Cecil B. De Mille becomes the face of the post because he's so recognizable. Here he is being directed by a much better director on the set of Sunset Blvd..

Here’s the next group.  So why is it that everything is suddenly off by one?  Well, since I did the first group, the Oscars announced their nominations.  While four of the nominated directors had been nominated before, there was one new one: Michel Hazanavicius.  I’m not certain where he will eventually end up, but given the hilariousness of the first OSS film, it’s not gonna be anywhere near this group, so everyone gets bumped down one rank from where they were going to be.

We also have some people who are shifting, even as I have been working on this list.  Jack Cardiff’s films have been hard to find, but TCM played a bunch on one night in January and I went from having seen 61% of his films to 84% and have a better grasp on him.  It didn’t change him much, but it was enough to move up a few spots.  Also, I re-watched The Full Monty, and bumped it up to a **** film and that moved Peter Cattaneo out of this post altogether.  It’s a reminder that this all a work in progress and people constantly move as I see new films.  That’s why I waited until I was past the 80% mark of all the films from all the directors before I began the project, and after I had exhausted Netflix and ILL.

Another reminder, like last time.  The Sarris quotes come from The American Cinema, which was published in 1968, so it has no directors after that.  The Thomson quotes come from the 2002 edition of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.  The points system is explained here.

  • #201:  Hugh Hudson
  • #200:  Lionel Barrymore
  • #199:  John G. Avildsen
  • #198:  Jean Negulesco
  • #197:  Edouard Molinaro
  • #196:  Wesley Ruggles
  • #195:  Victor Schertzinger
  • #194:  Franco Zeffirili
  • #193:  Norman Taurog
  • #192:  Jack Cardiff
  • #191:  Alexander Hall
  • #190:  Michael Cimino
  • #189:  Mark Rydell
  • #188:  Sidney Franklin
  • #187:  Charles Walters
  • #186:  Walter Lang
  • #185:  Lina Wertmuller
  • #184:  Barbet Schroeder
  • #183:  Taylor Hackford
  • #182:  Michael Cacoyannis
  • #181:  John Farrow
  • #180:  Robert Z. Leonard
  • #179:  Cecil B. De Mille
  • #178:  Henry Koster
  • #177:  Hiroshi Teshigahara
  • #176:  Herbert Brenon

Hugh Hudson

  • Born:  1936
  • Rank:  #201
  • Score:  256.60
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Chariots of Fire  (1981)
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  6
  • Best Film:  Chariots of Fire
  • Worst Film:  Revolution
  • Films:
    • ***Chariots of Fire, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes, My Life So Far
    • **Lost Angels, I Dreamed of Africa
    • *.5Revolution

Career:  Hugh Hudson is a perfect example of the problem of judging a career on one film.  If he had only made Chariots of Fire, his point total would be 381 and he would be 80 slots higher on the list.  None of his films would ever match up, though, thankfully, none of them hit the low of Revolution, his third film, an epic disaster.  Hudson has never done much directing – only six films spread out over 20 years.  And though he’s said to be working on a number of projects, the only thing he has completed in the last decade is a reworking of Revolution.

Oscar Nomination:  Chariots of Fire did what happens in weaker years where no film comes in and sweeps people away – it won Best Picture, while a bolder (and better) film wins Best Director (in this case, Reds).  It is a good film, but early talk out of Cannes and a lot of word of mouth (and, let’s face it, an incredible score and titles) pushed it into the top spot in the race.  But it’s not a great film and it rightfully didn’t win Best Director.  In fact, many of the scenes (even the stirring running on the beach scene) are rather clumsily directed.  And if this film had come later in his career, it’s possible that Hudson might not have been nominated at all and that might have sunk the film’s chances for Best Picture.

Lionel Barrymore

  • Born:  1878
  • Died:  1954
  • Rank:  #200
  • Score:  258.00
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  Madame X  (1928-29)
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  2
  • Best Film:  Madame X
  • Worst Film:  Ten Cents a Dance
  • Films:
    • ***Madame X
    • **.5Ten Cents a Dance
    • haven’t seen:  Unholy Night, His Glorious Night, Rogue Song

Career:  “His output is little seen today and surrounded with mystery.  Madame X (29) is reputed to be one of the first films to use a moveable microphone, while His Glorious Night (29) is sometimes alleged to have been mounted in order to discredit John Gilbert.”  (Thomson, p 55)  Ah, but if only we could see His Glorious Night.  There are 20 second clips online, but to see the whole thing, you have to be at UCLA (don’t you always).  There is a bit more available from The Rogue Song, but not enough to make me understand either the Oscar nomination for Best Actor or what might have made Barrymore direct it.  For someone who mostly acted and only directed a handful of films, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what he decided to direct, unless he was just intrigued with the early sound process.  He had done some directing in the silent era, right around the time that feature-length films were beginning, but then went back to acting until the sound era began.

Oscar Nomination:  There isn’t much to say about Madame X.  It, oddly earned Barrymore an Oscar nomination before he would earn his Oscar for his one and only acting nomination the next year.  But it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture and it’s from the weakest year in Oscar history (also the one with the longest list of hard to find films).  It’s not a bad film, but there’s not much to recommend it and certainly nothing that hints at why it might have earned the nomination, other than the standing of Barrymore in the film community and during the short stretch while he was a director, he did less acting and they wanted to nominate him for something.

John G. Avildsen

  • Born:  1935
  • Rank:  #199
  • Score:  259.00
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Golden Globe
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Rocky  (1976)
  • Feature Films:  22
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  18
  • Best Film:  Rocky
  • Worst Film:  Rocky V
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  Rocky
    • ***Save the Tiger, The Power of One, The Karate Kid
    • **.5The Karate Kid Part II, Happy New Year, Joe, Lean on Me, Slow Dancing in the Big City, Cry Uncle, For Keeps, 8 Seconds
    • **Neighbors, The Karate Kid Part III
    • *.5The Formula
    • *:   A Night in Heaven, Foreplay, Rocky V
    • haven’t seen:  Turn on to Love, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, Traveling Hopefully, Fine and Private Place

Career:  He is the only Oscar winning director to have been nominated three times at the Razzies (The Formula, The Karate Kid Part III, Rocky V), though no longer the only Oscar nominated director to do so (because of Shyamalan).  Unlike other Oscar-nominated directors who have made several truly awful films (Michael Cimino, Arthur Hiller, J. Lee Thompson, Shyamalan), Avildsen’s bad films are spread throughout his career, instead of a nose-dive towards the end of it.  In fact, his three worst films (Foreplay, A Night in Heaven, Rocky V), were followed fairly close after by three of his best films (Rocky, The Karate Kid, The Power of One).  There was simply no consistency to his films.  After winning the Oscar for Rocky, he seemed lost until he found The Karate Kid franchise, but he stayed with that too long and then returned to the moribund Rocky franchise.  Like many of the directors near the bottom of the list, he seems to be ostensibly retired.

Oscar Nomination:  Rocky is one of those films that you would have expected to maybe slide in and win Best Picture because it was so popular and people enjoyed it so much, but lose Best Director to one of the films much more highly regarded, like All the President’s Men or Network (which won the two writing Oscars).  Yet, somehow Avildsen won the Oscar and Alan J. Pakula and Sidney Lumet, two far better directors (both in 1976 and for their careers) never did.  Avildsen does do a solid job (though, watching the fight and how badly it works on the screen, some of that must rest on him, while the real strength, the very realistic dialogue, must put some credit to Stallone).  But the thing that says the most about Avildsen’s directing is to compare the performances from the main actors here – Stallone, Shire, Young and Meredith – to the rest of their careers, and there’s no question that they all do much better here, under Avildsen’s tutelage than they usually do (except for when Shire is being directed by her brother).

