The five Best Picture nominees for 1967: The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

The 40th Academy Awards for the film year 1967.  The nominations were announced on February 19, 1968 and the awards were held on April 10, 1968.

Best Picture:  In the Heat of the Night

  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • The Graduate
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
  • Doctor Dolittle

Most Surprising Omission:  In Cold Blood

Best Eligible Film Not Nominated:  Chimes at Midnight

Rank (out of 82) of Best Picture Years:  #53

Essential References: The Studio by John Gregory Dunne, 1969 and Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris, 2007.

The Race: The two biggest movies of the early part of the year were Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Dirty Dozen, but neither was considered a serious Oscar contender.  The death of Spencer Tracy in June built suspense for his final film, a team-up with long time co-star Katharine Hepburn called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but it wouldn’t be coming out until December.  The third star of the film, Sidney Poitier, already had a 1967 hit with To Sir with Love, but it was his film released in August that became the big film: In the Heat of the Night.  “Critics, perhaps inevitably, treated the movie as if it had been hatched overnight in response to the long, bloody summer, and most of them approved of what they saw.”  (Harris, p 334).

Then came the Montreal Film Festival and the debut of Bonnie and Clyde.  Two thousand people watched that opening showing and most of them reacted with cheers and applause.  The chief one who did not was Bosley Crowther, the film critic of The New York Times.  Even though Bonnie would not debut in New York for another week, Crowther immediately filed a story that ripped it to shreds.  By the time of the actual debut, he had filed two more pieces, including his actual review that called it a “cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy.”  This was followed by the negative review in Newsweek by Joseph Morganstern.  But Morganstern soon changed his mind and ran a new review even while Pauline Kael was criticizing him for having missed the boat on the film.  Now suddenly the film was the most talked about thing in the industry.  A number of the magazine critics who had, the year before, formed the National Society of Film Critics in response to being excluded by the Crowther-lead New York Film Critics were suddenly heaping praise on the film and using it to criticize Crowther himself: “Bonnie and Clyde could look like a celebration of gangster glamour only to a man with a head full of wood shavings.” (Harris, p 344) wrote Penelope Gilliatt in The New Yorker.

But Bonnie was out of theaters by mid-fall, pulled on orders from Warner Bros. who had never believed in the film.  Cool Hand Luke and In Cold Blood were out and getting good reviews, but Bonnie was still being talked about and Warren Beatty pressured the studio into putting it back into theaters, fueled by the removal of Crowther as film critic for the Times.

Finally, Christmas came and the release of three of the most anticipated films of the year: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate and Doctor DolittleDinner was riding the loss of Tracy and the popularity of Poitier.  The Graduate exploded right out of the box and became not only the biggest film of the year, but one of the biggest of all-time.  Dolittle, on the other hand, the big roadshow release from 20th Century-Fox that had been hyped for months was a giant turkey, with terrible reviews and poor box office, blown out of the water by Disney’s The Jungle Book.  But weak reviews and weaker box office wasn’t stopping Fox from pushing it for the Oscars.  After all, it hadn’t missed out on a Best Picture nomination since 1958 and this was its only horse in the race.

The New York Film Critics kicked off the awards season on December 28.  “At the meeting, Crowther argued passionately against awarding Best Picture to Bonnie and Clyde and prevailed, but only by a hair.  Initially, Bonnie and Clyde led the voting but lacked the two-thirds majority then required for a first-round win; by the sixth ballot, the New York critics chose In the Heat of the Night for Best Picture.”  (Harris, p 383).  The National Board of Review, the next year, just confused things, giving their Best Picture to the British film Far from the Madding Crowd, while including In Cold Blood, The Graduate and Doctor Dolittle in their top 10, but not Heat or Bonnie (it would be the first time since 1952 that the eventual Oscar winner would fail to make the NBR’s Top 10).  Then came the National Society of Film Critics, which was a battle between Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, which eventually wound up choosing Ingmar Bergman’s Persona as Best Picture, with Bonnie coming in second.

