My Top 10:

Les Enfants du Paradis (1945) - as Children of Paradise, the #1 film of 1946

  1. Children of Paradise
  2. The Best Years of Our Lives
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life
  4. Brief Encounter
  5. The Big Sleep
  6. Notorious
  7. Henry V
  8. The Spiral Staircase
  9. My Darling Clementine
  10. Open City

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Best Director:  William Wyler  (The Best Years of Our Lives)
  • Best Actor:  Frederic March  (The Best Years of Our Lives)
  • Best Actress:  Olivia de Havilland  (To Each His Own)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Harold Russell  (The Best Years of Our Lives)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Anne Baxter  (The Razor’s Edge)
  • Best Screenplay:  The Best Years of Our Lives (from the novel by MacKinley Kantor)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Seventh Veil
  • Best Original Story:  Vacation from Marriage

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Best Director:  William Wyler  (The Best Years of Our Lives)
  • Best Actor:  Laurence Olivier  (Henry V)
  • Best Actress:  Celia Johnson  (Brief Encounter)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Clifton Webb  (The Razor’s Edge)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Anne Baxter  (The Razor’s Edge)

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  • Children of Paradise –  #31
  • It’s a Wonderful Life – #45
  • Notorious –  #75
  • My Darling Clementine –  #85
  • Open City –  #98
  • The Best Years of Our Lives –  #122
  • Brief Encounter –  #145
  • The Big Sleep –  #263
  • Henry V –  #395
  • Duel in the Sun –  #540

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. The Best Years of Our Lives –  962
  2. Henry V –  336
  3. The Yearling –  336
  4. The Razor’s Edge –  256
  5. It’s a Wonderful Life –  247

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • It’s a Wonderful Life –  #11  (1998)  /  #20  (2007)
  • The Best Years of Our Lives –  #37  (both polls)

Nighthawk Awards:

Oscar nominee and Nighthawk winner Celia Johnson in David Lean's Brief Encounter - picture courtesy of criterioncollectionblogspot

  • Best Picture:  Children of Paradise
  • Best Director:  Marcel Carne  (Children of Paradise)
  • Best Actor:  Jimmy Stewart  (It’s a Wonderful Life)
  • Best Actress:  Celia Johnson  (Brief Encounter)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Claude Rains  (Notorious)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Maria Casares  (Children of Paradise)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Brief Encounter (from the play “Still Life” by Noel Coward)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Children of Paradise
  • Best Foreign Film:  La belle et la bette

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Big Sleep
  • Best Scene:  The reunion scene between Frederic March and his family in The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Best Line:  “You’re not very tall, are you?”  “Well, I, uh, I try to be.”  (The Big Sleep – Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart)
  • Best Opening:  Children of Paradise
  • Best Ending:  Children of Paradise
  • Best Cameo:  Dorothy Malone as the bookshop proprietress in The Big Sleep – sexy and bookish all in one

Ebert Great Films:

  • The Big Sleep
  • Notorious
  • My Darling Clementine
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Children of Paradise
  • The Best Years of Our Lives

Top 5 Films (Box Office Gross):

  1. Song of the South –  $37.5 mil
  2. The Best Years of Our Lives –  $23.6 mil
  3. Duel in the Sun –  $20.4 mil
  4. The Jolson Story –  $19.0 mil
  5. The Postman Always Rings Twice –  $12.0 mil

When discussing the place of 1946 in the great years in film history, it is only appropriate to mention that several of the best films of the year were international holdovers finally getting an American release, such as Children of Paradise, Brief Encounter, Henry V and Open City.  But in all fairness, such incredible films as La belle et la Bette, Paisan, A Matter of Life and Death and Great Expectations were released in 1946 and wouldn’t get an American release until later, so the overall place of the year holds firm.  And it is easily one of the best years in film history.  Just the fact that I felt the need to expand the Top 1000 reference to 10 films should show that I’m not the only one who thinks it.

Film History: The Cannes Film Festival, originally planned to begin in 1939, is inaugurated.  Twelve films share the Grand Prize, including The Lost Weekend, Brief Encounter and Open City.  Hollywood enjoys its most profitable year ever.  Duel in the Sun is hyped for over a year with an unprecedented $1 million put aside for advertising, but barely ends up opening in time for Oscar consideration due to a Technicolor strike.  Burt Lancaster debuts in The Killers, which also catapults Ava Gardner to stardom.  W.C. Fields and Oscar winner George Arliss die.  Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin meet in Atlantic City in July.  Twenty year old model, Norma Jean Baker, signs with Fox.

Academy Awards: The limitless nominees for the technical categories ends, the number of nominations drops from 134 to 80 and the number of films nominated drops from 62 to 36.  There will never again be more than 107 nominations or 46 nominated films.  The Best Years of Our Lives wins Picture, Director and Screenplay, the fifth year in a row the same film wins all three, the longest streak in Oscar history.  It also becomes the first Best Picture to win Best Score.  Best Years is the only film nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay.  This will happen twice more (in 1955 with Marty and in 1988 with Rain Man).  All three films win all three awards.  The Academy starts to recognize the importance of Foreign films with Screenplay nominations for Children of Paradise and Open City (the first of Fellini’s 8 writing nominations).  Films vying for Best Picture begin to crowd into the end of the year release dates, with four of the five Best Picture nominees (all except Henry V) opening in the last five weeks of the year.

