I have already used this picture twice.  It's not stopping me from using it again.  It's simply the right picture.

I have already used this picture twice. It’s not stopping me from using it again. It’s simply the right picture.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated.  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winners.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. From Here to Eternity  **
  2. Stalag 17
  3. The Big Heat
  4. Roman Holiday  *
  5. Pickup on South Street

Analysis:  There are actually two more **** films – The Moon is Blue and Casque d’Or.  This is one of those years that was bleak for a long time.  I didn’t see The Big Heat until I was picking up Lang films (because it got no awards attention) and The Moon is Blue took me a long time to track down.  This is the first in back-to-back years where the Academy definitely got it right with Best Picture.  It’s the first time since 1945 that I agree with the Academy on Best Picture.

  • Best Director
  1. Fred Zinnemann  (From Here to Eternity)  **
  2. Fritz Lang  (The Big Heat)
  3. Billy Wilder  (Stalag 17)  *
  4. Samuel Fuller  (Pickup on South Street)
  5. William Wyler  (Roman Holiday)  *

Analysis:  Even though he still doesn’t have a Nighthawk Award, this ninth nomination for William Wyler puts him in 1st place for points.  Wilder moves into a tie for second place with Howard Hawks with his fifth nomination (three wins).  Lang earns his fifth nomination (two wins), his first in 16 years, which moves him into a tie for fourth place with Chaplin.  This is the second nomination in a row for Zinnemann.  It is, maybe a little surprisingly, the only Nighthawk nomination for Samuel Fuller, but hey, that’s one more than he ever got from the Academy.  George Stevens was second in the Consensus for Shane, but my feelings on that film and his direction of it are made quite clear here.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. From Here to Eternity  *
  2. Stalag 17  *
  3. The Big Heat
  4. The Moon is Blue  *
  5. The Actress  *

Analysis:  Of these, I have only read Eternity.  This category is an example of why I’m only listing 5 in this year – after this there’s a big drop-off to Peter Pan and Hondo, the final two on my list.  Lili, which I thought was quite mediocre actually won the Consensus with WGA and Globe wins (and an Oscar nom) over Eternity (WGA and Oscar wins).  Wilder continues to dominate the writing points – he now has 240 more points than any other writer.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Roman Holiday  **
  2. Casque d’Or
  3. Pickup on South Street
  4. The Captain’s Paradise  *
  5. The Naked Spur  *

Analysis:  We continue with category confusion.  Dalton Trumbo won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture Story for Roman Holiday (under a pseudonym) while the actual Screenplay for Roman Holiday was nominated in Best Screenplay (generally considered the Adapted Screenplay category).  Paradise was also nominated for Story, while Naked Spur was nominated for Story and Screenplay.

  • Best Actor:
  1. William Holden  (Stalag 17)  *
  2. Burt Lancaster  (From Here to Eternity)  **
  3. Montgomery Clift  (From Here to Eternity)
  4. Glenn Ford  (The Big Heat)
  5. David Niven  (The Moon is Blue)

Analysis:  Any time I begin to tell myself that I favor certain actors too much I look at this year.  I am not a fan of David Niven and thought his Oscar in 1958 was a bad choice.  But here, even over William Holden (in The Moon is Blue) and Richard Burton (The Robe), two of my favorite actors, I think Niven belongs in the Top 5 (Holden and Burton are 7 and 8 – #6 is Marlon Brando as Marc Antony).  This is by far the best of the acting categories this year – I have a list of 15 while none of the other categories have more than 10.  The Consensus is actually a tie between Lancaster (NYFC, Oscar nom) and Brando (BAFTA win, Oscar nom); there really isn’t much of a Consensus this year as Lancaster and Brando each have 11.72% of the points, the second lowest ever for a Consensus winner.  In 3rd is Spencer Tracy for The Actress (Globe win, BAFTA nom), who is my #9.  That means Holden comes in 4th in the Consensus, the first Oscar winner to end up so low; five actors have done it since but no one has finished lower.
Unlike many of my favorite actors, Holden doesn’t earn a ton of Nighthawk nominations, but he wins Best Actor three times (and used to be my winner in a fourth year).  This is his second win.  This is the second of many noms for Lancaster, the second of three for Clift and the only ones for Ford and Niven.

  • Best Actress
  1. Audrey Hepburn  (Roman Holiday)  **
  2. Deborah Kerr  (From Here to Eternity)  *
  3. Maggie McNamara  (The Moon is Blue)  *
  4. Simone Signoret  (Casque d’Or)
  5. Jean Simmons  (The Actress)  *

Analysis:  Actress and Song are the only categories in which this year is an improvement upon 1952.  Kerr would have easily won had she been in 1952.  This moves her up to 5th place in points.  This is the first of several nominations for Hepburn and Signoret, the second, and last, of two for Simmons and the only one for McNamara.

  • 004_020468.tifBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Frank Sinatra  (From Here to Eternity)  **
  2. Lee Marvin  (The Big Heat)
  3. Robert Strauss  (Stalag 17)  *
  4. Jack Buchanan  (The Band Wagon)
  5. Eddie Albert  (Roman Holiday)  *

Analysis:  Unlike Actor, there is a clear Consensus here.  Sinatra wins the Oscar and Globe; that coupled with no nominee list for the Globes and no critics awards gives Sinatra a 41% share of the points – the highest in this category between 1948 and 1976.  Sinatra will be back in a couple of years but this is the only nomination for the other four (although Marvin comes close in other years).  Sinatra desperately wanted this part as he wanted to prove that he really could act; he proved it without a doubt.

