The 1950's was a decade of musicals and epics. It was also a decade where the quality of movies dropped greatly. There are some notable exceptions but overall the movies from this decade are not that great. Not only are some of the best picture winners questionable but some years the other films were just as bad if not worse. Even though I may trash the 1950's it is by far not the worst decade for movies, that will be the 1980's.
And here goes the 50's!
Films I have seen - All About Eve (Best Picture), Born Yesterday, Father of the Bride, King Solomon's Mines, Sunset Boulevard
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - The third year where I have seen all films nominated. A very good year for movies, kind of the standout of the decade. All About Eve is a sharp, clever and enjoyable movie about the rise of a starlet. Born Yesterday is one of the funniest movies made with Judy Holliday winning a very deserving Oscar for best actress. Father of the Bride is another great light comedy with Spenser Tracy as the hapless father trying to deal with his spoiled daughter's wedding. It has a very attractive young Elizabeth Taylor and Dark Shadows favorite Joan Bennett. King Solomon's Mines is not a great movie story wise but the cinematography is amazing filmed in Africa in the late 1940's. Sunset Boulevard with "I'm ready for my close up Mr. de Mille" is a classic that everyone should see.
Verdict - This was a strong year but watching All About Eve you see how well they told the complete story. Also Comedies have a hard time winning. All About Eve earned the win, Sunset Boulevard locked into second, Born Yesterday third, Father of the Bride fourth and King Solomon's Mines last (not fifth).
Films I have seen - An American in Paris (Best Picture), Decision Before Dawn, A Place in The Sun, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This is the year that started this project. An American in Paris is horrible. Imagine American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance getting together and making a movie, this is what you would get. A film with popular music, great dancing scenes and the worst screenplay ever written. This movie should have been a 90 minute variety special on CBS not a film. Don't get me wrong, the songs are great, the dance sequences are the most amazing I have ever seen, Gene Kelly earned an Oscar which he rightfully deserved. But the story that binds them together has no meaning or purpose. It's like a porno that tries to put together a story to go in between the sex scenes, you laugh at them because they obviously don't fit into the scope of the movie. This is exactly the same. Decision Before Dawn is a movie about German POW's who become spies for the Allies during WWII. Does have the great Oskar Werner in it. A Place in The Sun is a great movie with Montgomery Clift and Shelly Winters acting with such intensity that their characters come through the screen. Also Elizabeth Taylor sheds her teen acting and becomes an adult actress in this film. Quo Vadis has the feel of an epic like Ben-Hur but it just falls short. Nevertheless a great film. A Streetcar Named Desire is so intense, so well acted, so well shot it is as close as you can come to a perfect film.
Verdict - The Academy really, really messed up this year. I would say the worst ever, worse than 1941, 1976 or 1994. A Streetcar Named Desire was the best picture, A Place in The Sun was a close second, Quo Vadis was third, Decision Before Dawn was fourth and An American In Paris was sixth finishing way behind 90 minutes of static.
Films I have seen - The Greatest Show On Earth (Best Picture), High Noon, Ivanhoe
Films I have not seen - Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man
Analysis - This is the start of the era of epics. The Greatest Show On Earth is about the circus but it's more of a tribute to Cecil B. DeMille and all of his years of great movies. High Noon with Gary Cooper is one of the finest westerns ever made. Its much more than just a movie, it shows character, courage and doing what's right. A movie with such a powerful and important message. Ivanhoe is a film with nice costumes. Think 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood with jousting.
Verdict - The Academy wanted to reward Cecil B. DeMille and he won. High Noon I believe is the best of the three I've seen, but I understand why it didn't beat out The Greatest Show On Earth.
Films I have seen - From Here To Eternity (Best Picture), Julius Ceasar, The Robe, Shane
Films I have not seen - Roman Holiday
Analysis - From Here To Eternity is about the days leading up to Pearl Harbor and the attack and not just about Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster making out on the beach. Montongomery Clift and Donna Reed (in a black wig) are great, Frank Sinatra got the best supporting actor. Julius Ceasar is another film of a Shakespeare play, done as well as a play can be done as a film. Notable for having Marlon Brando as Mark Anthony and him doing better than anyone thought since only English actors star in Shakespeare. The Robe is another biblical epic about the robe Jesus wore. Shane is another great western which was remade as Pale Rider about 30 years later by Clint Eastwood.
Verdict - From Here To Eternity was the best film, a great drama and with WWII still fresh in peoples minds a natural for the Oscar. I liked Shane and would put it second, but Julius Ceasar would most likely end up there.