As the various guilds voted and the Golden Globes did their nominations, things began to clear up.  Bonnie and Clyde, In the Heat of the Night and The Graduate were easily the most critically acclaimed films of the year and were all headed to the Oscars (they all had DGA nominations, WGA nominations and several Globe nominations apiece).  The same nominations for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner combined with its big box office success made it the likely fourth candidate.  But what would be the fifth?  Fox was putting everything behind Doctor Dolittle, with a several point plan on getting members to screenings, all of which would be preceded by “champagne or cocktails and a buffet dinner in the Studio comissary.” (Dunne, p 248, quoting a studio memo).  Dolittle had several Globe nominations as well as a WGA nom, but In Cold Blood had a DGA nom, a WGA nom and its one Globe nom was for Best Picture – Drama.

The Results: It was Dolittle that made it in, prompting Truman Capote, the writer of the book In Cold Blood to comment “Anything allowing a Dolittle to happen is so rooked up it doesn’t mean anything.”  Bonnie and Dinner were tied for the most nominations with 10, including nominations for both in all four acting categories.  But with The Graduate winning the DGA, the WGA and Best Picture – Comedy at the Globes and In the Heat of the Night winning Picture – Drama, it looked like the favorites were the low numbers, with 7 nominations apiece.

Once the night began (two days later than originally planned – delayed by the funeral for Martin Luther King when a number of nominees and presenters threatened not to go if the awards were held before the funeral) and the awards started to all go In the Heat of the Night‘s way, it was all over.  The Graduate would win Best Director, its only prize of the night, while Bonnie and Clyde would make due with Cinematography and Supporting Actress (the screenplay, heavily touted to win, which had already won two critics awards and two different WGA awards would lose to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner).  While Heat would become the first film in 11 years to win Best Picture without Best Director, it would take home Oscars for 5 of its 7 nominations.

Daring for 1967: In the Heat of the Night

In the Heat of the Night

  • Director:  Norman Jewison
  • Writer:  Stirling Silliphant  (from the novel by John Ball)
  • Producer:  Walter Mirisch
  • Studio:  United Artists
  • Stars:  Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Lee Grant, Warren Oates
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium, Actor (Steiger), Editing, Sound, Sound Effects
  • Oscar Points:  405
  • Length:  109 min
  • Genre:  Mystery  (Cop)
  • Box Office Gross:  $24.37 mil
  • Release Date:  2 August 1967
  • My Rating:  ****
  • My Rank:  #4  (year)  /  #124 (nominees)  /  #35  (winners)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor (Poitier), Sound, Original Song  (“In the Heat of the Night)
  • Nighthawk Points:  200

The Film:  In 1967, when filmgoers got to the point where Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger go to confront the rich man in town that they feel might be mixed up in the murder they are both investigating and the rich, old racist slaps Poitier across the face and Poitier slaps him back, hard, it must have been shocking.  Today, it is less shocking then exhilarating.  And while contemporary viewers must have been waiting for an explosion (certainly the man himself wishes he could explode, telling Poitier how he could have had him hung for that), what’s more interesting today is his reaction once the two officers leave.  He breaks down.  He can not believe that the world has changed so much that his old ways no longer hold sway.  I love seeing that look and I look forward to more people who still hold on to their ignorant beliefs having that look cross their face as they look around the world and can no longer act the way they used to be able to.

Poitier was the perfect person for this role.  He already had an Oscar, was a big star and was seen as fairly harmless by most audiences.  He played his political cards very carefully, never dealing in the overtly political worlds of his friend Harry Belafonte.  That’s why he could, in 1967, play the nice black doctor in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner who might be palatable enough for white audiences to marry a young white girl, the teacher in a London school who will win over his students in To Sir With Love and the dignified detective from Philadelphia in In the Heat of the Night.  That all of these performances were passed over at awards time is ridiculous.

When I first watched this film I thought of it mostly as the film that beat Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate and didn’t deserve to.  Now I look at it and I think it was actually better than The Graduate and that it is one hell of a film.  I always knew it was a four star film.  I just never realized how good it was, how well written it was, how perfectly cast it was (only Poitier could play Virgil with such dignity and bottled anger but only Steiger could have so effectively played that police chief, not to mention the fine work from Warren Oates and Lee Grant), how well edited, photographed and even scored (it finishes in sixth place in all three of those).  There’s no question that at the time it was meant to be a solid statement about racial differences in the south.  But it stands up today because it’s a first rate example of a cop mystery, from the first mistaken suspects, to the classic case of who you think did it (and who Virgil thinks as well – and the way he handles that is part of what makes it so well written), to the nice quiet moments between Poitier and Steiger in the latter’s house.  There’s even some good humor, like when Poitier leaves, telling Steiger he’s going “where Whitey ain’t allowed.”