  • DR-donnareed-FHTEternity-tellmemoreBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Donna Reed  (From Here to Eternity)  *
  2. Gloria Grahame  (The Big Heat)
  3. Thelma Ritter  (Pickup on South Street)  *
  4. Grace Kelly  (Mogambo)  **
  5. Dawn Addams  (The Moon is Blue)

Analysis:  Just like the Niven nomination eases my mind about my always sticking to certain actors, this category eases my mind about the beauty of certain actresses.  It’s fairly well established that I think Grace Kelly was just about the most beautiful actress who ever lived (just look here), but here she actually wins the Consensus (by winning the Globe and earning an Oscar nom) and she’s in fourth place on my list; this is her first of three nominations in three years before she marries and retires.  Though this is it for her, in just 6 years, Grahame goes from 0 points and gets all the way to 180 and into the Top 10.
If you’re paying attention, you may notice that I agree with all four acting winners; it’s the only time in history this will happen.  They really got it right this year.

  • Best Editing:
  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. The Big Heat
  3. Stalag 17
  4. Pickup on South Street
  5. Roman Holiday

Analysis:  Though this list only includes two Oscar nominees, to me there is a pretty clear demarcation between my top 5 and any other films.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. The Big Heat
  3. Stalag 17
  4. Casque d’Or
  5. Roman Holiday

Analysis:  All five of my films are Black & White, so my de-facto color winner would be Hondo.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. The Robe
  3. Pickup on South Street
  4. Roman Holiday
  5. Hondo

Analysis:  There are a couple of big names here.  The score for Roman Holiday is by Georges Auric; its his fourth nomination and with his two wins, he’s up to a tie for 5th place (150 points).  The score for The Robe is by Alfred Newman; its his 7th nomination (with, sadly, no wins) and he’s up to 175 points and 4th place.  Lili won the surprise Oscar here in the one surprising Eternity loss (the other non-acting loss was for Costume Design where I didn’t even nominate it).

  • Best Sound:
  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. The Big Heat
  3. Pickup on South Street
  4. The Desert Rats
  5. War of the Worlds

Analysis:  As is typical of this category, only two of my nominees were Oscar-nominated and the other three Oscar nominees don’t even make my complete list (to be fair I haven’t seen one of them).  On the other hand, after a nine year stretch where the Oscar winner in this category averaged an 11th place finish on my list, I actually agree with the Academy for two years in a row.

  • fingers2Best Art Direction:
  1. The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T
  2. Julius Caesar
  3. Casque d’Or
  4. Roman Holiday
  5. The Robe

Analysis:  Both winners make my list, but really, the amazing sets of Fingers should have been nominated.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. War of the Worlds
  2. From Here to Eternity
  3. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms
  4. Invaders from Mars

Analysis:  War of the Worlds has the best visual effects of any film in over a decade.  But in some ways, Beast is more important because of the work by Ray Harryhausen.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. War of the Worlds
  3. The Desert Rats
  4. The Cruel Sea
  5. Invaders from Mars

Analysis:  This category still didn’t exist yet but the Martians are beaten out by the sounds of Pearl Harbor.

  • film-casque-d-or10Best Costume Design:
  1. Casque d’Or
  2. The Robe
  3. Julius Caesar
  4. The Actress
  5. Young Bess

Analysis:  I’m really stunned that Julius Caesar wasn’t nominated while From Here to Eternity was.

  • Best Makeup
  1. House of Wax
  2. The Big Heat
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “That’s Entertainment”  (The Band Wagon)
  2. “Pirate’s Life”  (Peter Pan)
  3. “I Can Fly”  (Peter Pan)
  4. “Re-Enlistment Blues”  (From Here to Eternity)
  5. “That’s Amore”  (The Caddy)

Analysis:  I keep having to go back to my Oscar book to see what actually won (“Secret Love” from Calamity Jane, which I hate).  I cannot fathom the thinking that went on to not nominate “That’s Entertainment”.  It makes no sense.

  • peter_panBest Animated Film:
  1. Peter Pan

Analysis:  Peter Pan is a very low-level ***.5 film – like Alice in Wonderland I love the book but the film just doesn’t rise to the level of great.  But low-level ***.5 is still good enough.  Wikipedia lists three other feature-length animated films for the year, all of them foreign (so, likely not released in the States in this year and not eligible in my awards).  I have seen none of the three and two of them are apparently so little known that they don’t actually have their own Wikipedia pages.  The Academy database (which is incomplete for 1953) lists two eligible animated films: The Snow Maiden (a 1952 Russian films which I haven’t seen) and Johnny the Giant Killer (a 1950 French film which I haven’t seen).

  • hulotBest Foreign Film:
  1. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
  2. Sawdust and Tinsel
  3. The Earrings of Madame De…
  4. Ugetsu
  5. The Wages of Fear

Analysis:  Earrings will be nominated for Costume Design in 1954, Ugetsu for Costume Design in 1955 and Holiday for Screenplay in 1955.  Only Holiday is a **** film.  What I am certain people will do is look at this list and wonder where Tokyo Story is.  It’s in 6th place and not by much.  There’s a bigger point gap between Holiday and Sawdust than there is between Sawdust and Tokyo Story, but that’s how the breaks are.  Also, in close finishes at #7 and #8 are Therese Raquin and I Vitteloni.  France earns 80 points on the year (the win and two other noms) – its most since 1939.  Sawdust is Bergman’s second nomination; by decade’s end he will be in third place behind only Kurosawa and Renoir.  Ugetsu is the third straight nomination for Mizoguchi.

