George Stevens

  • A Place in the Sun (1951)

    A Place in the Sun (1951)

    Born: 1904

  • Died: 1975
  • Rank: 99
  • Score: 477.40
  • Awards: 2 Oscars / 2 DGA / 2 Critics
  • Nominations: 5 Oscars / 4 DGA / 3 Golden Globes
  • Feature Films: 20
  • Best Film: The Diary of Anne Frank – 1959
  • Worst Film: The Only Game in Town – 1970

Top 5 Films:

  1. The Diary of Anne Frank – 1959
  2. A Place in the Sun – 1951
  3. Gunga Din – 1939
  4. Woman of the Year – 1942
  5. The More the Merrier – 1943

Top 10 Best Director finishes (Nighthawk awards):

  • 1939 – 9th – Gunga Din
  • 1951 – 6th – A Place in the Sun
  • 1959 – 4th – The Diary of Anne Frank

George Stevens started out as a cinematographer in the 20’s and moved on to directing short films, finally breaking into directing feature films in 1934. As with many directors of the Studio Era, he was able to move among many genres, including comedy (Kentucky Kernels), drama (Alice Adams), musical (Swing Time), western (Annie Oakley), and adventure (Gunga Din).

In the 40’s, Stevens became more prominent, earning an Oscar nomination and the New York Film Critics award for The More the Merrier. He also directed the first (and best) of the Hepburn-Tracy films: Woman of the Year.

Stevens went off to work in the Signal Corps during World War II and made only more film before 1951. The 50’s were to be his decade. All four of the films he made during that decade were nominated for the DGA, and for Best Picture and Director at the Oscars. He won two Oscars, though neither film (A Place in the Sun and Giant) won Best Picture. Many people consider Shane to be his masterpiece, but I have never liked Shane, finding that it uses the cliches, but does not actually rise above them. It doesn’t help when the only person to give a memorable performance in the film is the villain.

Had Stevens stopped making films in 1959, he would have gone out on top. Instead, he made two more films, The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965 and The Only Game in Town in 1970, two of his worst films.

Stevens’ reputation is not as high as it once was. He never caught on with the auteur theorists and because his greatest success came in the 50’s, is not recognized as one of the greats of the Studio Era.

The Diary of Anne Frank – #5 film of 1959

I have only seen The Diary of Anne Frank once. When I started this director project back in 2003, I decided to watch every film from every director on my initial list and re-watch every film I had already seen. Some I skipped because it was hard to find them again but some I skipped because they were too hard for me to watch again. I can’t watch The Diary of Anne Frank again.

I don’t know how much I ever believed in God. We stopped going to church when I was 8 years old and there was never much religion about going to a Society of Friends meeting that I recalled anyway. It was more of a social gathering. But I know definitely when I knew there wasn’t a god, when I made a conscious decision that I would not believe in any such being, and that’s when I read The Diary of Anne Frank and watched Night and Fog when I was a freshman in high school. I read those words “in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart,” and then I learned what happened to her and I watched the people in the camps in Night and Fog and I said to hell with this.

It’s a great film, filled with fantastic performances that live up to the historical burden they must bear in such a film. It is suspenseful, dramatic, funny all at the same time. And it carries a weight of tragedy above it all, because people must know going in what the final result is. But I couldn’t ever bear to watch it again.