and 80 Days is most definitely not.