My Top 10:

The title scene of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

  1. A Streetcar Named Desire
  2. Strangers on a Train
  3. The African Queen
  4. Detective Story
  5. Oliver Twist
  6. A Place in the Sun
  7. Ace in the Hole
  8. La Ronde
  9. The Thing from Another World
  10. Death of a Salesman

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  An American in Paris
  • Best Director:  George Stevens  (A Place in the Sun)
  • Best Actor:  Humphrey Bogart  (The African Queen)
  • Best Actress:  Vivien Leigh  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Karl Malden  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kim Hunter  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Screenplay:  A Place in the Sun
  • Best Story and Screenplay:  An American in Paris
  • Best Motion Picture Story:  Seven Days to Noon
  • Best Foreign Film:  Rashomon

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Best Director:  George Stevens  (A Place in the Sun)
  • Best Actor:  Arthur Kennedy  (Bright Victory)
  • Best Actress:  Vivien Leigh  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Peter Ustinov  (Quo Vadis)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kim Hunter  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  A Place in the Sun
  • Best Original Screenplay:  An American in Paris

Top 5 Films  (Top 1000)

  • Orpheus –  #208
  • The River –  #219
  • Miracle in Milan –  #251
  • Strangers on a Train –  #253
  • The African Queen –  #303

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. A Streetcar Named Desire –  1017
  2. A Place in the Sun –  883
  3. An American in Paris –  727
  4. Death of a Salesman –  430
  5. Bright Victory –  329

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • The African Queen –  #17  (1998)  /  #65  (2007)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire –  #45  (1998)  /  #47  (2007)
  • An American in Paris –  #68  (1998)
  • A Place in the Sun –  #92  (1998)

Nighthawk Awards:

The single best cast ever put on film: Karl Malden, Kim Hunter, Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

  • Best Picture:  A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Best Director:  Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Actor:  Marlon Brando  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Actress:  Vivien Leigh  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Karl Malden  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Kim Hunter  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Ace in the Hole
  • Best Foreign Film:  Rashomon

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Thing from Another World
  • Best Scene:  Marlon Brando’s iconic scream for his wife in A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Best Line:  “Some people are better off dead – like your wife and my father, for instance.”  (Strangers on a Train – Robert Walker)
  • Best Ending:  Ace in the Hole

Ebert Great Films:

  • Orpheus
  • Strangers on a Train
  • The River
  • Ace in the Hole

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Quo Vadis –  $30.0 mil
  2. David and Bathsheba –  $14.0 mil
  3. Show Boat –  $11.0 mil
  4. The African Queen –  $10.7 mil
  5. Strangers on a Train –  $7.0 mil

It was a year of shining literary adaptations.  My top 6 films of the year were all adapted.  Having read 5 of those original sources, I would say the films outshine the original material, with the exception of Streetcar.  They take well-written original sources and give them new life through solid direction, amazing acting and phenomenal scripts.  Although, no year fared worse when AFI did their second Top 100 list, with two films being dropped altogether and The African Queen dropping 48 spots.

Film History: HUAC continues to investigate Hollywood, calling to the stand, among others, Budd Schulberg, Jose Ferrer, John Garfield and Sterling Hayden while Maurice Chevalier is prohibited from entering the U.S. because of suspected support of communist groups.  Edward Dmytryk becomes the first of the Hollywood Ten to speak before HUAC.  The unstable cellulose nitrate that will later lead to the disintegration of so many early films is discontinued in film stock.  Louis B. Mayer resigns as the head of MGM.  Cahiers du Cinema is founded in France by Andre Bazin and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze.  The Cannes Film Festival moves to the spring, giving out the Grand Prix to Miracle in Milan and Miss JulieRashomon wins top prize at the Venice Film Festival.  After three years and censorship cuts, David Lean’s Oliver Twist is finally released in the United States.  The Production Code is tightened to eliminate any reference to venereal disease, abortion or drugs.  The newsreel The March of Time suspends production on 20 July after 16 years.  Robert Walker dies on 28 August at the age of 33.

