My Top 10:

Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyo in the film that made Mifune and Akira Kurosawa international stars: Rashomon (1950, US release 1952)

  1. Rashomon
  2. Singin in the Rain
  3. The Bad and the Beautiful
  4. High Noon
  5. The Lavender Hill Mob
  6. Miss Julie
  7. The Quiet Man
  8. Casque d’Or
  9. Los Olvidados
  10. The Sound Barrier

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Best Director:  John Ford  (The Quiet Man)
  • Best Actor:  Gary Cooper  (High Noon)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley Booth  (Come Back Little Sheba)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Anthony Quinn  (Viva Zapata)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Gloria Grahame  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  • Best Screenplay:  The Bad and the Beautiful (based on the short stories “Memorial to a Bad Man” and “Of Good and Evil” by George Bradshaw)
  • Best Story and Screenplay:  The Lavender Hill Mob
  • Best Motion Picture Story:  The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Best Foreign Film:  Forbidden Games

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  High Noon
  • Best Director:  John Ford  (The Quiet Man)
  • Best Actor:  Ralph Richardson  (The Sound Barrier)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley Booth  (Come Back Little Sheba)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Anthony Quinn  (Viva Zapata)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Gloria Grahame  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  High Noon (based on the magazine story “The Tin Star” by John W. Cunningham)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Lavender Hill Mob
  • Best Foreign Film:  Forbidden Games

Top 5 Films  (Top 1000):

  • Singin in the Rain –  #11
  • Rashomon –  #19
  • Los Olvidados –  #109
  • The Quiet Man –  #160
  • High Noon –  #271

Top 5 Awards Points:

  1. High Noon –  844
  2. The Sound Barrier –  650
  3. The Quiet Man –  625
  4. Come Back Little Sheba –  468
  5. The Bad and the Beautiful –  429

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Singin in the Rain –  #10  (1998)  /  #5  (2007)
  • High Noon –  #33  (1998)  /  #27  (2007)

Nighthawk Awards:

Winner at Cannes and the Nighthawk Award, un-noticed by the awards groups: Anita Bjork in Miss Julie

  • Best Picture:  Rashomon
  • Best Director:  Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon)
  • Best Actor:  Gary Cooper  (High Noon)
  • Best Actress:  Anita Bjork  (Miss Julie)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Toshiro Mifune  (Rashomon)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Gloria Grahame  (The Bad and the Beautiful)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Rashomon
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Singin in the Rain
  • Best Foreign Film:  Ikiru

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Singin in the Rain
  • Best Scene:  Gene Kelly singin in the rain in Singin in the Rain
  • Best Line:  “If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel our work ain’t been in vain for nothin.”  (Singin in the Rain – Jean Hagen)
  • Best Ending:  The Lavender Hill Mob
  • Read the Short Story SKIP The Film:  The Snows of Kilimanjaro
  • Best Cameo:  Audrey Hepburn in The Lavender Hill Mob

Ebert Great Films:

  • Singin in the Rain
  • Rashomon

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. The Greatest Show on Earth –  $36.0 mil
  2. The Snows of Kilimanjaro –  $13.0 mil
  3. High Noon –  $8.0 mil
  4. The Quiet Man –  $7.6 mil
  5. Singin in the Rain –  $3.6 mil

It is the year that makes Oscar fans shake their heads.  With The Greatest Show on Earth winning Best Picture over High Noon and The Quiet Man it is one of the years most widely reviled for the Academy’s poor choice.  While most people recognize Singin in the Rain as one of the great film classics now, it not only wasn’t nominated by the Academy but actually lost the Golden Globe to With a Song in My Heart.  Sadly this seems to be all about the box office.  Show was not only the biggest hit of the year, it was the second biggest live action film of all-time (behind Gone with the Wind) and made over four times as much money as any other nominee.

Film History: To combat the threat of television, studios fight back with gimmicks, Cinerama debuting on 1 July and 3-D debuting with Bwana Devil on 28 November.  Warner Bros. and 20 Century-Fox announce they will stop making B movies.  Elia Kazan testifies in front of HUAC, naming himself and Clifford Odets.  Odets testifies, confirming his membership in the Communist Party and re-asserts that John Garfield was never a member of the Communist Party.  John Garfield dies of a heart attack the night after Odets’ testimony.  The Supreme Court delivers a unanimous verdict in favor of the distributor of The Miracle, one part of Roberto Rossellini’s Amore (which won Best Foreign Film from the New York Film Critics in 1950), asserting that films have the right to constitutional guarantees protecting freedom of expression.  Charlie Chaplin visits England for the first time in 21 years.  Immigration services in the United States refuse to allow him re-entry and his film Limelight will not play Los Angeles and become Oscar eligible until 1972.