This was the right film at the right time.  That a film with this power, this quality, this storyline, should win the Oscar just a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King seems only fitting.  It’s just too bad it had to win over Bonnie and Clyde.

As far as tag lines go it doesn't get any better than "They're young, they're in love and they kill people." Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Bonnie and Clyde

  • Director:  Arthur Penn
  • Writer:  David Newman  /  Robert Benton
  • Producer:  Warren Beatty
  • Studio:  Warner Bros.
  • Stars:  Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen, Actor (Beatty), Actress (Dunaway), Supporting Actor (Hackman), Supporting Actor (Pollard), Supporting Actress (Parsons), Cinematography, Costume Design
  • Oscar Points:  390
  • Length:  112 min
  • Genre:  Crime  (True Crime)
  • Box Office Gross:  $50.70 mil  (#4  –  1967)
  • Release Date:  13 August 1967
  • My Rating:  ****
  • My Rank:  #1  (year)  /  #10  (nominees)  /  #13  (all-time)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor (Beatty), Actress (Dunaway), Supporting Actor (Hackman), Supporting Actor (Pollard), Supporting Actress (Parsons), Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Costume Design, Makeup
  • Nighthawk Points:  865
  • Nighthawk Records:  Most Points  –  865; Most Wins  –  14

The Film:  Back on the 4th of July in 1989, KCOP, Channel 13 in Los Angeles did a truly wonderful thing.  They showed a number of classic films completely uncut, without commercial interruption.  It was the kind of thing you rarely found on commercial television.  They had the exact minute listed for what time the films would begin (I used to actually have the TV Guide full page ad for it, but it seems to have been lost over the years much to my irritation at the moment).  I remember they showed On the Waterfront (which I watched for the first time), West Side Story, The Right Stuff and Bonnie and Clyde.  I taped Bonnie and Clyde that night (it was one of the last of the day) while watching it.  I still have that tape (E’s Movies IX – ah, the wonders of video taping films off television) and I put it in last night, not knowing that Arthur Penn, the director, was dying in New York City.  So now, sadly, he is dead, and I am writing this.

Penn was never a great director.  His three Oscar nominations in the sixties were as much a product of the times as they were of his talent.  Or maybe it was that he was never quite fitted right to his films and that the best of them (Bonnie, Miracle Worker, Little Big Man, Night Moves) were the ones that he was able to mold the best to himself.  Either way, if you have read Pictures at a Revolution and what Truffaut was thinking of doing with the film, there is no question that the right director was found.

In fact, everything about the film seemed to perfectly fall into place.  It had two screenwriters who were inspired by Truffaut to try something new, a producer who knew that he had found the right film to get behind, even to the point of starring in it himself, the exact right stars, most of whom were unknown on screen at the time, and the perfect combination of talent.  Even as a teenager who had just started documenting an obsession with film (in early 1989, I started writing down in a journal all the films I watched and ranking them – that original journal is also missing now, but it was long ago supplanted, first by EasyWriter, then MacWrite, Word and finally to Excel, which perfectly handles what I want) I knew I had just seen a masterpiece.  It easily was in my top 20 when I first watched it.  It has rarely strayed any lower than that, even though I have gone from a couple of hundred of films to nearly 7000.

What I saw for the first time two decades ago was the amazing performances (I have bounced back and forth on actor and actress for this year, but currently Beatty, with his wonderful mannered performance that so perfectly explodes into intensity when it needs to and Dunaway, with that amazing sexually stirring performance currently hold sway and Hackman, from the first minute I saw the film, has always been my winner for supporting – ironically the only major Oscar it doesn’t win from me is the only major Oscar it won – Parsons for supporting actress – I do think she is quite good, so perfectly counter-balanced against the cooler Dunaway, but I couldn’t give it to her over Bibi Andersson in Persona or Katharine Ross in The Graduate), the smart and witty script (look at how quickly the brothers run out of things to say to each other – shades of my relationship with my own brothers, as well as the wonderful scene with Gene Wilder) and how well done all the violence was.  I was no stranger to violence in film, but this was all handled so poetically.

