"But Mr. President, he'll see everything! He'll see the Big Board!"

My Top 20:

  1. Dr. Strangelove
  2. Mary Poppins
  3. A Hard Day’s Night
  4. Harakiri
  5. My Fair Lady
  6. Night of the Iguana
  7. The Americanization of Emily
  8. Goldfinger
  9. The Best Man
  10. From Russia with Love
  11. The Chalk Garden
  12. The Pumpkin Eater
  13. The Crime of Monsieur Lange
  14. A Shot in the Dark
  15. Seven Days in May
  16. Fail-Safe
  17. The Guns at Batasi
  18. That Man from Rio
  19. The Pink Panther
  20. Diary of a Chambermaid

Julie Andrews wins Best Actress at the Oscars and exacts revenge on Jack Warner for not putting her in My Fair Lady

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  My Fair Lady
  • Best Director:  George Cukor  (My Fair Lady)
  • Best Actor:  Rex Harrison  (My Fair Lady)
  • Best Actress:  Julie Andrews  (Mary Poppins)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Peter Ustinov  (Topkapi)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Lila Kedrova  (Zorba the Greek)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Becket
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Father Goose
  • Best Foreign Film:  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  My Fair Lady
  • Best Director:  George Cukor  (My Fair Lady)
  • Best Actor:  Rex Harrison  (My Fair Lady)
  • Best Actress:  Kim Stanley  (Seance on a Wet Afternoon)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Peter Ustinov  (Topkapi)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Lila Kedrova  (Zorba the Greek)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Becket
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Father Goose

One of the funniest scenes in movie history - Slim Pickens riding the bomb down in Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Top 10 Films  (Top 1000):

  1. Dr. Strangelove –  #39
  2. The Crime of Monsieur Lange –  #238
  3. Black God, White Devil –  #323
  4. Marnie –  #337
  5. The Servant –  #359
  6. An Autumn Afternoon –  #396
  7. A Hard Day’s Night –  #397
  8. The Silence –  #459
  9. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne –  #502
  10. Band of Outsiders –  #582

Top 5 Films  (Consensus 1964 Best Picture Awards):

  1. My Fair Lady
  2. Becket
  3. Dr. Strangelove
  4. Zorba the Greek
  5. Mary Poppins

Top 10 Films  (1964 Awards Points):

  1. My Fair Lady –  1270 points
  2. Becket –  1107 points
  3. Mary Poppins –  757 points
  4. Dr. Strangelove –  723 points
  5. Zorba the Greek –  644 points
  6. The Pumpkin Eater –  441 points
  7. Night of the Iguana –  397 points
  8. The Servant –  375 points
  9. Seance on a Wet Afternoon –  331 points
  10. The Unsinkable Molly Brown –  288 points

The five Best Picture nominees are the top 5 films in Awards Points for the first time since 1957.  In what is perhaps not a coincidence, it is also the first year since 1957 with the Picture / Director match-up at the Oscars is 5/5.

Top 5 Films  (Box Office Gross):

  1. Mary Poppins –  $88.27 mil
  2. My Fair Lady –  $72.00 mil
  3. Goldfinger –  $51.08 mil
  4. The Carpetbaggers –  $28.40  mil
  5. From Russia with Love –  $24.80 mil

A little note on Box Office Gross here.  Most old lists used “rentals” which was the share that went back to the distributor.  Yet, current numbers are all about the gross.  It has become difficult to get numbers on anything made before 1980.  For many of the figures, I use the numbers from BoxOfficeMojo, including looking to see if the film has multiple releases (for example, Mary Poppins, which earned about $103 million total, but some $14 million of that was in its 1980 re-release – for Year in Film, I try to use numbers from the original release of films, but on the Best Picture stats, I use their total).  The problem with BoxOfficeMojo is that unless you want to pay for their info (which I don’t), they have limited information on pre-1980 films, unless, adjusted for inflation, they are on their all-time list.  Even then, their numbers can be vague.  Even though My Fair Lady and Goldfinger were both released in 1964 and My Fair Lady outgrossed it considerably, it has Goldfinger higher on the adjusted list.  Yet, it lists no later numbers for My Fair Lady (though it was re-released in 1994, which is when I first saw it).  I also use information from another site, The Numbers, which seems to have accurate information.  So, I use various sites to determine the top 5 for the year (which usually use the rentals number), but try to get gross number from The Numbers.  It’s not an exact science, but it’s the best I am able to do.