Academy Awards: The Greatest Show on Earth wins Best Picture with only 5 nominations, the fewest between 1934 and 1977.  The Quiet Man wins Best Director, the record-setting fourth for John Ford and the first film to do so without winning either Best Picture or Screenplay since Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath in 1940.  Greatest Show wins only 2 Oscars, the fewest for a Best Picture winner since 1940.  No film has won fewer since.  It also becomes the first film since Grand Hotel to not finish in the top 5 Awards Points for the year.  44 different films are nominated for feature film Oscars, the most since the elimination of unlimited nominees in the technical categories and will remain the most until 1996.  The Bad and the Beautiful wins Best Screenplay, the only film to do so without a Best Picture nomination.  It also sets a record with 5 Oscars without a Best Picture nomination, winning everything it is nominated for except Best Actress.

To be fair, I don’t think The Greatest Show on Earth is the worst film to ever win Best Picture.  I rank The Broadway Melody, Cimarron, Braveheart and Gigi below it.  But it is one of the six films (Out of Africa is the other one) to win Best Picture that I rate less than *** and it is an embarrassment, widely criticized as one of the worst choices the Academy has ever made and the third lowest ranked Best Picture on the IMDb (just ahead of Cimarron and Cavalcade).  But the Academy had already screwed things up by even nominating it and Ivanhoe, which is not only just an average film, but which had no support outside of the Academy.  Where were the best films of the year?  Where was Rashomon, which was widely hailed around the world, yet only nominated for Art Direction (it would be another 17 years before Z would join Grand Illusion as the second Foreign Film ever nominated for Best Picture).  Where was The Bad and the Beautiful, winner of 5 Oscars including Best Screenplay?  Where was Singin in the Rain, nominated by the Globes and BAFTA and now widely considered the best American film of the year and one of the greatest films of all-time?  Or The Lavender Hill Mob, another Oscar winner for Screenplay?  The acting was screwed up as well, missing multiple award winner Ralph Richardson (The Sound Barrier), the only Best Actor in the first 40 years of the New York Film Critics to not get nominated for an Oscar, the wonderful Gene Kelly (Singin) and one of the best performances of Laurence Olivier’s career (Carrie).  Many of the best performances of the year were in Foreign films, such as Anita Bjork in Miss Julie, Simone Signoret in Casque d’Or and Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyo in Rashomon.  But they also missed out on Golden Globe winner Katy Jurado (High Noon) in the Best Supporting Actress race and by far the best performance of Lana Turner’s career in The Bad and the Beautiful.  They only compounded their sins by missing the wonderful technical skill throughout Rashomon, Singin in the Rain and Moulin Rouge.  And even when they pick a classic Best Song (“Do Not Forsake Me” from High Noon), it is at the expense of better classic eligible songs like “Make Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes” from Singin.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Picture for The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Picture for The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for Akira Kurosawa for Rashomon
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Million Dollar Mermaid
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Cinematography – Black and White
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Sound, Best Costume Design – Color

Golden Globes: High Noon scores the best going in with 6 nominations, but doesn’t get nominated for Best Director and then ends up losing Best Picture to The Greatest Show on Earth, although it does win Best Actor – Drama, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score and Best Cinematography – Black and White.  Show has a sweep, winning Best Picture – Drama, Best Director and Best Cinematography – Color.  The other nominees for Picture – Drama are Happy Time, Come Back Little Sheba and The Thief, none of which earn Academy nominations.  The nominees for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical also are unrewarded by the Academy (Singin in the Rain, Hans Christian Anderson, I’ll See You in My Dreams and Stars and Stripes Forever) as does the winner, With a Song in My Heart.  Shirley Booth wins Best Actress – Drama as part of her complete awards sweep.  The Best Actor – Comedy again goes un-nominated by the Academy (Donald O’Connor for Singin in the Rain), although Susan Hayward, winner of Best Actress – Comedy for With a Song in My Heart does get nominated.  Neither Best Supporting Actress Katy Jurado (High Noon) nor Best Supporting Actor Millard Mitchell (My Six Convicts) manage to get Oscar nominated either.

