1959 is one of the easiest years to recap, Oscar-wise. It’s a “checkpoint year.” The year where you look at it, go, “Oh, okay,” and can rest for a moment because you know what won was always gonna win and doesn’t require much thought.
Ben-Hur wins just about every award it’s up for including (outside of Best Picture Best Director for William Wyler (talked about here), Best Actor for Charlton Heston (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actor for Hugh Griffith (talked about here). The two awards it didn’t win (because there are barely women in the film) were Best Actress, which went to Simone Signoret for Room at the Top (talked about here), which I consider one of the worst decisions of all time in the category, but is somehow made okay (in a way) by the fact that everyone else in the category who probably should have won (mostly Audrey, but I’ll accept Liz or Kate) had Oscars already or would win two (or in Kate’s case three) after this. Still, not a particularly strong winner. And then it also didn’t win Best Supporting Actress, which Shelley Winters won for The Diary of Anne Frank (talked about here). I don’t really like the performance as a winner (particularly against Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner from Imitation of Life), but Shelley Winters is amazing, so it’s okay.
Really, when you look at 1959, you see Ben-Hur and go, “Oh, yeah.” That’s 1959.
BEST PICTURE – 1959
And the nominees were…
Anatomy of a Murder (Columbia)
The Diary of Anne Frank (20th Century Fox)
The Nun’s Story (Warner Bros.)
Room at the Top (Continental) (more…)