Academy Awards: A Streetcar Named Desire becomes the first film to win both Supporting Acting Oscars and the first film to win three acting Oscars.  On the flip side, An American in Paris becomes the first film in 19 years to win Best Picture without any acting nominations (and only the second color film to win).  For the third time in four years a film wins Best Director and Screenplay without winning Best Picture, something which will not happen again for another 49 years.  For the first time since the category began in 1934, Max Steiner is not nominated for either Best Score category.  A Place in the Sun sets a new record for a film that doesn’t win Best Picture by winning 6 Oscars, a record that will stand until 1972.  Decision Before Dawn becomes the last film for 43 years to get nominated for Best Picture and only receive 2 nominations overall.  The African Queen, on the other hand, is nominated for 4 of the big 5 – Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay, but not Picture.  It is only the second time this has ever happened and has only happened three times since.

What were they thinking?  They gave A Place in the Sun 6 Oscars, including Best Director.  They gave Streetcar 4 Oscars, three of them for acting.  And they gave Best Picture to An American in Paris?  It’s so completely absurd.  They nominate the forgotten Decision Before Dawn (which is actually a pretty good film and doesn’t deserve to be so forgotten) and the overblown Roman epic, Quo Vadis, when they could have been nominating The African Queen or Detective Story?  The directors, writers and actors knew better because they all went for Queen and Detective.  And that’s not even bringing up such other great films as Strangers on a Train, Oliver Twist, Ace in the Hole or La Ronde.  The acting is mostly frustrating, as there are still three performances I haven’t seen yet (Gig Young in Come Fill the Cup and the two nominations for The Blue Veil).  Young’s performance is one of only three Supporting Actor nominations I haven’t seen and Joan Blondell’s is the only Supporting Actress nomination I haven’t seen.  They did an excellent job with Best Actress, picking four damn good performances and while they missed out on Robert Newton and Kay Walsh in Oliver Twist and Jan Sterling in Ace in the Hole, the Supporting choices were also good.  While the Montgomery Clift and Frederic March nominations are good ones, I would have liked it better if they had gone for Alec Guinness in Oliver Twist or one of Kirk Douglas’ amazing performances (either Detective Story or Ace in the Hole).  On the technical end, the biggest problem is with Best Editing when they mostly went with lackluster films when they could have remembered the brilliant editing in Streetcar, La Ronde, Strangers on a Train or Detective Story.  And while “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” might still be remembered, I think the Academy could have gone with a sense of humor and remembered a song that everyone remembers from Alice in Wonderland: “Very Merry Un-Birthday.”

We also, for the first time, have a clear film that is out of place among the Best Picture nominees: Decision Before Dawn.  The other 4 nominees all receive Golden Globe nominations.  Detective Story receives a Golden Globe nomination, a BAFTA nomination and a Best Director nomination from the Oscars and somehow doesn’t make it through to the Best Picture lineup.  Even putting aside The African Queen, which has strong Academy support but no pre-cursors (presumably due to its very late release), the passing over of Detective Story for Decision Before Dawn is the first time where we can look at the pre-cursors and wonder what the Academy was thinking.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Picture for An American in Paris
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Story and Screenplay for David and Bathsheba
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for Alfred Hitchcock for Strangers on a Train
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  David and Bathsheba
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Editing
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actress
  • Best Oscar:  Best Foreign Film for Rashomon
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction – Color, Best Foreign Film

Golden Globes: A Place in the Sun wins Best Picture – Drama at the Globes, but Death of a Salesman takes home 4 awards: Best Director, Best Actor – Drama, Most Promising Newcomer – Male and Best Cinematography – Black and White.  An American in Paris wins Best Picture – Comedy or Musical.  The Best Picture – Drama nominees include Oscar nominees Quo Vadis and A Streetcar Named Desire as well as non-nominees Bright Victory and Detective Story while no list of nominees for the Comedy / Musical category exists.  Frederic March (winner for Death), Jane Wyman (winner of Best Actress – Drama for The Blue Veil) and Peter Ustinov (winner of Best Supporting Actor for Quo Vadis) all earn Oscar nominations but fail to win, unlike Best Supporting Actress, Kim Hunter (for Streetcar).  Neither of the Comedy / Musical acting winners (Danny Kaye for On the Riviera or June Allyson for Too Young to Kiss) manage to get Oscar nominations.  Bright Victory wins Best Screenplay, repeating its WGA win, but fails to get an Oscar nomination.