Now I can see so much more.  I watch Dunaway restlessly stirring in her room and I don’t see the goofs that the IMDb claims, but deliberate jump-cuts by Dede Allen that show the growing impatience with her life.  I see the way her eyes light up when she runs down to talk to the boy who’s thinking of stealing her mother’s car.  I see the wonderful power of reaching out when Clyde offers his gun to the farmer who’s been hounded off his own land.

Then there is the ending.  Blasted by Bosley Crowther, but hailed by so many now, it’s surprising how quickly it is all over.  It is one of the finest made scenes in all of film history and Dede Allen should have won the Oscar for that scene alone (that Doctor Dolittle was nominated and Allen was not is one of the worst mistakes the Academy ever made).  That scene alone justifies the Nighthawk Awards for Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing and Makeup.  I struggle to think of any scene of pure violence that matches it for pure poetical expression on film.

This film was so amazing that it changed film criticism.  Joseph Morganstern, the critic for Newsweek, found himself haunted by it after writing a critical review, went back and saw it again and wrote a new review raving about it.  Pauline Kael, her reputation on the rise whose piece on the film was rejected by The New Republic and essentially began her career at the New Yorker and Roger Ebert, still only six months into his job as a film critic, both heaped praise upon the film.  Crowther’s review for The New York Times and his refusal to back down from it ended up costing him his job as their film critic.  Yet there are still those who resist.  The AFI list had it originally at 25, but dropped it to 42 for its new list, below The Sound of Music and in the Top 1000, it still doesn’t quite make the Top 100.  Both lists will eventually correct themselves.  It is one of the greatest films in history, the single best film of the 1960’s.

Really, one of the best posters of all-time. The Graduate (1967)

The Graduate

  • Director:  Mike Nichols
  • Writer:  Calder Willingham  /  Buck Henry  (from the novel by Charles Webb)
  • Producer:  Lawrence Turman
  • Studio:  Embassy
  • Stars:  Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium, Actor (Hoffman), Actress (Bancroft), Supporting Actress (Ross), Cinematography
  • Oscar Points:  305
  • Length:  105 min
  • Genre:  Comedy  (Satire)
  • Box Office Gross:  $104.64 mil  (#1 – 1967, #4 – all-time when released)
  • Release Date:  22 December 1967
  • My Rating:  ****
  • My Rank:  #5  (year)  /  #139  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor (Hoffman), Actress (Bancroft), Supporting Actress (Ross), Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Original Song  (“Mrs. Robinson)
  • Nighthawk Points:  350

The Film:  For a while there, The Graduate seemed to be sinking in estimation.  While the AFI had placed it at #7 in their first poll, it had dropped to #17 and Richard Roeper said that it was one of the least deserving films on the list.  Roger Ebert re-reviewed it and downgraded it from **** to ***, denigrating all of the characters outside of Mrs. Robinson.  David Thomson called it “the cutest package in which a numb rebel becomes a conformist.”  I shudder to think what Thomson will say in the new edition of his book (or if he’ll just add and not re-write anything like he did last time).  I had loved it when I first saw it, owned it, thought it was the second best film of the year and that Hoffman, Bancroft and Ross should have won their respective Oscars.

So what has changed?  Well, not as much as I would have thought.  I no longer own it because I sold a lot of my store-bought videos and have never gotten it on DVD.  And I now hold Beatty and Dunaway up above Hoffman and Bancroft because I have moved them up rather than moving the actors in The Graduate down.  And Ross loses for the same reason the film has slipped to #5 –  I hadn’t seen Persona back then (or Chimes at Midnight and I have upgraded In the Heat of the Night).  But while The Graduate has slipped in its year it has actually gone up among the Best Picture nominees.  I had begun to move it down in my mind until I actually watched it again and saw again how funny, how smart, how revolutionary it was.

The acting is still the single best thing about it.  People complain about people playing the wrong age, but you are the age you are believable as onscreen and while Hoffman is playing younger and Bancroft is playing older, they are both absolutely believable for every minute.  They own the approaches to their characters.  They are perfect.  Everyone remembers Hoffman saying “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me,” but it’s his nebbish “aren’t you?” afterwords that really makes the scene.  And then Ross comes in, so luminous, so beautiful, and you can understand why he immediately falls for her.  And of course, the sly, witty script holds it all together.