But, since I am writing about box office, I will also state this.  Last year, it was the big deal that either the “highest-grossing film of all-time” or “the lowest-grossing winner” would be champion at the Oscars.  This duality is complete and utter bullshit.  Many older films made way less than The Hurt Locker.  In fact, The Hurt Locker grossed more than any film, Oscar nominee or not, made before 1937.  When adjusted for inflation, yes, The Hurt Locker is almost certainly the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of all-time and it is the flat-out lowest-grossing winner since 1958.  But, when adjusted for inflation, Avatar is 14th and is behind four Best Picture winners (Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, Titanic, Ben-Hur).  So there is no flat duality.  Either The Hurt Locker isn’t the lowest (based on pure gross) or Avatar isn’t the highest (based on adjustment).  End of story.

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Dr. Strangelove –  #26  (1998)  /  #39  (2007)
  • My Fair Lady –  #91  (1998)

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

The masterful Tatsuya Nakadai in Masaka Kobayashi's Harakiri

Drama:

  • Best Picture:  Harakiri
  • Best Director:  Masaki Kobayashi  (Harakiri)
  • Best Actor:  Tatsuya Nakadai  (Harakiri)
  • Best Actress:  Anne Bancroft  (The Pumpkin Eater)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Lee Tracy  (The Best Man)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Grayson Hall  (The Night of the Iguana)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Best Man
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Harakiri

Comedy  /  Musical:

  • Best Picture:  Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Director:  Stanley Kubrick  (Dr. Strangelove)
  • Best Actor:  George C. Scott  (Dr. Strangelove)
  • Best Actress:  Julie Andrews  (Mary Poppins)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Sterling Hayden  (Dr. Strangelove)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Gladys Cooper  (My Fair Lady)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Original Screenplay:  A Hard Day’s Night

In most years, the Drama awards and nominees are much stronger, but in this reversal, the Comedy / Musical awards and nominees are invariably better, with the exception of Actress and Supporting Actress (which is normally a Comedy / Musical strong suit).  It joins only 1934 and 1938 for having four of my top 5 fall into the Comedy category and is the only year where none of the top 3 films qualify as a Drama.

Never nominated for an Oscar, but Sterling Hayden wins a Nighthawk Award for his brilliant performance as General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove (1964)

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Director:  Stanley Kubrick Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Actor:  George C. Scott  (Dr. Strangelove)
  • Best Actress:  Anne Bancroft  (The Pumpkin Eater)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Sterling Hayden  (Dr. Strangelove)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Grayson Hall  (The Night of the Iguana)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Original Screenplay:  A Hard Day’s Night
  • Best Editing:  Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Cinematography:  Harakiri
  • Best Original Score:  The Pink Panther
  • Best Sound:  Harakiri
  • Best Art Direction:  Mary Poppins
  • Best Visual Effects:  Mary Poppins
  • Best Sound Editing:  Goldfinger
  • Best Costume Design:  Mary Poppins
  • Best Makeup:  Mary Poppins
  • Best Original Song:  “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”  (Mary Poppins)
  • Best Foreign Film:  Hamlet

You read that correctly.  I went with Mary Poppins over all the songs in A Hard Day’s Night (though “A Hard Day’s Night” comes in second and “Can’t Buy Me Love” comes in third).  The Beatles will do better in 1965 where they will earn all five Best Original Song nominees for songs from Help.

James Garner and the very lovely Julie Andrews in the very funny The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Scene:  Slim Pickens on the bomb in Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Ending:  Dr. Strangelove
  • Best Line:  “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here!  This is the war room!”  (Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove)
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Can’t Buy Me Love”  (A Hard Day’s Night)
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily
  • Best Sequel:  Goldfinger (three made my top 20 – Goldfinger, From Russia with Love and A Shot in the Dark – all of which are better than the originals)
  • Worst Sequel:  King Kong Escapes
  • Film I Watched a Million Times as a Kid:  King Kong vs. Godzilla
  • Worst Film:  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Ebert Great Films:

  • A Hard Day’s Night
  • Goldfinger
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • My Fair Lady
  • The Silence

The mid-60’s are a bit of the doldrums.  The best of the Foreign films had already made it.  Hollywood wasn’t exactly wowing us.  Bergman and Kurosawa were being less prolific and Truffaut was in a rut.  While the best films of 64, 65 and 66 are much better than 63, there aren’t as many good films.  None of them have very many **** films and none of them have enough ***.5 films to fill out the top 20 for the year.  It would take that seminal year of 1967 to revive the film industry.