With this year, my numbers go drastically up.  I am only missing one Oscar nominated film from this year (Centennial Summer) and I’ve seen 98.4% of all the nominations from here on.  The nominations also get better.  While the Academy could have had a banner year if they had gone for Notorious or Brief Encounter instead of The Yearling and The Razor’s Edge, they still nominated three classics, found room for a number of very good and great films in the Screenplay category (The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The Stranger, Children of Paradise, Notorious, Brief Encounter, The Killers, Open City, none of which were nominated for Best Picture).  What’s oddest is that after two straight nominations for Hitchcock and three straight for Ingrid Bergman, neither were nominated for Notorious.  And Bergman wasn’t the only snub among Best Actress – the only nominee I agree with is Celia Johnson.  I would have dumped the others for Bergman, Anna Magnani (Open City), Myrna Loy (The Best Years of Our Lives) and Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep).  The only other problematic category is Cinematography, limited to four nominees – two each for Black and White and Color.  They went with lackluster fare like Anna and the King of Siam and The Yearling for the Oscars, ignoring such brilliantly shot films like Children of Paradise, The Big Sleep or Notorious and much better Color films like Henry V and Duel in the Sun.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Cinematography – Black and White for Anna and the King of Siam
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Editing for The Jolson Story
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Picture for Children of Paradise
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  The Dolly Sisters
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Cinematography – Black and White
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Oscar Nomination:  Best Original Screenplay for Children of Paradise

Golden Globes: The Globes agree with the Oscars for Best Picture (The Best Years of Our Lives) and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Baxter).  But they go with Frank Capra for Best Director for It’s a Wonderful Life and Oscar nominees Gregory Peck, Rosalind Russell and Clifton Webb for their acting awards.

Awards: The National Board of Review goes international by naming Henry V Best Picture and Laurence Olivier Best Actor, while giving Best Actress and the re-established Best Foreign Film to Open City (Anna Magnani is the actress) and name Open City as the second best film of the year.  The Best Years of Our Lives, the only Oscar nominee among their Top 10 comes in third and wins Best Director.  Best Years does better at the New York Film Critics, where it takes Best Picture and Best Director.  The NYFC also go with Olivier, but give their Best Actress to fellow Brit Celia Johnson while also agreeing with Open City with their re-established Best Foreign Film.

The Boulevard of Crime - the closing shot of Children of Paradise

#1 film of 1946:

Children of Paradise  (Les enfants du paradis) (dir. Marcel Carne)

If you haven’t seen it, put it in your Netflix queue now (even better, you can stream it).  Don’t think you can put it off and that there are other movies you need to see first.  Unless you have somehow missed Sunset Boulevard, The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather or Star Wars, there are no other movies you need to see first.  It is easily one of the greatest films ever made.  At about this time last year I ranked it the second greatest Foreign Film of all-time and I might have had it too low.  Like The Wizard of Oz, it is the handful of films that contend for the top rank.  And, like Oz, it manages to tell an amazing story with a perfect script that takes individual characters, melds them into an unforgettable story and still manages to make brilliant use of all the technical aspects that film has to offer.

The opening scene is the dream of every Ren Faire in the world: an amazing boulevard of all that you can imagine; there are stalls where you can buy things, places to eat, incredible showmanship, and every stop dares to make the claim that it is the place you want to be.  This is the heart of the film, The Boulevard of Crime (it is also the name of the first part of the film – while being made under the Occupation, it was forbidden to have films longer than 90 minutes, so they made the film in two 90 minute parts), the place where all the characters will quickly come together in the epic, generation long story.

First there is the actor, the pompous man who will instantly move to get what he wants, but who does have talent.  Then there is the woman, daring to declare herself as the Naked Truth, who finds herself drawn to those who will hurt her and push away the man who wants her the most.  There is the criminal, the dark devious man who will kill anyone who gets in his way.  Then there is the mime, the true performer, and what a shock when he speaks, but what a delight when he shows how talented he is, how observant of the world around him, yet pushes away the girl who loves him.

But there is so much more to these characters, three hours worth to find them and see them develop and learn their story, all the way down to the desperate end, to the cries in the street of a name, trying to push through a crowd, this same sort of crowd on this same street, pushing back, pushing away.

Because why should I ruin the story for you?  There is so much there to enjoy.  And don’t think that it ends there.  It isn’t just my Best Picture, my Best Director, my Best Original Screenplay.  It is so well put together, so well paced, that three hours seems less time than most 90 minute films.  It is full of such sumptuous Art Direction and Costumes and Makeup.  It has such a wonderful Score.  It is so well shot, from that very first shot, moving down the Boulevard, all the way to that final magnificent shot.

Yet, still, it comes back to the story and the characters.  See how one character comes off his greatest triumph to go to his fate only to have another character intervene.  See how desperate people will be when it comes to those they love and where that will drive them and perhaps you will understand that final cry in that final shot and how desperate it is.

This is what film is all about, not just flashy entertainment, but everything all in one, great acting, directing, writing, technical aspects, all together in a film that is much more than the sum of its parts.  It is said to be France’s answer to Gone with the Wind, that somewhere in Paris it is always being watched.  And even that is too little praise for this triumph, this film that stands above so many others, possibly all others.  That this film was made at all, in an occupied nation, under the watchful eyes of the conquerors, with starving extras stealing the food, so many working on it banned from the industry is amazing; that it went through all that to be one of the great films of all-time is nothing short of perfection.

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