The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1953

I love 1953. I say it every time, but I really do. If you want to see just how much I love 1953, read my articles where I talk about Best Actor for this year, William Holden for Stalag 17, Best Actress for this year, Audrey Hepburn for Roman Holiday, and Best Supporting Actor for this year, Frank Sinatra for From Here to Eternity. See that? I recapped without having to do all the rigamarole I did in those other articles. Also, Best Picture this year was From Here to Eternity and Donna Reed won Best Supporting Actress for it. It was a great year for movies, and an understandable Best Picture choice. While it wouldn’t have been my first choice (I love Roman Holiday and Shane), it’s still a good one, and a classy one. It’s a great film.

And this category — it works out about as well as one could hope for. The year before this, Fred Zinnemann should have been a shoo-in Best Director for High Noon. Everyone acknowledges he should have won (ditto the film for Best Picture). The reason it didn’t was because it was a thinly-veiled allegory against blacklisting. And the Academy doesn’t like controversy. So they played it safe, and chose The Greatest Show on Earth as Best Picture, which is a good film, but not a Best Picture. And since that film isn’t really the right choice, they went with John Ford for Best Director, for The Quiet Man. Which, is a gorgeous example of great directing, and he might well have won anyway, but, he had three Oscars by that point. Most people acknowledge he won because they didn’t want to vote for Zinnemann. Which is why it worked out that Zinnemann won this year. He won for the year’s Best Picture winner and for a film he directed a year earlier. Win-win. (P.S. This category is fucking stacked!)

BEST DIRECTOR – 1953

And the nominees were…

George Stevens, Shane

Charles Walters, Lili

Billy Wilder, Stalag 17

William Wyler, Roman Holiday

Fred Zinnemann, From Here to Eternity

Stevens — Weird to see a dude whose last name starts with an S as the first alphabetical nominee in a category. But Billy Wilder and William Wyler and Fred Zinnemann will do that to a category.

George Stevens is a great director. You may not immediately recognize his name, unless you’re into films like I am (or are knowledgable about that tier of directors below the “big” names), but I bet he’s directed at least three films you’ve seen and liked. Or maybe even love. Here’s a list of his credits:

(Before I start, I’ll also note, he was making short films from 1930. So this man’s been around. He was there from sound. Anyone whose career stretches over such a long distance, silent to sound to color to the 50s and 60s — that earns respect no matter what films they’ve directed.)

His first big film was Alice Adams, a great film from 1935 that was nominated for Best Picture and also features an Academy Award-nominated (and win-worthy) performance by Katharine Hepburn. A really great film I’ll talk up (or have), in the articles on it. He directed Barbara Stanwyck in Annie Oakley that same year. He also directed Swing Time, an Astaire and Rogers film (but I hope you knew that without me telling you. I really do). He also, after that, directed Astaire and Rogers in two separate films (that is, each actor in their own film they starred in, separately), which really leads me to believe that this is a man that actors loved to work with. Not because he was a great director, but because he was a great director who worked well with actors. And that, to actors, means a lot. Anyway, he also directed Gunga Din, with Cary Grant, and also directed Grant to his first Oscar nomination in Penny Serenade, which is a film I really liked. It’s a rare dramatic role for Grant (though there’s a nice amount of comedy in the film as well, but still, there’s no denying it’s a drama), and a really great film. He directed Woman of the Year, the first Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film (a very good film and an Oscar nomination for Hepburn) and The Talk of the Town, a pretty good film with Jean Arthur and Cary Grant (nominated for Best Picture too). He also directed The More the Merrier, a great screwball comedy with Jean Arthur (her only Oscar nomination) and Charles Coburn (he won Best Supporting Actor for the film as well, beating out Claude Rains for Casablanca, a fact that, at first comes as a shock but after I’ve seen the film, I kinda — I kinda get it), about an older millionaire who by a series of circumstances, moves in with a woman during the housing shortage of World War II. Pretty quickly he meddles his way into taking in a soldier on leave, and tries to get the soldier and Arthur together. It’s a great movie, and one that holds up insanely well almost 70 years later.

