The perfect Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon in The Apartment (1960)

My Top 20:

  1. The Apartment
  2. Ikiru
  3. The Virgin Spring
  4. The Cranes are Flying
  5. Spartacus
  6. Psycho
  7. The World of Apu
  8. Tunes of Glory
  9. The Hidden Fortress
  10. Shoot the Piano Player
  11. Elmer Gantry
  12. The Angry Silence
  13. Our Man in Havana
  14. Sons and Lovers
  15. The Magnificent Seven
  16. Lola Montes
  17. Home from the Hill
  18. Northwest Frontier
  19. Hiroshima Mon Amour
  20. Black Orpheus

So why the expanded list above and others down below?  Well, a couple of reasons.  First of all, with 1960, we have kind of moved into the modern era.  I’ve seen more films and there is more to choose from and so I’ve expanded what I’m including.  Second, even though only the top 11 in 1960 are ****, the next 9 are all very good, high quality ***.5 films and deserve a mention.  Also, I want to give a better mention to English language films.  Six of the top 10 are Foreign films and weren’t originally released in 1960.

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Apartment
  • Best Director:  Billy Wilder  (The Apartment)
  • Best Actor:  Burt Lancaster  (Elmer Gantry)
  • Best Actress:  Elizabeth Taylor  (Butterfield 8)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Peter Ustinov  (Spartacus)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Shirley Jones  (Elmer Gantry)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Elmer Gantry
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Apartment
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Virgin Spring

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Apartment
  • Best Director:  Jack Cardiff  (Sons and Lovers)
  • Best Actor:  Burt Lancaster  (Elmer Gantry)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (The Apartment)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Peter Ustinov  (Spartacus)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Shirley Jones  (Elmer Gantry)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Elmer Gantry
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Apartment

the haunting image of the Bates house in Psycho

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000)

  1. Psycho –  #32
  2. The Apartment –  #55
  3. Ikiru –  #81
  4. Hiroshima, Mon Amour –  #96
  5. The World of Apu –  #165
  6. Shoot the Piano Player –  #245
  7. Lola Montes –  #276
  8. Spartacus –  #326
  9. The Tiger of Eschnapur –  #536
  10. The Hidden Fortress –  #650

Top 5 Films  (Consensus 1960 Best Picture Awards)

  1. The Apartment
  2. Sons and Lovers
  3. Elmer Gantry
  4. The Sundowners
  5. Spartacus /  Inherit the Wind

Top 10 Films  (1960 Awards Points)

  1. The Apartment –  1396
  2. Sons and Lovers –  916
  3. Elmer Gantry –  779
  4. The Sundowners –  574
  5. Spartacus –  504
  6. Inherit the Wind –  313
  7. The Angry Silence –  290
  8. The Trials of Oscar Wilde –  277
  9. The Facts of Life –  257
  10. Tunes of Glory –  250

So how much did the Academy do John Wayne a favor by nominating The Alamo?  Well, even with the 7 nominations, including Best Picture, it lost money.  And it was so reviled by everyone else that in spite of those 7 nominations, including Best Picture, it couldn’t make the top 10 in Awards points, something that wouldn’t happen again to a Best Picture nominee until 1971.

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross)

  1. Swiss Family Robinson –  $40.56 mil
  2. Psycho –  $32.00 mil
  3. Spartacus –  $30.00 mil
  4. Exodus –  $21.75 mil
  5. The Alamo –  $7.91 mil

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Psycho –  #18  (1998)  /  #14  (2007)
  • The Apartment –  #93  (1998)  /  #80  (2007)
  • Spartacus –  #81  (2007)

the amazing Tatyana Samjlova in The Cranes are Flying

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Drama:
  • Best Picture:  Ikiru
  • Best Director:  Ingmar Bergman  (The Virgin Spring)
  • Best Actor:  Takashi Shimura  (Ikiru)
  • Best Actress:  Tatyana Samjlova  (The Cranes are Flying)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Laurence Olivier  (Spartacus)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Shirley Jones  (Elmer Gantry)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Cranes are Flying
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Ikiru
  • Comedy:
  • Best Picture:  The Apartment
  • Best Director:  Billy Wilder  (The Apartment)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Lemmon  (The Apartment)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (The Apartment)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Jack Kruschen  (The Apartment)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Maureen O’Hara  (Our Man in Havana)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Our Man in Havana
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Apartment

Oscar and Nighthawk winner Shirley Jones with Oscar winner Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  The Apartment
  • Best Director:  Billy Wilder (The Apartment)
  • Best Actor:  Jack Lemmon  (The Apartment)
  • Best Actress:  Shirley MacLaine  (The Apartment)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Laurence Olivier  (Spartacus)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Shirley Jones  (Elmer Gantry)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Cranes are Flying
  • Best Original Screenplay:  The Apartment
  • Best Editing:  The Apartment
  • Best Cinematography:  Spartacus
  • Best Score:  Exodus
  • Best Sound:  Spartacus
  • Best Art Direction:  Spartacus
  • Best Visual Effects:  The Time Machine
  • Best Sound Editing:  Spartacus
  • Best Costume Design:  Spartacus
  • Best Makeup:  Spartacus
  • Best Original Song:  “The Green Leaves of Summer”  (The Alamo)
  • Best Foreign Film:  The Virgin Spring

