Posts tagged “1954

Mike’s Top Ten of 1954

1954 is notable for having three of the absolute greatest films ever made in it. Straight up, when people rank the best of the best — these movies will show up within the first 150.

Now’s also a good time to talk about the big elephant in the room as it relates to the 50s — television. The rise of television, coupled with studios having to give up ownership of their theaters meant they were increasingly nervous about the future of their product. (That’s right, this has been going on for years.) So they started making these gimmicks to get people into the theater. First, it was CinemaScope. And Cinerama. And all the different variants. Then it was 3D. There are a bunch of movies that were originally released in 3D spread around the 50s.

The other thing they did was find things TV couldn’t offer, like exotic locations. There was an increasing trend in the 50s of “runaway production,” which was essentially going off and shooting films entirely in other countries. The big one in this era was Italy. A lot of movies were shot on location in Italy in the 50s. (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Picture – 1954

1954 is a very simple year to recap, so I’ll use this introduction to talk about the widespread changes in the film industry during the 50s. (I’ll save HUAC for 1952.) The Paramount Decision took effect by January 1, 1950. So the 50s as a decade was the first decade where the studios did not have a monopoly on production, distribution and exhibition. They no longer controlled the theaters. So during the 50s was the rise of independent cinema. Drive-Ins. Exploitation movies. Where people like Roger Corman got their start. This thinned out the profit for studios, because they had to fight to get people to come see their movies. Not to mention the other thing that threatened the studios in the 50s —

Television. The rise of television was a huge threat to the studios. The studios needed to find a way to get people back into the theater. So you saw these gimmicks start to pop up. Cinerama, Todd AO, Cinemascope — which were all essentially widescreen. You also saw 3D — things like that. Things you could only see in the theater. They also increased “runaway production” in the 50s, shooting more films on location in other countries (Quest examples are Summertime and this year’s Three Coin’s in the Fountain), to give them that feeling that only the movies could.) This also lead the studios into that corner they’d be in during the 60s, trying to use big budget movies to get people into the theater, like Cleopatra and The Sound of Music. Not to mention, the 50s were also huge culturally, with the rise of the “younger” culture. Elvis, rock ‘n’ roll, movies like Rock Around the Clock and The Girl Can’t Help It. (And you saw this reflected in movies when the children of the 50s, like Lucas and Coppola and Spielberg, started making movies.)

As for 1954 as an Oscar year: On the Waterfront basically sweeps. Best Picture, Best Director for Elia Kazan (talked about here), Best Actor for Marlon Brando (talked about here) and Best Supporting Actress for Eva Marie Saint (talked about here). All perfect decisions. Other winners were Grace Kelly as Best Actress for The Country Girl (talked about here), perhaps the most contested Best Actress decision of all time (one I feel was a good one), and Edmond O’Brien as Best Supporting Actor for The Barefoot Contessa (talked about here), which was good based on the actor but not so much based on the role. Though with three Waterfront nominees in the category, it stands to reason why it happened.

So that’s 1954. A strong Oscar year, not a single bad decision. This is definitely one of the better years in Academy history.


And the nominees were…

The Caine Mutiny (Columbia)

The Country Girl (Paramount)

On the Waterfront (Columbia)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Three Coins in the Fountain (20th Century Fox) (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Actor – 1954

1954 is a real easy year to recap.

On the Waterfront wins Best Picture, Best Director for Elia Kazan (talked about here), Best Supporting Actress for Eva Marie Saint (talked about here), and this category. All perfect decisions, obviously.

The two non-Waterfront winners were, first, Grace Kelly as Best Actress for The Country Girl. This is perhaps the most hotly contested Oscar category of all time, so you can read my thoughts on the matter here. And the other was Best Supporting Actor, which went to Edmond O’Brien for The Barefoot Contessa (talked about here). I’d have preferred a Waterfront nominee, but O’Brien was definitely worth an Oscar, so the decision works.

And then here — it’s Brando, it’s Waterfront. That “contender” speech alone gives him this Oscar.


And the nominees were…

Humphrey Bogart, The Caine Mutiny

Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront

Bing Crosby, The Country Girl

James Mason, A Star is Born

Dan O’Herlihy, Robinson Crusoe (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Actress – 1954

This is the Oscar category. The quintessential category. The one everyone argues over. Grace Kelly or Judy Garland? Before we get into that, let’s recap 1954.

On the Waterfront wins Best Picture, Best Actor for Marlon Brando, Best Supporting Actress for Eva Marie Saint (talked about here), and Best Director for Elia Kazan (talked about here). All of them were perfect decisions. Then Edmond O’Brien wins Best Supporting Actor for The Barefoot Contessa (talked about here), which is historically a good decision, even though he didn’t give the best performance in the category.

