Still one of the best scenes in all of film history.

Still one of the best scenes in all of film history.

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.

I’m listing 8 in each category, namely because that’s how many **** films there are, but only the top 5 actually earn nominations and in many categories there aren’t even 8 on my list.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. On the Waterfront  **
  2. Rear Window  *
  3. Forbidden Games
  4. A Star is Born
  5. Sabrina
  6. Gate of Hell  *
  7. Hobson’s Choice  *
  8. The Country Girl  *

Analysis:  There are many who would pick Rear Window but to me On the Waterfront is the easy winner here.  Gate of Hell is a close 6th place, but then there is a couple of points drop to Hobson and another couple to Country Girl.  Because I weight the BAFTA and Oscars the same, there is a glut of films tied for 5th place in the Consensus thanks to their BAFTA nom, including Rear Window, Gate of Hell and Hobson’s Choice.

  • Elia-Kazan-talking-to-Mar-001Best Director
  1. Elia Kazan  (On the Waterfront)  **
  2. Alfred Hitchcock  (Rear Window)  *
  3. Teinosuke Kinogasha  (Gate of Hell)
  4. Rene Clement  (Forbidden Games)
  5. Billy Wilder  (Sabrina)  *
  6. George Cukor  (A Star is Born)
  7. David Lean  (Hobson’s Choice)
  8. Fritz Lang  (Human Desire)

Analysis:  Just like with Picture, there are a lot of people who would pick Hitchcock.  And Hitchcock’s direction is brilliant, but Kazan’s is even better.  Wilder moves into a tie with William Wyler for 1st place in points (405).  Hitchcock moves into a tie for 6th place (270).

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Sabrina  **
  2. Forbidden Games
  3. Hobson’s Choice
  4. The Country Girl  *
  5. A Star is Born  *
  6. Rear Window  *
  7. The Caine Mutiny  *
  8. Gate of Hell

Analysis:  Yet another writing win for Wilder – this makes 12 noms (and 7 wins).  He has 320 more points than any other writer.  I’ve only read two of the source materials here – Forbidden Games (which I just read) and The Caine Mutiny (which I read back in high school).  Forbidden Games is actually a nominee in Best Motion Picture Story.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. On the Waterfront  **
  2. Summer Interlude
  3. Genevieve
  4. The Illusion Travels by Streetcar
  5. The Titfield Thunderbolt
  6. Broken Lance  *

Analysis:  The first nomination for Bergman; he will have a lot more by the end of the decade.  This was a confusing category because of On the Waterfront and Broken Lance.  Broken Lance won Best Motion Picture Story.  According to Wikipedia it is based on the novel I’ll Never Go Home Anymore, but I went and read the novel and decided it really isn’t – it just has a loose structure that is similar to the film version House of Strangers, and thus the award to Philip Yordan, who wrote that script (but I still decided it was an original – but you can see more here).  On the Waterfront is well known as having been based on the Pulitzer Prize winning articles by Malcolm Johnson, even though it won Best Story and Screenplay, which usually means it is completely original (that’s also what Genevieve was nominated for).  But, looking at a book with the script and reading the intro from scriptwriter Budd Schulberg, while Schulberg was inspired by the stories, clearly this was his own script that wasn’t actually adapted from those articles.  So I actually had to re-do these categories, as I had it in Adapted Screenplay.  For the record, the credits to Waterfront list it as “Suggested by Articles by Malcolm Johnson.”

