Well, I guess there’s really only one thing to discuss for 1955 — James Dean.
Not necessarily Dean himself, though he did have an amazing, brief career, with three all-time classics as his only features in which he starred. We need to talk about both what he represents — method acting, the teen culture of the 50s — and also how it relates to the big cultural film of the year: Rebel Without a Cause.
The 50s started to represent a societal disconnect between adults and teenagers. This was the first time the term generational gap became a thing. Here you have adults that were raised on wholesomeness and here are these teens that are listening to rock ‘n’ roll, smoking cigarettes and all this other stuff. The disconnect between parents and children would be a major theme of the next few years. You can’t discuss 1955 without James Dean and the generational gap being front and center.
Outside of that, there are some real classics we’re gonna talk about here. There are heavy hitters all over the board, across every genre. (more…)
1955 is one of the weakest single years in Academy history. And, like I always say, a year begins with Best Picture. And this year’s Best Picture field might be the single weakest in history (it probably is, actually). There’s nothing here that should win in a regular year. Which pretty much leaves this as a forgotten year in Academy history, just because nothing particularly memorable came from it.
Marty wins Best Picture, Best Director for Delbert Mann (talked about here) and Best Actor for Ernest Borgnine (talked about here). The first two I understand and the third — while I think Frank Sinatra gave the better performance in The Man with the Golden Arm, he had an Oscar from 1953 and Borgnine was just as good, so, it’s fine. Best Actress was Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo (talked about here), which is utterly forgettable, and, in my opinion, a poor decision. (I think Susan Hayward should have won for I’ll Cry Tomorrow, which would have allowed either Deborah Kerr or Rosalind Russell to win their overdue Oscars in 1958, or let Liz Taylor win, which would have allowed Shirley MacLaine win in 1960, which would have affected 1983… the consequences are far-reaching.) Then Jack Lemmon wins Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (talked about here), which is fine. The category was horrendously weak, though, and Lemmon won Best Actor later on, so most people forget about this. And Jo Van Fleet won Best Supporting Actress for East of Eden (talked about here), which — fine. She was in a bunch of stuff — I don’t have a problem with it (even though I’d have given it to Betsy Blair. Just because I love Marty).
So, really, not one memorable decision this year, despite Marty being a terrific film. But really, when you get down to bare essentials — the Best Picture category — this year is really one of the most forgettable years in Academy history.
BEST PICTURE – 1955
And the nominees were…
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (20thCentury Fox)
Marty (United Artists)
Mister Roberts (Warner Bros.)
The Rose Tattoo (Paramount) (more…)
1955 is a bit of a forgotten year in Academy history. Mostly because it’s small. A small film won the big awards, and the rest of the awards aren’t particularly memorable. So most people tend to overlook it.
Marty wins Best Picture, Best Director for Delbert Mann (talked about here), and Best Actor for Ernest Borgnine (talked about here). I love all the decisions, mostly because I love Marty, and because the year was very weak, and I think it was the best film in the bunch. (Could have done without Best Director, but whatever. James L. Brooks won for his film, so it’s not like it hasn’t happened.)
Best Actress was Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo (talked about here), which I don’t like because she’s not really an actress who needs an Academy Award, plus I felt Susan Hayward was much better in I’ll Cry Tomorrow, and if she’d won here, she wouldn’t have had to win in 1958 and then either Deborah Kerr or Rosalind Russell or Elizabeth Taylor could have won. (Kerr and Russell never won Oscars, and if Taylor won that year, she wouldn’t have had to win in 1960, and then Shirley MacLaine, the fifth nominee in 1958, could have won. Amazing what one decision can do, huh?) Oh, and Jo Van Fleet won Best Supporting Actress for East of Eden (talked about here). I understand it, but I went another way.
And then this category — meh. Pretty weak. But, Jack Lemmon is awesome. So he makes this feel a bit better.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 1955
And the nominees were…
Arthur Kennedy, Trial
Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts
Joe Mantell, Marty
Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause
Arthur O’Connell, Picnic (more…)
1955 is a year that seems to get lost in the shuffle among Oscar years. It’s wedged between the behemoth that is On the Waterfront, and the disaster (sort of) that is Around the World in 80 Days. Not to mentionFrom Here to Eternity and The Bridge on the River Kwai being on either side of those movies. So it makes sense that a small film about a lonely butcher finding love would get overlooked.
Marty wins Best Picture, Best Director for Delbert Mann (talked about here), and Best Actor for Ernest Borgnine (talked about here). I love the film. I think it’s perfect, and I think it was the best choice among the nominees. Sure, the set of nominees was weak, but best choice is the best choice. Anna Magnani wins Best Actress for The Rose Tattoo (talked about here). I don’t like it. I think Susan Hayward should have won for I’ll Cry Tomorrow, leaving the Hayward 1958 win open for one of several actresses who could have won (some of whom never won an Oscar). And Best Supporting Actor was Jack Lemmon for Mister Roberts, which I like very much, because Jack Lemmon is awesome (and the category really sucked).