By Film:

note:  They’re in points order.  You get twice as many points for a win as for a nomination.  Hopefully your math skills will let you figure out the system.

  • From Here to Eternity  (755)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Original Song
  • Roman Holiday  (370)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction
  • The Big Heat  (310)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Makeup
  • Stalag 17  (285)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography
  • Pickup on South Street  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Editing, Original Score, Sound
  • Casque d’Or  (170)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Foreign Film (1952)
  • The Moon is Blue  (140)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Actress  (90)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Costume Design
  • War of the Worlds  (80)
    • Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • The Robe  (60)
    • Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Peter Pan  (60)
    • Animated Film, Original Song, Original Song
  • The Band Wagon  (50)
    • Supporting Actor, Original Song
  • The Naked Spur  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Captain’s Paradise  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Desert Rats  (40)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T  (40)
    • Art Direction
  • Invaders from Mars  (40)
    • Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Julius Caesar  (35)
    • Art Direction, Costume Design
  • Mogambo  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Hondo  (25)
    • Original Score
  • The Cruel Sea  (20)
    • Sound Editing
  • The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms  (20)
    • Visual Effects
  • Young Bess  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Caddy  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  There’s not really a lot of surprise on this one.  There’s no film that got shorted by being stuck a tough year.  The only film way out of place is The Caddy, but the song is an acknowledged classic, so no surprise there.  The Big Heat does become one of the best films to fail to win a Nighthawk Award but it comes in second place a lot.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Analysis:  Quite good and a classic to many.  But it’s no better than high-level *** for me (#12 on the year).  It’s best showing is 7th place for Best Original Song (“Anyone Here for Love”).

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Lili

Analysis:  I was surprised that this wasn’t Shane.  Lili is a mid-range *** film and I don’t loathe it the way I do Shane, which was nominated for Best Picture.  But Lili did almost as well as Shane at the Oscars (they both went 1 for 6, with Shane earning 245 points and Lili 215).  Shane won Best Director at the NBR but Lili beat Shane at the BAFTAs (125 points for Lili to 85 for Shane) and the Guilds (again, 125 for Lili, 85 for Shane) while Lili won Best Screenplay at the Globes and Shane was ignored.  So, the final tally is 512 weighted points for Lili (the most for any film to date without a Nighthawk Award, though that mark will be shattered in 1955) and 479 for Shane (third highest to date).  They each earn 11 award nominations but Lili wins 4 and Shane only wins 2.  Lili really is the better film.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture
  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. Stalag 17
  3. The Big Heat
  4. Pickup on South Street
  5. Casque d’Or

Analysis:  This is a good spot for the break; these are not only all **** films, but there is an 8 point drop to the next film (The Naked Spur).

  • Best Director
  1. Fred Zinnemann  (From Here to Eternity)
  2. Fritz Lang  (The Big Heat)
  3. Billy Wilder  (Stalag 17)
  4. Samuel Fuller  (Pickup on South Street)
  5. Jacques Becker  (Casque d’Or)

Analysis:  Lang actually moves into second place here, with 405 points, just behind Wyler, while Wilder is tied for third with John Ford.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. From Here to Eternity
  2. Stalag 17
  3. The Big Heat
  4. Hondo

Analysis:  While Wilder is often thought of as a comedic writer (and he is), he dominates the Drama as well, with 120 more points than any other writer so far.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Casque d’Or
  2. Pickup on South Street
  3. The Naked Spur
  4. The Long Memory

Analysis:  A sign of the weakness of the year, in that neither Drama Screenplay category is full.

  • holden-as-seftonBest Actor:
  1. William Holden  (Stalag 17)
  2. Burt Lancaster  (From Here to Eternity)
  3. Montgomery Clift  (From Here to Eternity)
  4. Glenn Ford  (The Big Heat)
  5. Marlon Brando  (Julius Caesar)

Analysis:  I like Richard Burton a lot, but Brando belongs here more.  Burton was next on the list.

  • Deborah_Kerr_012Best Actress
  1. Deborah Kerr  (From Here to Eternity)
  2. Simone Signoret  (Casque d’Or)
  3. Anna Magnani  (Bellissima)
  4. Ava Gardner  (Mogambo)
  5. Leslie Caron  (Lili)

Analysis:  This is Kerr’s third Nighthawk – Drama Award and moves her into fourth place all-time.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Frank Sinatra  (From Here to Eternity)
  2. Lee Marvin  (The Big Heat)
  3. Robert Strauss  (Stalag 17)
  4. Ernest Borgnine  (From Here to Eternity)
  5. Harry Morgan  (Torch Song)

Analysis:  Jack Palance, who was Oscar-nominated for Shane, is only 7th on the Drama list.  Brandon de Wilde, also nominated for Shane, is nowhere on my list; his nomination was ridiculous.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Donna Reed  (From Here to Eternity)
  2. Gloria Grahame  (The Big Heat)
  3. Thelma Ritter  (Pickup on South Street)
  4. Grace Kelly  (Mogambo)
  5. Geraldine Page  (Hondo)

Analysis:  Grahame moves into the Top 10 in points, though in Drama she has one more nomination to come.  Page was Oscar-nominated; the first of many for her.