  • Best Actor:
  1. Marlon Brando  (On the Waterfront)  **
  2. Humphrey Bogart  (The Caine Mutiny)  *
  3. James Mason  (A Star is Born)  *
  4. Bing Crosby  (The Country Girl)  *
  5. Charles Laughton  (Hobson’s Choice)
  6. James Stewart  (Rear Window)  *
  7. Frank Sinatra  (Suddenly)
  8. Spencer Tracy  (Broken Lance)

Analysis:  Brando becomes the first actor since 1945 to win four awards (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, NYFC).  Like with Picture, there’s a large tie for 5th place at the Consensus because of numerous BAFTA nominees.  There is really a logjam at the top here – those top 4 performances are really amazing and any of them would be a good winner.  But Brando is the clear winner to me (the second time Bogie gives a great performance and loses the Nighthawk to Brando).
This is the second win for Brando but he won’t get a Nighthawk nomination again until 1972.  It’s the only nomination for Mason until 1982, the second (and last) for Crosby.  It’s the first nomination for Laughton since 1935, but it moves him into third place all-time (its his sixth overall, including three wins).  It is the 10th and final nomination for Bogie, ending his long storied career in first place, a position he will stay in all the way into the 90’s.

  • Best Actress
  1. Grace Kelly  (The Country Girl)  **
  2. Judy Garland  (A Star is Born)  *
  3. Audrey Hepburn  (Sabrina)  *
  4. Brenda De Banzie  (Hobson’s Choice)
  5. Maj-Britt Nilsson  (Summer Interlude)
  6. Gloria Grahame  (Human Desire)
  7. Dorothy Dandridge  (Carmen Jones)  *
  8. Anna Magnani  (The Golden Coach)

Analysis:  Yes, I agree with the Oscar for Grace Kelly rather than go with Judy Garland, which is probably the more fashionable thing to do.  But the amazing thing is that Kelly actually swept the awards; she was the first actor, male or female, to sweep all five existing awards (Oscar, BAFTA, Globe, NYFC, NBR).  So there’s no question that while Garland is brilliant (and she won the Globe – Comedy), the massive, massive Consensus in this year was for Grace Kelly’s performance.

  • Karl-Malden-as-Father-Barry-in-On-the-WaterfrontBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Karl Malden  (On the Waterfront)  *
  2. Lee J. Cobb  (On the Waterfront)  *
  3. Rod Steiger  (On the Waterfront)  *
  4. William Holden  (The Country Girl)
  5. Jose Ferrer  (The Caine Mutiny)
  6. Tom Tully  (The Caine Mutiny)  *
  7. Edmond O’Brien  (The Barefoot Contessa)  **
  8. John Mills  (Hobson’s Choice)  *

Analysis:  The Oscar for O’Brien really seems quite strange to me, and yet he won the Globe as well.  This is the first year for this award at the National Board of Review and they chose John Williams for Sabrina (who isn’t even on my list).  It will take until 1957 for the NBR to award someone who earns an Oscar nom and until 1959 for them to agree with the Academy’s choice.  Mills is actually a Consensus nominee for Actor but I think he belong here (and the BAFTAs at the time didn’t have supporting categories).
This is the second win for Malden, the second nomination for Ferrer, the first for Cobb and Steiger (though both will get more) and the third for Holden, but the only time he doesn’t win until 1976.

  • evamariesaintBest Supporting Actress:
  1. Eva Marie Saint  (On the Waterfront)  *
  2. Katy Jurado  (Broken Lance)  *
  3. Thelma Ritter  (Rear Window)
  4. Claire Trevor  (The High and the Mighty)  *

Analysis:  Yes, even with picking someone not nominated for an Oscar, I can’t fill this category.  The real irony is that the two Oscar-nominated performances I don’t nominate – Jan Sterling (The High and the Mighty) and Nina Foch (Executive Suite) are the Consensus winners in a tie.  They each were nominated for the Oscar, Sterling won the Globe and Foch won the first NBR award for Supporting Actress (she would be the only one of the first five winners to even earn an Oscar nom).