He also directed — oh we’re not done yet — a bunch of propaganda documentaries during World War II, just like all the other great directors (Frank Capra, John Huston) did. Then after the war, he slowed down his directing efforts, but, when he made a film, he made a film. His first post-war film was I Remember Mama, which, there is no ceiling to how high I recommend that film. It is a brilliant little masterpiece. Then he directed A Place in the Sun, which was nominated for Best Picture and won him his first Best Director award (which I didn’t particular like when I talked about it) and launched Elizabeth Taylor as a major sex symbol. He then directed Something to Live For, a film that seems to be lost (or at least forgotten about), since it has three big actors in it — Ray Milland, Joan Fontaine and Teresa Wright — and not only have I not heard of it, it’s not on Netflix. Which means it’s forgotten. I’ll have to look for that. Then he directed this film, Shane, which speaks for itself (though I’ll do a good job speaking for it in a second). Then he directed Giant, a film that is his masterpiece. An almost three-and-a-half hour epic about oil (and a lot of other things), it is really a masterpiece. It won him his second Best Director award, and for my money should have won Best Picture and Best Actor for Rock Hudson. After that, he directed a little film called The Diary of Anne Frank (I know, right?). And then he directed The Greatest Story Ever Told (it’s about Jesus), starring Max von Sydow as Jesus. And his final film was The Only Game in Town, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty, which — I really need to see.

See what I mean when I said great resume? Just to list a set of films: Swing Time, The More the Merrier, I Remember Mama, A Place in the Sun, Shane, Giant, The Diary of Anne Frank, and throw in Alice Adams, Gunga Din, Penny Serenade, Woman of the Year, and even The Greatest Story Ever Told, and you have a resume that’s twice as good as most directors could ever dream of having. Seriously, this man is a big name on the great directors list.

And now that’s out of the way — let’s talk about Shane. We know about Shane, don’t we? I feel this is a film more people know about than have seen it. You know the whole “Shane! Come Back!” bit, but have people actually seen the film? It’s about a homesteading family — the father is Van Heflin (Oscar winner), the mother is Jean Arthur (coaxed out of retirement for the role), and the son is Branden de Wilde (Oscar nominated for the role) — who settles along with other families on a territory, but a ruthless landowner (or cattle baron. It’s one or the other. It’s usually cattle baron or train man) wants them off the land so he could have it at a cheap price. So he tries to sabotage all their attempts to make the land fit for living and farming. And he has Jack Palance, his muscle — a gunman who does nothing but smirk sinisterly all the time and shoot people — scare the people off the land. But Shane, a mysterious cowboy riding in from the sunset, agrees to help the family on the land in exchange for them helping him and giving him a place to stay when he needed it. And the whole movie is Shane helping the family and avoiding violence (he hates violence). But eventually, he has the climactic shootout and it ends — well, that’s the thing — how does it end? It’s possible Shane doesn’t live. We don’t know. But still — the film itself is wonderful, and the added bonus of ambiguity helps the direction become even stronger.

Steven’s direction is divine, and the only reason I’m not voting for him is because he won two years earlier for a film he shouldn’t have. (Plus I know he’ll win for a film he really should have won for three years after this.) Still, the direction is great and the film is a classic. It also has the bonus of having the most unintentionally hilarious line in the history of the western genre — you see, the whole film has sort of a homosexual undercurrent to it. Shane is presented as a man who hates violence, isn’t interested in women, just does what he does. He wears bright orange clothing when everyone else is workmanlike. And he has a really homoerotic scene where he and Van Heflin are both shirtless and rip a tree stump out of the ground. It’s supposed to be manly — them using brute strength to rip the roots out of the ground, but it comes off as so — volleyball scene from Top Gun. Anyway, at the end of the film, after killing all the bad guys, he tells the kid he has to leave — who, obviously, isn’t very happy about it. And he tells the kid he’s gonna be fine. He’ll be safe, he’ll have a good life. He tells him to be good, and — this is the part that’s hilarious, he says, “You go home to your father and mother and grow up strong — and straight.”

Now, straight clearly means “not involved in any crimes,” but it’s pretty obvious the subtext it takes given the rest of the film. It’s almost like when films of the 30s use the word “gay” to mean “happy.” You always wonder if there’s subtext. Here, it was so obvious, when we watched it in my Western’s class, as soon as the line came on, the entire class cracked up, because we knew. Everyone watching this movie will catch it, because it’s so fucking obvious.

Anyway, the film is great, the direction is great, and that line is the cherry on top. What more do you need?

Walters — This is only my second (and final) opportunity to talk about this film, so I’m gonna get as much in as I can.

