A person could talk for hours about 1952. This is the year High Noon, the consensus best picture of the year, loses Best Picture to The Greatest Show on Earth. Now, this is unintentionally one of the years that lead to the existence of this Oscar Quest. I unthinkingly said, “Wow, High Noon not winning Best Picture was such a crock of shit,” without actually having seen The Greatest Show on Earth. The rest is history. Now, having seen The Greatest Show on Earth, I can say pretty definitively — it’s not a bad film. It’s actually a very good film, and a very entertaining film. What it is, is — not even a bad choice — it’s a safe choice.
You see, HUAC was big during this time. That’s the House of Un-American Activities. If you don’t know what that is, you probably should have paid a bit more attention in history class. Seriously. Be better. And High Noon, written by a blacklisted writer, was nothing more than an allegory for what was going on in Hollywood at the time. And it was a very controversial film, naturally. So — the Academy, not having any balls, couldn’t bring themselves to vote the film for Best Picture. So they went with the easy choice. The question is — why?
It seems like they were so unsure of what to do (aside from not voting for High Noon), they went and fucked everything up in the most confusing way possible. The Greatest Show on Earth wins Best Picture, but not Best Director. Which is strange, since the director of the film was Cecil B. DeMille, a Hollywood legend (who never won a competitive Oscar. He was given a Thalberg award this same year, so perhaps that’s why they didn’t vote for him). Instead, they gave John Ford his fourth Best Director Oscar for The Quiet Man. Not a bad decision, but, he had three. I don’t think he needed it. So they vote one for Best Picture, another for Best Director. And making things even more confusing, they go and give Gary Cooper Best Actor for High Noon. What the fuck? I thought they hated it. Way to be contradictory, Academy. It would have made sense to go another way with it, so at least you can say he didn’t win because of the Citizen Kane-type bias. It makes no sense.
Anyway, the other winners this year were Anthony Quinn as Best Supporting Actor for Viva Zapata!, and Gloria Grahame as Best Supporting Actress for The Bad and the Beautiful. It’s a very strange and confusing year. It’s like the puberty of the Academy. And on top of that, we have this category, which, isn’t terrible, but also — just strange. Just really strange. (more…)