  • From Here to Eternity  (560)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Stalag 17  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • The Big Heat  (230)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Casque d’Or  (210)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Pickup on South Street  (165)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • Hondo  (70)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • Mogambo  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Naked Spur  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Long Memory  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Julius Caesar  (35)
    • Actor
  • Bellissima  (35)
    • Actress
  • Lili  (35)
    • Actress
  • Torch Song  (30)
    • Supporting Actor

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Man on a Tightrope

Analysis:  A solid, high-level *** drama from Elia Kazan, my #18 on the year.  Often overlooked when people look at Kazan’s work because it lacks the brilliance of his great films.


  • Best Picture
  1. Roman Holiday
  2. The Moon is Blue
  3. The Actress
  4. The Captain’s Paradise
  5. Peter Pan

Analysis:  Peter Pan wouldn’t have come close to a nomination in 1952, but this is still only the third time since 1942 that I’ve been able to fill this category.  And in all fairness, Peter Pan would have been second in 1951, barely behind Alice in Wonderland.

  • Best Director
  1. William Wyler  (Roman Holiday)
  2. Otto Preminger  (The Moon is Blue)
  3. George Cukor  (The Actress)

Analysis:  While Wyler is in first place in Drama points, this is his first and only nomination for a Comedy.  In fact, it’s the first Comedy he’s made since 1935 (and the Globes called it a Drama).  It is also Preminger’s first nomination, but he’ll get another in 1959.  It’s the fourth for Cukor (with more to come).

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. The Moon is Blue
  2. The Actress
  3. Peter Pan
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Roman Holiday
  2. The Captain’s Paradise
  • moonisblueBest Actor:
  1. David Niven  (The Moon is Blue)
  2. William Holden  (The Moon is Blue)
  3. Spencer Tracy  (The Actress)
  4. Gregory Peck  (Roman Holiday)
  5. Alec Guinness  (The Captain’s Paradise)

Analysis:  Tracy actually won the Globe for Drama.  While most of the Comedy categories are weaker than 1952, this is actually the best since 1942.  This makes the sixth nomination for Guinness in Comedy in four years and he moves into third place for points, behind only Chaplin and Cary Grant.  Though I have never been a big fan of Tracy, this is his fourth nomination and moves him into the top 10 in Comedy points.

  • Audrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_on_Vespa_in_Roman_Holiday_trailerBest Actress
  1. Audrey Hepburn  (Roman Holiday)
  2. Maggie McNamara  (The Moon is Blue)
  3. Jean Simmons  (The Actress)
  4. Marilyn Monroe  (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes)

Analysis:  Hepburn actually won the Globe for Drama.  Even with only 4 nominees this is the best this category has had to offer since 1941.  It’s incredible to have three performances that actually made my regular nominees.  This is the first win for Hepburn in this category; within 15 years she will have more Comedy points than any other actress.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Jack Buchanan  (The Band Wagon)
  2. Eddie Albert  (Roman Holiday)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Dawn Addams  (The Moon is Blue)
  2. Celia Johnson  (The Captain’s Paradise)

Analysis:  Johnson was actually BAFTA nominated as the lead but the BAFTAs didn’t have supporting categories.


  • Roman Holiday  (405)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • The Moon is Blue  (375)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Actress  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • The Captain’s Paradise  (155)
    • Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Peter Pan  (90)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay
  • The Band Wagon  (60)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  (35)
    • Actress

Analysis:  A couple of splendid hard-to-find films that are key here.  I had to get The Moon is Blue on Interlibrary Loan to see it (and it wasn’t allowed out of the library) and I had to watch The Actress on TCM.  The Actress is very good and The Moon is Blue is great – track them down if you can.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

Analysis:  This bizarre but fascinating film, written by Dr. Seuss, is a high-level *** film and doesn’t score in any of the major categories, but is good enough to be my #17 of the year.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  102

By Stars:

  • ****:  7
  • ***.5:  4
  • ***:  60
  • **.5:  22
  • **:  6
  • .5:  1
  • 0:  2
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  64.0

Analysis:  This is the lowest average since 1934.  This is a combination of lack of films at the top (the 11 films above *** is the lowest since 1944) and the films at the bottom (to this date only one year had three films below ** – 1933 and no films were below * – this year has three films below *).  Those last three films sink the average almost two full points.  From here forward that will be an issue, with the bad films hauling down the average of the year.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • Four Poster  (Cinematography – Black & White)
  • Mississippi Gambler  (Sound)

Note:  The last year, except 1967, in which there are multiple Oscar nominated films I haven’t seen.  This is also the last year for any category except Costume Design, Song and Foreign Film.

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  This year ranks at #63, just outside the bottom quarter of Best Picture years.  Like with 1952, there’s an improvement when looking at Best Director, but not as much of one as with 1950 and 1951; that’s partially because the weakest Picture nominee was also nominated for Director (Shane) and because one of the Director nominees wasn’t that much of an improvement (Lili over The Robe).  Still, Stalag 17 would have been a much better choice than Julius Caesar.  And, for the first time since 1945 they actually gave Best Picture to the best film of the year.

The Winners:  Among the nominees, the winners average a 1.65, with only one last place finish (Song).  It’s the first time since the supporting categories were created in 1936 where all the acting categories were the best choice.  And it’s the first time since 1946 where they made the best choice for Picture and Director.

