1952 seems about the right time to address the elephant in the room. There are really only two major historical events that greatly impacted the film industry in the 50s. One we’ll get into in a couple years. Here, we need to address the first one, which is the Blacklist.
After World War II, the biggest threat to the American people was perceived to be Communism. The Soviet Union and America, the great superpowers, the Cold War — all that. America was really nervous about a communist influence seeping into its culture, a big part of which was, of course, Hollywood. Hollywood is generally a liberal place and a lot people had either openly been communists in the 30s or had at least dabbled in it for a while. And now that there was the House Un-American Activities and Joseph McCarthy, it wasn’t good for there to be communists hanging around. So in 1947, the first open blacklist in Hollywood happened. Which is the famous Hollywood Ten. It lasted for about 13 years, famously ending when Dalton Trumbo was credited for writing Spartacus.
But what was prevalent during this period, especially in the late 40s and early 50s, was a great divide in Hollywood. Stars were called to testify, to deny their connections to communism or communist sympathies, while also being called to “name names.” Essentially give up those people who were communists. Which is like being told to snitch on your friends and coworkers and ruin their lives for a “greater good.” And there were people who happily did this (Walt Disney), and others who opposed it (Bogart). But there were hundreds of people whose lives and livelihoods were ruined by being branded “un-American.” John Garfield actually died because of the stress his blacklisting inflicted on him. (more…)
Well, since I discussed HUAC and the blacklist in 1951, it’ll save me a lot of trouble here. Most people consider High Noon to be the film that should have won here, but the fact that it was clearly an allegory for standing up to HUAC made them skittish about voting for it. So that explains (sort of) what happened here.
Instead of High Noon, they went with The Greatest Show on Earth for Best Picture. Like An American in Paris the year before this — the film didn’t win anything else (major). That points to it being a compromised decision. It’s like them saying they didn’t want to vote for it either, but they had to play it safe until the heat was off. Gary Cooper did win Best Actor for High Noon, though (talked about here), which is interesting. I guess Gary Cooper transcends communism. Best Actress was Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba (talked about here), her first film, after many years on the stage. I don’t particularly like the decision (Julie Harris was so much better in The Member of the Wedding), but I can accept it. Best Supporting Actor was Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata! (talked about here), which is acceptable. Anthony Quinn is awesome. Best Supporting Actress was Gloria Grahame for The Bad and the Beautiful (talked about here), which, while I wouldn’t have voted for it, is a nice way to show the film (which really should have been nominated for Best Picture. It’s actually the film with the most Oscar wins in history without being nominated for Best Picture) some love. And Best Director — which really points to them admitting compromise — went to John Ford for The Quiet Man (talked about here), which was actually a good decision and very well could have happened even if High Noon won Best Picture.
So, the year makes sense, even though it’s not particularly strong. And while I understand the hesitance in voting for High Noon, my big question about it is — so why not just vote for The Quiet Man then? I don’t get it.
BEST PICTURE – 1952
And the nominees were…
The Greatest Show on Earth (Paramount)
High Noon (United Artists)
Moulin Rouge (United Artists)
The Quiet Man (Republic) (more…)
Ah, the big fuck up. Which isn’t really a fuck up in hindsight, because they fixed their mistake in post. But, in this category, it’s a fuck up.
Actually, 1952 in general is a fuck up year. The Greatest Show on Earth wins Best Picture in a copout decision because the Academy didn’t want to vote for High Noon. Terrible decision, but despite what you may have heard, the film really isn’t that bad. It’s just not a Best Picture winner. Then Gary Cooper wins Best Actor for High Noon (talked about here), which really makes you wonder why they bothered to not vote for it in the first place. Why not just make it uniform, like you did with Citizen Kane? Either way, Krik Douglas should have won here.
Then Shirley Booth wins Best Actress for Come Back, Little Sheba (talked about here), which I don’t like as a decision at all. At best it’s a forgettable choice. Best Supporting Actor was Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata! (talked about here), which I’ve come to accept as an okay decision, but is one I wouldn’t have made. And Best Supporting Actress was Gloria Grahame for The Bad and the Beautiful, which, as I discussed here, I’m sort of okay with, because the film got some attention, but she really wasn’t the best performance in the category, and the whole thing is just kind of fucked up and confusing.
