My Top 10:

The opening title shot of Sunset Blvd. (1950)

  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. The Third Man
  3. All About Eve
  4. The Rules of the Game
  5. Night and the City
  6. The Asphalt Jungle
  7. The Gunfighter
  8. Harvey
  9. Kind Hearts and Coronets
  10. Winchester ’73

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  All About Eve
  • Best Director:  Joseph L. Mankiewicz  (All About Eve)
  • Best Actor:  Jose Ferrer  (Cyrano de Bergerac)
  • Best Actress:  Judy Holliday  (Born Yesterday)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  George Sanders  (All About Eve)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Josephine Hull  (Harvey)
  • Best Screenplay:  All About Eve (from the story “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr)
  • Best Story and Screenplay:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Best Motion Picture Story:  Panic in the Streets
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Walls of Malapaga

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  All About Eve
  • Best Director:  Joseph L. Mankiewicz  (All About Eve)
  • Best Actor:  Jose Ferrer  (Cyrano de Bergerac)
  • Best Actress:  Gloria Swanson  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  George Sanders  (All About Eve)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Josephine Hull  (Harvey)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  All About Eve (from the story “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Sunset Boulevard

Top 5 Films  (Top 1000):

  • The Rules of the Game –  #3
  • The Third Man –   #24
  • Sunset Blvd. –  #29
  • All About Eve –  #72
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets –  #172

Top 5 Awards Points

  1. All About Eve –  1390
  2. Sunset Blvd. –  998
  3. The Asphalt Jungle –  443
  4. Born Yesterday –  416
  5. The Third Man –  311

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Sunset Blvd. –  #12  (1998)  /  #16  (2007)
  • All About Eve –  #16  (1998)  /  #28  (2007)
  • The Third Man –  #57  (1998)

Nighthawk Awards:

One of the greatest performances in all of film history: Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd. (1950)

  • Best Picture:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Best Director:  Billy Wilder (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Best Actor:  William Holden  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Best Actress:  Gloria Swanson  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Erich von Stroheim  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Nancy Olson  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Third Man (based on the story by Graham Greene)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Best Foreign Film:  La Ronde

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Best Scene:  The revelation of Orson Welles in The Third Man
  • Best Line:  “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”  (The Third Man – Orson Welles)
  • Best Ending:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Best Cameo:  Cecil B. DeMille in Sunset Blvd.

Ebert Great Films:

  • The Third Man
  • Sunset Blvd.
  • All About Eve
  • The Rules of the Game
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets
  • In a Lonely Place

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Cinderella –  $23.0 mil
  2. King Solomon’s Mines –  $11.1 mil
  3. Father of the Bride –  $10.1 mil
  4. All About Eve –  $8.4 mil
  5. Annie Get Your Gun –  $8.0 mil

It is, in many ways, the year 1939 claims to be.  It is the start of the most magnificent film decade, when Hollywood would produce some of its best works and still be matched by the best in international film, with the rise of such directors as Bergman, Kurosawa and Fellini.  It is the year where a true film classic sets the Oscar bar with 14 nominations, winning Best Picture, a film that no one ever seems to have anything negative to say about, yet the year is so good that this film (All About Eve of course) finishes fourth in the top 1000, second in the year from AFI, is the third choice from Roger Ebert as a Great Film and is my #3 film of the year.  It’s that kind of year.  The kind of year that can produce Sunset Blvd. and All About Eve in the same year while The Third Man and The Rules of the Game finally play in the States.

Film History: Disney makes its first live-action feature, Treasure Island.  MGM parts ways with two of it biggest stars after personal problems: Judy Garland (attempted suicide) and Frank Sinatra (marital problems).  Ingrid Bergman is denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate after having a child with Roberto Rossellini.  Film stars Gene Autry and Groucho Marx both depart the big screen for careers in television.  Walter Huston dies.  Emil Jannings, long disgraced for his embracing the Nazi film industry, dies in Austria.  The Supreme Court refuses to hear the cases of Dalton Trumbo and John Lawson, essentially upholding the Blacklist.  Joseph L. Mankiewicz, between winning his two Oscars for Best Director, as President of the Screen Directors Guild refuses to require a loyalty oath and denounces the Blacklist.  Rashomon, which will eventually sweep around the world, winning international accolades, is released in Tokyo on 25 August.