Jean Negulesco

  • Born:  1900
  • Died:  1993
  • Rank:  #198
  • Score:  260.58
  • Nominations:  Oscar, 2 DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Johnny Belinda  (1948)
  • Feature Films:  33
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  24
  • Best Film:  Johnny Belinda
  • Worst Film:  Hello-Goodbye
  • Films:
    • ***Johnny Belinda, How to Marry a Millionaire, Road House, Titanic, Mask of Dimitrios, Daddy Long Legs, Phone Call from a Stranger, The Mudlark, The Conspirators, Lure of the Wilderness, Three Came Home, Rains of Ranchipur, Boy on a Dolphin
    • **.5Humoresque, A Certain Smile, Scandal at Scourie, The Pleasure Seekers, Take Care of My Little Girl, The Best of Everything, Count Your Blessings
    • **Three Coins in the Fountain, Lure of the Wilderness, Jessica, Hello-Goodbye
    • haven’t seen:  Three Strangers, Nobody Lives Forever, Deep Valley, Affairs of Adelaide, Under My Skin, Lydia Bailey, Woman’s World, Dark Wave, Gift of Love
  • Sarris Category:  Miscellany

Career:  “Everything After Cinemascope is completely worthless.  Negulesco’s is the most dramatic case of directorial maladjustment in the fifties.”  (Sarris, p 262)  Thomson argues that what ruined Negulesco wasn’t Cinemascope, but the changing from Warners to Fox in 1948, that he “lost the chance to continue the romantic treatment of ‘hard’ people and gave himself up to the sentimental view of coziness.”  (Thomson, p 627)  Yet, it was the first Cinemascope film, How to Marry a Millionaire, that is by far his best known film, in spite of the 12 Oscar nominations for Johnny Belinda.  And let’s face it, it’s also one of his best films, surprising, since he so rarely strayed into the comedic realm.  He did seem more at home with dramas, though none of them except Johnny Belinda is really that worth remembering, and Three Coins in the Fountain is one of the most dreadful Best Picture nominees in Oscar history.  Most of Negulesco’s films through the fifties were no worse than his earlier ones.  It wasn’t until the 60’s when he really started to fade and his films really got pretty weak.

Oscar Nomination:  “The acting in this film is so good, so real, so natural, that it manages to make a good film out of ridiculous melodrama.”  That was I wrote (over a year and a half ago) about Johnny Belinda.  I still hold to this.  We have career best performances from Lew Ayres, Jane Wyman, Charles Bickford and Agnes Moorhead, all of them good actors.  Some of the credit absolutely most go to Negulesco.  Does he also deserve some of the blame for the overall inability of the film to rise above the level of a good film?  I’m not so sure.  Most of that seems to come from the script.  Either way, this is easily the best direction of his career, and thought it doesn’t make my list of nominees (and is probably the weakest direction of the five nominees), it’s not really a bad choice.

Edouard Molinaro

  • Born:  1928
  • Rank:  #197
  • Score:  262.37
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  La cage aux folles  (1979)
  • Feature Films:  32
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  15
  • Best Film:  La cage aux folles
  • Worst Film:  La cage aux folles II
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  La cage aux folles
    • ***Beaumarchais, Agent 38-24-36, Cause tojours, For 200 Grand You Get Nothing New, A gauche en sortant de l’ascnenseur, Le souper
    • **.5My Uncle Benjamin, Hibernatus, Male Hunt, Oscar, L’Emmerdeur, Just the Way You Are
    • **Dracula and Son, La cage aux folles II
    • haven’t seen:  Back to the Wall, Des femmes disparaissent, Untemoin dans le villa, Une fille pour l’ete, La mort de Belle, A Touch of Treason, Arsene Lupin, When the Peasants Pass, To Commit a Murder, La liberte en croupe, Most Gentle Confessions, Sweet Deception, Le gang des otages, Irony of Chance, Le telephone rose, L’homme presse, Palace, L’amour en douce

Career:  I don’t have a great grasp on Molinaro’s career.  I’ve seen less than half his films (only five directors have a lower percentage) and even the ones I’ve seen, I haven’t always been able to see all of them.  Many of them slip into the vast in between of good to okay.  None of them are as good as La cage aux folles, which earned him his Oscar nomination and none of them are as bad as the sequel or Dracula and Son.  It’s the same problem with a lot of the foreign directors who somehow make it into the Oscar race once.  It’s hard to find their works and harder still to get a good idea of the scope of their career.  Using my points system, he ends up here and nothing I’ve seen makes me inclined to think he doesn’t belong here.

Oscar Nomination:  There are a lot of good thing about La cage aux folles.  There are the two lead performances for one.  There is the script, for another.  There is the art direction, costume design and makeup.  Everything feels right.  But is the direction really what you want to reward?  There was nothing about the direction that really made me think it award-worthy.  Even worse, this was 1979.  It was nominated alongside great comedic direction for Breaking Away, but it was nominated over Woody Allen for Manhattan and Hal Ashby for Being There.

Wesley Ruggles

  • Born:  1889
  • Died:  1972
  • Rank:  #196
  • Score:  263.98
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  Cimarron  (1930-31)
  • Feature Films:  31
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  17
  • Best Film:  You Belong to Me
  • Worst Film:  I’m No Angel
  • Films:
    • ***You Belong to Me, Too Many Husbands, The Plastic Age, Arizona, I Met Him in Paris, True Confession, Somewhere I’ll Find You, Valiant is the Word for Carrie, See Here Private Hargrove, Slightly Dangerous
    • **.5Sing You Sinners, The Gilded Lily, College Humor, Bolero, No Man of Her Own
    • **Cimarron, I’m No Angel
    • haven’t seen:  Fourflusher, Finders Keepers, Scandal, Port of Dreams, Street Girl, Honey, Are These Our Children, Roar of the Dragon, Monkey’s Paw, Shoot the Works, Accent on Youth, Bride Comes Home, Invitation to Happiness, London Town

Career:  Wesley Ruggles began in the silent era.  He suddenly burst forth when his Cimarron won Best Picture (and remains today the only film ever nominated for every award for which it was eligible) and he earned his and only Oscar nomination.  None of his films in the early sound era is really any good (I especially hate I’m No Angel, but I hate Mae West films).  But as the thirties went on, he seemed to find a better niche in light comedies and his films got more enjoyable and more tolerable.  His career started to die out during World War Two and then died a sad death when he made London Town, a big Technicolor musical for Rank.  It became one of the biggest financial flops in British film history and Ruggles never directed another film.

Oscar Nomination:  Just remember this: in 1931, Charlie Chaplin released City Lights and it received zero Oscar nominations.  Cimarron was released the same year and went on to earn 7 Oscar nominations and win three, including Best Picture.  So there you have the biggest problem with being obsessed with the Academy Awards.  Sometimes they really fuck it up.  I think it’s the second worst Best Picture winner in Oscar history and I’m actually kinder than the voters on the IMDb, because they ranked it dead last.  The film is an absolute mess, bouncing back and forth between wide shots and close-ups, bad acting and more bad acting, moving quickly from one boring generation to the next.  No amount of good direction really could have made this a good film and there is nothing good about Ruggles’ direction.  We can at least be grateful he didn’t win.  Of course, they gave the Oscar to Norman Taurog for Skippy which is almost, but not quite as bad as if they’d given it to Ruggles.