But among the actual films, this is the best year to date and one of the best years of all-time.  The average winner ranks at 2.67.  It is, remarkably, the only year in history where I agree with all four acting winners.  And the tech winners average a 2.73, the best since 1928 (when there were only three tech categories).  Of the 21 categories, I agree with the winner in 14 of them – a new record to date.

The Nominees:  The overall nominees aren’t quite as good, with a score of 57.4  The acting is a strong 83.3, but the major categories (P-D-S) earn only a 50.8, lower then each of the three previous years.  As usual, Picture is the weak spot (41.2, higher than 1952, but lower than all the other years back to 1942) and there is a sharp difference between Picture and Director (60.0) for the fourth year in a row.  The big categories are Sound (at 47.6, sadly, the third best to date) and Costume Design – Color (77.8, the best to date).

Golden Globe Best Picture – Comedy / Musical:

For some bizarre reason, after finally establishing a full slate for this category, it disappears altogether.  There are winners for Actor and Actress in Comedy / Musical but the Picture category doesn’t even exist.  In 1954 and 1955 there will be winners but no nominees, so it won’t be until 1956 that we have the second full slate of nominees here.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  From Here to Eternity  (reviewed here and here)

Some see this as a makeup Oscar for Sunset Blvd but Holden absolutely deserved it.

Some see this as a makeup Oscar for Sunset Blvd but Holden absolutely deserved it.

2  –  Stalag 17  (dir. Billy Wilder)

In 1950, William Holden gave the performance of his career, brooding and cynical, and perfectly directed by Billy Wilder, taking Holden, who hadn’t done a whole lot of good acting since Golden Boy, over a decade before, and turning him into one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.  Three years later, he would re-team with Wilder and they would double down on the cynicism.  “When Holden urged Wilder to make his character more sympathetic, the director responded, ‘I was right about Sunset Boulevard, wasn’t I?'”  (Inside Oscar, p 236).  Holden would go on to win the Oscar and Wilder would earn his fourth Best Director nomination (odd, in that he wasn’t nominated for Picture – the start of a trend as he would do that two more times in the decade – or Screenplay, which is more odd since he had been nominated for writing three times in the previous five years).

This film is an interesting mixture of tones.  In the main story, we have the cynical Sefton, the man only looking out for himself.  Holden is brilliant in the part, giving a bleak smile when he’s willing to bet that the men with him in a POW camp in World War II won’t manage to escape.  That it means their death if they fail in the attempt doesn’t seem to faze him.  He knows how to play the odds and play the men (he is the master at getting hold of things and is willing to barter with anyone).  Even in the final scenes, when we get a sense of redemption for the character, Holden’s outlook keeps us from really sympathizing with him.  After all, even then, he’s doing the right thing for his own reasons.  He’s just looking after himself.  As a performance, it’s magnificent.  As a person, well, he would make Ayn Rand proud.

Then there is the subplot with Animal.  Animal is played, with great comic effect, by Robert Strauss (Strauss would earn the third of the film’s three Oscar nominations and deserved it).  Though part of the larger community in the barracks that is trying to escape, his main function is to provide a core of human desire in the film.  He is obsessed with Betty Grable and is heartbroken when he learns that she has married.  He desperately wants a closer look at the female Russian prisoners brought into the camp and manages a bold scheme to get up close that works, giving the biggest laughs in the film.

And that’s where Wilder walks such a tightrope and manages to come out with perfection.  There are comic moments in the film and they work well.  There is a core of cynicism that runs through the film and those work as well.  And in the end, there is the overarching presence of the Nazis who run the camp (the director Otto Preminger, whose The Moon is Blue is my #6 film of the year and is one of the director’s best films, plays the commander of the camp with a very solid performance).  Like in The Great Escape, there is a tricky road to walk, with the reminder of the barbarity of the Nazis and what they did with an attempt not to have that hang too heavily over the film (even though those who attempt to escape end up dead, just like in The Great Escape).  All of this works so well together because Wilder is just the right director, in both his writing and direction, to make all of this come out perfectly balanced.  And maybe that balance is shown in no other place as well as it is in the end of the film.  Sefton is gone, doing the right thing, even though he fully admits it’s not because of the right reasons; it’s because the odds finally favor it and he expects something good on his end.  And when two of the men discuss why Sefton would finally do this, it is Animal who is allowed the last line: “Maybe he just wanted to steal our wire cutters.  Ever think of that?”

Even on the poster Gloria Grahame is smoldering.

Even on the poster Gloria Grahame is smoldering.

3  –  The Big Heat  (dir. Fritz Lang)

I was somehow late to Glenn Ford.  I would see him in a few older films, but really, I just thought of him as just another star from Superman whose older films didn’t really work for me.  Then I started to come across his real performances – films like The Big Heat, Human Desire, Trial and The Sheepman, films that hinted at something so much darker than his mentor role as Pa Kent and the lightweight films with Rita Hayworth.  There was something much much darker here and it was worth watching.