  • Best Editing:
  1. On the Waterfront
  2. Rear Window
  3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  4. Hobson’s Choice
  5. Gate of Hell
  6. Le Plaisir
  7. Forbidden Games
  8. Genevieve

Analysis:  The other three nominees are especially galling.  There is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which edited well during the dance sequence, but not very well outside of it.  There is The Caine Mutiny, which is way too long and drags for considerable sequences and has whole parts that shouldn’t even be in the film, as I noted in my review here.  And there is The High and the Mighty.  That film taunted me for a long time as it wasn’t readily available.  It was one of the first films I ever deliberately made time to watch on TCM, having anticipated it for some time, with its 6 Oscar nominations, including Director, Supporting Actress (twice) and Editing.  It is way too long and just isn’t very good and the editing is one of the worst things about it.  This continues to be one of the categories that the Academy is the worst at.

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. On the Waterfront
  2. Rear Window
  3. Gate of Hell
  4. Sabrina
  5. Forbidden Games
  6. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  7. A Star is Born
  8. Hobson’s Choice

Analysis:  If you’re keeping track, that’s 4 each of black & white and color.  The next one is Human Desire (b&w), but you have to skip four films for the next color film (Brigadoon).  Robert Burks earns his second nomination (for Rear Window), the only cinematographer here with more than one so far.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. On the Waterfront
  2. Gate of Hell
  3. Forbidden Games
  4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  5. The Country Girl
  6. The High and the Mighty
  7. The Caine Mutiny
  8. Rear Window

Analysis:  Victor Young is the only composer here not making his Nighthawk debut, earning his third nomination (for The Country Girl).

  • Best Sound:
  1. On the Waterfront
  2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  3. The Caine Mutiny
  4. Rear Window
  5. Angels One Five
  6. Gate of Hell
  7. Them
  8. The High and the Mighty

Analysis:  If there’s a category that the Academy is worse at than Editing, it’s Sound.  They once again go with the mediocre musical (The Glenn Miller Story) rather than a film in which the sound is so distinctive, like On the Waterfront or 20,000 Leagues.

  • waterfrontpigeonsBest Art Direction:
  1. On the Waterfront
  2. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  3. Gate of Hell
  4. A Star is Born
  5. Sabrina
  6. Le Plaisir
  7. The Golden Coach
  8. Brigadoon

Analysis:  Hobson and The Earrings of Madame De fill out the top 5 of black & white films.  The Academy definitely got this one right – from the pigeon cages and back alleys of Waterfront to the amazing sets on the submarine in Leagues.  This is the first time since the split in 1940 that both categories are strong.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  2. Them
  3. The Caine Mutiny

Analysis:  This one’s easy and it makes for the best 1-2 punch in this category since 1939.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  2. The Caine Mutiny
  3. Angels One Five
  4. Them
  • gate_of_hellBest Costume Design:
  1. Gate of Hell
  2. Le Plaisir
  3. A Star is Born
  4. Brigadoon
  5. The Golden Coach
  6. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  7. The Earrings of Madame De…
  8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Analysis:  This is the only appearance for Seven Brides, a film I am not fond of.  But the Academy gets kudos for giving the Oscar to a Foreign film that absolutely deserved it.  The black-and-white award went to Sabrina because, well, because the costumes were by Edith Head.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Gate of Hell
  2. A Star is Born
  3. The Golden Coach
  • Best Original Song:
  1. “A Whale of a Tale”  (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
  2. “The Man That Got Away”  (A Star is Born)
  3. “Monahan O’Han”  (Knock on Wood)
  4. “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”  (White Christmas)
  5. “Gee I Wish I Was Back in the Army”  (White Christmas)
  6. “The High and the Mighty”  (The High and the Mighty)
  7. “Three Coins in the Fountain”  (Three Coins in the Fountain)

Analysis:  This is the first year where the database at is complete.  It lists 162 songs, which I take to be original songs that would have been eligible for the Oscar.  Unfortunately, you can’t paste into a certain search – you have to search Song Title and enter the year.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. none

Analysis: lists no animated films released in 1954.  Wikipedia lists two films: Animal Farm (which will be eligible in 1956) and Hansel and Gretel, which is not listed in the database (and which I have not seen).