Film History: Universal Studios opens its studio tour.  The Paramount Theater in New York City closes.  The Pink Panther series begin with the first two films: The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark.  Television star Clint Eastwood becomes an international star in Italian director Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars.  Leone is later sued by Akira Kurosawa for re-making Yojimbo without permission (as A Fistful of Dollars).  Sidney Poitier becomes the first African-American to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards.  After two years of fascist attacks and another one of being denounced, Pier Paolo Pasolini pleases authorities with his The Gospel According to St. Matthew.  The Beatles release their first film: A Hard Day’s Night.  Paramount sells the rights of some 200 films made prior to 1948 to NBC for $60 million.  Peter Lorre dies on 23 March.

Academy Awards: My Fair Lady follows the recent playbook of lots of nominations (12), lots of wins (8), but no win for Adapted Screenplay.  The Academy adds Best Makeup for the first time, but will only give it once more (1968) before making it a regular award in 1981.  Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte becomes the fifth film nominated for 7 Oscars without a Best Picture nomination.  For only the second time since Best Picture was reduced to five nominees in 1944 all five Best Picture nominees are nominated for Director.  In a truly rare feat, they are also all nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and all five Best Actor nominees come from the Picture nominees (Mary Poppins doesn’t have one but Becket has two).  It is the first time all five nominees are nominated for Director and Screenplay and will not happen again until 2005.  Because of the 5/5 matchup, for the first time since 1959 no Foreign film is nominated for Best Director and for the only time between 1958 and 1971, no film is nominated for Director and Screenplay but not Picture.  The five nominees combine for a record-setting 48 nominations and win 17 Oscars (the wins would stand until 1997 while the nominations are still the record for years with five nominees).  My Fair Lady and Becket go head to head in ten different categories (Lady wins seven, Becket wins one, neither win the other two).  My Fair Lady, Becket and Mary Poppins go head to head in eight different categories (Lady wins six, Becket one and Poppins the other one).

How odd was all this head to head competition?  In the first 20 years of having five Best Picture nominees, only once had all five films competed against each other in a category other than Picture – in 1957 when they were all nominated for Director.  In 1953 and 1958 all five had been nominated for Cinematography and all five for Art Direction in 1962, but there were splits between Color and Black-and-White, so they weren’t all directly competing against each other for the same Oscar.  And in the years since, outside of the three times there have been a 5/5 Picture / Director match (1981, 2005, 2008), only twice have all five Best Picture nominees competed against each other in the same category – 1966 when they were all nominated for Best Actor and 2002 when they were all nominated for Best Editing, though in 1977 all five Best Actress nominees were from Best Picture nominees, but like Actor in 1964, one film had no nominee and one film had two nominees.

The Academy didn’t do so bad.  My Fair Lady is a great film and none of its awards are bad choices.  They acquitted themselves also by giving Dr. Strangelove its four nominations.  It is a puzzling shame that not only did they not nominate any of the magnificent songs from A Hard Day’s Night, but that none of them even made the semi-finals (see Best Song for the list).  Inside Oscar definitely lists them as eligible, but they are not the greatest source in the world.  Until I am to track down some sort of definitive eligibility list, I will continue to believe that they were in fact eligible and that the Academy just looked like a bunch of old fools.  It is also good that they recognized the Sound Effects in Goldfinger.  It is something that they have never done again with any other James Bond film (Thunderball, which won Best Special Effects the following year is the only other James Bond film to win an Oscar).  There are also some excellent films that hopefully will be kept from slipping into obscurity because of their Oscar nominations like The Best Man, The Americanization of Emily and The Chalk Garden.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen for Father Goose
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium for Zorba the Greek
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Song for “A Hard Day’s Night” from A Hard Day’s Night
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  Kisses for My President
  • Best Film with No Nominations:  Harakiri
  • Best English Language Film with No Nominations:  From Russia With Love
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Best Song
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Costume Design  (Color)
  • Oscar  /  Nighthawk Award Agreements:  Best Special Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects

Golden Globes: Four of the eventual Oscar nominees score Best Picture nominations, with My Fair Lady and Becket winning their respective categories, but, oddly, Dr. Strangelove fails to earn a single nomination.  My Fair Lady also wins Director and Actor.  On the other hand, The Night of the Iguana sets a Golden Globe record for futility by going 0 for 6 and Zorba the Greek follows closely behind by going 0 for 5.  The Globes also finally dropp their extra nominees and settle on five nominees in each category.  For the first and only time in history all three Comedy / Musical winners (Picture, Actor, Actress) would all go on to win Oscars.  It is even the only year between 1959 and 1970 when all four major Oscar winners (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress) won the Golden Globe.