Victor Schertzinger

  • Born:  1888
  • Died:  1941
  • Rank:  #195
  • Score:  265.33
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  One Night of Love  (1934)
  • Feature Films:  33
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  16
  • Best Film:  Road to Singapore
  • Worst Film:  Constant Woman
  • Films:
    • ***Road to Singapore, Something to Sing About, Road to Zanzibar, The Mikado, Uptown New York, Birth of the Blues, Rhythm of the River, The Fleet’s In, Love Me Forever, Heads Up
    • **.5Nothing But the Truth, Fashions in Love, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, Paramount on Parade, One Night of Love
    • **Constant Woman
    • haven’t seen:  Stage Madness, Heart of Salome, Secret Studio, Showdown, Forgotten Faces, Redskin, Wheel of Life, Laughing Lady, Safety in Numbers, Woman Between, Friends and Lovers, Strange Justice, Cocktail Hour, My Woman, Beloved, Let’s Live Tonight, Music Goes Round

Career:  If nothing else, Victor Schertzinger found his niche.  Because he was also a composer, he was well-suited for directing musicals.  The longer he did it, the better they seemed to be, and he directed the first couple of the “Road” films, both of which are good fun.  But, sadly, he died of a heart attack just as the series was really picking up steam and he missed out on the best one (Road to Morocco).  His musicals were never bad and were almost always enjoyable (his one bad film is a drama).  But there is still so much out there that I haven’t been able to see, this still kind of an incomplete grade.

Oscar Nomination:  There’s really not a whole lot of actual direction in One Night of Love.  All Schertzinger had to do was stand back and let Grace Moore sing her arias.  This was the first of a (thankfully) short-lived trend of finding major opera stars and putting them in films.  But the film itself (while not bad), is not all that great and the direction isn’t really all that relevant.  Either you took to the idea of the opera or you didn’t and there really wasn’t anything Schertzinger did that could make a difference.  He was nominated because the film swept people along (it had 6 nominations – at the time, tied for second all-time).

Franco Zeffirelli

  • Born:  1923
  • Rank:  #194
  • Score:  269.83
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Golden Globe
  • Awards:  NBR
  • Oscar Nominations:  Romeo and Juliet  (1968)
  • Feature Films:  13
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  12
  • Best Film:  Otello
  • Worst Film:  Endless Love
  • Films:
    • ***Otello, Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, Jane Eyre, La Traviata, Romeo and Juliet, Tea with Mussolini, Callas Forever, Young Toscanini
    • **.5Brother Sun Sister Moon
    • **The Champ
    • *:   Endless Love
    • haven’t seen:  Sparrow, Omaggio a Roma

Career:  Franco Zeffirelli has made four Shakespeare films, which means we have a larger filmed Shakespeare output from Zeffirelli than we do from Orson Welles, something that makes me want to hunt down every studio head in Hollywood history and kill them (this might involve resurrection, but I’m willing to do that).  To be fair, none of the Shakespeare films are bad, and given that Michael Almereyda has definitely proven that it is possible to make bad Shakespeare films, we can give Zeffirelli credit for that.  And he could have made them badly – certainly The Champ is a bad film and Endless Love is a wretched film.  But he infuses his Shakespeare films with class and makes them look nice.  But he isn’t able to do much more than that because he’s not very good at directing and it shows through.  Were it not for the quality of Shakespeare’s prose (and Charlotte Bronte’s), he would likely have dropped down to the bottom 10.

Oscar Nomination:  There’s not a single really worthwhile performance in Romeo and Juliet and some of that has to rest on Zeffirelli’s shoulders.  Yes, he actually cast teenagers in the roles, but he didn’t cast good teenagers in the roles and he wasn’t able to do anything with them.  The same is true across all of his Shakespeare – only Mel Gibson rises above a normal performance – the rest of the performers in his various Shakespeare films actually give worse performances than you would normally expect.  That has to come from the direction.  Like all of his Shakespeare films, Romeo and Juliet looks good, but you have to have good performances with Shakespeare and if you don’t, some of that is always going to come from the direction.

Norman Taurog

  • Born:  1899
  • Died:  1981
  • Rank:  #193
  • Score:  270.41
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars
  • Awards:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  Skippy  (1930-31), Boys Town  (1938)
  • Feature Films:  78
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  55
  • Best Film:  Lucky Night
  • Worst Film:  Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine
  • Films:
    • ***Lucky Night, Toast of New Orleans, Presenting Lily Mars, Blue Hawaii, Little Nellie Kelly, Rich Young and Pretty, Visit to a Small Planet, Girls Girls Girls, Boys Town, The Stars are Singing, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mad About Music, Girl Crazy, Broadway Melody of 1940, Big City, Please Believe Me, The Caddy
    • **.5G.I. Blues, Design for Scandal, Big Broadcast of 1936, Words and Music, Bundle of Joy, Onionhead, Hoodlum Saint, Hold Em Jail, Don’t Give Up the Ship, College Rhythm, That Midnight Kiss, It Happened at the World’s Fair, Spinout, Double Trouble, Spinout, A Bedtime Story, The Bride Goes Wild, All Hands on Deck, Rhythm on the Range, Mrs. O’Malley and Mr. Malone, We’re Not Dreaming, Tickle Me, Speedway, Live a Little Love a Little, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, Skippy, Room for One More, Sergeant Dead Head, The Stooge, A Yank at Eton
    • **Pardners, Jumping Jacks, You’re Never Too Young, The Birds and the Bees, Living It Up, Palm Springs Weekend, Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, Strike Me Pink
    • *:   Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine
    • haven’t seen:  Lucky Boy, At It Again, Diplomats, In Holland, Medicine Man, Troopers Three, Sunny Skies, Hot Curves, Follow the Leader, Finn and Hattie, Newly Rich, Huckleberry Finn, Sooky, Phantom President, The Way to Love, Reunion, Fifty Roads to Town, You Can’t Have Everything, Girl Downstairs, Young Tom Edison, Men of Boys Town, Are Husbands Necessary, The Beginning or the End

Career:  Taurog is just so easy to ignore.  He won Best Director, was nominated another time and had 9 different films nominated for Oscars over the years, yet doesn’t appear in either Sarris’ or Thomson’s book.  His winner, Skippy, is mostly known for being hard to find (and it’s pretty bad) and Boys Town is routinely denigrated by just about anyone but Newt Gingrich.  He directed whatever was handed to him by MGM, whether it be drama, light comedy, musical or a kids film.  But there was never anything that he made his own.  In the fifties he took on a bunch of Martin and Lewis comedies and then he ended his career directing 9 different Elvis films.  Lucky Night is what I list as his best film, but they almost all blend together.  Even Lucky Night isn’t a very high *** film – his entire output is a long string of mediocrities.  If I had to actually recommend a Taurog film, it would be Blue Hawaii, because it has some great songs.

Oscar Nomination:  Norman Taurog isn’t the worst director ever win the Oscar (Mel Gibson, I’m looking at you), but his Oscar is the worst directing of any Best Director winner.  Supposedly, when filming Skippy, to make Jackie Cooper cry for the big scene, Taurog faked having his dog shot.  It wasn’t necessary.  Cooper so overacts throughout the whole film, and I blame it all on Taurog.  He is still the youngest director to win the Oscar and it’s ridiculous.  But, let’s not forget, Taurog is a multiple nominee.  There is also Boys Town, that bit of sentimental claptrap that the Academy chose to bestow Best Actor upon.  In a sense, that, combined with Taurog’s second nomination must have meant the Academy thought something of his direction.  But his direction of Boys Town is only better in that Mickey Rooney is so much a better presence on-screen than the young Jackie Cooper.

