My Top 10:

The iconic scene of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the surf in From Here to Eternity (1953)

  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. The Big Heat
  3. Stalag 17
  4. Pickup on South Street
  5. Roman Holiday
  6. The Moon is Blue
  7. The Actress
  8. The Naked Spur
  9. Captain’s Paradise
  10. Peter Pan

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  From Here to Eternity
  • Best Director:  Fred Zinnemann  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Actor:  William Holden  (Stalag 17)
  • Best Actress:  Audrey Hepburn  (Roman Holiday)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Frank Sinatra  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Donna Reed  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Screenplay:  From Here to Eternity (from the novel by James Jones)
  • Best Story and Screenplay:  Titanic
  • Best Motion Picture Story:  Roman Holiday

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  From Here to Eternity
  • Best Director:  Fred Zinnemann  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Actor:  Burt Lancaster  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Actress:  Audrey Hepburn  (Roman Holiday)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Frank Sinatra  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Grace Kelly  (Mogambo)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  From Here to Eternity (from the novel by James Jones)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Roman Holiday

Top 5 Films  (Top 1000):

#157 film of all-time and the #1 film of 1953 according to TSPDT: The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse

  1. The Band Wagon –  #157
  2. Shane –  #249
  3. The Big Heat –  #379
  4. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes –  #564
  5. Roman Holiday –  #639

Top 5 Films  (Consensus Awards from 1953):

  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. Julius Caesar
  3. The Robe
  4. Roman Holiday
  5. Shane
  • A note here on the above list – unlike the awards points below, this list is done only using Best Picture awards and nominations (in this case, from the Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTA, NBR, NYFC).  In later years it will expand to include the Broadcast Film Critics, the Producers Guild, the LA Film Critics, the National Society of Film Critics, the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Chicago Film Critics.  The awards points uses my point scale to measure points for awards for all categories from the same groups.

Top 5 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. From Here to Eternity –  1294
  2. Roman Holiday –  824
  3. Lili –  512
  4. Julius Caesar –  501
  5. Shane –  479

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Peter Pan –  $40.7 mil
  2. The Robe –  $36.0 mil
  3. From Here to Eternity –  $30.5 mil
  4. House of Wax –  $23.8 mil
  5. Shane –  $20.0 mil

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Shane –  #69  (1998)  /  #45  (2007)
  • From Here to Eternity –  #52  (1998)

Nighthawk Awards:

A performance and beauty easy to fall in love with: Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday (1953)

  • Best Picture:  From Here to Eternity
  • Best Director:  Fred Zinnemann (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Actor:  William Holden  (Stalag 17)
  • Best Actress:  Audrey Hepburn  (Roman Holiday)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Frank Sinatra  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Donna Reed  (From Here to Eternity)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  From Here to Eternity (from the novel by James Jones)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Roman Holiday
  • Best Foreign Film:  Mr. Hulot’s Holiday

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Big Heat
  • Best Scene:  Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr on the beach in From Here to Eternity
  • Best Line:  “Those are desperate characters.  Not one of them looked at my legs.”  (Beat the Devil – Jennifer Jones)
  • Best Ending:  The Captain’s Paradise
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

Ebert Great Films:

  • Shane
  • Beat the Devil
  • The Big Heat
  • The Band Wagon

For a long time I considered this one of the weakest years in film history.  I still feel that way, but having seen, over the last couple of years, The Big Heat, The Moon is Blue, The Actress and Captain’s Paradise, at least I can find ten films that are **** or ***.5.  For years, I struggled to reach five.  Not only that, but of the hundreds of Foreign films I have seen only one, the mediocre Little World of Don Camillo, was Oscar eligible in 1953.  Even the Awards groups agreed as the two Best Foreign Film winners were The Queen is Crowned, a British documentary, and Justice is Done, a film seen by almost no one.  The Academy couldn’t even be bothered to choose a film.  There were a number of very good Foreign films made in 1953 (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, Sawdust and Tinsel, The Earrings of Madame De . . ., Ugetsu and The Wages of Fear to name five) but none of them played in the States until later.