Academy Awards: All About Eve sets the record for most nominations with 14 (tied by Titanic).  Joseph L. Mankiewicz wins Best Director and Best Screenplay in back to back years.  Edith Head wins both Costume Design Oscars.  All three writing categories have a husband and wife team nominated.  All About Eve becomes the first Best Picture in 9 years to not receive a Best Actor nomination.  It also becomes the first Best Picture to win Best Sound.

The Academy does themselves proud with the 25 total nominations for All About Eve and Sunset Blvd., as well as the Best Director nominations for Carol Reed and John Huston.  But their other choices for Best Picture?  Born Yesterday, King Solomon’s Mines and Father of the Bride?  I mean, this is the year of The Third Man, The Asphalt Jungle, Night and the City, The Gunfighter, Winchester ’73, Harvey, In a Lonely Place, Panic in the Streets, No Way Out and Cinderella, not to mention the U.S. release of Rules of the Game and that’s the best you can come up with?  Then there are the lead acting awards.  In a year of William Holden in Sunset Blvd. and Jimmy Stewart in Harvey you give the Oscar to Jose Ferrer?  And you nominate Louis Calhern and Spencer Tracy’s annoying overbearing father in Father of the Bride rather than Richard Widmark (for either Night and the City or Panic in the Streets), Alec Guinness (Kind Hearts and Coronets) or Sterling Hayden (The Asphalt Jungle)?  You have three of the greatest lead actress performances in the history of cinema in Gloria Swanson (Sunset Blvd.), Anne Baxter and Bette Davis (both in All About Eve) and you give the Oscar to Judy Holliday?  You nominate Jeff Chandler’s decent performance in Broken Arrow rather than the sly Francis L. Sullivan in Night and the City or Alistair Sim in Stage Fright, or hell, Orson Welles’s iconic performance as Harry Lime in The Third Man?  They did a great job with Supporting Actress, but I still would have found a spot for Gloria Grahame in In a Lonely Place.  They did a much better job with the technical nominations, though their nominations for Best Sound were mediocre at best, especially when they could have gone with The Third Man, Night and the City or Winchester ’73.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Sound for All About Eve
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Song for “Mule Train” from Singing Guns
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Picture for The Third Man
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Wabash Avenue (with a close second to Samson and Delilah)
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Sound
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Awards Agreements:  Best Story and Screenplay, Best Cinematography – Color, Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Art Direction – Black and White, Best Special Effects

Golden Globes: In the first year where the Globes split up the Drama and Comedy prizes (at least for lead acting), Sunset Blvd. and All About Eve become the first two films to get 6 Golden Globe nominations, though it’s Sunset that comes out on top, winning Picture, Director, Actress and Score.  Eve gets Best Screenplay as a consolation prize.  Judy Holliday manages to win Best Actress – Comedy while losing Best Actress – Drama, both for her performance in Born Yesterday.  Oscar nominee Edmund Gwenn and Oscar winner Josephine Hull take home the supporting acting prizes for Mister 880 and Harvey while the two Best Actor prizes go to Jose Ferrer (who also wins the Oscar for Cyrano de Bergerac) and Fred Astaire (who finds no other awards love for Three Little Words).  Born Yesterday, Cyrano de Begerac and Harvey round out the Best Picture nominees.

Guilds: The Directors Guild continues with their quarterly awards and the winners of those becoming the nominees for Best Director.  Joseph L. Mankiewicz wins for the second time for All About Eve, over Billy Wilder (Sunset Blvd.), John Huston (The Asphalt Jungle) and Vincente Minnelli (Father’s Little Dividend).  The Writers Guild continues with their five categories and decide that All About Eve is a Comedy (which it wins), thus allowing Sunset Blvd. to win Best Drama, the first of five wins for Billy Wilder.  The other three awards go to Annie Get Your Gun (Musical), Broken Arrow (Western) and The Men (Best Screenplay Dealing Most Ably with Problems of the American Scene).  All of them except Annie go on to get Oscar nominated.