I knew nothing of this film when I started this Quest. Around — let’s say, February, I started running up against a large list of films that were “unavailable.” Not completely unavailable, per se, but — not on Netflix. So I had to resort to — other means, to find them. And this film was in that first bunch that I found, simply by going down the list of unavailable films. So I had it just sitting there. And one random day I was looking for a quick film to watch, saw this one was only 81 minutes long, and put it on. I was expecting nothing more than a throwaway 80 minute film. I mean, 80 minutes, what could be in the film? Also, keep in mind, I knew nothing about it before I watched it. It was really the best thing that could have happened.

The film is one of the most magical films I’ve ever seen. It was so good that, as I’ve said before, and will say until it happens — when this Quest is over, and I compile a list of films I’m glad I discovered because of this Quest, this film will be #1 on that list. That’s how much I fell in love with this film. Let me tell you about it.

The film starts at a French seaside town. We see all the venders selling fresh produce and such, and life going on as usual. Off a bus with a suitcase comes Lili. She’s looking for a baker friend of her father’s, who told her that whenever she was in town, she could have a job with him at the bakery. Now, her father has died, so she travels to get a job with the man. However, she finds the bakery closed and discovers that he, too, has died. Now, with nowhere to go, she starts wandering up the sidewalk. She’s stopped by a shop owner who tells her she can work for him. He brings her inside, but it becomes very apparent very quickly that he’s only after one thing. Fortunately, a man comes in and saves her from something happening to her. He’s a magician from a carnival that’s in town and is buying colored handkerchiefs. He stops the man, and Lili, smitten with him, follows him outside. He meets up with the people he came to town with, and she starts following them as they walk back. She says she has nowhere to go, so he agrees to take her with him. He brings her to the carnival, where he discovers how young she is, and is soon disinterested with her. She, however, has a crush on him. So he pawns her off to the man who runs the restaurant at the carnival, figuring if he gets her a job she’ll leave him alone.

So she works as a waitress, but is very bad at her job. She isn’t good with navigating through crowds, can’t hold many things at once, and even stops to watch the act that goes on, which only the audience are supposed to be doing. She’s quickly fired. Despondent, she walks through the empty carnival with her suitcase, with nowhere to go, and passes by the trapeze tower. Seeing no other recourse, she starts to climb it, preparing to kill herself. She gets a few steps up before someone calls to her, telling her to come down. She looks over to see — a little puppet, talking to her. The puppet calls her over. She climbs down and goes over. The puppet starts talking to her, and she starts responding. She responds in such a way that she seemingly is unaware that there’s somebody behind the stage, controlling the puppets. Her interaction is so innocent and pure that everyone else at the carnival comes over to watch. The puppets even get her to sing a song with them, which leads to this divine little musical number:

After this, they decide they can get people to come watch her interact with the puppets, so they hire her to talk to them. She doesn’t understand why they’re paying her, but agrees to do it. She thinks she’s being paid to just talk with the puppets. Now, the backstory to this part is — the man who controls the puppets is Mel Ferrer (aka Audrey Hepburn’s first husband), a former dancer who was injured and is no longer able to dance. He’s become angry and bitter because of this. He’s always saying things to bring everybody down. So much so that, upon meeting him, Lili dubs him “the angry man.” What she doesn’t know, though, is that the angry man has feelings for her. But the only way he can express himself is through the puppets. So the rest of the film deals with Lili talking to the puppets, but really talking to him, and a romance ensuing with that little triangle. But then there’s also Lili and her feelings for the magician, who really isn’t interested in her, as well as these wonderful little dream sequences. There’s a whole dance sequence with both Lili and the puppeteer, and it’s really something magical. The whole film is just magical. Really.

I love this film to death. I really fell for it hard. And it’s only 81 minutes, so everybody should have time to see this once. It’s just amazing. the direction is wonderful. Walters really directed the hell out of it, and staged those dance sequences really well. I’m amazed he got nominated in such a strong year, but, that’s really a testament to this film and his direction of it that he did get nominated. Most people would consider him a #5, but I love this film so much, I’m ranking him higher. That’s just a personal preference. He wasn’t going to win anyway. But, I really love this film. I cannot stress this enough. I recommend this to everyone so highly. If you’re at all into films that evoke childlike magic and innocence (which I live for), this is one of those films.

Wilder — What can you say about Billy Wilder? I mean, the man turned almost everything he touched into gold. And at the worst, he turned everything he touched into a watchable movie. People could wish for half as good a percentage as he had. This film is one of his best. Might not be his most well-known among the average person, but it’s definitely one of his best.