  • seven-samurai-posterBest Foreign Film:
  1. The Seven Samurai
  2. Gate of Hell  **
  3. Late Chrysanthemums

Analysis:  I’ve only seen 20 Foreign films from 1954 (listed way below), which is my lowest since 1948.  Gate of Hell actually would have won in 1953.  On the other hand, Buñuel’s Wuthering Heights, the fourth-best film, and at a high-level ***, not high enough to qualify for this award, would have been 9th in 1953 and 13th in 1955.  Gate in Hell is a great film, but Seven Samurai wins this by a mile.  This is the first time since 1939 where there is more than one nominee but they’re all from the same country.  Japan is now up to 420 points and a very distant second to France, having overtaken Germany (which will be stuck at 320 until 1990).  Kurosawa is up to 260 points and continues to increase his lead.

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.

  • On the Waterfront  (750)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction
  • Sabrina  (255)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction
  • A Star is Born  (215)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Original Song
  • Gate of Hell  (210)
    • Director, Editing, Cinematography, Original Score, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Foreign Film
  • Forbidden Games  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Original Score, Foreign Film (1952)
  • The Country Girl  (200)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Score
  • Rear Window  (195)
    • Picture, Director, Supporting Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Sound
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  (190)
    • Editing, Original Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Original Song
  • Hobson’s Choice  (135)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Editing
  • The Caine Mutiny  (125)
    • Actor, Supporting Actor, Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Summer Interlude  (95)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress, Foreign Film (1951)
  • Genevieve  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Illusion Travels by Streetcar  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Titfield Thunderbolt  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Angels One Five  (40)
    • Sound, Sound Editing
  • Them  (40)
    • Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Le Plaisir  (35)
    • Costume Design, Foreign Film
  • Broken Lance  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • The High and the Mighty  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • The Golden Coach  (25)
    • Costume Design, Makeup
  • White Christmas  (20)
    • Original Song, Original Song
  • The Earrings of Madame De…  (20)
    • Foreign Film (1953)
  • Brigadoon  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • Knock on Wood  (10)
    • Original Song

Analysis:  Like 1953, completely dominated by one film.  But, unlike 1953, no other big films (like The Big Heat) with lots of nominations.  So, both films had just over 1/4 of all the points in the year.  But Waterfront has almost many points as the other four BP nominees combined – dominating over the nominees to an unprecedented degree.  And if I hadn’t switched it back to Original Screenplay, it would have won 11 awards while the rest of the nominees would have won 0.

Best Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Human Desire

Analysis:  A very good Fritz Lang adaptation of a Zola novel, reviewed here.  It comes in 6th for Actress and in the Top 10 in four other categories, including Director.  My #13 film of the year.

Biggest Awards Film Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Awards:

  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Analysis:  I’m so not a fan of this one as can be seen here.  I don’t like the story, I don’t like the music.  It won Best Screenplay at the WGA over A Star is Born (how, I cannot fathom), was nominated for Best Picture at the BAFTAs and won two of its 5 Oscar noms.

Nighthawk Golden Globes:


  • Best Picture
  1. On the Waterfront
  2. Rear Window
  3. Forbidden Games
  4. Gate of Hell
  5. The Country Girl

Analysis:  This is a strong top 5 – all of them are **** films.

  • Best Director
  1. Elia Kazan  (On the Waterfront)
  2. Alfred Hitchcock  (Rear Window)
  3. Teinosuke Kinogasha  (Gate of Hell)
  4. Rene Clement  (Forbidden Games)
  5. Fritz Lang  (Human Desire)

Analysis:  Fritz Lang moves into a tie for 1st place in Drama points with William Wyler (450).  Hitchcock moves into a tie for a distant 3rd (315).