Film History: Cinemascope, advertised as “The Modern Miracle You See Without Glasses” is introduced with The Robe.  Otto Preminger uses the word “virgin” in The Moon is Blue.  He is denied the MPAA Production Code Seal of Approval and releases the film anyway, with the eventual tally of 3 Oscar nominations and 1 Golden Globe win.  The Academy Awards ceremony is televised for the first time.  Playboy releases its first issue with Marilyn Monroe on the cover and a nude picture of her inside.  The Writers Guild becomes the first group to officially bow to pressure from HUAC, allowing the names of writers suspected of communist ties to be removed from film credits.

Academy Awards: From Here to Eternity ties Gone with the Wind for second place with 13 nominations for first place with 8 wins and sets a new record (which still stands today) with 675 points.  It also becomes the first of only two films to win Best Picture and both Supporting Acting Oscars (West Side Story is the other).  It also wins both Best Editing and Best Cinematography, something only film has done previously (Gone with the Wind), but which will be done by an astounding 7 of the next 9 Best Picture winners (it is something that has only happened 15 times, but 8 of those are in this ten year stretch).  It is the second (and so far, last) film to win Best Picture while receiving nominations for all 4 Acting awards.  For the first time, all the Best Picture nominees have some sort of other awards attention, all of them getting BAFTA nominations except The Robe which wins the Golden Globe.  William Wyler receives his record ninth Oscar nomination.  He will eventually end up with 12, though no one else has more than 8.

As should seem obvious from the Nighthawk Awards, I am okay with the 1953 Oscar winners.  It is the only year in Oscar history that I agree with all 8 of the biggest categories (2008 loses out on a technicality because I would have given Kate Winslet the Oscar but for a different film).  But the nominees, well that’s something else.  We’ll just dispense with the fact that I hate Shane, think it is one of the most over-rated films of all-time and don’t think it deserved a single one of its 6 nominations (not even Jack Palance who I would have replaced with Lee Marvin from The Big Heat).  And that brings up the bigger problem: the complete lack of nominations for The Big Heat.  I would have nominated it for Best Picture, Director, Actor (Glen Ford), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame), Screenplay, Editing, Cinematography, Score, Sound and Makeup (I would have given it the Oscar for Best Sound).  Yet it sits there with 0 nominations and Pickup on South Street gets 1 lone nomination when it also deserved nods for Picture and Director.  Instead they went with The Robe and Julius Caesar, solid films, but not anything better than *** films.  And of course, in total Oscar fashion, they gave the Oscar to a terrible song while not even nominating an all-time classic that was eligible: “That’s Entertainment” from The Band Wagon.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Song for “Secret Love” from Calamity Jane
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Supporting Actor for Brandon de Wilde from Shane
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for Fritz Lang for The Big Heat
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Beneath the 12 Mile Reef
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Cinematography – Color
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Motion Picture Story, Best Editing, Best Cinematography – Black and White, Best Special Effects, Best Costume Design – Color

Golden Globes: There don’t seem to be any nominee information, so we all have is the winners.  The Robe wins Best Picture (listed as Drama, but nothing exists about a Comedy), From Here to Eternity wins Best Director and Lili wins Best Screenplay, splitting the major awards.  Audrey Hepburn and Frank Sinatra both win, presaging their Oscar wins, but not only does Grace Kelly not win Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for Mogambo, the two winners of Best Actor (Spencer Tracy in The Actress for Drama and David Niven in The Moon is Blue for Comedy) join Best Actress – Comedy winner Ethel Merman (for Call Me Madam) as Oscar snubs.

