Monday, November 11, 2019

Day Six: Best Story and Screenplay, 1954

The screenplay categories always have room for surprises. On the Waterfront being nominated is no surprise, and nor, I think, is it particularly shocking that the latest Joseph L. Mankiewicz joint The Barefoot Contessa or a hit biopic like The Glenn Miller Story have spots here as well. But in what other category could you find these three Oscar-friendly titles up against a quaint British comedy about marriage and classic car aficionados like Genevieve, or a Danny Kaye comic thriller about a ventriloquist entangled with spies like Knock on WoodWriters love weird shit, and God bless them for it.

Let's take a look, after the jump.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

More of the Same

Tomorrow, we continue covering the Oscar nominees of 1954 (in select categories). The categories of November 11th - 15th are, in this order: Story and Screenplay, Score (both Musical and Non-Musical), Supporting Actor, Actress, and Best Picture of the Year. The nominated films are:








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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Films of '54: Eight

Next week, we'll delve fully into the Best Picture nominees. But while we have the weekend, let's take a closer look at some of the films discussed earlier this week that weren't up for Best Picture...


The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
nominee - Best Actor (Dan O'Herlihy)

My only exposure to this story was a comic adaptation (I think Classics Illustrated) I read in either fourth or fifth grade. I barely remembered any of it except that Crusoe's deserted on an island and then Friday eventually appears and is more or less adopted, so I was prepared for some problematic times. But wow, I was not ready for such a beautifully-shot satire about stubborn imperialism and white supremacy, in which a spoiled idiot almost dies, spends thirty years trying to recreate a parody of western society, before realizing there are other, non-white people on "his" island. It's hilarious.

Eight more, after the jump......

Friday, November 8, 2019

Day Five: Best Actor, 1954

I have no way of knowing this for certain - I wasn't there, I don't have access to archives - but historians tell us that Bing Crosby was the favorite to win for his performance as a recovering alcoholic in The Country Girl. It seems bonkers now, considering Crosby was already an Oscar winner for Going My Way in 1944, while Marlon Brando was not only in the Best Picture frontrunner, but had been accumulating momentum with three previous, unsuccessful nominations, all in consecutive years: 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire, 1952's Viva Zapata!, and 1953's Julius Caesar. Not to mention it was a rematch against Humphrey Bogart, whose win for The African Queen came the same year as A Streetcar Named Desire. Plus, he had already swept what we now call "the precursors." But there you have it - the results were a shock, an upset:


Just another example of how times have changed as far as Oscar narratives, momentum, and expectations go. Anyway, the nominees were:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Day Four: Best Supporting Actress, 1954

In both Damien Bona and Mason Wiley's Inside Oscar and John Harkness's The Academy Awards Handbook, the 1954 Best Supporting Actress race is heralded as the first instance of category fraud successfully resulting in a win.

At a time when the studio decided category placement, with no wiggle room for Academy members to decide for themselves (as when Kate Winslet won lead for The Reader when she was campaigned supporting), Columbia's decision to campaign Eva Marie Saint as supporting rather than lead was a surprise to many. It was also smart - it kept her out of the bloodbath happening between The Country Girl's Grace Kelly - named Best Actress of the Year by the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics' Circle and the Golden Globes (in the Drama category) - and A Star is Born's Judy Garland, giving a ferocious performance that netted her the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy. Saint's performance was earning her magazine covers and praise from critics and audiences, but as a newcomer making her film debut, a win, hell maybe even a nomination, seemed a far-off bet. So, Saint was declared Supporting....where she was nominated....and eventually....


And so was born one of Oscar's favorite traditions! From Tatum O'Neal to Viola Davis, Jack Albertson to Mahershala Ali, there's always at least one winner whose category placement seems...suspect. Then again, supporting is often in the eye of the beholder - I think Davis is absolutely supporting in Fences, and Saint's case is a little less clear-cut than its reputation would suggest.

Still. All that really matters is - does the performance deserve the gold? Let's talk about that, and more...

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Day Three: Original Song, 1954

The nominees for Best Original Song are:


"The High and the Mighty" from The High and the Mighty
music by Dimitri Tiomkin
lyrics by Ned Washington
** / disqualified

Like "Jean", a nominated song that doesn't even appear in the film! Not for us, anyway - Elmer Bernstein was reportedly so intent on repeating the Score/Song double dip of 1952's High Noon, he had a special print featuring his original song booked for one week in a Los Angeles theater, thus meeting the standards for qualification. A cheap stunt, if you ask me - and for a song that mars his own beautiful score with stupid, stupid lyrics!

"The Man That Got Away" from A Star is Born
music by Harold Arlen
lyrics by Ira Gershwin
*****

The song that convinces Norman Maine that Esther Blodgett is star material. Goosebumps! The song was shot a number of times with different outfits, background, etc. The one above made the cut, but no matter the look, the song - and Judy's performance of it - is perfect.

"Hold My Hand" from Susan Slept Here
**

Completely forgot about this moment, this song - but not the movie. It's a romantic-comedy about a 35-year-old screenwriter who weds a 17-year-old transient to keep her out of trouble. Lord have mercy. The song's not bad, though. It's fine.

"Three Coins in the Fountain" from Three Coins in the Fountain
music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn
***

we;ll talk more about the movie when we do Best Picture (oh, how we'll talk!), but this tune, performed over the opening titles by an uncredited Frank Sinatra, is....cute! It's certainly memorable. Very nice, very nicely done.

"Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)" from White Christmas
music and lyrics by Irving Berlin
****

Oh wow, watching this movie for the first time in four years was a great reminder of why it's a classic. what a gem! As for the song, I love it, even if the lyric where it's implied his "blessings" are his kids make absolutely no sense in this context.

--------------------------------------

"Three Coins in the Fountain" was a bona fide radio hit, so you better believe it won. Here's Dean Martin performing it on the broadcast:


For me, it's not even a question, no thinking required, my vote goes to

ARLEN & GERSHWIN
for
"THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY"
from
A STAR IS BORN

Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Supporting Actress: Nina Foch (Executive Suite), Katy Jurado (Broken Lance), Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront, Jan Sterling (The High and the Mighty) and Claire Trevor (The High and the Mighty)

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Day Two: Best Screenplay, 1954

Until 1957, the Academy Awards had three writing categories: Best Motion Picture Story honored original stories (obviously) as written in the treatment stage, but not the final screenplay; Best Story & Screenplay honored original works where the story and screenplay came from the same writer or writing team; and Best Screenplay honored the work of writers either adapting another work, such as a play or novel, or writing the script from the original story. Often it was more the former than the latter, and this year is no exception: two Broadway shows, two short stories, and a novel that was simultaneously adapted into a Broadway showhile the film version was in production.

The nominees are...