Awards: The National Board of Review kicks off the awards year by picking Sunset Blvd. , John Huston (The Asphalt Jungle), Alec Guinness (Kind Hearts and Coronets) and Gloria Swanson (Sunset Blvd.) for its four major awards.  None of them win the Oscar, though all but Guinness are nominated.  Their Best Foreign Film does win the Oscar, but The Titan wins the Best Documentary Oscar, not Best Foreign Film.  The New York Film Critics do agree more with the Academy, going with All About Eve for Best Picture, Director and Actress (though Bette Davis would lose at the Oscars), but their Best Actor is Gregory Peck for his 1949 Oscar nominated performance in 12 O’Clock High.  Their Best Foreign Film goes to Amore.  The BAFTAs continue to have just two categories, giving their Best Picture to All About Eve and their Best British Picture to The Blue Lamp.

The desperate Richard Widmark in Night and the City (1950)

Under-appreciated Film of 1950:

Night and the City (dir. Jules Dassin)

This is the kind of joy that Criterion can bring you.  In my quest to see every film ever put out by Criterion (I’m done except for the most recent releases), I’ve had to put up with a lot of Godard, whom I can’t stand, but I also get other joys I wouldn’t have found elsewhere.  Jules Dassin isn’t on my Great Directors list and Night and the City wasn’t nominated for anything (shamefully), but because of the Criterion release, I finally ended up watching it last year.  And I’m glad I did, because any film that can knock The Asphalt Jungle out of my top 5 of the year doesn’t deserve to have been so overlooked.

Night and the City fits into the classic film noir mode that Jules Dassin had been working in before fleeing to London at the end of the 40’s to avoid being blacklisted.  The look, the feel, the dialogue, the characters, everything about the film is classic noir at its best.  The title even says it all as Paul Arthur so artfully explains in his essay in the Criterion disc: “Juxtaposing two of noir’s essential, virtually ontological qualities, the title of Jules Dassin’s underrated elegy for a self-annihilating hustler reminds us not only that darkness is the visual corollary of almost all consequent action in noir but that nighttime functions throughout the series as a sort of Platonic entity, embracing a host of nonliteral meanings.”  Indeed, it is the night where Richard Widmark’s Harry Fabian comes alive, trying his desperate hustles, hoping to avoid payment on the debts that are coming due.

As I noted in 1947, Richard Widmark was Oscar-nominated for his film debut in Kiss of Death and then never received another nomination, which is a shame because his career was full of dark, brilliant performances.  In fact, watching this film again, I can’t help but think that a good deal of the shyster in Tony Curtis’ pitch perfect performance in Sweet Smell of Success must trace its roots back to Widmark’s desperate hustling in this film.  Certainly they are connected in that both performances were unnoticed by awards groups and both films went home from the Oscars without so much as a nomination.

But the film doesn’t simply begin and end with Widmark.  Filmed in London, of course, we have the trademark British character actors, two woefully under-recognized ones in Herbert Lom and Francis L. Sullivan.  Today’s audiences might mainly think of Lom as the beleaguered Captain Dreyfuss in The Pink Panther films, but he could truly act and as Kristo, there is no getting around his very real sense of menace.  Then there is Francis L. Sullivan.  Sullivan acted in a large number of British films in the 30’s, most hard to find now, but his greatness lies mainly in three films: David Lean’s Dickens duo of Great Expectations (as Mr. Jaggers) and Oliver Twist (as the Beedle) and this, where he plays Philip Nosseross, the man who must deal with Fabian and try to undercut him while not giving away his game even as his wife moves behind his back.  He possess the kind of brilliant bombast that was also the trademark of Alistair Sim, another British great who was never given his proper due at this same time.

In the end, is there any question what will happen?  Even as Widmark will pause in the middle of the chase to pick up the flower that has dropped from his jacket, even he must know the ending.  For this is the very heart of film noir and only one ending ever comes out of it for such a man.

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