But look at how the film is made.  Look, not only at the use of the Simon and Garfunkel songs, but when they are used (the double entendre of “April Come She Will”, the perfect recurrent use of “The Sound of Silence”).  Look at how well edited the film is, the way it jumps between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson when she slams the door.  And then the cinematography, the way it looks at Benjamin across that leg, or the brilliant way, when they have come in out of the rain, the camera focuses on Mrs. Robinson in the background, then slowly pulls Elaine back into focus and the wonderful reaction shot.

All of this is a credit to Mike Nichols, to his belief in the project, knowing exactly what he wanted and how to get it.  He was coming off Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, one of the finest debuts in film history and though Penn should have won the Oscar, it was a good choice.  And it all fits together so perfectly because of his answer for people who ask what happen to Ben and Elaine after they run off: “They become their parents.”  That’s why this film continues to work and not just be a portrait of an odd era.  Because every generation faces that rebellion, yet gradual evolution and Nichols knew it.

Good message, bland film - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

  • Director:  Stanley Kramer
  • Writer:  William Rose
  • Producer:  Stanley Kramer
  • Studio:  Columbia
  • Stars:  Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway, Beah Richards
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Director, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen, Actor (Tracy), Actress (Hepburn), Supporting Actor (Kellaway), Supporting Actress (Richards), Editing, Art Direction, Scoring of Music – Adaptation or Treatment
  • Oscar Points:  395
  • Length:  108 min
  • Genre:  Drama  (Social)
  • Box Office Gross:  $56.70 mil  (#3  –  1967)
  • Release Date:  12 December 1967
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #55  (year)  /  #417  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Supporting Actor  (Poitier)
  • Nighthawk Points:  30

The Film:  Even when I was young and more apt to fall for the content and social viewpoint of a film rather than it’s actual quality I didn’t think this was a particularly good film.  I certainly never thought it worthy of 10 Oscar nominations.  In fact, the only Nighthawk nomination it earns is for a performance that was ignored by the Oscars – that of Sidney Poitier.  How odd that Poitier would do such a masterful job in three different films that dealt with racism in three very different ways (In the Heat of the Night, To Sir With Love, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner) and would fail to earn a nomination for any of them.

Perhaps the Academy had the same problems as the parents in this film.  If you don’t know already, the film is about a young woman (Katharine Houghton, Hepburn’s niece in a rather awful performance) who has fallen in love with a young black man and brings him to meet her parents just before they are going off to Europe where they are going to be married.  Houghton is determined to be marry no matter what her parents say but Poitier won’t do it without their permission (after all, you have to have something to give the story more dramatic tension).  Eventually we end up with both sets of parents (his fly in) together for dinner with the young couple and the ending that should be fairly obvious.

Of course the main dramatic tension in the film revolves around the fact that the white parents are liberal and their liberal views conflict with the fact that they don’t really want their child to marry someone different.  The script-writers do everything they can to make it palatable for everyone (it’s Poitier after all, and he’s playing a very successful doctor), but the pandering to all sides is just ridiculous.  I find it hard to believe that even in 1967 this really could have been taken seriously (Mark Harris’ book refers to the film as a comedy, but I’ve always seen it as a drama as did the Golden Globes and the Writers Guild).  That it was the last teaming of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy has more to do with its success, both with awards (where it earned 22 nominations and 4 awards between the Oscars, Guilds, Globes and BAFTAs) and at the box office (where it was one of the biggest hits of the year and in the top 10 for the decade).  Tracy died just a few days after filming finished.  Poitier was one of the biggest box office stars around.  People flocked to see it and they fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

But it’s just not a particularly good film.  It does have a very good performance from Poitier and solid performances from both Hepburn and Tracy (that the Academy would nominate Tracy for a performance where he didn’t deserve it is nothing new – he rarely deserved his nominations).  But the Oscar-winning script is ridiculously weak, making every character too damn stubborn and spending too much time leading up to the decision that we know the film will make.  Hepburn, of course, didn’t deserve this Oscar (she was only the second Oscar winner since the 40’s to win without either a Globe or a Critics win – the only other one being Elizabeth Taylor’s win in 1960 for almost dying).  Nothing about the film is remotely believable and it has dated quite badly.