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Forbidden Games
  2. The Country Girl
  3. Rear Window
  4. The Caine Mutiny
  5. Gate of Hell
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. On the Waterfront
  2. Summer Interlude
  3. Broken Lance
  • MBDONTH EC043Best Actor:
  1. Marlon Brando  (On the Waterfront)
  2. Humphrey Bogart  (The Caine Mutiny)
  3. Bing Crosby  (The Country Girl)
  4. James Stewart  (Rear Window)
  5. Frank Sinatra  (Suddenly)

Analysis:  Jimmy Stewart earns his 5th nomination and moves into 6th place for Drama points.  Bogie gets all the way up to 505 points and cement his 1st place finish for several decades.  If you haven’t seen Suddenly, it’s an interesting little film with a very good performance from Sinatra.

  • countrygirl-gracekelly003273599Best Actress
  1. Grace Kelly  (The Country Girl)
  2. Maj-Britt Nilsson  (Summer Interlude)
  3. Gloria Grahame  (Human Desire)
  4. Grace Kelly  (Rear Window)
  5. Danielle Darrieux  (The Earrings of Madame De…)

Analysis:  This is Grahame’s fifth Drama nomination in less than a decade (with two wins) and it moves her into a tie for 5th place in points; it is also her last nomination.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Karl Malden  (On the Waterfront)
  2. Lee J. Cobb  (On the Waterfront)
  3. Rod Steiger  (On the Waterfront)
  4. William Holden  (The Country Girl)
  5. Jose Ferrer  (The Caine Mutiny)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Eva Marie Saint  (On the Waterfront)
  2. Katy Jurado  (Broken Lance)
  3. Thelma Ritter  (Rear Window)
  4. Claire Trevor  (The High and the Mighty)
  • On the Waterfront  (520)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Rear Window  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Country Girl  (225)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Forbidden Games  (175)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
  • Gate of Hell  (95)
    • Picture, Director
  • The Caine Mutiny  (105)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Human Desire  (80)
    • Director, Actress
  • Summer Interlude  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actress
  • Broken Lance  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Suddenly  (35)
    • Actor
  • The Earrings of Madame De…  (35)
    • Actress
  • The High and the Mighty  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama Not Nominated for Any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Johnny Guitar

Analysis:  It’s my #17 film of the year and is a high-level *** but I didn’t think it merited consideration in any of the categories.  It’s an interesting film, though I don’t find it as interesting as the big Nicholas Ray fans do.


  • Best Picture
  1. A Star is Born
  2. Sabrina
  3. Hobson’s Choice
  4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  5. Le Plaisir

Analysis:  The second best Top 5 in this category since 1942.  Hobson’s Choice is the best #3 film in this category since 1944.  Genevieve, the #6 film in this category, would have made the Top 5 in all but 6 of the first 27 Nighthawk Awards.

  • Best Director
  1. Billy Wilder  (Sabrina)
  2. George Cukor  (A Star is Born)
  3. David Lean  (Hobson’s Choice)
  4. Max Ophuls  (Le Plaisir)
  5. Henry Cornelius  (Genevieve)

Analysis:  Though Wilder is thought of more as a comic director and writer, this is only his second Comedy nomination; from here on out he will be almost exclusively a comic director.  It is Cukor’s fourth (with no wins), moving up to 180 points and a tie for 6th place.  This is the first and only nomination for Lean for a Comedy.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Sabrina
  2. Hobson’s Choice
  3. A Star is Born
  4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  5. Beat the Devil

Analysis:  This is Wilder’s third Comedy win (the other two were in Original).  This moves him up to 360 points and still leaves him in third place.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. Genevieve
  2. The Illusion Travels by Streetcar
  3. The Titfield Thunderbolt

Analysis:  Two British films and one Mexican film.  Clearly not a great time for original Hollywood comedies.

  • James Mason A Star is BornBest Actor:
  1. James Mason  (A Star is Born)
  2. Charles Laughton  (Hobson’s Choice)

Analysis:  This is Laughton’s third Comedy nomination.  I agree with the Globe winners for both Actor and Actress in Comedy / Musical.  That will only happen one other time in the next 20 years.