It’s about a group of American soldiers in a German POW camp. It’s kind of like The Great Escape in the sense that, it’s about them constantly trying to escape. But unlike The Great Escape, which has those action scenes, this one is more about the life of the men in the barracks. We see little vignettes of things they do. Like, the men rush over to see all the new Russian women imported over to the women’s camp along the way. Some of them try to sneak into the compound over to the women’s shower — things like that. And the main storyline is how they keep getting foiled in their escapes and can’t understand why. So they decide there must be a German informant in their ranks. Everyone is quick to blame William Holden, who is the most unlikable prisoner in the barracks. He keeps to himself, and always has luxuries that most men could dream of. For example, he has eggs and a frying pan, when most men don’t have shoes. He wins dozens of cigarettes from the men when he doesn’t even smoke, just so he can trade them for items. They think he’s getting all his itmes in exchange for information. Well, as we find out pretty quickly, it’s not him, and that it’s actually someone the men would least expect. And the rest of the film is about the men trying to find the rat, but also struggling with a major prisoner coming into camp who needs to escape very quickly, otherwise he’ll be killed. And he holds valuable information that he must give to the commanding officers. The film is really fucking good. It’s the kind of film that can seamlessly blend scenes where nothing happens and everything happens. Example: there’s literally a four minute scene where the men march around the barracks, singing, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” and for four minutes they just march around. And you’d think that would be dead screen time. But really, during that time, the actual rat sneaks away to give the signal to the guards that he has information, right under everyone’s nose — except Holden’s. It’s a really great scene, and a really great movie.

Wilder directed the hell out of it, like he directs the hell out of everything he does. He didn’t need to win for it, since he won for The Lost Weekend already, and, you just knew he’d win another one. And he did.For The Apartment. So, knowing that, I don’t need to vote for him. Which is great, because — look at this year.

Wyler — Roman Holiday is a perfect film. It really is. It’s a film that holds up better than most films of today. It might be the greatest romantic comedy of all time. It probably isn’t, but it’s close. Top five for sure.

In case you don’t know (and really, why don’t you), it’s about Audrey Hepburn as a princess, who is embarking on a tour of Europe for ambassadorial reasons. She’s visiting all these countries that are beautiful, but is cooped up in a room with stuffy rich people all the time. She’s bored and she hates it. She wants to get out. So, one night, in Rome, she feigns illness. And when they leave her to sleep, she sneaks out. Problem is, the doctor had given her a sedative to help her sleep. So soon after she gets out, she starts getting loopy. She wanders around the street, drugged. Not the safest thing to do, especially in Rome. She passes out on the side of the road. And coincidentally, Gregory Peck, a reporter, just happens to be going home from a card game as she passes out (the only reason he’s going home so “early” is because he needs to get up to go to the princess’s reception for reporters in the morning). He finds her, not knowing who she is (he’s not a very dedicated reporter), and sees her passed out, thinking she’s drunk. So he takes her back to his hotel room and lets her sleep it off. Then he realizes the next day who she is, and he offers his boss (who wants to fire him) an exclusive scoop on the princess. He brings his photographer buddy Eddie Albert into it, and the two of them go around, showing Audrey the town, while surreptitiously taking photos of her. The problem is, Peck begins to fall in love with her, and she with him, complicating matters. The film is really brilliant. It’s hard not to love this movie. It’s so fucking good.

Wyler’s direction is great, but, when has that not been the case in any of his films? The man was nominated for Best Director twelve times. He won twice — for The Best Years of Our Lives in ’46, and after this, in ’59 for Ben-Hur. It’s pretty clear that this wasn’t a film he was going to win for, despite him being my personal favorite in this category. But even I’m not voting for him, because, as I said, Fred Zinnemann had this award won the year before this, and makes an airtight case with his effort this year that he’s the only one that deserved to win.

Zinnemann — From Here to Eternity is a wonderful film that, to me, is the definition of the word “classic.” When someone asks me to name a “classic” film, this is what I equate that word with. It just has everything that a “classic” is supposed to have.