Jack Cardiff

  • Born:  1914
  • Died:  2009
  • Rank:  #192
  • Score:  271.22
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, Golden Globe
  • Awards:  NYFC, NBR, Golden Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Sons and Lovers  (1960)
  • Feature Films:  13
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  11
  • Best Film:  Sons and Lovers
  • Worst Film:  Girl on a Motorcycle
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  Sons and Lovers
    • ***:  The Long Ships, Young Cassidy, My Geisha, The Lion
    • **.5Intent to Kill, The Liquidator, Dark of the Sun
    • **Penny Gold, The Freakmaker
    • *:   Girl on a Motorcycle
    • haven’t seen:  Web of Evidence, Scent of Mystery

Career:  “With a man like Jack Cardiff, the difference in potential between photography and direction is manifest.  Cardiff’s own films are characterless works, either flashy or drab.  Yet as a photographer Cardiff was so famous for his bold color effects that that reputation promoted him to directing.”  (Thomson, p 134)  Cardiff has just the one Oscar nomination as a director, but three others as a cinematographer, including an Oscar for Black Narcissus.  But Thomson is right – his work as a director isn’t anywhere close to his work as a cinematographer.  Ironically, Cardiff is the first director to move up from the initial ranking I did in December.  It’s because I’ve seen three more of his films, and they weren’t all that great, but they weren’t nearly as bad as the really bad films of his that I’d already seen – they helped balance things out a bit.  By the mid-70’s he was reduced to mostly trash and in the late 70’s he would go back to work as a cinematographer for the rest of his career.

Oscar Nomination:  Cardiff, like many of the directors on this list earned his Oscar nomination for his best film.  He made several good choices in his direction of Sons and Lovers, the primary one being the decision to film in black-and-white.  In the dust of the coal, the dirt of the lower class life, the light of the romance, Cardiff comes closest to his great work as a cinematographer here.  The major weakness of the film is not one that Cardiff could do anything about – the casting of Dean Stockwell, who was insisted upon by the producer to bring in American audiences.  Though not quite a great film, it’s far and away the best work of Cardiff’s career.

Alexander Hall

  • Born:  1894
  • Died:  1968
  • Rank:  #191
  • Score:  271.52
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  Here Comes Mr. Jordan  (1941)
  • Nighthawk Globe Nominations:  Here Comes Mr. Jordan  (1941)
  • Feature Films:  38
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  26
  • Best Film:  Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • Worst Film:  Good Girls Go to Paris
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  Here Comes Mr. Jordan
    • ***My Sister Eileen, They All Kissed the Bride, Exclusive, She Wouldn’t Say Yes, Down to Earth, Doctor Takes a Wife, The Great Lover, Heavenly Body, Louisa, Sinners in the Sun, Bedtime Story, This Thing Called Love, Once Upon a Time
    • **.5I Am the Law, Torch Singer, There’s That Woman Again, Miss Fane’s Baby is Stolen, Amazing Mr. Williams, Give Us This Night, Forever Darling, Because You’re Mine, The Midnight Club
    • **Little Miss Marker, Goin to Town, Good Girls Go to Paris
    • haven’t seen:  Madame Racketeer, Girl in 419, Pursuit of Happiness, Limehouse Blues, Annapolis Farewell, Yours for the Asking, There’s Always a Woman, The Lady from Kentucky, He Stayed for Breakfast, Love That Brute, Up Front, Let’s Do It Again

Career:  Alexander Hall was a director of screwball and romantic comedies.  He did the occasional drama, but he didn’t do it particularly well.  He wasn’t a great director of comedies either, and most his films (except, of course, for Here Comes Mr. Jordan) are pretty forgettable.  But his comedies were, for the most part, enjoyable and his foray into drama and musical didn’t do as well.

Oscar Nomination:  It’s smart and romantic and charming and witty and funny.  That was what I wrote here and I pretty much believe that.  But not a whole lot of that comes from Alexander Hall’s direction.  It comes from the script, it comes from Robert Montgomery’s very winning performance, it comes from Claude Rains’ and his majestical presence.  Hall does what he needs to do, he steps back and doesn’t get in the way as a director.  It’s the best film he ever made and the best direction he ever did.

Michael Cimino

  • Born:  1939
  • Rank:  #190
  • Score:  271.74
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Golden Globe
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, LAFC
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Deer Hunter  (1978)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Deer Hunter  (1978)
  • Nighthawk Globe Nominations:  The Deer Hunter  (1978)
  • Feature Films:  7
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  7
  • Best Film:  The Deer Hunter
  • Worst Film:
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Deer Hunter
    • ***Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
    • **Year of the Dragon
    • *.5Desperate Hours
    • *:   Heaven’s Gate, The Sunchaser, The Sicilian

Career:  The 130 points that The Deer Hunter moves Michael Cimino’s total up is probably the highest that any film does for any one director.  There are a number of factors at work here.  First, it is a truly great film.  Second, it came out in a fairly weak year, so it managed to win the Oscar, which it might not have in other years, and the Nighthawk, which it definitely wouldn’t have in other years, so it maxes out the awards points.  Third, Cimino has a very limited resume of films (7), so it counts for a lot more than it would for other directors.  Fourth, his other films are awful.  Well, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is good, but the rest are awful.  So instead of Cimino coming in dead last with 140 points, he has just over 270 points and makes it out of the bottom 20.  He has the worst average film number, worst number for top 5 and worst number for Top 10.  But he has that one great film and it really helps pull him higher.  Too bad he couldn’t have done more.

But Cimino also makes for interesting arguments.  What if I had done this list 30 years ago?  He had made one good film, one great film and one film that was a disaster – but a disaster that was argued about by many people and had been re-cut without his involvement.  But for those of who have actually seen utter shit like The Sicilian and Sunchaser, can any argument be made for his talent anymore?  Or does The Deer Hunter look more and more like the blip rather than the glimpse of genius?

Oscar Nomination:  It deserves it.  It comes down to that.  I’ve made this argument before, most notably in 2006.  There were so many people bitching that Scorsese was finally going to win the Oscar, but it was for The Departed.  I noted that I felt The Departed was outmatched by at least five of his other films.  But, I also made the argument that it was irrelevant – The Departed was the best directed film of the year.  The analogy I made was for The Deer Hunter.  It would have come in third or fourth in 1977 for me (behind Star Wars, Annie Hall and possibly Close Encounters) and third or fourth in 1979 (behind Alien, Apocalypse Now and possibly All That Jazz and even Manhattan).  But in 1978, a weaker year, it is the best directed film of the year.  It’s a bummer that some films come out the same year as other films.  That doesn’t change things in other years.  The Deer Hunter has flaws as I’ve discussed.  But it is still the best of the year.

Mark Rydell

  • Born:  1934
  • Rank:  #189
  • Score:  274.62
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, 2 Golden Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  On Golden Pond  (1981)
  • Feature Films:  11
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  9
  • Best Film:  The Rose
  • Worst Film:  Intersection
  • Films:
    • ***The Rose, The River, The Reivers, The Fox, Cinderella Liberty, On Golden Pond, For the Boys
    • **Harry and Walter Go to New York
    • *:   Intersection
    • haven’t seen:  Cowboys, Even Money

Career:  Mark Rydell isn’t a particularly good director, though, except for the truly awful Intersection, he’s not really a bad one either.  He goes for films that are decently entertaining and he does what he can with them.  He’s shown that he can take on minor works by great authors (The Reivers, The Fox) and can handle drama (The River) or music (The Rose).  But he does do well with actresses; his films have been nominated for Best Actress five times.  But overall, his skills as a director aren’t any better than most directors and he was lucky enough to make the list in the first place by making a film that was just what the Academy looks for.