Awards: The National Board of Review go their own way.  They go with eventual Oscar losers for Picture (Becket), Actor (Anthony Quinn for Zorba the Greek), Actress (Kim Stanley for Seance on a Wet Afternoon) and Supporting Actress (Edith Evans for The Chalk Garden) as well as non-Oscar nominees for Director (Desmond Davis for The Girl with Green Eyes) and Supporting Actor (Martin Balsam for The Carpetbaggers).  The New York Film Critics only agree with them on Actress, though Stanley becomes the first Actress to ever win both critics groups and fail to earn a Golden Globe nomination and the first since 1948 to win both and not win the Oscar.  The other critics win go to eventual Oscar winners My Fair Lady and Rex Harrison, though they give Best Director to Stanley Kubrick.

The Directors Guild go with 4 of the eventual Oscar nominees (including John Huston for Night of the Iguana rather than Michael Cacoyannis — interesting side note here — 29 times a director has been nominated for the DGA and the Golden Globe, but not the Oscar – in 19 of those cases the film was nominated without the director, not surprising since the DGA is often a better indicator of Best Picture at the Oscars than Best Director — of the remaining 10 times, twice it happened to John Huston – in 1962 for Freud and again in 64 — the only other director who had that happen twice was Rob Reiner (for Stand by Me and When Harry Met Sally) — although among the 19 cases when the film was nominated for Picture it happened to Reiner again (A Few Good Men), happened to James L. Brooks twice (Broadcast News and As Good as It Gets) and Spielberg twice (Jaws and The Color Purple) — and happened again to Spielberg without a Picture nomination (Amistad) — end of side note).  Because the Writers Guild divides by genre, all three winners manage to compete with each other at the Oscars in the Adapted Screenplay category – Becket (Drama), Dr. Strangelove (Comedy) and Mary Poppins (Musical).  Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady and Becket manage to compete against each other again at the Editors Guild, with Mary Poppins winning.  The Sound Editors Guild Awards go to The Unsinkable Molly Brown and The Lively Set.

The BAFTAs open up by adding technical categories, though for British films only.  With the added categories of Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design (split for Color and Black-and-White), we have a new record set for nominations with Becket and The Pumpkin Eater both earning 7 each.  But both films come up short in both Picture and British Picture, with Dr. Strangelove winning both.  Becket does win all three technical categories while The Pumpkin Eater wins British Actress, Screenplay and the Black-and-White Cinematography and Costume Design awards.  With the new categories, they also limit the main categories.  Instead of the 12 Best Picture nominees of the year before, they only have 4 in each category (The Train is the fourth Picture while King and Country is the fourth British Picture nominee).

Best Actress: Julie Andrews ends up winning the Oscar, but how much of that was Hollywood saying, “we’re sorry you got passed over for My Fair Lady?”  Hell, Bob Hope even mentioned at the Oscars that “Julie Andrews is up for Mary Poppins, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jack Warner.”  Kim Stanley had won both critics groups.  Every actress who had done that since the late 40’s, including Patricia Neal the year before, had gone on to win the Oscar.  Stanley failed to earn a Golden Globe nomination, but that wasn’t an Oscar killer.  After all, Sophia Loren had won the Oscar in 1961 without a Globe nom and no Globe winning actress had won the Oscar since 1958 (incredible as it might seem now, in the entire decade of the 1960’s not a single winner of Best Actress – Drama at the Globes managed to win the Oscar).  The winners at the Globes would be Anne Bancroft for The Pumpkin Eater and Julie Andrews.  Though Bancroft would eventually win the BAFTA, that would be months after the Oscars.  The Oscar nominees were Stanley, Bancroft, Andrews, Debbie Reynolds for The Unsinkable Molly Brown (who also earned a Globe and BAFTA nomination) and Sophia Loren for Marriage – Italian Style (who also earned a Globe nomination).  The Oscars had gone for the Comedies at the Globes over the Dramas 3 to 2, something that had never happened before and would only happen twice more (1979 and 2005).  With Bancroft having just won an Oscar and Andrews giving people a reason to vote for her (plus, the film was an amazingly huge hit, so everyone had seen it), things didn’t work out for Stanley.