The film is about a military base at Pearl Harbor, before Pearl Harbor. Montgomery Clift is a bugler who is transferred there at his own request. The reason being — he used to be a boxer for the army, but his opponent accidentally died in the ring, and he found himself unable to fight anymore. He feels that if he gets as far away from boxing as possible, he’ll be able to live with himself. Unfortunately for him, the C.O. of the base is really into boxing, and really wants Clift to fight for him. He’s also kind of a dick, this C.O., as well. He’s the kind of guy who shirks his duties in favor of going into town with his mistress and really neglects doing his job the right way. The kind of guy who misses 80% of the day-to-day activities on the base, and only hears tiny pieces of the story. Like, he’ll show up and they’ll be like, “Clift won’t fight.” And since that’s all he knows, he’ll be like, “What? Clift won’t fight. Make him fight.” “But sir…” “Make him fight!” So they put Clift through the ringer, making him do all this extra work, like dig out graves and shit, then redig them as soon as he’s done. They make him run miles in full gear, crazy shit like that. They just overwork him until he agrees to do what they want. But he refuses, time and time again. And he falls in love with a prostitute at the whorehouse in town, and he sees her as a redemptive woman of sorts, but, he has to deal with all this other stuff that’s preventing him from doing what he really wants to do.

Now, there are two other stories that happen besides this. First is the Frank Sinatra storyline. Sinatra plays a very charismatic soldier in the base. The kind of guy who’s very high profile. Kind of like how Kevin Spacey is in L.A. Confidential, you know? He’s got that swagger. And Sinatra does what he does, going out on weekends, big client at the local whorehouse, likes to get drunk and sing songs. They know him over there. He’s big on the partying on weekends. And one night, while drunk, he hears Ernest Borgnine, a stockadge guard named “Fats”, playing piano, and doesn’t want to hear him playing it. So he gets into an argument with him, and Fats, quick to be offended, tells him to watch his back. It’s an innocuous exchange, until laterin the film. You see, the next weekend, Sinatra is all set to use his weekend pass to go out, when a soldier comes in, and, finding him the last one in the room, tells him his pass is taken away and he needs to go on guard duty. And Sinatra doesn’t want to, but is forced to. So he sneaks away and goes out drinking anyway.Which causes him to be arrested and thrown in the stockade. With Borgnine. And Borgnine beats the shit out of him. Very systematically, in such a way that nobody knows he’s doing it. And Sinatra eventually escapes on the back of a truck and makes it out, but ends up bleeding internally and dying because of it. This factors into the Clift storyline as well as this next one.

Burt Lancaster plays the C.O.’s aide. He’s the best soldier on the base, and is the real soldier the men look up to and take orders from. He’s the kind of soldier that would be a really high ranking officer if only he wanted to. The problem is, he doesn’t want to. He has the complete dedication to his job that would make him one, but he despises officers. He doesn’t want to be one, because he thinks it would make everyone hate him, and change him for the worse. He starts having an affair with the C.O.’s wife, Deborah Kerr, who, at first is notorious for having an affair with an army man at her husband’s base. But, soon, we realize, the reason she did that was because the husband is constantly sleeping around, and she’s in an empty marriage because, long ago, when she was pregnant, her husband came home drunk and belligerent and she lost the baby. So she and Lancaster start a passionate affair, and both really fall in love with one another (remember the major image from this film? It’s them). The problem is, she wants him to be an officer, so they can live comfortably, and he doesn’t want to be one. And this, as well as the Clift storyline, come to a head with the death of Sinatra as well as the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

It’s a great, great film. So well layered. All three storylines are blended seamlessly. It never feels like an ensemble film. It truly feels like each person (meaning Clift and Lancaster, not so much Sinatra) is the lead of the film. Which is why both Lancaster and Clift were nominated for Best Actor this year. The film is great. And Zinnemann really did a great job with the film.

Fred Zinnemann really was the only person who could have won this category. Seriously. First, factoring in High Noon the year before this, as long as he directed something even remotely respectable, he’d have been automatically shortlisted for top two and a vote. Add on top of that the fact that he directed this film, and there’s really no other course of action. He earned this the real hard way. And he deserved it.

My Thoughts: This might be the strongest Best Director category I’ve ever seen. That’s not a definite, since I’m sure I can probably find a stronger one. But top three, definitely. Four of the five nominees are 1s or 2s most years, and the fifth nominee is one that either people are gonna love (like me) or will see as a #5. Still, this category is stacked.

Here’s how we’re doing this — to make it official. Plus, while I have my vote all locked up, I still need to figure out my rankings. That’s the hard part here. And if I do it this way, people will understand why I did what I did.

First — George Stevens is out. He’s #5. He won in 1951 for A Place in the Sun, and I felt he was fifth best there, so that knocks him down. Plus, otherwise, I liked his film fourth best on this list. That’s how stacked it is (and I love Shane). So he’s fifth. Because — like I said — the win works against him.