Oscar Nomination:  This is what I wrote about On Golden Pond: “Everything about this film shrieks of cheap sentimentality.”  I wrote almost a year ago now, though it is the same opinion I have held on the film for some 20 years.  And of the strengths in the film (the acting), Rydell’s direction is not among them.  Everything he does, from the shots, to the set-ups, to the ridiculous jump into the water, is all about that sentimentality.  This was a film right up his alley, and he delivered in exactly the way the Academy wanted.  Granted, I am not the Academy and I want something better from my films.  I’m not sure a great director could have done much with such a sappy script.  Certainly Rydell wasn’t going to be able to.

Sidney Franklin

  • Born:  1893
  • Died:  1972
  • Rank:  #188
  • Score:  274.93
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Good Earth  (1937)
  • Feature Films:  16
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  12
  • Best Film:  Dark Angel
  • Worst Film:  The Good Earth
  • Films:
    • ***Dark Angel, Her Night of Romance, Wild Orchids, Smilin Through, The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), Reunion in Vienna, Private Lives, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The Guardsman
    • **.5The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957), A Lady’s Morals, The Good Earth
    • haven’t seen:  Quality Street, The Actress, Devil-May-Care, Lady of Scandal
  • Sarris Category:  Subject for Further Research

Career:  “Franklin was slow, deliberate, conscientious and dull as were most of the Thalberg-Franklin productions.”  (Sarris, p 231)  “As so often with Thalberg’s choices, Franklin was a colorless director.”  (Thomson, p 313)  Sidney Franklin made me go through and check the history of directors and their Oscar nominated films.  It began to look like Franklin had an excessive amount of films nominated.  In the course of six years (32-37) he had six films nominated for Oscars, three of them for Best Picture.  And by then only a handful of other directors had made that many Oscar nominated films.  But did that say much about Franklin or about Thalberg?  And that was nothing compared to W.S. Van Dyke, who had four films in 1934 alone and nine in a stretch of five years.  It said more about Franklin that he himself was only nominated once.  And that none of his films really stand up over time.  He had the luck to work with Norma Shearer, who was beautiful and talented and married to Thalberg.  After The Good Earth, he moved into producing and his only directing effort was a remake of his Barretts of Wimpole Street some 20 years after he had stopped directing.

Oscar Nomination:  The Good Earth was very much a product of Thalberg’s way of doing things.  That Thalberg died before it was completed didn’t matter, nor did it keep Franklin and Thalberg from earning Oscar nominations.  But it isn’t really that great.  As I said before, Thalberg was concerned with size and scope.  But the story and the characters are what is needed here and Franklin just wasn’t up to the job.  He lets Muni mug, he has long boring stretches and he can’t bring anything properly to life except the locusts.  He makes this film as slow, deliberate, conscientious and dull as Sarris claims.

Charles Walters

  • Born:  1911
  • Died:  1982
  • Rank:  #187
  • Score:  275.40
  • Nominations:  Oscar, 2 DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Lili  (1953)
  • Feature Films:  21
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  20
  • Best Film:  The Barkleys of Broadway
  • Worst Film:  Easy to Love
  • Films:
    • ***The Barkleys of Broadway, High Society, Ask Any Girl, The Tender Trap, Walk Don’t Run, Lili, Summer Stock, Texas Carnival, Torch Song, Easter Parade, The Glass Slipper, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Three Guys Named Mike
    • **.5Belle of New York, Good News, Billie Rose’s Jumbo
    • **Two Lovers, Dangerous When Wet, Easy to Love
    • haven’t seen:  Don’t Go Near the Water
  • Sarris Category:  Lightly Likable

Career:  “At the very least, his films almost invariably turn out being more entertaining than their subject and title would indicate.”  (Sarris, p 187)  “Walters made tuneful, smart and colorful movies, and if his musical are essentially innocuous, that serves to underline the greatest artistic character in Donen and Minnelli.”  (Thomson, p 913)  There is something to be said for the charming quality of Walters’ musicals – films like The Barkleys of Broadway or High Society.  But of course his nomination was for Lili, which went against the grain of this “lightly likable” director.  In the end he is indeed lightly likable and he blends together with other similar directors, those like Walter Lang and George Sidney.

Oscar Nomination:  If anything, this nomination says more about the state of Hollywood in 1953 than it does about the directing ability of Charles Walters.  Here’s a director of light musicals and comedies and he earns an Oscar nomination for a drama.  And not a particularly good one.  Not bad either.  Just there.  But who was the Academy going to nominate?  Fritz Lang for The Big Heat?  Unlikely, as the film received no nominations.  Samuel Fuller for Pickup on South Street?  A bit too much of an outsider for Academy tastes.  Otto Preminger for The Moon is Blue?  The film was too risque as it was and rewarding the director seemed a bit too much.  Anthony Mann for The Naked Spur?  Well, they had just nominated Fred Zinnemann for a Western the year before and Mann was no John Ford (he would never be nominated).  So why not Charles Walters, who had graduated from Esther Williams mermaid musicals to something a bit more adult?  So that was that and Walters received his one and only Director nomination (he never received a Picture nomination) and was then swept away into history.

Walter Lang

  • Born:  1896
  • Died:  1972
  • Rank:  #186
  • Score:  275.46
  • Nominations:  Oscar, 3 DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  The King and I  (1956)
  • Nighthawk Globe Nominations:  The King and I  (1956)
  • Feature Films:  50
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  32
  • Best Film:  The King and I
  • Worst Film:  Meet the Baron
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  The King and I
    • ***There’s No Business Like Show Business, Can-Can, The Desk Set, Jackpot, Coney Island, State Fair, Sitting Pretty, Tin Pan Alley, The Blue Bird, Call Me Madam, No More Orchids, Moon Over Miami, On the Riviera, Susannah of the Mounties
    • **.5Hooray for Love, Love Before Breakfast, Second Honeymoon, With a Song In My Heart, Marriage Go-Round, Mother Wore Tights, Greenwich Village, Baroness and the Butler, Snow White and the Seven Stooges, A Little Princess, Sentimental Journey, Week-end in Havana, The Magnificent Dope, Cheaper By the Dozen, Star Dust, Song of the Islands
    • **Meet the Baron
    • haven’t seen:  Night Flyer, Hello Sister, Costello Case, Brothers, Hell Bound, Warrior’s Husband, Whom the Gods Destroy, The Party’s Over, Mighty Barnum, Carnival, Wife Doctor and Nurse, I’ll Give a Million, Great Profile, Claudia and David, When My Baby Smiles at Me, You’re My Everything, But Not for Me

Career:  In spite of having directed a lot of major films, his films aren’t easy to find.  When My Baby Smiles at Me is one of the few Oscar-nominated films for acting that I haven’t seen and it and You’re My Everything are two of only a dozen WGA nominated films that I haven’t been able to see while But Not for Me has the second highest point total of any film at the Golden Globes that I haven’t seen yet.  Lang was a light-hearted director – of the 32 films I have seen, only two of them do I list as dramas.  His musicals have some life to them while it is his comedies that generally fall below the *** level, mired in mediocrity and not often particularly funny.

Oscar Nomination:  Is it that Walter Lang finally did some truly great directing after years of toiling in mediocre comedies and musicals?  Or is that he hit the jackpot, finding the right film to direct, the kind of Academy bait that they were sure to go for and finally reward someone nearing the end of a long career?  Or is it that the Academy doesn’t really respect the musical directors?  Of the directors who have earned Oscar nominations for 13 or more of their films, only three of them have failed to garner at least two Best Picture nominations: Walter Lang, George Sidney and David Butler, all of them noted for directing lots of musicals.  But Lang ended up luckier than the other two – Sidney wasn’t nominated for Best Director for Anchors Aweigh and Butler didn’t even get a single Best Picture nomination.