Personally, Stanley ends up at eighth place on my own list.  I give my award to Bancroft with Andrews coming in second.  They are followed by Ingrid Thulin for The Silence, two Deborah Kerr performances (The Chalk Garden and Night of the Iguana – Kerr was BAFTA nominated for the former), followed by Andrews again for The Americanization of Emily and Ava Gardner for Night of the Iguana (for which she was Globe nominated) before I get to Stanley.  The other Globe nominees for Drama I thought were terrible – Jean Seberg for Lilith, Geraldine Page for Toys in the Attic and Rita Hayworth for Circus World – I can’t understand how they went with those over either of Kerr’s performances or Stanley.  I rank Reynolds just below Audrey Hepburn and just above Shirley MacLaine in What a Way to Go, but all three are behind Gunnel Linblom in The Silence and Maria Casares in Ladies of the Park.  As for Loren, well, I never did think she was really that good of an actress.

Cliff Robertson and Lee Tracy in the under-appreciated The Best Man (1964)

Under-appreciated Film of 1964:

The Best Man (dir. Franklin J. Schaffner)

The Best Man is not a completely ignored film.  It was nominated by the Writers Guild, Lee Tracy received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal of the aging president and Ann Sothern was Golden Globe nominated for her National Committee chairwoman.  On the other hand, it was greatly under-appreciated in 1964 and it is greatly under-appreciated today.

We can start with 1964 and the awards.  True, the Writers Guild nominated it for its witty and perceptive script about the way people rise to political power and can earn the nomination for president from a major party, but it lost to Becket, a longer, much more dull script and the Oscars failed to nominate it at all in spite of being much more interesting and intelligent then either eventual winner Becket or nominee Zorba the Greek.  The Golden Globes failed to notice Henry Fonda as the more decent candidate (very much in the Adlai Stevenson mode) who isn’t ruthless enough to win the presidency but deserves it even though he was better than all of the nominees except Richard Burton.  The Globes did notice Lee Tracy and Ann Sothern, but they didn’t notice Margaret Leighton for her wonderful performance as Fonda’s wife (she and Sothern were both better than Agnes Moorehead who won the Globe or Lila Kedrova who won the Oscar that neither of them were nominated for).  Lee Tracy gave the second best supporting performance of a rather weak year, but surprisingly lost to Edmond O’Brien at the Globes and Peter Ustinov at the Oscars when neither of them were as good as Tracy or my winner, Sterling Hayden.  The film itself, the second best eligible drama of the year, was passed over for weaker films at the Globes like Dear Heart and Zorba the Greek.

Now we can look at the film itself.  Thinking about it, I am reminded of a quote I read recently: “I think that Adlai Stevenson would have made a great President, but I do not think he could have made it against Nixon.  Yet I find myself feeling much cooler about Kennedy at the end of the convention than at the beginning.  I believe him to be a liberal, but committed by a sense of history rather than consecrated by inner conviction.  I also believe him to be a devious and if necessary, ruthless man.”  In a sense, that quote could easily have applied to this film, with Henry Fonda being Stevenson and Cliff Robertson being Kennedy (ironically, he actually played Kennedy the year before in PT-109), except that the quote was written in the journal of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. on July 15, 1960 (and would not be published until 2007) and Gore Vidal’s play debuted on Broadway some months earlier on March 31.  Yet, it fits well with the film.  Fonda is the older, more decent man, but less skillful politician.  He realizes earlier what Lee Tracy’s decision must be in choosing between himself and Robertson.  Robertson is young and good-looking, but not as good at understanding people.  He is the future that Fonda is afraid of.

All of this takes place during the party’s convention as the two men (among three others) vie for their party’s presidential nomination (and an almost certain win in the general election).  As I have said, it is smart, witty and extremely perceptive and a nice measure of a way of politics that has changed drastically.  Today, if it is available on DVD (IMDb says yes, but Netflix doesn’t have it), it is still difficult to find and I had a hard time tracking it down to watch it originally.  If you get a chance, it’s a great film to watch.  Certainly much better than spending your time on Becket or Zorba the Greek.

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