Even at the end of Bergman's The Seventh Seal, life can find a way.

My Top 10:

  1. The Seventh Seal
  2. Touch of Evil
  3. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  4. The Defiant Ones
  5. Vertigo
  6. Death of a Cyclist
  7. Pather Panchali
  8. Mon Oncle
  9. The Bravados
  10. Therese Raquin

Academy Awards:

  • Best PictureGigi
  • Best Director:  Vincent Minnelli (Gigi)
  • Best Actor:  David Niven  (Separate Tables)
  • Best Actress:  Susan Hayward  (I Want to Live!)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Burl Ives  (The Big Country)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Wendy Hiller  (Separate Tables)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Gigi
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Defiant Ones
  • Best Foreign Film:  Mon Oncle

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Defiant Ones
  • Best Director:  Vincent Minnelli  (Gigi)
  • Best Actor:  David Niven  (Separate Tables)
  • Best Actress:  Susan Hayward  (I Want to Live!)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Burl Ives  (The Big Country)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Wendy Hiller  (Separate Tables)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Gigi
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Defiant Ones
  • Best Foreign Film:  Mon Oncle

Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958): beloved by critics

Top 5 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Vertigo –  #2
  2. Touch of Evil –  #21
  3. The Seventh Seal –  #52
  4. Pather Panchali –  #59
  5. Mon Oncle –  #333

Top 5 Films  (Consensus 1958 Awards):

  1. The Defiant Ones
  2. Gigi
  3. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  4. Auntie Mame
  5. Separate Tables

Top 5 Films  (Awards Points):

  1. The Defiant Ones –  1070
  2. Gigi –  997
  3. Separate Tables –  595
  4. I Want to Live! –  539
  5. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof –  503

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. South Pacific –  $36.8 mil
  2. Auntie Mame –  $23.3 mil
  3. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof –  $17.5 mil
  4. No Time for Sergeants –  $15.0 mil
  5. Gigi –  $13.2 mil

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Vertigo –  #61  (1998)  /  #9  (2007)

Liz Taylor as Maggie the Cat. She absolutely should have won the Oscar.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Seventh Seal
  • Best Director:  Orson Welles (Touch of Evil)
  • Best Actor:  Orson Welles  (Touch of Evil)
  • Best Actress:  Elizabeth Taylor  (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Burl Ives  (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Bibi Andersson  (The Seventh Seal)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Touch of Evil
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Seventh Seal
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Hidden Fortress

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Touch of Evil
  • Best Line:  “Old man, your future’s all used up.”  (Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil)
  • Best Scene:  The opening un-broken take of Touch of Evil
  • Best Ending:  The Seventh Seal
  • Sexiest Performance:  Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • Read the Book SKIP the Film:  A Tale of Two Cities

Ebert Great Films:

  • Vertigo
  • Touch of Evil
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Mon Oncle

It is the year of the two greatest films to receive zero Oscar nominations.  Instead, the Oscars give a complete sweep to one of the worst winners of all-time.  It is a year of deaths.  But it also the year where Bergman and Ray films come to the States and the roots of the French New Wave.

Film History: Harry Cohn, President of Columbia Pictures since 1924, dies on 27 February.  In response to the huge crowd at the funeral, Red Skelton comments “Give the public what they want to see and they’ll come out for it.”  He was widely reviled, but he took Columbia from a minor player to being the first studio aside from MGM to win two Best Pictures.  In the last nine years Cohn runs the company, they win four more, including for The Bridge on the River Kwai, released before Cohn’s death and winning one month afterwards.  The Oscars are a bit subdued as Mike Todd, winner of Best Picture the previous year, dies in a plane crash just before the Oscars.  His wife, Elizabeth Taylor, is sick and misses being on the flight.  A few weeks after the Oscars, Johnny Stomponato, still angry at not being taken by his girlfriend, nominee Lana Turner, argues with her and Turner’s teenage daughter stabs Stomponato to death.  Later in the year, the newly widowed Liz Taylor begins an affair with Eddie Fisher, causing him to leave Debbie Reynolds and their baby, Carrie.  William Castle comes up with a brilliant marketing scheme for his film, Macabre – taking out a $1000 insurance policy for death by fright.  The Supreme Court upholds the Blacklist.  Ronald Colman dies on 19 May.  Tyrone Power dies of a sudden heart attack on 15 November.  Ivan the Terrible Part II, the final film of Sergei Eisenstein, completed in 1946, premieres in Moscow, ten years after Eisenstein’s death.  Andre Bazin, the mentor to what will soon become the French New Wave, dies on 11 November at the age of 40.

Academy Awards: Gigi becomes the first film to sweep the Oscars since It Happened One Night, winning all 9 of its nominations.  It sets the stage for later sweeps (The Last Emperor, The Return of the King), by not getting any acting nominations.  Gigi also sets the new record with 9 wins, a record that will only last one year.  Gigi becomes the fourth winner in eight years to not get any acting nominations (along with An American in Paris, The Greatest Show on Earth and Around the World in 80 Days), but it will not happen again for another 29 years.  Gigi becomes the first film to win 5 technical Oscars (Editing, Cinematography, Musical Score, Art Direction, Costume Design).  Cinematography and Score are once again split into separate categories, while Art Direction and Costume Design stay as one category each.  Gigi becomes the only Best Picture winner between 1944 and 1976 to get a Best Song nomination and the only one between 1944 and 1997 to win Best Song.