The King and I isn’t a great film.  But it is a very good film, one that can keep you interested even if you’re not a particular fan of the songs (and I’m not).  But that has less to do with the directing from Lang (which is okay, but I wish he could have done more with the children), than from the great performances from Brynner and Kerr.  And given how right they were for the roles, I don’t know how much of Lang’s directing had to do with those performances.

Lina Wertmuller

  • Born:  1926
  • Rank:  #185
  • Score:  275.77
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Seven Beauties  (1976)
  • Nighthawk Globe Nominations:  Seven Beauties  (1976)
  • Feature Films:  23
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  12
  • Best Film:  Seven Beauties
  • Worst Film:  A Night Full of Rain
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  Seven Beauties
    • ***The Nymph, Love and Anarchy, Seduction of Mimi
    • **.5Belle Starr, Ciao Professore, Ferdinand and Carolina, Summer Night, Swept Away
    • **Sotto Sotto, A Night Full of Rain
    • haven’t seen:  Let’s Talk About Men, Rita la zanara, Non stuzzicate la zanzara, All Screwed Up, Blood Feud, Scherzo del desinto in augguato, Complex Plot About Women, Crystal or Ash Fire or Wind As Long as It’s Love, Sabato, Blue Collar Worker, Too Much Romance It’s Time for Stuffed Peppers

Career:  “Wertmuller makes a liberal monument out of declamatory whimsy; it is a sugar monument, even when it marks concentration camps.”  (Thomson, p 929)  She does goes for the declamatory whimsy and I don’t take to it at all.  Seven Beauties, whose sugar monument does manage to stand high, is far above anything else she has done.  Were it not for Seven Beauties, she would be sitting in the bottom 10 of this list, but without Seven Beauties, she would never be an Oscar nominee.  In spite of critical support for some of her films like Swept Away, she doesn’t have a single film in the Top 1000 (not any version of the list).  Her films are filled with tan bodies, lush scenery and little more than that in terms of story or character.  She was actually perfect to be remade by Madonna.  But she will forever stand as the answer to the trivia question of who the first female Oscar nominated director was.

Oscar Nomination:  Seven Beauties is the film that stands apart from Wertmuller’s work.  It is in my Top 10 for both Picture and Director (though, to be fair, 1976 is a weak year).  But like I say above, Thomson is fairly spot on in his description of her.  Who else would make a comedy about such a subject?  Well, Benigni would, so maybe it’s an Italian thing.  But remember, she made it into the race and Scorsese didn’t for Taxi Driver.  So who knows what the hell the Academy was thinking.

Barbet Schroeder

  • Born:  1941
  • Rank:  #184
  • Score:  276.03
  • Nominations:  Oscar, Golden Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Reversal of Fortune  (1990)
  • Feature Films:  13
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  12
  • Best Film:  Reversal of Fortune
  • Worst Film:  Kiss of Death
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  Reversal of Fortune
    • ***Maitresse, Cheaters, Our Lady of the Assassins, Single White Female
    • **.5Vallee, Murder by Numbers, Barfly, More
    • **Desperate Measures, Before and After, Kiss of Death
    • haven’t seen:  Inju

Career:  “In truth, he is too interesting to be confined in America.”  (Thomson, p 787)  That pretty much sums things up.  Look at some of the standard Hollywood crap that Schroeder has made in the States: Desperate Measures, Before and After, Kiss of Death.  None of them good by any means.  But his earlier films, even when severely flawed, like Vallee and More (both of them with wonderful Pink Floyd soundtracks), were always worth watching.  In a sense, his rating doesn’t really reflect on him as a true filmmaker, because I don’t rate documentaries and so much of Schroeder’s best work has been the documentaries he made in the early years.  He has never really, outside of Reversal of Fortune, found the artistic gifts in feature films that he found in documentaries.

Oscar Nomination:  Unlike many foreign directors who are nominated for Best Director, Schroeder was actually nominated for an English language film.  Reversal of Fortune actually was a strong contender for a Best Picture nomination, earning Best Picture, Director and Screenplay nominations at the Golden Globes and earning Director and Adapted Screenplay nominations at the Oscars (and winning Best Actor).  But it ended up on the outside while Ghost and Awakenings, films that were far more successful at the box office, ended up in the Best Picture race.  Reversal is a very good film and Schroeder’s direction is one of the best aspects of it, finishing just outside my Top 10 of the year (for both Picture and Director).

Taylor Hackford

  • Born:  1944
  • Rank:  #183
  • Score:  277.68
  • Nominations:  Oscar, 2 DGA, BFCA, Satellite
  • Oscar Nominations:  Ray  (2004)
  • Nighthawk Globe Nominations:  Ray  (2004)
  • Feature Films:  11
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  11
  • Best Film:  Ray
  • Worst Film:  The Devil’s Advocate
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  Ray
    • ***An Officer and a Gentleman, The Idolmaker, Dolores Claiborne, White Nights
    • **.5Proof of Life, Against All Odds
    • **Blood In Blood Out, Everybody’s All-American, Love Ranch
    • *.5The Devil’s Advocate

Career:  “Taylor Hackford follows his own star and over the years he has been good value.” says David Thomson.  I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that is a line from the previous volume that went unchanged.  It is a line that works for Hackford’s early career, but not the latter part.  Since 1997, the fact that he made Ray, his best film, must be balanced out by the rest of the dreck that he has been putting forth.  In fact, given the downward trajectory of his career, it is a wonder that he was involved with Ray at all.  After films like Blood In Blood Out, The Devil’s Advocate and Proof of Life, what about him made anyone involved with the project think that he was the right person for the job?  But he delivered, and he went from a director whose career had been headed downward since his strong first couple of films suddenly at least had a blip of life to it.

Oscar Nomination:  On the one hand, Ray is a pretty standard biopic – showing the highs and lows of its subject, complete with a constant look back at the childhood that caused him such enduring pain.  On the other hand, Ray contains a performance from Jamie Foxx that so far and away outstrips any other performance he has done on film that certainly some of the credit must be aimed towards Hackford.  How very odd that a director whose work seems mostly composed of white couples (Winger & Gere, Bridges & Ward, Quaid & Lange, Crowe & Ryan) has managed to direct two of the very few African-American Oscar winning performances in history.  But, did Hackford belong in that Director list?  Well, not really.  I knew that one director was likely to not get nominated – it happens almost every year, and I thought Hackford (not Marc Forster) would be the one who would be out in the cold.  The film was destined for the Oscar race – as much because of the type of film it was as for its worth, but Hackford seemed by far the weakest of the directors of the major contenders.

Michael Cacoyannis  (Mihalis Kakogiannis)

  • Born:  1922
  • Died:  2011
  • Rank:  #182
  • Score:  280.35
  • Nominations:  Oscar, Golden Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Zorba the Greek  (1964)
  • Feature Films:  14
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  8
  • Best Film:  A Girl in Black
  • Worst Film:  Iphigenia
  • Films:
    • ***A Girl in Black, The Cherry Orchard, Stella, Elektra, Trojan Woman, A Matter of Dignity
    • **.5Zorba the Greek, Iphigenia
    • haven’t seen:  A Windfall in Athens, Our Last Spring, Wastrel, The Day the Fish Came Out, Sweet Country, Pano kato kai plagios

Career:  “The strain of sustaining a native and modern Greek cinema proved too much.”  (Thomson, p 126)  I think that is a fair statement.  Cacoyannis, over the years, made several interesting films, and he not only made films about modern Greece, but harkened back to classical Greece for inspiration as well.  But none of it could make him a particularly interesting director, and I think had he not made Zorba, he would be mostly forgotten in the States by now.