That’s definitely the deal with The Big Heat, the brutal Fritz Lang film that I missed for a long time because it wasn’t nominated for any awards, only to finally watch it when I was doing my Fritz Lang list towards the end of my Top 100 Directors project and realized that it was easily one of the best films of 1953 and his was one of the best performances, leaping over Marlon Brando and Richard Burton and into my Best Actor list.  Ford plays a detective who is called to deal with the suicide of a policeman.  It looks open and shut at first, but he is given more information later.  That information leads to some guilt (his actions get a woman killed), some conflict (he is ordered off the case by higher-ups) and some fierce determination from Ford.  There will soon be a bloody, brutal cost to his tenacity: a bomb intended to kill him instead kills his wife.  But he is not the kind of man to stop there.  If anything, it drives him further and further towards finding out the truth and cleaning up the corruption in his town.

The other side of the story, those involved in the corruption, are part of what turns this story from a solid police drama with a great lead performance and moves it into the great film range.  First, there is the lead muscle for the crime boss, played with utter brutality by Lee Marvin.  While he had been in several films in the previous two years, this one, along with Marvin’s performance opposite Brando in The Wild One, would be the one that would make him a big name.  Marvin is a cheap hood who is ready to beat on one woman in a nightclub until stopped by Ford, and when he finds out that his girl has been meeting with Ford he hurls a pot of hot coffee in her face.  He moves between charm and and horrific violence in the blink of an eye and it is one of the best performances of his career (better, in my opinion, than his Oscar-winning performance in Cat Ballou).

The woman who is scarred by that coffee (the makeup job when we see her without the bandages is what earns the film a Best Makeup Nighthawk nomination) is Gloria Grahame.  For a half-dozen years, Grahame was one of the best things in Hollywood.  She gave remarkable performances in Crossfire (where she should have won the Oscar), In a Lonely Place, The Bad and the Beautiful (where she did win the Oscar), Sudden Fear, Human Desire and The Big Heat.  She was unbearably sexy and there’s no questioning why men would kill for her.  In this film she can bounce in with remarkable energy, she can slyly lean back on a bed and attempt to seduce a man whose wife has recently been killed, or she can throw a pot of coffee on the man who scarred her and then explain the situation to him about how it’s going to feel as the pain sets in.  This performance might actually be better than her Oscar winner but in the luck of the draw, she’s up against Donna Reed’s remarkable performance in From Here to Eternity and has to settle for second place.

This movie is not for the faint of heart.  It shows, for 1953, a remarkable level of nightmarish violence.  We see the brutal burns, we see the body count rising as one man struggles towards finding an answer.  We see attempted seductions and the horrible reality of a bought town.  I am reminded of a quote from the first episode of Eccleston’s run on “Doctor Who” and it seems to bear on Ford’s character quite well: “When disaster comes, he’s there.  He leaves a storm in his wake.”

4  –  Roman Holiday  (reviewed here)

5  –  Pickup on South Street  (reviewed here)

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. Glen or Glenda
  2. Robot Monster
  3. Invasion U.S.A.
  4. Beneath the 12 Mile Reef
  5. It Came From Outer Space

note:  Robot Monster and Invasion U.S.A. would have been, by far, the worst films in any year previous to this one.  On a scale of 0-99, Glen or Glenda and Robot Monster are both a 0 – a film without any merit whatsoever.  Invasion U.S.A. earns a 5, which makes it a low-level .5 film. My *.5 films begin at 26; prior to this year only two films were lower than that: The Vampire Bat (22) and Red Planet Mars (17).
For a long time, I only had seen a handful of films that I rated with a 0.  They are all mentioned in this post.  But, for various reasons, over the last five years or so I have added a bunch more (there are currently 28 films that earn a 0 from me).  This year is the first of 6 years where I have to decide between two films that earn a 0.  I really should review both, but I find it difficult enough to write about one.  Ironically, the next time this will happen is in 1959 and it will again be an Ed Wood film that takes the cake (and review).

I kid you not.  This film is worse than Plan 9 from Outer Space.

I kid you not. This film is worse than Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Glen or Glenda  (dir. Ed Wood)

I do not treasure bad films.  The Best Guilty Pleasure of my annual Nighthawks isn’t generally a bad film – it’s a flawed film that is either quite funny (Mallrats comes to mind) or because I enjoy the genre (Battlestar Gallactica).  Not great films, but films I enjoy and far from being bad films.  I understand that there are people who enjoy bad films and that’s fine, but, as the Beach Boys said, that’s not me.

From 1995, the time when I saw Showgirls (waiting for my friend John to finish his shift at the theater where it was playing – at least I didn’t pay for it) to 2002, I had only seen two films that I rated as 0.  The other was Plan Nine from Outer Space, which I saw in 1997, entranced by repeated viewings of Ed Wood.  Then, in 2002, or so, along with several friends, all of us big fans of the film Ed Wood (not the actual director) realized that none of us had ever seen Glen or Glenda and we decided to see how bad it really was.  The answer was that this film, incredible to believe, was actually worse than Plan 9.  Plan 9, for all its ineptitude, at least had the (unintentional) humor of actors like Tor and Vampira and a goofy plot and special effects that are amusing in their awfulness.  Then there is Glen or Glenda.

