Monday, May 16, 2022

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1950: Best Picture of the Year

The Academy Awards' Best Picture lineup for 1950 is full of classics, stories so undeniable that, indeed, they remade 'em again and again. 

All About Eve became the 1970 Broadway musical Applause, which not only nabbed some Tony Awards, but two Emmy nominations for the 1973 telefilm; offstage, it's been riffed on everywhere, from Anna to Showgirls. Born Yesterday was already a Broadway show, but 43 years after this film, a remake starring Melanie Griffith, Don Johnson, and John Goodman came to cinemas. Nowadays, this Father of the Bride is not as known as the 1991 remake with Steve Martin...and yet another remake is on its way with Andy Garcia. King Solomon's Mines was just the latest adaptation of the classic novel: there was one in 1937 with Paul Robeson, another one in 1985 with Richard Chamberlain, even a 2004 miniseries with Patrick Swayze...though before this, I mostly knew protagonist Allan Quatermain as Sean Connery's character in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Sunset Blvd. remains relatively untouched onscreen, despite Glenn Close attempting to get a film of her Broadway triumph off the ground - though if memory serves, the 2010 Keira Knightley vehicle London Boulevard (dig that title) is a modern riff on its themes. 

What makes these classics work so? Let's see...

All About Eve
Darryl F. Zanuck, producer
first of two Best Picture nominations; BAFTA Awards winner for Best Film from Any Source, National Board of Review's Top Ten Films of 1950, NYFCC Awards winner for Best Film; Golden Globes nominee for Best Picture - Drama

Takes its subject wittily and its characters seriously. It's hilarious, certainly - one could argue for this and Sunset Blvd. both being comedies of a sort - but the comedy is organic, and no one is a joke. Even Miss Casswell is played with a little more canniness than many other movies would allow. It's intelligent, it's fun, it's grown-up, and everyone involved, cast and crew alike, is giving their best.

Born Yesterday
S. Sylvan Simon, producer
first and only nomination; Golden Globes nominee for Best Motion Picture - Drama [?!?]

A very cute movie when it's a rom-com, a very annoying movie when it's trying to Make A Statement about crime and politics. The charm of the actors, brought out to fit the film at end by George Cukor, is what makes it work. I get the nomination, I just wouldn't put it on my ballot.

Father of the Bride
Pandro S. Berman, producer
first of two nominations

An amusing enough film, but my goodness, there were much funnier ones released this year! A reward, then, for its great box office? But Samson and Delilah, Annie Get Your Gun, Cheaper by the Dozen and Cinderella all made more and are at least as good, if not better! I don't know why this movie clicked so with audiences at the time, all I know is it left me...chuckling, yes, but like...I'm certainly not going back to moments or lines I loved like I do Adam's Rib or even Champagne for Caesar.

King Solomon's Mines
Sam Zimbalist, producer

Quite a lark, this one. Approaches the proceedings with the quasi-sensitive colonialism of, say, Redford's character in Out of Africa - despite some paeans to the real land, the real people, no African character gets much to say at all - BUT, it is beautifully shot, Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger are quite sexy together (the haircut - SWOON!), and it moves at a pace that I found quite exciting. A good distraction.

Sunset Blvd.
Charles Brackett, producer
first of two Best Picture nominations; Golden Globes winner for Best Picture - Drama, National Board of Review's Best Film of 1950; NYFCC Awards runner-up for Best Film

Everything in this movie demands your full attention, from the horror-movie sets and lighting to the exquisite beauty of its stars, from the one-liners ("You'd be killing yourself to an empty house.") to the back-and-forths ("Don't you sometimes hate yourself?" "Constantly."), from the music to its performances. Unforgettable, rewatchable, tragic, hilarious. A perfect film about Hollywood that still feels approachable because it knows its subject so well - and because, well, who can't identify with at least one of the characters, especially as time goes on?

It is interesting that two of the best films of the year turned out to be insider flicks. But perfection is perfection, no matter how navel-gaze-y it may seem. The Oscars went for one:

...And so I give my vote to t'other:

produced by

But, the story doesn't end here. Remember, I saw thirty other films given a US release in 1950, and we're going to discuss them...some a wee more in-depth than others. Tomorrow we discuss the song-and-sketch Yiddish revue, Catskill Honeymoon, along with some other films you could program alongside it.

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