Oscar Nomination:  Zorba the Greek has always felt like a cliche to me.  What was good about it (Quinn and Kedrova’s performances, the music), was overwhelmed by what was mediocre about it (the pace, the unoriginality of the story and everything in it).  It is by far the film that Cacoyannis is best known for, yet, it seems to be one of the weakest of his films.  If he can be credited for performances that far outstrip the rest of their careers from the major players, then he must also be given a far share of the blame for the glacial pace and the fact that everything seems to drag throughout the film.

John Farrow

  • Born:  1904
  • Died:  1963
  • Rank:  #181
  • Score:  280.73
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Awards:  NYFC
  • Oscar Nominations:  Wake Island  (1942)
  • Feature Films:  43
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  30
  • Best Film:  Hondo
  • Worst Film:  The Hitler Gang
  • Films:
    • ***Hondo, The Big Clock, China, Copper Canyon, Back from Eternity, California, The Saint Strikes Back, John Paul Jones, Wake Island, Botany Bay, His Kind of Woman, Submarine Command, A Bullet is Waiting, Ride Vaquero, The Commandos Strike at Dawn, The Sea Chase, Five Came Back, Calcutta
    • **.5Plunder of the Sun, You Came Along, Two Years Before the Mast, Alias Nick Beal, Where Danger Lives, Married and In Love
    • **Men in Exile, The Unholy Wife, West of Shanghai, My Bill, Reno
    • *.5The Hitler Gang
    • haven’t seen:  She Loved a Fireman, Invisible Menace, Little Miss Thoroughbred, Broadway Musketeers, Women in the Wind, Sorority House, Full Confession, A Bill of Divorcement, Easy Come Easy Go, Blaze of Moon, Beyond Glory, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Red Hot and Blue

Career:  Farrow is one of those odd group of directors who won an Oscar, but not for directing (his was for writing Around the World in 80 Days).  It was especially ironic, as he was fired as the director.  I’ve known who Farrow was for years, because I saw Wake Island almost 20 years ago, but until I looked at his IMDb page to write this, I had never realized that he was Mia Farrow’s father, and thus the ostensible (if not legal) father-in-law (even though he was already dead) to a man who won Best Director.  But unlike Woody Allen, Farrow’s films are almost all forgettable, the best being the Western Hondo (I almost wrote Western classic, but it’s not really good enough to be considered a classic) and The Big Clock, which is good, but might be better known for inspiring the Costner-Hackman thriller No Way Out.

Oscar Nomination:  When I reviewed Wake Island, I talked about how forgotten it was.  And if you go back to the 1942 Best Picture nominees and see that it was nominated for Best Director, at first you’ll think “What the hell is Wake Island“, and then you’ll see that John Farrow was nominated rather than Orson Welles for The Magnificent Ambersons and you’ll think, “Well, that can’t be right.”  But it is.  It was one of the first films about World War II out of the gate and the Oscars responded to it, giving it four major nominations.  It’s certainly not a bad film (though it is the weakest nominee of the 10 that year), but it’s certainly not a memorable one either.  And if I had simply shown you a list of Farrow’s films and told you that he had been Oscar nominated for one of them, would you even have been able to pick the right one?

Robert Z. Leonard

  • Born:  1889
  • Died:  1968
  • Rank:  #180
  • Score:  280.95
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Divorcee  (1929-30), The Great Ziegfeld  (1936)
  • Nighthawk Globe Nominations:  The Great Ziegfeld  (1936)
  • Feature Films:  48
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  36
  • Best Film:  Pride and Prejudice
  • Worst Film:  The Divorcee
  • Films:
    • ***.5:  Pride and Prejudice
    • ***:  Picadilly Jim, In the Good Old Summertime, Let Us Be Gay, B.F.’s Daughter, The Great Ziegfeld, Ziegfeld Girl, Maytime, Cynthia, Third Finger Left Hand, Dancing Lady, Beautiful but Dangerous, Lady Chance, The King’s Thief, When Ladies Meet, Duchess of Idaho
    • **.5Strange Interlude, Broadway Serenade, The Clown, Marianne, Marriage is a Private Affair, New Moon, Bachelor Father, Week-end at the Waldorf, Firefly, Nancy Goes to Rio, Her Twelve Men, Man from Down Under, The Bribe, Stand by For Action, The Secret Heart, We Were Dancing, Peg o My Heart
    • **:  Five and Ten, The Divorcee
    • haven’t seen:  Five O’Clock Girl, Baby Mine, Cardboard Lover, It’s a Wise Child, Outcast Lady, After Office Hours, Escapade, Grounds for Marriage, Too Young to Kiss, Everything I Have is Yours, Great Diamond Robbery, Kelly and Me

Career:  “Without ever exceeding romantic splendor, Leonard was capable of bringing a fond light to high-class cheesecake.”  (Thomson, p 515)  In the mid 30’s, Leonard was able to escape from standard dramas and started to make musicals and comedies, some of which have been well remembered (The Great Ziegfeld) and some of which actually deserve to be remembered (Pride and Prejudice).  But after the war, he returned to dramas and his career slipped into complete and utter mediocrity, the only life coming from the musical In the Good Old Summertime.

Oscar Nominations:  Let’s be honest.  I absolutely adore Norma Shearer, but The Divorcee is a terrible film.  There is little to recommend about it outside of Shearer’s performance.  It might have seemed risque eighty years ago, not for what it was saying, but for the fact that it was saying it.  But today it is dull as can be and Leonard’s direction adds absolutely nothing to it.  The Great Ziegfeld is a much better film, but it is by no means a great film.  I described it before as the kind of film that gives biopics a bad name.  It takes three hours to tell a story that could have been done in an hour and a half, except that Leonard feels the need to continually pad it with more and more of Ziegfeld’s shows.  It won Best Picture almost entirely on the size of its production, which is probably why Leonard didn’t win Best Director go along with it, losing instead to Capra (winning his second Oscar).

Cecil B. De Mille

  • Born:  1881
  • Died:  1959
  • Rank:  #179
  • Score:  283.34
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, Golden Globe
  • Awards:  Golden Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Greatest Show on Earth  (1952)
  • Feature Films:  24
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  21
  • Best Film:  King of Kings
  • Worst Film:  Cleopatra
  • Films:
    • ***King of Kings, The Joan Woman, Union Pacific, Why Change Your Wife, The Cheat, The Buccaneer, The Affairs of Anatol, Reap the Wild Wind, The 10 Commandments (1923), The Story of Dr. Wassell, Northwest Mounted Police
    • **.5Unconquered, Four Frightened People, The Crusades, The 10 Commandments (1956), The Sign of the Cross, The Greatest Show on Earth, Samson and Delilah
    • **The Godless Girl, The Plainsman, Cleopatra
    • haven’t seen: Dynamite, Madame Satan, This Day and Age
  • Sarris Category:  Far Side of Paradise

Career:  “It is inevitable that the mere mention of Cecil B. de Mille will evoke complacent laughter in some quarters, and bristling patriotic speeches in others.”  (Sarris, p. 91)  “De Mille relished complications in his narratives, and he may have been the last American director who enjoyed telling a story for its own sake.”  (Sarris)  “De Mille’s movies are barnstormers, rooted in Victorian theatre, shamelessly stereotyped and sentimental, but eagerly courting twentieth-century permissiveness, if only solemnly to condemn it.”  (Thomson, p 219)  Recently, when a commenter noted the absence of de Mille on my Top 100 list, I compared him to James Cameron – a world of amazing spectacle with nothing beneath the surface.  Or, as was once said of de Mille, whose Biblical epics bear little resemblance to their source material: “He wanted to put Moses / In the War of the Roses.”  I could have said much harsher things about him – I certainly spared no venom when reviewing his Cleopatra, which is one of the worst films ever nominated for Best Picture.  One thing about de Mille that should be noted is that his films weren’t exactly hotbeds of acting.  Over the years he made 13 films that were nominated for Academy Awards (especially impressive given his career pre-dates the Oscars) and they earned a combined 37 Oscar nominations – none of them for acting.  No other director has even close to that many nominations for his films without an acting nomination (Richard Fleischer is next with 26).  He mounted spectacles, that much is certain.  But was it really directing?