Films I have seen - On The Waterfront (Best Picture), The Caine Mutiny
Films I have not seen - The Country Girl, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Three Coins in the Fountain
Analysis - On The Waterfront is one of the best movies ever made. Great acting from so many great actors and actresses, "I could have been a contender", just watch it. The Caine Mutiny showcases Humpry Bogart as Captain Queeg and is a great drama.
Verdict - On The Waterfront was the best picture of 1954. Haven't seen the other three but seeing how one is a musical and one a romantic comedy I don't see an upset.
Films I have seen - Marty (Best Picture), Mister Roberts, Picnic
Films I have not seen - Love is a Many Splendored Thing, The Rose Tatoo
Analysis - Another year where a horrible movie won best picture. Not as bad as 1951, but Marty is a bland, boring almost unwatchable movie. A butcher from the Bronx lives with his mom and is trying to meet a nice girl. How this won escapes me. Mister Roberts is a WWII Navy film that is funny. Henry Fonda, Jack Lemon and James Cagney are excellent. Picnic is a good drama based on Inge's play but casting a 67 year old William Holden to play a 25 year old was a tough stretch.
Verdict - Marty should have never been nominated. Of the three I have seen Mister Roberts was the best. Even when I see the other two, Marty will go from third to fifth.
Films I have seen - Around The World in 80 Days (Best Picture), Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandants
Films I have not seen - None
Analysis - This was a rather weak year for best picture nominees. Around the World in 80 Days is an epic set in the Victorian era or Steampunk nowadays, about an English gentleman trying to, guess what, go around the world in 80 days. If the title doesn't bore you, get about six hours into it and see how you are then. Friendly Persuasion is about Quakers debating whether or not to fight in the Civil War. Giant is a good movie about oil and cattle barons in Texas but it is hard to take Rock Hudson seriously as a cowboy. The King and I another musical but at least the story does relate to the songs. The Ten Commandants about some guy named Moses or something. I have seen this movie eighteen times but never once from start to finish. I also say every year I'm going to watch it and forget and turn on about sometime after ten pm when burning hail is falling from the sky. And it always ends at 11:44 pm, what a classic.
Verdict - Not much can be said. I love The Ten Commandants but that would just be replacing one epic with another. And Giant is an epic too. So seeing how nothing really rises to the top Around The World in 80 Days, then The Ten Commandants, Giant, The King and I and finally Friendly Persuasion.
Films I have seen - The Bridge on the River Kwai (Best Picture), Peyton Place, 12 Angry Men
Films I have not seen - Sayonara, Witness for the Prosecution
Analysis - I saw The Bridge on the River Kwai many years ago but still remember it as a powerful WWII movie. The accuracy has been challenged but a group of English Army Engineers are forced to build a bridge for the Japanese Army who then have reservations about destroying at the end of the film since they did such a good job. Peyton Place is a good drama but the same old story that just because people live in a small town doesn't mean it's a utopia. 12 Angry Men is a great courtroom drama with a cast of superstars as jurors.
Verdict - This was one of the better years of the decade. The Bridge on the River Kwai is a good choice for best picture, I will be able to weigh this year better after I see the other two films.
Films I have seen - Gigi (Best Picture), Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant Ones
Films I have not seen - Separate Tables
Analysis - Gigi, aka the Neil Goldschmidt story, is a creep musical about a man lusting over a 14 year old girl who is being trained to be his mistress but he wants her as his wife. Auntie Mame is a funny and well done version of the play, but rather long and boring at times. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is well done, great acting but since it is the 1950's the story had to be toned down. The Defiant Ones is a good movie about a black and white prisoners who escape from jail, great acting, but not that great of a film overall.
Verdict - A weak year like 1956. Funny how 1957 was better than this, but timing is everything. Gigi is just a hard film to watch unless you've had two lobotomies or you are attracted to 14 year old girls. But seeing how none of the other films are that much better Gigi had all the great costumes and songs and creepyness (did I mention this is a creepy film?) that slides it's way to the top of the garbage heap to be the best picture of 1958.
Films I have seen - Ben-Hur (Best Picture), Anatomy of a Murder, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun's Story
Films I have not seen - Room at the Top
Analysis - The previous few years appear to be yoyoing. Ben-Hur is a classic epic, even with the lepers. Anatomy of a Murder is a good murder mystery and courtroom drama, but not the best. The Diary of Anne Frank does follow the book very closely, so it is just as depressing. The Nun's Story was a surprise of how well it was acted. A nun who's goal is to be a nurse in the Congo works as hard as she can to get there but finds that altruism will stand in the way of what is best for everyone.
Verdict - Ben-Hur was the best film of the year, it is a standard of what an epic should be.