The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1962

The reason I love 1962 is because of two films (at least, in this category), but look at those two films — Lawrence of Arabia and To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s justified.

The year is actually quite simple to recap as well — Lawrence of Arabia wins Best Picture and Best Director for David Lean (talked about here). There was no way it wasn’t winning either of those two awards. To Kill a Mockingbird wins Best Actor for Gregory Peck (talked about here). No one can disagree with Atticus. Then Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress were Anne Bancroft (talked about here) and Patty Duke (talked about here) for The Miracle Worker, which were both perfect decisions. The only real outlier is Best Supporting Actor, which Ed Begley won for Sweet Bird of Youth (talked about here). I don’t really see how Omar Sharif doesn’t win this for Lawrence of Arabia. Still, that decision isn’t enough to ruin the other five.

And here — it’s pretty simple. One film or the other. We know which was going to win, but many of us (including myself) have to choose the other for personal reasons. Either way, it’s pretty clear this was gonna be a good one whichever way they chose.


And the nominees were…

Lawrence of Arabia (Columbia)

The Longest Day (20th Century Fox)

The Music Man (Warner Bros.)

Mutiny on the Bounty (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

To Kill a Mockingbird (U-I)

Lawrence of Arabia — You don’t get a synopsis here. You need to have seen this film. If you get a chance, watch it in 70mm. Holy shit is it gorgeous.

The Longest Day — This is a film about D-Day. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s about D-Day, it’s three hours, it has lots of famous people in it, and we see it from many different angles (American, French, British, German). It’s a terrific film that you just need to see in order to know how great it is.

In lieu of a synopsis, I’ll give you all the famous people in it: Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Frank Finlay, Henry Fonda, Gert Fröbe, Leo Genn, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Kenneth More, Edmond O’Brien, Robert Ryan, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd, Tom Tryon, Robert Wagner, Jon Wayne, Stuart Whitman.

Seriously, this film is amazing. It shouldn’t have won here (maybe in 1963 though), but it’s amazing. One of the best war movies ever made.

The Music Man — This film is based on the broadway show, and is about Harold Hill, a conman masquerading as a professor who shows up in a small midwestern town to con them out of some money. He basically swindles them into paying for a boys marching band — instruments, uniforms and music lessons. And he figures, once he gets the money and all the stuff shows up, he’ll get out of town and leave them with all the stuff but no band. However, along the way, he falls in love with the town librarian, while also trying to prevent those who know the truth from saying anything. And the whole thing leads to him almost being tarred and feathered by the town, until the band miraculously learns how to play, saving him. Then he ends up staying in the town and marrying the woman and teaching the band how to play for real.

It’s a real fun film. Definitely not one of the best musicals of the 60s, but definitely one of the better ones. It’s a real fun film. But considering how many musicals won in this decade, this shouldn’t have won at all. That would be overkill.

Mutiny on the Bounty — This is essentially a remake of the 1935 version. Bunch of men, on Captain Bligh’s ship. He’s a hard ass. They mutiny and throw him and his loyal crew overboard and return to Tahiti to live in paradise. He navigates the open ocean without a compass and makes it back to England. Meanwhile, the men hide out from the British Navy, now after them for the mutiny. They decide to burn the ship in order to not be found. The difference between the two version is, in the other one, Gable (as Christian) lives, while Brando dies trying to save the ship once the men set it on fire.

Both films are really great and both have their strong and weak points. The strength of this film is that it’s in color, and a good hour of the film is spent just in Tahiti. The cinematography here is gorgeous. Just absolutely stunning. That’s the real high point of the film. Otherwise, it didn’t really need to be nominated for Best Picture. The other version having won, this was never going to win and is actually a pretty weak entry onto this list, even though we all knew it never had a shot anyway.

To Kill a Mockingbird — If you need a synopsis here, you’re dead to me.

My Thoughts: Lawrence of Arabia is an easy winner, but I have to vote Mockingbird. That’s all there is to it, and both are perfect choices.

My Vote: To Kill a Mockingbird

Should Have Won: Lawrence of Arabia, To Kill a Mockingbird

Is the result acceptable?: Oh hell yeah. One of the top five or ten decisions of all time.

Ones I suggest you see: If you haven’t seen To Kill a Mockingbird or Lawrence of Arabia, you’re dead to me times a thousand.

You should see The Longest Day. It’s one of the best war films ever made, and is a terrific film.

You should also see Mutiny on the Bounty. The Charles Laughton version is the best for story purposes, but for sheer beauty, you should also check out this one. There are some gorgeous images of Tahiti here. The entire middle of the film is just shots of how beautiful it is there. That’s why you should see this one alongside that one. Plus you get Brando. So there’s really no reason not to see it. (You’ll want to go on vacation when you see this film. Trust me.)

And The Music Man is fun. I don’t think it’s a particularly amazing musical, but it’s a classic in its own way, and a pretty good film. It’s worth checking out, especially if you love musicals.


5) The Music Man

4) Mutiny on the Bounty

3) The Longest Day

2) Lawrence of Arabia

1) To Kill a Mockingbird

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