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Magnificent Seven
  • Best Line:  “He rammed the fear of God into me so fast I never heard my old man’s footsteps.”  (Shirley Jones  –  Elmer Gantry)
  • Best Ending:  The Apartment
  • Best Scene:  the shower scene in Psycho
  • Sexiest Performance:  Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry
  • Worst Film:  Atom Age Vampire

Ebert Great Films:

  • Ikiru
  • Psycho
  • The Apu Trilogy
  • The Apartment
  • Inherit the Wind

The Foreign films were now ruling the roost.  Great directors were landing everywhere with Bergman and Kurosawa the leaders and Truffaut and Ray also in the race.  Billy Wilder, who had been nominated for Best Director five times in the 50’s, finally won a second directing Oscar.

Jane Fonda in a publicity still from her film debut: Tall Story (1960)

Film History: Dalton Trumbo is hired by Kirk Douglas to write Spartacus and then by Otto Preminger to write Exodus with full screen credit, officially ending the blacklisting of the Hollywood 10.  The Hollywood Walk of Fame is begun.  Foreign films by Kurosawa, Bergman, Truffaut and Ray make it to the States while major releases from Fellini (La Dolce Vita) and Antonioni (L’Avventura) get their initial releases in Europe.  Bergman’s The Virgin Spring wins the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the first by Sweden and the first of three for Bergman.  The Screen Writers Guild calls a strike in January over television rights for films, beginning a long series of unfriendly negotiations concerning ancilliary rights which have not been solved to the present day.  Jane Fonda makes her film debut in Tall Story.  Cedric Gibbons, winner of 11 Oscars for Art Direction and Art Director on over 2000 films, dies on 26 July.  Clark Gable finishes filming The Misfits and dies two weeks later.  Filming begins on two future fiascos: Cleopatra and Mutiny on the Bounty.  Swedish film pioneer, director and actor, Victor Sjostrom, dies on 3 January.

Academy Awards: Billy Wilder becomes the first person to win three Oscars in one evening.  Sweden puts forth Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, which wins Best Foreign Film (which will happen every time the Academy nominates a Bergman film for Best Foreign Film – three times in all).  With a nomination for Best Costume Design, The Virgin Spring becomes the first Foreign Film nominee to get nominated for a technical award.  Elizabeth Taylor has an emergency tracheotomy just before the ceremony, prompting Shirley MacLaine to cancel plans to attend, knowing that Taylor will now win with a sympathy vote (she does).  Alfred Hitchcock is nominated for the fifth and final time; he ties Billy Wilder with a record three Best Director nominations without Best Picture nominations, a record later broken by Fellini and Woody Allen.  With 5 nominations, Never on Sunday sets a record for nominations by a Foreign Film.  12 different films win Oscars, a number that, while tied several times, won’t be beaten again until 2006.  The Apartment becomes the only Best Picture winner between 1953 and 1965 to get nominated for Best Actress, but is also the only Best Picture winner from 1955 to 1965 to not get nominated for Best Score.  It also is the only Best Picture winner in the 1960’s to come from an original Screenplay.

The Academy buckles under to all of John Wayne’s ads for The Alamo, nominating the mediocre film for a ridiculous 7 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Editing.  But they get the major awards right, giving The Apartment Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Editing and Spartacus reaping 4 Oscars (though the non-nominated Laurence Olivier should have been its Supporting Actor winner).  Most of the great Foreign films that arrive are ignored and the one that does reap major nominations (Never on Sunday) is one of the weakest of the bunch.  It manages to take the Best Director nomination that should have gone to Stanley Kubrick.  The British films at least get some attention, with Screenplay nominations for both The Angry Silence and Tunes of Glory.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Costume Design (Black-and-White) for The Facts of Life
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Editing for The Alamo
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Original Screenplay for Ikiru
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Butterfield 8
  • Best Film with no Oscar Nominations:  Ikiru
  • Best English Language Film with no Oscar Nominations:  Our Man in Havana
  • Best Foreign Film Submitted But Not Nominated:  Late Autumn
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Sound
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Cinematography (Color), Best Art Direction (Color), Best Costume Design (Color), Best Special Effects, Best Foreign Film

Golden Globes: Spartacus, Sons and Lovers and Elmer Gantry lead the Golden Globes with 5 nominations apiece, but each only managed to take home only one award (Picture, Director and Actor, respectively).  The Apartment had 4 nominations, but won three of them (Picture, Actor, Actress).  The Best Picture – Musical award went to Song Without End.  Of the various winners, the only ones which repeated their wins at the Oscars were  The Apartment for Picture, Burt Lancaster for Actor and The Virgin Spring for Foreign Film.  Future Oscar nominee The Alamo took home a Golden Globe for its only nomination – Best Score.