Guilds: The Directors Guild continues with its quarterly winners (though only three are announced) and those become the eventual nominees.  George Stevens wins Best Director for A Place in the Sun over Alfred Hitchcock for Strangers on a Train and Vicente Minneli for An American in Paris.  The Writers Guild also continues with their 5 separate categories, though they replace Best Western with Best Low-Budget Film.  Eventual Oscar winners A Place in the Sun (Drama) and An American in Paris (Musical) both win, along with Father’s Little Dividend (Comedy), Bright Victory (Screenplay Dealing Most Ably with Problems of the American Scene) and The Steel Helmet (Low-Budget).

Awards: The National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics get the ball rolling by splitting on every single award.  The NBR picks A Place in the Sun for its Best Picture and even chooses all 5 eventual Best Picture nominees in its top 10 for only the second time.  For its acting awards it goes with Richard Basehart (Fourteen Hours) and Jan Sterling (Ace in the Hole), neither of whom end up with Oscar nominations.  They do choose eventual Oscar Best Foreign Film Rashomon as not only Best Foreign Film, but also giving Akira Kurosawa Best Director.  Its Best Screenplay award goes to The Lavender Hill Mob, which does not become Oscar eligible until 1952.  The NYFC do better in relation to the Oscars, giving Best Picture, Director and Actress to A Streetcar Named Desire and Best Actor to Arthur Kennedy for Bright Victory, though only Vivien Leigh repeats her triumph at the Oscars.  They go Italian once again and choose Miracle at Milan as their Best Foreign Film.  The BAFTAs continue with their two awards, although this time all 7 nominees for Best British Picture are also up for Best Picture.  La Ronde takes home Best Picture while The Lavender Hill Mob wins Best British Picture.  An American in Paris is the only Oscar nominee to get a nomination, although Streetcar will get a nomination in 1952.

A glimpse of the Thing in The Thing from Another World (1951)

Under-appreciated Film of 1951:

The Thing from Another World (dir. Christian Nyby)

Unlike many of the under-appreciated films, The Thing from Another World isn’t completely forgotten.  It ended up number 581 in the Top 1000, was added by AFI to their 400 film list for Top 100 consideration in 2007 (whereas most older years have films being removed) and was chosen for the Library of Congress in 2001.  It is even readily available on DVD.  What it also is, is a great science fiction film, well-made, interesting and MUCH MUCH BETTER than John Carpenter’s 1981 remake.

I don’t get this, I will never get this, so don’t bother trying to explain it to me.  It’s like people who prefer the De Palma version of Scarface.  I’ll make the Ringu comparison.  Ringu is a genuinely terrifying film, full of mood and style with a creepy atmosphere that grows as the film progresses.  Then there is the remake, The Ring, which chooses to try to startle you, with quick cuts, jarring noises and an annoying score.  The first film is genuinely scary.  The remake tries to scare you.

The Thing from Another World moves along slowly and you don’t know what the hell is out there, what it is doing.  We only know that it is deadly and the crew is trapped out at the North Pole with this danger moving in.  There is a genuine feeling of suspense, of surprise, of danger.  With the Carpenter remake, you get gore, you get shock, but you lack that sense of atmosphere.  What’s more, Carpenter knew enough not to do this.  His Halloween might have begun the craze of slasher films, but it had style and mood to it and was genuinely frightening as opposed to all the inferior remakes and imitations.

In a sense, this film is blessed in the same way that Jaws was.  The shark in Jaws stubbornly refused to work, so for most of the film you didn’t see the shark and instead got this sense of an unseen deadly menace and it only added to the film, especially once you do see the shark.  It works the same way here.  The makeup wasn’t particularly good, so they didn’t actually show the Thing very much.  It was in shadows, or sudden shots (the opening of the door to find it standing right there, taking a swing is a perfect scene).  So by moving the lighting away, by allowing us to only sense the menace rather see any gore, we get a film that almost borders on film noir rather than either an 80’s gorefest (like Carpenter’s film) or a 50’s schlocky sci-fi film.  We get the making of an under-appreciated classic.

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