That’s what 1952 is. A year that’s fucked up and confusing. Nothing makes sense, none of the decisions are all that great, and everyone just kind of walks away from it going, “What happened?” Kind of like a party at my house.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1952
And the nominees were…
Cecil B. DeMille, The Greatest Show on Earth
John Ford, The Quiet Man
John Huston, Moulin Rouge
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 5 Fingers
Fred Zinnemann, High Noon (more…)
This year and this category are both pretty bad. This will not be fun.
The Greatest Show on Earth wins Best Picture over High Noon. It’s generally listed among the worst Best Picture decisions of all time. It’s not a bad film, but it is a bad decision. You can tell it was a cop out decision because they didn’t even give it Best Director. That went to John Ford (his fourth) for The Quiet Man. Probably the second best possible decision, but it wasn’t for High Noon, as it should have been. Then, making things even more complicated, Gary Cooper wins Best Actor for High Noon a film they decided they didn’t want to vote for because it was too controversial (I talked about it here). It’s very confusing. Then Best Actress was Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba (which I talked about here), and Best Supporting Actress was Gloria Grahame for The Bad and the Beautiful (which I talked about here).
Which brings us to this category. It’s not good. It’s not strong at all. I don’t like three of these nominees. Which means — oh that’s right, you guessed it — it’s time to look for alternatives. Is this a bad category or a bad year? Let’s see: no, it’s a pretty bad year. The only other possibility I can think of are either Walter Pidgeon or Barry Sullivan for The Bad and the Beautiful. It would have made me feel better, at least. Definitely wouldn’t have added to the category, though. So I guess it was just a weak year for supporting actor roles.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1952
And the nominees were…
Richard Burton, My Cousin Rachel
Arthur Hunnicutt, The Big Sky
Victor McLaglen, The Quiet Man
Jack Palance, Sudden Fear
Anthony Quinn, Viva Zapata! (more…)
Let’s briefly recap 1952. I’ve talked about this a lot. Most of it is contained in the other articles. But, 1952. The Greatest Show on Earth beats High Noon for Best Picture. The Academy takes innocuous over the controversial. Generally regarded as a terrible decision. John Ford wins his fourth Best Director for The Quiet Man (talked about here), a decision that doesn’t make sense and only serves to make it seem like the Academy was openly telling people that, rather than voting for The Greatest Show on Earth, they were voting against High Noon. Like the schoolyard boy who pushes a girl rather than saying he likes her.
Gary Cooper wins Best Actor for High Noon (talked about here), which is what’s strange to me. If they don’t like the film, why give it anything at all? Best Actress was Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba (talked about here), and Best Supporting Actor was Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata!. Both okay decisions, pretty ho-hum though. That’s what this year is. A big fucking mess, just because they had all the controversy. And then there’s this category…
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1952
And the nominees were…
Gloria Grahame, The Bad and the Beautiful
Jean Hagen, Singin’ in the Rain
Collette Marchand, Moulin Rouge
Terry Moore, Come Back, Little Sheba
Thelma Ritter, With a Song in My Heart (more…)
1952, as we all know, is a pretty infamous year. The Greatest Show on Earth beats High Noon for Best Picture, in one of the most controversial and beat upon decisions of all time. I talked about it a lot, I think, in the Best Actress 1952 category article here, which Shirley Booth won for Come Back, Little Sheba, so I won’t speak too much about it except — HUAC is going on, High Noon is an anti-Communist film, and the whole situation was very awkward for them, so they just avoided it and went with the innocuous choice. But, interestingly enough, it seems like a choice where — they wanted you to know: they didn’t vote for this film, they just didn’t vote for this other film.
Anyway, Best Director this year was John Ford, winning his fourth, for The Quiet Man. I don’t really like the decision, because, he didn’t need the fourth one, and I don’t see how the bias against the film extends to Fred Zinnemann (especially considering the result of this category), and because — Cecil B. DeMille directed The Greatest Show on Earth. How do you not give him the Oscar he’s earned over the course of his career? Then there’s Best Supporting Actor, which was Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata!, which is fine. It was kind of a weak category. And then Best Supporting Actress was Gloria Grahame for The Bad and the Beautiful, which, I’m glad the film got some recognition.
So, that’s 1952. A strange year that’s not really a simple, like/don’t like, acceptable/not kind of year. And then there’s this category, which — is kind of okay, and yet, is tough to really judge. I’ll explain. Of course I’ll explain.
BEST ACTOR – 1952
And the nominees were…
Marlon Brando, Viva Zapata!
Gary Cooper, High Noon
Kirk Douglas, The Bad and the Beautiful
José Ferrer, Moulin Rouge
Alec Guinness, The Lavender Hill Mob (more…)
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…)