Awards: Both the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics gave Best Picture and Director to Sons and Lovers, though the NYFC made it share both awards with The Apartment, which also took home Best Screenplay.  At the Guilds, The Apartment won both Best Director and Screenplay (as it would at the Oscars) and Oscar nominees Sons and Lovers and The Sundowners earned nominations from both groups.  Elmer Gantry failed to get nominated for Director but won the Writers Guild for Drama, mirroring its failure to get a Director nomination but winning Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.  The third WGA winner was The Bells are Ringing, which also got a Best Director nomination from the DGA for Vincente Minnelli, but it was ignored at the Oscars in favor of Never on Sunday.  Alfred Hitchcock earned the fifth DGA nomination (which he would also earn at the Oscars).  The Sound Editors Guild award would go to WGA nominee Spartacus.

At the BAFTA’s, four British films would tie for the lead with 5 nominations: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Angry Silence and Tunes of Glory.  But it would be The Apartment which would win Best Picture, Actor and Actress (all three of its nominations).  Saturday Night would take home British Picture and British Actress, Trials would win British Actor, Angry Silence would win Screenplay and Tunes of Glory would, like the 21 other films to earn nominations, go home without any wins.  This time the biggest films had taken home all the awards.

Alec Guinness in Our Man in Havana (1960) - another over-looked film made from a Graham Greene novel

Over-looked Film of 1960:

Our Man in Havana (dir. Carol Reed)

This seems like a great idea for a Criterion Box Set: The Black-and-White Films of Graham Greene.  It would include two films already released on DVD by Criterion (The Fallen Idol and The Third Man) as well as three great rarely seen films, two of which I have already written about in previous years: Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter and Our Man in Havana.  Even better, by restricting it to black-and-white, it would eliminate the two vastly inferior adaptations of Graham Greene novels made in the 50’s: The End of the Affair and The Quiet American, both of which would end up with vastly better remakes and both of which were made in color.

I have already written at length on the brilliance of Graham Greene’s novels.  Early on he separated his works between “entertainments” and “novels.”  Our Man in Havana was the last of his books to be classified as an entertainment, but like his early Brighton Rock, it is a great book and deserves more to be pigeon-holed like that (Greene would seem to have agreed because in later printings, the distinction between the two types of books was no longer maintained).  Our Man in Havana is the kind of novel that is fiendishly difficult to pull off: a comedic thriller.  It is very distinctly funny and it has a great deal of suspense.  The film-makers seemed to know how to proceed with this: with perfect droll British humor.  And what better person to pull it off than Alec Guinness.

Guinness and Greene were friends in real life and many short Greene biographies contain a tribute from Guinness after Greene’s 1991 death: “He was a great writer who spoke brilliantly to a whole generation.  He was almost prophet-like with a surprising humility.”  They were similar ages and both converted to Catholicism as adults and Guinness would star in another Greene adaptation later in the decade, The Comedians.

Guinness describes making the film in his 1985 autobiography, Blessings in Disguise: “It was only two of three weeks after Castro’s forces had taken Havana and the city was full of excitement and chaos.  Rich American businessmen were withdrawing rapidly and there were no tourists.”  Guinness himself didn’t think the film was very good and thought he and Carol Reed deserved the poor press they got with the release of the film, but in fact, the film is wonderful.

This film seems to be the satire that no one knew was needed.  It is the predecessor of all the James Bond films (though not the books), but it satirizes those films in a way that the Flint and Austin Powers films could never hope to do.  It shows the utter ridiculousness of the whole business of spying.  Guinness plays a vacuum cleaner salesman who gets recruited by Noel Coward to spy in Havana for the British government and the resulting fiasco would sink everybody, except it manages to fool everybody so completely that they all come out unscathed.  It shows a Havana in the final days of Batista ripe with corruption (that the film was ridiculing his predecessor was why Castro allowed the filming) and the utter hopelessness with which foreign governments try to operate on the level of subterfuge.  It contains a magnificent performance by Guinness, hearkening back to his old days as the best actor to ever set foot in any of the Ealing comedies.  It also has a magnificent supporting cast, from Noel Coward to Ralph Richardson, from Burl Ives to Maureen O’Hara.

Yet, somehow, it was overlooked come awards time.  It managed a Best Picture – Comedy from the Golden Globes, but nothing for Guinness.  It earned a “nomination” from the DGA, but there were 14 such nominees that were later reduced to 5 finalists.  Yet, nothing else.  Nothing from the Academy.  Nothing from the BAFTA’s.  Nothing to acknowledge the film or its acting or its writing.  And then it just slipped away for a long time, only recently being made available on Netflix.  When I first saw it, I had to stay up late one night to catch it on TCM.  I hope someone does something about this, even if it isn’t Criterion.  These films need to be rescued from oblivion.

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