1958 is a strong year that is also a weak year. It’s strong in that — the nominees are very strong, on the whole. The films are all very good. However, there’s no real winner in the pack. There’s no real absolute #1, the way there is in most years. Which puts everything about even and then when something does win, it coming out looking weak. Kind of like 1968.
Gigi seems to have won based purely on being fun and big budget. Though the positive side effect of it was that Vincente Minnelli finally won a long-overdue Best Director (talked about here). (In that way, this feels kind of like 2006, where Scorsese was overdue and his film came along to win Best Picture as well.) Then Best Actor was David Niven for Separate Tables (talked about here), which was okay, but not great. He’s a great actor, and having an Oscar is a good thing, though he’s barely in the film (it’s essentially a supporting role), and Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis all gave more vote-worthy performances than he did. So, it’s not great, but it’s kind of okay. Wendy Hiller also won Best Supporting Actress for the film (talked about here), which was a good decision. Best Actress was Susan Hayward for I Want to Live! (talked about here), which was a good decision, and an overdue won. My only grip about it is that she should have won three years earlier (which might have led to Liz Taylor, Rosalind Russell or Deborah Kerr winning, none of whom had Oscars at this point and two of whom never won one). And Best Supporting Actor was Burl Ives for The Big Country (talked about here). This was a terrific decision, because not only is Burl Ives awesome, but he was also great in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof this year as well.
So, 1958 is a strong year in terms of decisions. But the Best Picture decision is kind of “meh.” Which is fitting for the year. Since pretty much any film that would have won (though maybe not The Defiant Ones) really wouldn’t have held up that well as a Best Picture winner.
BEST PICTURE – 1958
And the nominees were…
Auntie Mame (Warner Bros.)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
The Defiant Ones (Kramer, United Artists)
Separate Tables (United Artists) (more…)