Okay, back to the good part. This category may be the single strongest Best Actress category of all time. Most people look at Garland and Kelly, but look at the other three nominees — Dandridge, Hepburn, Wyman — there’s really great stuff there, too. But we all know this category comes down to Judy and Grace. So I’ll kill the suspense now and tell you flat out — Grace deserved this. Nothing against Judy, but when you weigh the two performances against one another, and then factor in the year Grace had on top of it — she’s actually an easy winner here. I know Groucho Marx called this “the biggest robbery since Brinks,” but it really wasn’t. Not when you factor in everything.


And the nominees were…

Dorothy Dandridge, Carmen Jones

Judy Garland, A Star is Born

Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina

Grace Kelly, The Country Girl

Jane Wyman, Magnificent Obsession (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actor – 1954

1954. On the Waterfront. Case closed. It wins Best Picture, Best Director for Elia Kazan (talked about here), Best Actor for Marlon Brando and Best Supporting Actress for Eva Marie Saint (talked about here). All four perfect decisions for all time.

The other decision that wasn’t this category was Grace Kelly for Best Actress for The Country Girl. This is perhaps the single most contested decision in Academy history, as a lot of people feel Judy Garland should have won for A Star is Born. I, personally feel the category is too close to call, and the fact that Grace Kelly also made Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, Green Fire and The Bridges at Tokyo-Ri, decidedly tips the scale solely in her favor. That’s just an incredible list there for a single calendar year.

Which brings us to this category. Also, look how short this synopsis was. That’s called restraint. It doesn’t happen often with me. Anyway, this category — the Waterfront log jam led to Edmond O’Brien winning, which, I’m glad happened. Because Edmond O’Brien is the fucking man.


And the nominees were…

Lee J. Cobb, On the Waterfront

Karl Malden, On the Waterfront

Edmund O’Brien, The Barefoot Contessa

Rod Steiger, On the Waterfront

Tom Tully, The Caine Mutiny (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Supporting Actress – 1954

Let’s get the recap out of the way quickly, because I’ve got a bone to pick with these nominees. On the Waterfront wins Best Picture in one of the best Best Picture decisions of all time. Elia Kazan wins Best Director in a good decision that almost had to happen, but one that didn’t necessarily need to (I talked about it here). Best Actor was Marlon Brando, a top five decision of all time. Best Actress was the big Grace Kelly vs. Judy Garland debacle. People feel very strongly about this. Grace won for The Country Girl. I’ll divulge my opinion some time in the future. And Best Supporting Actor this year was Edmund O’Brien for The Barefoot Contessa, probably because of a vote split among the three Waterfront nominees. So, that’s the year. Pretty good overall.

Now — this category. What a weak fucking category. That’s not to say they didn’t make the right decision (category fraud will do that. But still, thank god for category fraud), but, seriously, this is awful. There’s only one out of five decent nominees. Two, if you want to include the historically significant one. Still, three I disagree with, and that means — look for alternatives. Is it the category or is it the year. Let’s see.

Other supporting actresses that could have been nominated: …yeah, I got nothing. Maybe Thelma Ritter for Rear Window would have given the category a boost by giving it a stronger film. Mercedes McCambridge for Johnny Guitar would have been a fun one. But otherwise — nothing. Wow, this year sucked for supporting female roles.


And the nominees were…

Nina Foch, Executive Suite

Katy Jurado, Broken Lance

Eva Marie Saint, On the Waterfront

Jan Sterling, The High and the Mighty

Claire Trevor, The High and the Mighty (more…)

The Oscar Quest: Best Director – 1954

Oh, I love 1954 very much. Not necessarily as a year in and of itself (though I’m sure I can produce a nice list of great films that came out this year if I went to the trouble to do so), but in terms of the Oscars. How can you not like a year that includes On the Waterfront winning Best Picture, Best Director for Elia Kazan (his second), Best Actor for Marlon Brando, and Best Supporting Actress for Eva Marie Saint. Right there, you have what amounts to a near perfect year.

Also this year, you have the added bonus of Grace Kelly vs. Judy Garland for Best Actress, with Grace winning for The Country Girl. I haven’t yet decided who I’d vote for there. But it’s such a highly contested race, I might actually have it be the last category I do (maybe…we’ll see). And Best Supporting Actor this year was Edmond O’Brien for The Barefoot Contessa, mostly as a result of a vote split between the three Waterfront nominees (much like Supporting Actor 1972). Not one bad decision in the bunch. And the one that kind of was, was totally understandable because of the situation. Plus Edmond O’Brien is awesome. Just watch this. So, 1954 is a great year all around. We should be lucky to have a year like this.


And the nominees were…

Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window

Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront

George Seaton, The Country Girl

William A. Wellman, The High and the Mighty

Billy Wilder, Sabrina (more…)