Guilds: John Ford wins Best Director from the Directors Guild for The Quiet Man.  The other nominees are quarterly winners Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob), Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Five Fingers) and Fred Zinnemann (High Noon).  The Writers Guild reduces their categories to three: Drama, Comedy, Musical, which will stay unchanged into the mid-sixties.  The winners of Drama (High Noon) and Comedy (The Quiet Man) both lose at the Oscars while the winner of Musical (Singin in the Rain) fails to even get nominated.  Of the three Oscar winners, only The Bad and the Beautiful is nominated by the WGA.

Awards: For the first time, both critics groups (The National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics) agree on the lead acting awards, giving Best Actor to Ralph Richardson for The Sound Barrier and Best Actress to Shirley Booth for Come Back Little Sheba.  Booth ends up winning all of the awards while Richardson, who also wins the BAFTA becomes the only actor to win the Consensus Best Actor without getting an Oscar nomination and remains, until 1977, the only winner of the NYFC Best Actor to not receive an Oscar nomination.  The groups split on the other awards, with the NBR giving Best Picture to The Quiet Man and Best Director and Best Foreign Film to The Sound Barrier while the NYFC give Best Picture and Director to High Noon and Best Foreign Film to Forbidden Games.

The BAFTAs finally expand beyond their two Best Picture awards, which is good since both go to The Sound Barrier, which also wins Best British Actor for Ralph Richardson.  Their new Best Foreign Actor goes to Marlon Brando for Viva Zapata and their two Best Actress awards go to Vivien Leigh for A Streetcar Named Desire (due to British release delays) and Simone Signoret in Casque d’Or.  This makes The Sound Barrier the first film with more than 2 nominations and more than 1 win (5 nominations total, 3 wins) while Mandy becomes the first big BAFTA loser, going 0 for 4 in Picture, British Picture, British Actor and British Actress.  The other Best Picture nominees include an Oscar nominee (Streetcar), Oscar oversights (The African Queen, Singin in the Rain) and distinguished Foreign films (Rashomon, Miracle in Milan, Casque d’Or, Los Olividados), putting BAFTA out in front of Oscar for making sure that great films get attention.

Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly singing "Good Morning" in Singin in the Rain (1952)

#1 American Film of 1952:

Singin in the Rain (dir. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly)

In High Fidelity Rob is asked what his dream job is and he wishes he could write for Spin Magazine between 1977 and 1982.  I would prefer to be a film writer in the 1950’s, the era in which Hollywood found ways around the Code, struggled through the Blacklist and made the very best films about films being made: Sunset Boulevard and Singin in the Rain (not to mention The Bad and the Beautiful).  While Sunset Boulevard is a cynical, dark look at the industry in general and writing, specifically, Singin is a joy, a pure embrace of the life behind great films.  Like Sunset it is defined by a single iconic moment and like Sunset, its iconic moment is a brilliant one which manages to encapsulate in one scene the entire mood and theme of the film.

Because this film is all about how much fun the movies are.  That they exist, not only as an art form, perhaps the dominant art form of the twentieth century, but also as entertainment.  Look at the scene.  Is there any single major movie scene that so obviously takes place on a movie set?  There isn’t a street like that anywhere, this charming little street that Gene Kelly traipses down as he sings in the rain.  But he is so perfect, the song is so right, his dance steps are so magical, it is one of the best pure scenes in the history of film and there’s not a single second where we believe that any rain storm on any street has ever been like this and it doesn’t matter.  Because we are swept away in the moment.

And that’s not at all.  It is simply the supreme moment in a film filmed with them.  There are Donald O’Connor amazing antics during “Make Em Laugh” concluding with his amazing leap through the wall.  There is the sheer joy of a song like “Good Morning.”  There are the wonderful tongue twisting antics at play in “Moses Supposes.”  As a Musical, it is one of the best, not just for the songs, but for the wonderful ways in which the songs come to life.

But great Musicals don’t simply end with the songs.  In this film, there is also the story.  I don’t mean the love story, although for a Musical, this one is considerably less cheesy than most.  I mean the story of the transition out of the Silent Era and into sound and how Musicals came to be on film in the first place.  Gene Kelly might not have been around in Hollywood in the 1920’s, but there is just about no one better, with both the voice and the moves to bring this kind of film to life, to see how an entire genre came into being.

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