Gigi winning all those awards is the biggest mistake but far from the only one.  MGM lists Burl Ives as a lead actor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, so he ends up winning his Oscar for The Big Country instead of CatTouch of Evil and The Seventh Seal fail to get any nominations.  The Academy opts for the same old performance from Spencer Tracy rather than Orson Welles or Alec Guinness in The Horse’s Mouth (though Guinness is nominated for writing the Screenplay).  Vertigo is forced to make do with Sound and Art Direction nominations.  I Want to Live! somehow ends up with 6 nominations and Susan Hayward takes home the Oscar over Liz Taylor.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Adapted Screenplay for Gigi
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Adapted Screenplay for I Want to Live!
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for Orson Welles  (Touch of Evil)
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  I Want to Live!
  • Best Film with no Oscar nominations:  The Seventh Seal / Touch of Evil (pretty much a tie)
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted but not Nominated:  The Magician
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Editing
  • Best Oscar Category:  Actress  (not that great, but the best of the options)
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  none

Golden Globes: Gigi becomes the big winner.  It is the first film since 1950 to get 6 nominations and the first non-Drama to win Best Director.  It wins 3 in all – Picture, Director and Supporting Actress.  The other two Best Picture awards go to eventual Oscar nominees The Defiant Ones and Auntie Mame.  Of the eventual Oscar nominees, only Auntie Mame isn’t nominated for Picture and Director, as it is passed over for Director for I Want to Live.  David Niven, Susan Hayward and Burl Ives all win the same acting awards they will later win at the Oscars.  Rosalind Russell continues her streak of Golden Globe wins, with Danny Kaye winning Best Actor – Comedy.

Guilds: All 5 Oscar nominated directors are nominated by the Directors Guild, with Gigi winning both.  Gigi and The Defiant Ones both win the Writers Guild awards before winning the same Oscars, while the third WGA award goes to Me and the Colonel, which fails to get any Oscar nominations.  The Defiant Ones becomes the first winner of the Sound Editors Guild to get other guild nominations.

Awards: The two major critics groups fail to agree on anything.  The National Board of Review goes with The Old Man and the Sea (Picture), John Ford for The Last Hurrah (Director), Spencer Tracy in The Old Man and the Sea and The Last Hurrah (Actor), Ingrid Bergman in Inn of the Sixth Happiness (Actress), Albert Salmi in The Brothers Karamazov and The Bravados (Supporting Actor), Kay Walsh in The Horse’s Mouth (Supporting Actress) and Pather Panchali (Foreign Film).   The New York Film Critics go with The Defiant Ones for Picture, Director and Screenplay, David Niven for Actor (Separate Tables), Susan Hayward for Actress (I Want to Live) and Mon Oncle for Foreign Film.

The two major film festival awards go to brilliant Foreign films that won’t arrive in the States until later; Bergman’s The Magician wins the Golden Bear in Berlin and The Cranes are Flying wins the Palme d’Or in Cannes.  The BAFTA awards are heaped upon Room at the Top, which will be an Oscar nominee in 1959 as it wins both Picture awards as well as Foreign Actress, with 3 other nominations, the first film to receive 6 BAFTA nominations.  The Defiant Ones also does well, getting nominated for Best Picture, with Poitier winning Best Foreign Actor.

The Criterion Collection cover for The Horse's Mouth (1958)

Under-appreciated Film of 1958:

The Horse’s Mouth (dir. Ronald Neame)

Ronald Neame isn’t on anybody’s list of the top directors of all-time.  He never received an Oscar nomination (as a director anyway).  But he directed a number of very fine films, including several memorable Alec Guinness performances: The Card, Tunes of Glory and The Horse’s Mouth.

This was an interesting departure for Guinness the year after winning the Oscar for his uptight colonel in The Bridge on the River Kwai.  He plays Gulley Jimson, an extremely eccentric painter and his performance is truly wonderful, better than any of the actual Oscar nominees except for Paul Newman.  But his performance is only part of the delight of the film.  Another part is that Guinness himself wrote the script.  And while the Academy might not have nominated his performance, they did think enough to nominate his script (just like 37 years later, where they would not give Emma Thompson the Oscar for her performance in Sense and Sensibility like she deserved, but did give her script the Oscar it deserved).  Guinness was the kind of multi-talented artist who could do things like this, the kind of things that the British are known for (Neame himself was a writer, cinematographer and producer before he was a director, twice getting Oscar nominations for scripts while working with David Lean).

But then there is also Kay Walsh.  Kay Walsh was a beautiful, talented actress, as can be seen in several of David Lean’s earlier films, when she and Lean were still married.  Yet, she never received any Oscar nominations, not for her flirty daughter in This Happy Breed, not for her tortured Nancy in Oliver Twist, not for her brilliant performance in Neame’s Tunes of Glory and not for her great performance as Coker in The Horse’s Mouth, Jimson’s friend.  Guinness and Walsh had acted together before for Lean and would again for Neame, and they have wonderful chemistry on-screen.

It’s true this film was nominated for an Oscar and is available in a Criterion DVD, but it often gets ignored when people talk about Guinness and his finest performances.  And Neame deserves another look as well.  Aside from the films with Guinness he also made The Chalk Garden and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  He might not have been a great director, but he was great with actors, getting some of their finest performances out of them.

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