Thursday, November 14, 2019

Day Eight: Best Supporting Actor, 1954

And then there were three...nominees from a single movie, that is! On the Waterfront holds the distinction of being the first film to take up 60% of the Best Supporting Actor category. A rare enough feat that it only happened again twice: for 1972's The Godfather (Caan, Duvall, Pacino) and 1974's The Godfather Part II (De Niro, Gazzo, Strasberg). Please note all the overlap: the Best Actor winner for both 1954 and 1972 was Marlon Brando, for On the Waterfront and The Godfather, respectively; Michael V. Gazzo made his film debut in a bit part in On the WaterfrontLee Strasberg was director of the Actors Studio from 1951-1982, an organization co-founded by Waterfront director Elia Kazan that boasted among its alumnae...basically everyone I just named. 

As I say, On the Waterfront was the first and The Godfather Part II was the last to go for three-for-five in Best Supporting Actor. But it did happen once before in the Best Leading Actor category. In 1935, all three male leads for Best Picture winner Mutiny on the Bounty were nominated: Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Franchot Tone. The next year, separate categories for supporting players were introduced. Oh, and in 1963, Best Picture winner Tom Jones got three supporting actress nominations: Diane Cilento, Dame Edith Evans, and Joyce Redman.

This much we can take to the bank: three acting nods in one category means your movie's winning Best Picture. But it also means one of the other two nominees is going home with the Oscar. Only once has a nominee from the threesome won, and that was Robert De Niro speaking Italian while "doing" Marlon Brando. In 1954, the honor went to Edmond O'Brien of The Barefoot Contessa - the only nominee from a film not up for Best Picture:



The nominees are:

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Day Seven: The Scores, 1954

Is there any branch more exclusive than the Music one? In looking up the usual trivia of previous nominees, past winners, etc., I found that of the thirteen composers nominated - and I'm including both Musical and Non-Musical categories - all but two were either previous nominees, previous winners, or on their first of many nominations. Only Larry Adler and Leonard Bernstein, both up for Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, were one-and-dones, though it's worth noting that Saul Chaplin, a co-winner for Scoring of a Musical Picture, would once again triumph in that same category for co-adapting Bernstein's West Side Story compositions for the cinema.

The nominees after the jump, starting with the non-musicals....

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...