Oscar Nomination:  Many people unfairly decry The Greatest Show on Earth as the worst film to ever win Best Picture.  To be fair, it is only the third worst picture and doesn’t nearly compare to The Broadway Melody or Cimarron.  It is a relentlessly mediocre film, with a stupid story and acting so bad it can boggle the mind, but it at least has entertainment value.  It is not a bad film, not like the other two.  But it is not a good film and de Mille’s direction is responsible for a lot of that.  But he was one of the men who had built Hollywood, especially Paramount Pictures, and he had never been nominated and he was reaching the end of his career so the Academy gave him some love, and pathetically, gave his film even more love.  At least he didn’t win.

Henry Koster

  • Born:  1905
  • Died:  1988
  • Rank:  #178
  • Score:  288.91
  • Nominations:  Oscar, 3 DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Bishop’s Wife  (1947)
  • Feature Films:  46
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  36
  • Best Film:  Harvey
  • Worst Film:  The Power and the Prize
  • Films:
    • ****:  Harvey
    • ***:  The Bishop’s Wife, My Cousin Rachel, Inspector General, The Rage of Paris, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, The Virgin Queen, The Robe, Luck of the Irish, No Highway in the Sky, Two Sisters from Boston, It Started With Eve, Come to the Stable, Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell, Spring Parade, My Man Godfrey, My Blue Heaven, Stars and Stripes Forever, First Love, Music for Millions, 100 Men and a Girl, Flower Drum Song, Dear Brigette
    • **.5Good Morning Miss Dove, Three Smart Girls, Desiree, D-Day, Unfinished Dance, Three Smart Girls Grow Up, Take Her She’s Mine, The Singing Nun, Wabash Avenue, The Story of Ruth, The Naked Maja, A Man Called Peter
    • **The Power and the Prize
    • haven’t seen: Das Abenteur der Thea Roland, Peter, Affairs of Maupassant, Little Mother, A csnuya lay, Cross-Patch, Catherine the Last, Between Us Girls, Elopement, Fraulien

Career:  Here is a good example of the film being better than the director.  Harvey is a great film, but it’s not the direction necessarily that’s great.  It’s the idea and it’s the Jimmy Stewart performance (and to some extent the Josephine Hull performance that won the Oscar, though I don’t think many people remember that).  Koster’s career was mostly that of a studio director making solid to forgettable films, with just the one real stand-out.  That Harvey didn’t get a Picture nomination but The Bishop’s Wife and The Robe did shows the Academy often doesn’t know what it’s doing.  Amazingly, Koster has had more films nominated for Oscars (19) than anyone other than Wyler, Spielberg, Cukor, Curtiz and Ford.  But his films were usually relegated to technical categories and they received relatively few wins (only 5 Oscars went to his 19 films).

Oscar Nomination:  If you looked at Koster’s career, you would have thought his nomination was for Harvey.  But, in fact, it was for his little, fun Christmas movie.  The Bishop’s Wife is a fun, enjoyable film.  But it didn’t really belong in the Best Picture race and it certainly didn’t belong in the Best Director race.

Hiroshi Teshigahara

  • Born:  1927
  • Died:  2001
  • Rank:  #177
  • Score:  289.40
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  Woman in the Dunes  (1965)
  • Feature Films:  7
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  5
  • Best Film:  Woman in the Dunes
  • Worst Film:  Rikyu
  • Films:
    • ***:  Woman in the Dunes, Pitfall, Face of Another, Go-hime, Rikyu
    • haven’t seen: Man Without a Map, Summer Soldiers

Career:  Teshigahara is, in some sense, a singularly uninteresting director.  His films aren’t great and aren’t really worth remembering.  But neither are they bad.  They run the gambit of the three star films, but none of them stand out in one way or another.  Were he not an Oscar nominee it’s possible I never would have seen any of his films, but they weren’t a waste of time either, so there’s not much to complain about.  So, if you’re a fine director and your films are fine and you get a few points for one nomination, this is where you end up, just short of 300 points.

Oscar Nomination:  Woman in the Dunes managed to slip in to the race in a weak year.  The two Best Picture nominees without Director nominations were a weak, bloated film (Ship of Fools), and a not very-well directed offbeat comedy that somehow slipped into the race (A Thousand Clowns).  It was also the sixties, when foreign directors often made it into the race.  From 1960 to 1968 seven foreign films earned Best Director nominations while no foreign film earned a Best Picture nomination.  This was the rare one without a Screenplay nomination to go with it (in fact, except for Fellini in 1970, Teshigahara is the only foreign director to earn his film’s sole Oscar nomination, though that’s a bit of a misnomer, since the film was nominated for Best Foreign Film the year before).  The direction (and the film) is neither really meriting the nomination or worth complaining too much about.  It’s solid and that’s all to be said about it, though the direction is at least the best part of the film.

Herbert Brenon

  • Born:  1880
  • Died:  1958
  • Rank:  #176
  • Score:  290.50
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  Sorrell and Son  (1927-28)
  • Feature Films:  24
  • Feature Films I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  Laugh Clown Laugh
  • Worst Film:  Peter Pan
  • Films:
    • ***.5Laugh Clown Laugh
    • ***Beau Geste, Beau Ideal
    • **.5Peter Pan
    • haven’t seen:  The Great Gatsby, Telephone Girl, Sorrell and Son, Rescue, Lummox, Case of Sergeant Grischa, Trangression, Girl of the Rio, Wine Women and Song, Regal Cavalcade, Honours Easy, Someone at the Door, Living Dangerously, Live Wire, Dominant Sex, Spring Handicap, Housemaster, Yellow Sands, False Rapture, Flying Squad

Career:  I didn’t want to have to write about Brenon yet, but the re-ranking of The Full Monty pushed Peter Cattaneo to the next post and landed Brenon here.  There is very little that can be said.  He has by far the lowest percentage of films I have seen of the 211 directors – he’s at 16%, and of the other directors below 50%, only two others – Ted Wilde and Lionel Barrymore – have I seen less than 10 of their films and they only directed 6 and 5 films each.  I have seen one very good Brenon film (one of the best of Lon Chaney’s films), two good ones and one mediocre one.  There is nothing else that can be found out here, outside of Westwood.  Several are lost, several more are almost impossible to see.  There is also this: there have been 1109 directors who have directed feature films that have been nominated for Oscars.  Of those, 517 have had more than 1 film nominated for an Oscar.  Of those, there are 11 who have directed more than 1 Oscar-nominated films that I haven’t seen.  Of those 11, I have seen at least one Oscar nominated film in their oeuvre except for Herbert Brenon.  He directed two: Sorrell and Son and The Case of Sergeant Grischa.  Neither is available.

Oscar Nomination:  There is little to be said about his career.  There is nothing to be said here.  Sorrell and Son is one of only three nominees for Best Director I haven’t seen.  But the other two are The Patriot and Drag, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and Frank Lloyd, both of whom were nominated for other films.  Only Brenon can I not make a judgment on how the Academy treated him.  The Academy has a print (except for the final reel).  Let’s hope someday we can all see it.