Glen or Glenda is a reminder that not only was Ed Wood probably the worst director ever, but also one of the worst actors ever, though his then girlfriend Dolores Fuller gives him a serious run for the money on that one.  That is more easily excused in a film like Plan 9, which can’t be taken seriously, even though it was intended as such.  But Glen has to be taken seriously because there’s no other way to take it, and it’s a reminder that he was also a terrible writer.  He simply had no talent for filmmaking and never should have been allowed to make one.  Yes, from watching Ed Wood, we can see how close this issue was to him and how he was trying to both make a quickie exploitation film and make a serious autobiographical statement at the same time.  But that doesn’t make the lines any less awful or the delivery of them any less painful to listen to.  And of course, Bela Lugosi suddenly popping in to say things like “beware of the great green dragon that sits on your doorstep.  He eats little boys,” is interesting only because he’s Bela Lugosi (and yet, his narration is so much more compelling than the piece of wood they got to do the actual narration).  And right after that we have to sit through this awful scene, badly filmed, with horrible music, of Glen / Glenda silently calling to his girlfriend Barbara, who is trapped under a tree / chimney (yes, really, a tree / chimney).

Suddenly, we are still in the dream sequence, but apparently a dream sequence imported from a different film.  We get women in BDSM, we get random women ripping their clothes off.  The 1950’s soft-core porn industry has leapt onto the screen and we have no idea why and it’s so unerotic that you wonder how that is even possible.  Then, after we get back to the actual narrative, and get the scene so many of us remember from Ed Wood, of Barbara handing over the angora sweater, we can look at the clock and realize there are 16 minutes left.  Yes, even with the random “erotic” scenes thrown in by the producer (because the film was too short), we’re still only 52 minutes in and so there’s a second cross-dressing story tacked on to the end of the film.

I think of that great moment in Ed Wood, when Ed is on the phone, inquiring about the producer’s reaction to this film.  “Worst film you ever saw?” he says.  “Well my next one will be better.”  Glen or Glenda is barely beaten out by Human Highway and Caligula as the worst film I’ve ever seen.  Wood’s next film would be Jail Bait.  It earns, on my point scale, a 1.  So he was right; his next film would be better.


  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  From Here to Eternity  (15)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  From Here to Eternity  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  From Here to Eternity  (755)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  The Caddy
  • 2nd Place Award:  The Big Heat  (Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Sound, Makeup)
  • 6th Place Award:  The Moon is Blue  (Picture, Director, Editing, Original Song)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  From Here to Eternity  (9)  **
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  From Here to Eternity  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  From Here to Eternity  (560)  *
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  Torch Song
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Moon is Blue  (7)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  Roman Holiday  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  Roman Holiday  (405)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  The Band Wagon

Note:  * means a Nighthawk record up to this point; ** ties a Nighthawk record

Progressive Leaders:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Wizard of Oz  (18)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  The Wizard of Oz  (14)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  The Wizard of Oz  (795)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards without winning Best Picture:  Frankenstein  /  The Magnificent Ambersons  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Best Picture Nomination:  Captain Blood  /  Henry V  (10)
  • Most Nighthawk Nominations without a Nighthawk Award:  My Man Godfrey (11)
  • Actor:  Humphrey Bogart  (440)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (555)
  • Director:  William Wyler  (405)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (640)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Gregg Toland  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (450)
  • Foreign Film:  Akira Kurosawa  (220)

Breakdown by Genre  (Foreign in parenthesis, best film in genre following, avg. score is afterwards, in parenthesis):

  • Drama:  39 (3)  –  From Here to Eternity  (61.6)
  • Comedy:  18 (6)  –  Roman Holiday  (67.4)
  • Foreign:  15  –  Casque d’Or  (65.3)
  • Musical:  12 (3)  –  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  (64.3)
  • War:  6  –  Stalag 17  (71.5)
  • Western:  6  –  The Naked Spur  (68.3)
  • Adventure:  5  –  Mogambo  (56.6)
  • Crime:  4 (2)  –  Pickup on South Street  (74.8)
  • Sci-Fi:  4 (2)  –  War of the Worlds  (46.5)
  • Mystery:  2  –  The Big Heat  (79.5)
  • Horror:  2  –  House of Wax  (69)
  • Kids:  2 (1)  –  Peter Pan  (64)
  • Suspense:  2  –  Plunder of the Sun  (56)
  • Action:  0
  • Fantasy:  0

Analysis:  This is the fewest amount of dramas since 1948, both in terms of number and in terms of percentage of overall films.  But, even worse, thanks to Glen and Glenda, its the worst overall score for Drama to date.  Sci-Fi, in spite of Robot Monster, actually goes up in score, and with 4 films, has to most in one year to date; in fact the 4 films for Sci-Fi is as many as I had seen from 1932-1949 combined.  For some reason, Suspense films drops way down – from 10 in the year before to 2 here.  There is also a drop for Foreign – it ties its lowest total since 1946 and has its lowest average since 1945.  But the biggest thing is the re-appearance of Horror films.  House of Wax and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms are the first two Horror films I’ve seen since 1946 (and Beast could be considered Sci-Fi).  That’s because in the late 40’s, Universal relegated their Horror ideas to Comedy and mixed them in with Abbot and Costello.  It will still be slow for a few years, but in 1957, Hammer will arrive and Horror will go back up (in quantity and quality).

For the fifth year in a row, it’s a Drama film at the top my overall list.  But From Here to Eternity is the only Drama in the Top 10 – the first time since 1940 that’s happened.  The Top 10 is actually dominated by Comedies, with 4 in the Top 10 for the first time since 1944.  There are also only 4 Dramas in the Top 20 – the lowest since 1940 and there is only 1 Foreign film in the Top 20, the lowest since 1945.  On the other hand, there are 3 Musicals in the Top 20, and surprisingly, that’s the first time that’s happened.