One of the most shameful incidents in Academy history: the nomination for Doctor Dolittle in 1967

Doctor Dolittle

  • Director:  Richard Fleischer
  • Writer:  Leslie Bricusse  (from the novels by Hugh Lofting)
  • Producer:  Arthur P. Jacobs
  • Studio:  20th Century-Fox
  • Stars:  Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, Richard Attenborough
  • Oscar Nominations:  Picture, Editing, Cinematography, Original Music Score, Scoring of Music – Adaptation or Treatment, Sound, Art Direction, Special Visual Effects, Original Song (“Talk to the Animals”)
  • Oscar Points:  235
  • Length:  152 min
  • Genre:  Kids  (Musical)
  • Box Office Gross:  $9.00 mil
  • Release Date:  19 December 1967
  • My Rating:  *.5
  • My Rank:  #75  (year)  /  #475  (nominees)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Original Song  (“Talk to the Animals”)
  • Nighthawk Points:  10

The Film:  This is it.  The worst film ever nominated for Best Picture.  Worse, I have decided, than that other Rex Harrison howler, Cleopatra.  I know all too well, unfortunately, as I watched them back to back on Netflix Watch Instantly.  My horrible horrible mistake.  I could try to pontificate on how such a terrible film, so long, so incredibly boring, a film that almost sank a studio, somehow managed to get nominated over films like In Cold Blood (which managed the other Director nomination as well as an Adapted Screenplay nomination) or Cool Hand Luke (which also earned an Adapted Screenplay nomination to go with its acting nominations).  But luckily, I really don’t have to.  Even if there weren’t pages dedicated to it in Inside Oscar, I wouldn’t have to write about it.  Because not one, but two of the best books ever written about Hollywood deal with it in every detail.  There is, of course, Pictures at a Revolution, the fabulous Mark Harris book from 2007 that describes the process by which all five of the Best Picture nominees came into being and eventually managed to find their way into the Oscar race.  But even better is The Studio, the remarkable book by John Gregory Dunne, who had free reign at 20th Century-Fox during that horrible stretch when they were making not only Doctor Dolittle, but also Star! and Hello Dolly, two other huge box office flops (yet Star! earned 7 Oscar nominations and Dolly was also a Best Picture nominee) that, combined, pretty much decimated Fox (Dunne reproduces an internal memo from Fox on pages 248-249 that pretty much outline the “exploitation plan” that was ultimately successful).  Those books, combined with my own piece on the race above help to explain how all of this came about.

But what about the film itself.  Do yourself a favor and don’t ever see it.  It’s two and a half hours that you can’t have back.  True, that’s not as bad as the four hours that Cleopatra takes, the film I had previously crowned as the worst of all the nominees (I haven’t changed my rating of Cleopatra, but Dolittle simply slid below it).  But Rex Harrison is at least fairly good in Cleopatra.  Here he’s just about unwatchable.  In fact, everyone and everything about this film is simple dreck.  It was nominated for Best Editing, certainly a contender for one of the worst nominations in all of Academy history, especially when you compare it to the amazing editing in Bonnie and Clyde which went un-nominated.  Then there is the Cinematography, which is completely uninspired.  There’s really not a single noteworthy shot in the film.  There is the music, all of which is pretty awful.  The actual Oscar winning song isn’t complete crap, but it’s the only thing worth remembering in the slightest.  There’s a reason that all those albums of the film soundtrack went unsold.  Yet, this music earned three nominations and an Oscar.  Then there is the Art Direction, which isn’t completely awful.  There at least were some interesting sets.  But Special Visual Effects?  There really wasn’t anything worthwhile about any of the effects in the film.

That just leaves the acting.  Somebody forgot to remind the people at Fox that Harrison was not a musical star.  True, he had won an Oscar for My Fair Lady, but that music was pretty much written exactly for his lack of range and was designed more for him to speak than to sing.  And he didn’t even bother to do anything else in this film.  He stumbles from scene to scene, supposedly the hero of a children’s book, but what child would want to sit through this?  Not that anyone else is any better, and the less said about child actors, the better.

Look, read the two books.  They are two great works of literature on film.  Then do yourself a favor and run far away from this film.  I watch these things because I have OCD and I become attached to these projects of mine.  But that’s no reason for you to suffer through this kind of crap.

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