Fourth on the list is Fred Zinnemann. Now, I’m voting for him, but, my rankings are always based on which performances/effort/films I liked the best. I try not to leave it a hard and fast process, because it changes by category. If a performance is clearly the best, it’s #1, even if I have a film on there I love more than it. Anyway, Zinnemann goes 4th, even though I’m voting for him, because, I liked the 1-3 films better than his. I love From Here to Eternity, but 1-3 are really up there on my films list. And even though I like Shane more than I do From Here to Eternity (well, it’s about the same), Zinnemann goes ahead because he deserves the win more. Ya follow?

Third is Charles Walters. I get that he’s the weakest effort on the list, but — I love the film. It’s seriously, as I’ve said, the film I will put #1 on the list of films I’m glad I discovered because of this Oscar Quest. I seriously love that film. It’s so fucking magical. I put it 3rd out of my love for it and in the hopes that people who haven’t seen it do so and get in on the magic that is Lili.

And second is Billy Wilder and first is William Wyler, just because I love Roman Holiday best on this list. Still, it’s stacked, and Fred Zinnemann deserved his win here.

My Vote: Zinnemann

Should Have Won: Zinnemann.

Is the result acceptable?: Absolutely. Dude was snubbed terribly the year before this and responded with a Best Picture winner. He deserved it so much they gave him another one 13 years later when he directed that Best Picture winner (A Man for All Seasons). Well deserved. Great decision.

Ones I suggest you see: All of them. Seriously. All of them.

Roman Holiday is one of the greatest romances of all time. It’s a film you must-see. It’s right up there with It Happened One Night as the classic romances that hold up better than modern day romances. I won’t say anything more except — if you haven’t seen it, you’re dead to both me and the world.

Stalag 17 is such a great film that I guarantee you — if you watch it, sight unseen, you will enjoy it. It’s that good. That’s the kind of film it is. It’s seriously just an amazing film. I say it’s a must-see because — if there’s at least a 75% chance that anyone who sees it will enjoy it, why wouldn’t you watch it? You know? Everyone who has seen it knows what I’m talking about. I’m pretty certain that anyone with an interest in film has seen this movie and loved it. And those who don’t (those idiots that are like, “Green Lantern was the best movie ever!”), don’t deserve to have their opinions counted when grown ups is talking.

Also, Shane is one of the greatest westerns ever made. I love the film to death and think everyone needs to see it. If you want a crash course on westerns, this is one of the handful of films you need to see. Personally, it’s not on my list of absolute favorite westerns, but that’s because the western is probably my favorite genre (next to musical, or at least, alongside it), and I have a lot of favorite westerns. Amongst all those other westerns, this one seems more cookie cutter to me. But as a standalone film, it’s fucking great, and is a film you need to see. It’s so entertaining. And the homoerotic subtext is always a plus.

Lili, as I said, is a film that I love to death and recommend that everyone see, just because I went from not knowing this film existed, to it being one of my favorite films of all time. Seriously, I love this movie so much. It’s so fucking magical. This is seriously a film I’m going to show my children one day. That’s how magical it is. I get that not everyone will love it, but, for those with imagination, you probably will. I put this film along the same magical lines as Amelie and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. They both contain the same amount of magic and innocence that this one does, and to me — that’s a perfect combination. See this movie. For me, anyway.

And From Here to Eternity. Best Picture winner, great film, amazing performances by Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Donna Reed, Deborah Kerr and Frank Sinatra. And Ernest Borgnine is in it too. What more do you need? This is a classic film if I’ve ever seen one. Actually — I’ll be honest with you. If someone asked me “What’s a classic film I need to see?”, the first film that would come into my head is this one. I equate From Here to Eternity with a “classic” film. The word classic, to me, is this film. And that’s why you need to see it. You’ll also really enjoy it. The first time I saw it, I didn’t know if I liked it or not. I watched it three more times before I realized, “Hell, I really do like this movie.” And that wasn’t even for the Quest. I was just watching it. It was on and I sat down, started watching, and just watched it. Which tells me — that’s a good movie. If I can start watching it and not be pulled away to watch something I haven’t seen, that means it’s a great movie. So, see it. It’s great. They’re all great. This was a great year for movies. I love 1953.

Rankings:

5) Stevens

4) Zinnemann

3) Walters

2) Wilder

1) Wyler

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