Guilds: Frank Zinnemann wins Best Director from the Directors Guild, continuing the streak of DGA / Oscar matchups.  The other nominees are George Stevens (Shane), Billy Wilder (Stalag 17), William Wyler (Roman Holiday) and Charles Walters (Lili), all of whom are quarterly winners and all of whom become the eventual Oscar nominees, the first year of a perfect 5/5 synchronicity.  The Writers Guild give their awards to Oscar winner From Here to Eternity (Drama), Oscar winner Roman Holiday (Comedy) and Oscar nominee Lili (Musical).  We also have the first award ever given for Sound Effects Editing as the Motion Picture Sound Editors give their initial award to War of the Worlds.

Awards: The Wages of Fear wins the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival but doesn’t get a U.S. release until 1955.  From Here to Eternity romps at the New York Film Critics, winning Best Picture, Director and Actor (Burt Lancaster) while Audrey Hepburn wins Best Actress.  The National Board of Review doesn’t match up as well with the Oscars, giving Best Picture to Julius Caesar and Best Director to George Stevens for Shane.  But at least those both get Oscar nominations.  Their Best Actor is James Mason for four different films (Face to Face, The Desert Rats, The Man Between, Julius Caesar) and their Best Actress is Jean Simmons for three films (Young Bess, The Robe, The Actress) and neither manage to get Oscar nominated, though all five Best Picture nominees get mentioned in the NBR’s Top 10.

The BAFTAs end up split, with Forbidden Games winning Best Picture and Genevieve winning Best British Picture (a year before they are both Oscar nominated for Screenplay).  The two biggest nominees aren’t so lucky, with The Heart of the Matter losing all 4 of its nominations (both Pictures, British Actor, British Actress), while Roman Holiday only wins British Actress of its 4 nominations (Picture and 2 nominations for Foreign Actor).  Both Best Actor awards go to Julius Caesar (Foreign for a second straight year to Marlon Brando, British to John Geilgud) while Leslie Caron wins Best Foreign Actress for Lili.

They had 7 nominations between them but Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark never won Oscars. They were brilliant together in Pickup on South Street (1953)

Under-appreciated Film of 1953:

Pickup on South Street (dir. Samuel Fuller)

They were very different.  He was very intense, capable of playing a crazed murderer or a vicious racist or of translating that intensity into being an Army Major, a fight promoter or a pickpocket.  She was known for playing maids, for slyly supporting the major stars of Hollywood.  They were two of the best actors of the fifties.  Neither ever won an Oscar, though, strangely enough, it was she who got the majority of the nominations (6), while he had to make do with the single one for his screen debut.  They were Richard Widmark and Thelma Ritter and they starred together in Pickup on South Street, for which she was nominated and he was not.

This is a film that has so many extra dimensions beyond the genre for which it was made.  It is a simple cop and thief film, but giving it the extra edge of the Communism angle takes the idea of the McGuffin and takes it to a new level.  Because Widmark quite frankly doesn’t care about the McGuffin.  He doesn’t care about what he might have, what implications it might have, how it might effect everyone.  He simply cares about himself.

So what about the ending, you might ask?  Surely the way things play out, he must have learned to care about more than simply himself.  Is he really that interested in Jean Peters, an actress whom director Samuel Fuller flat out admitted wasn’t much for line readings, but oozed the kind of sex appeal that he was looking for in the role?  Can love really be what motivates him through to the end?  Or is it regret?

That’s where we come back to Thelma Ritter.  She was a masterful actress and she fully deserved her Oscar nominations.  She embodied her characters in much the same way that Claude Rains did (another great of that era who never won among his numerous Oscar nominations).  She could just as easily play the stool pigeon as she could play the devoted, long-suffering maid.  And her scene, late in the film, when those feet go up on her bed, is one of her best on film.  We know what’s coming.  The owner of those shoes knows what’s coming.  Even she knows what’s coming.  There’s nothing that anyone can do about it.  But she does what she can.  And perhaps Widmark’s character knows that.  And that’s what propelling him forward at the end.  Because those kind of extra dimensions are what lurk beneath the surface in Samuel Fuller films.