And that brings us to this category, which is tough for me. Well, not really. It’s tough because I know I’m not gonna do the logical thing.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 1955
And the nominees were…
Betsy Blair, Marty
Peggy Lee, Pete Kelly’s Blues
Marisa Pavan, The Rose Tattoo
Jo Van Fleet, East of Eden
Natalie Wood, Rebel Without a Cause (more…)
I actually really like 1955 as a year, even though most people would probably see this as a blank year for the Academy. The five Best Picture choices were a pretty weak set overall (at least two of the choices probably shouldn’t have even been nominated), and, while I think they made the best decision, their decision was not really one that would stand out among the other films that have won in the category.
Marty wins Best Picture, which I think was the best decision based on the nominees. It’s a film I love a lot. But I’m under no illusions that this film would ever win outside of a year like this. Not that I care. Delbert Mann winning Best Director for the film (which I talked about here), is a decision I don’t think was totally necessary, but I understand it. So I guess that’s okay. Ernest Borgnine winning Best Actor this year (which I talked about here) is also a decision that I like, but only because my first choice, Frank Sinatra, already had an Oscar, So it kind of worked out in the end. Best Supporting Actor was Jack Lemmon for Mister Roberts, which I think is a great decision, and Best Supporting Actress was Jo Van Fleet for East of Eden, which, I haven’t fully made up my mind yet (but I’m about 95% sure I’m gonna go another way).
And then we have this category. This category was really only between two people, and, while I can understand why Anna Magnani won here — when you watch the performance, you can see why she would win — I still don’t get why they wouldn’t give it to Susan Hayward here. She’s been nominated a bunch of times by now, hasn’t won, is someone they’re clearly looking to give an Oscar, and she’s playing a type of character she excels at — the pitiful drunk. That’s her character. Plus, this is the first time she’s really nailed it and is really worth voting for. And you don’t give it to her? I don’t get it.
BEST ACTRESS – 1955
And the nominees were…
Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow
Katharine Hepburn, Summertime
Jennifer Jones, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo
Eleanor Parker, I’ll Cry Tomorrow (more…)
1955 is usually a “skip” year for most people. That is, when you’re reading through a list, looking at all the high and low points, like, “On the Waterfront, all right!”, or, “Around the World in 80 Days? Really?”, when you see 1955 and see Marty, most people, either not recognizing it or viewing it as a kind of blank, just mentally skip past it without a word. Usually they’ll be say the title, but mostly as a mental pause, as they skip ahead to the next film.
The reason for this is that Marty, while a fantastic film utterly deserving of Best Picture this year, isn’t a big film. In any other year, it probably wouldn’t come close to winning. But, it wasn’t in the strongest of categories. And since it doesn’t have too much of a lasting reputation like the films around it do, most people skip it. Which is a shame. It is a great film. Ernest Borgnine won Best Actor for it, and I’ve talked about how, while I wouldn’t have voted for him, it’s great that he won. Also this year, Anna Magnani won Best Actress for The Rose Tattoo, in what was mostly a weak year. I’m somewhat undecided on my feelings on that. Best Supporting Actor went to Jack Lemmon for Mister Roberts, and Best Supporting Actress went to Jo Van Fleet for East of Eden. See? Nothing here particularly stands out, which is why this year, understandably, yet somewhat unfairly, keeps getting skipped over and overlooked.
BEST DIRECTOR – 1955
And the nominees were…
Elia Kazan, East of Eden
David Lean, Summertime
Joshua Logan, Picnic
Delbert Mann, Marty
John Sturges, Bad Day at Black Rock (more…)
The great thing about 1955 is, it’s one of those years that’s so bland that it trips you up when you go back to it. It’s not that they made poor choices (far from it, actually), it’s just that it’s one of those years where, when you go back, it’s just a blank. There’s no real excitement or anything to make it stick in your mind. I don’t have enough separation from Oscar years to really know how accurate any example is going to be. But think something like — I don’t know, Super Bowls? One of those boring years, like 2005, when the Steelers beat the Seahawks. I always forget that one. It was boring. You have to think about it for a second (unless you have something that makes the memory catch quicker, like, winning $500 during the game. In which case you know goddamn well who won that game. You did). It’s like that.
Anyway, the reason it’s one of those “dead years” — is because the film that won Best Picture was Marty. Marty is a film that was originally a made for TV movie that they adapted for the screen. It still plays kind of like a play, since it’s mostly two people talking and has about four locations total. And it’s only like 95 minutes, which clocks in as the shortest Best Picture of all time. It does not, however, win for shortest Best Picture title. That goes to Gigi. And, Wings. But, it’s one of those films that, while great, probably would not have won if it were nominated any other year.
Delbert Mann won Best Director for the movie — I guess because it’s one of those, “Well, we’re giving it to one, might as well give it to the other one too,” as most years tend to work. Best Actress went to Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo. Who? Exactly. This is why no one remembers this year. Best Supporting Actor went to an actor in one of his first films roles — Jack Lemmon. Best Supporting Actress went to Jo Van Fleet for East of Eden. So it’s one of those years where — nothing makes it stand out from the ones around it. Namely, the year before when On the Waterfront wins and the year after, when Around the World in 80 Days wins. (more…)