Studio Note:  For the sixth straight year, Fox is one of the top two studios.  But there’s a big drop in this year, with only 12 Fox films, the lowest since 1946.  And that also means it’s the first year since 1938 where only one studio has more than 12 films.  That one studio is MGM, with 25 films.  MGM accounts for 24.5% of the films on the year, the highest one studio has had since MGM in 1942.  Universal has a massive drop in quality as they are no longer artificially propped up through very good British films.  They go from a 77 in 1952 (their highest since 1952) to a 59.7 (their lowest to date).  There are still two Ealing films for Universal, but they’re only mid-range *** films.  This also marks the beginning of the end for RKO (as can be read about here).  After a decade where I’d averaged 13 films a year from the studio, they are down to 2 here.  It will have two more low years, than a brief resurgence in 1956, then will die in 1957.

After almost 30 years, Columbia finally wins its first Nighthawk Award for Best Picture, the last of the major studios to do so.  Things are spread out at the top as for the first time since 1934 four different studios have multiple films in the Top 10 (Columbia, MGM, Paramount, United Artists).  Also, for the first time since 1944 four different studios have at least 3 films in the Top 20 (MGM leads with 5 while Columbia, 20th Century-Fox and Paramount each have 3).  On the other hand, Universal drops (the first time it hasn’t had a Top 20 film since 1942) while RKO is done (the first time since 1940 it hasn’t had a Top 20 film and it will never have another one).

27 Films Eligible for Best Foreign Film (alphabetical, with director and country in parenthesis – red are ****, blue are ***.5 – both those colors qualify for my Best Foreign Film Award):

  • Anatahan  (von Sternberg, Japan)
  • Black Ermine  (Christensen, Argentina)
  • Cangaceiro  (Barreto, Brazil)
  • Daera  (Amrohi, India)
  • Do Bigha Zamin  (Roy, India)
  • The Earrings of Madame De…  (Ophuls, France)
  • El  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • Empty Eyes  (Pietrangeli, Italy)
  • A Geisha  (Mizoguchi, Japan)
  • I Vinti  (Antonioni, Italy)
  • I Vitelloni  (Fellini, Italy)
  • The Illusion Travels by Streetcar  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • A Japanese Tragedy  (Kinoshita, Japan)
  • Monika  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Mr. Hulot’s Holiday  (Tati, France)
  • Neapolitan Turk  (Mattoli, Italy)
  • Neapolitans in Milan  (De Filippo, Italy)
  • The Proud and the Beautiful  (Allegrat, France)
  • Sawdust and Tinsel  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • The Story of Little Mook  (Staudte, East Germany)
  • Therese Raquin  (Carne, France)
  • Tokyo Story  (Ozu, Japan)
  • Toto in Color  (Steno, Italy)
  • Two Careful Fellows  (Rodriguez, Mexico)
  • Ugetsu  (Mizoguchi, Japan)
  • The Virtuous Scandal  (Guitry, France)
  • The Wages of Fear  (Clouzot, France)

Note:  France and Italy tie for the most with 6 films each, followed by Japan with 5.  The top 5 aren’t as good as the year before but there are 8 films that are ***.5 or **** – those 8 films are the best top 8 since 1902-26.

Films Eligible in This Year But Originally Released in a Different Calendar Year:

  • Gaslight  (1940)
  • Friedemann Bach  (1941)
  • Los Tres Huastecos  (1948)
  • Bellisima  (1951)
  • Edward and Caroline  (1951)
  • Hell is Sold Out  (1951)
  • Above and Beyond  (1952)
  • Angel Face  (1952)
  • Casque d’Or  (1952)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest  (1952)
  • Invasion U.S.A.  (1952)
  • The Little World of Don Camillo  (1952)
  • Mandy  (1952)

Note:  Aside from Casque, not an important film in the bunch.  Invasion would be the worst film in any year before this, but here is only the third worst.

Films Released This Year Originally But Eligible in a Different Year:

  • Anatahan  (1954)
  • Beat the Devil  (1954)
  • Cangaceiro  (1954)
  • The Earrings of Madame De…  (1954)
  • Easy to Love  (1954)
  • El  (1954)
  • Genevieve  (1954)
  • The Glenn Miller Story  (1954)
  • The Illusion Travels by Streetcar  (1954)
  • Indiscretion of an American Wife  (1954)
  • The Kidnappers  (1954)
  • King of the Khyber Rifles  (1954)
  • The Long Long Trailer  (1954)
  • Malta Story  (1954)
  • The Sun Shines Bright  (1954)
  • The Titfield Thunderbolt  (1954)
  • The Unholy Four  (1954)
  • Fear and Desire  (1955)
  • The Heart of the Matter  (1955)
  • Mr. Hulot’s Holiday  (1955)
  • Two Careful Fellows  (1955)
  • Ugetsu  (1955)
  • The Wages of Fear  (1955)
  • Monika  (1956)
  • The Proud and the Beautiful  (1956)
  • Sawdust and Tinsel  (1956)
  • I Vitelloni  (1957)
  • The Virtuous Scandal  (1957)
  • Therese Raquin  (1958)
  • Tokyo Story  (1967)
  • A Geisha  (1978)
  • A Japanese Tragedy  (1979)

Note:  There’s only one **** film but there are nine ***.5 films and films like Ugetsu and Sawdust would have had their share of nominations in this year.