  • Judy-Garland-A-Star-Is-Born-judy-garland-32438572-432-288Best Actress
  1. Judy Garland  (A Star is Born)
  2. Audrey Hepburn  (Sabrina)
  3. Brenda De Banzie  (Hobson’s Choice)
  4. Dorothy Dandridge  (Carmen Jones)
  5. Anna Magnani  (The Golden Coach)

Analysis:  Garland’s second win in this category moves her into 6th place in points.  This is one of the few times to this date that I actually have a full slate in this category.  It’s even stranger that three of them were nominated for the Oscar.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. John Mills  (Hobson’s Choice)
  2. William Holden  (Sabrina)

Analysis:  Neither Mills nor Holden are really thought of as comedic actors, but Holden earned a Comedy Actor nomination the year before and Mills will actually win this award again in 1969.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. none

Analysis:  It was really a good year for strong lead performances, but not much in the way of supporting performances.


  • A Star is Born  (325)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress
  • Sabrina  (285)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Hobson’s Choice  (235)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Genevieve  (125)
    • Director, Original Screenplay
  • Le Plaisir  (95)
    • Picture, Director
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  (90)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay
  • Beat the Devil  (40)
    • Adapted Screenplay
  • The Illusion Travels by Streetcar  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Titfield Thunderbolt  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Carmen Jones  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Golden Coach  (35)
    • Actress

Analysis:  It is strange for me to have one film win Director and Screenplay over my Picture winner, but A Star is Born is much more about the acting and the overall film than strengths in either writing or directing.

Best Comedy Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • It Should Happen to You

Analysis:  My #24 film of the year (#10 among Comedy / Musicals).  An enjoyable comedy from George Cukor but not really deserving of any award consideration.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  103

By Stars:

  • ****:  8
  • ***.5:  7
  • ***:  57
  • **.5:  19
  • **:  11
  • *.5:  1
  • Average Film Score for the Year, out of 100:  66.2

Analysis:  Without those three awful films from the year before dragging it down, this year bounces back a full two points.

Oscar-Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • none

Other Award Nominated Films I Have Not Seen:

  • No Way Back  (Golden Globe – Best Foreign Film)

note:  The two BAFTA nominated films with the most points that I haven’t seen are actually both from this year (The Divided Heart and Carrington V.C.) but since both were Oscar eligible in 1955, there will be more on them there.

Oscar Quality:

Best Picture:  This is pretty similar to the year before.  There is one brilliant film, there is one terrible film, and there are films in between.  1953 ranked at #63 and this year is at #65.  The difference comes in the last film.  The second and third films are about even because The Country Girl is about the same number of spots below Roman Holiday as The Caine Mutiny is above Julius Caesar, and The Robe and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers are fairly equal.  But Three Coins in the Fountain is so far below Shane that it makes this the lesser year.  As has been the theme in this decade, if the Best Director nominees had been the Best Picture nominees, this year would be a lot better.  With Sabrina, Rear Window and The High and the Mighty replacing Seven Brides, Caine Mutiny and Three Coins, this year would move all the way up to #19.

The Winners:  The winners average a 1.95 among the nominees, which is quite good but one of the highest since 1947.  But the winners overall average a 3.27, the third best to-date and one of the lowest since 1947.  So what gives?  That answer is reflected in the next part (the Nominees).  But I completely agree with the Academy in 12 categories – the second most to-date, behind only 1953.  It’s because there are only two categories where the Oscar winner ranked lower than 7th (Color Cinematography and Sound) and because the major categories (Picture, Director, writing) average a 1.6, the second best to-date (behind only 1948).  One little downside is that Supporting Actor ranks 5th among the nominees for only the second time and for the first time since 1940 the Oscar winner for Supporting Actor doesn’t earn a Nighthawk nomination.

The Nominees:  The Nominees are, to be frank, very good choices.  The ratio of my overall winner number to winners among the nominees is 1.68, the third lowest to-date.  And the overall nominee score is a 67, the best to date.  In spite of Picture again earning a failing grade (44.4) and being way outpaced by Director (75.8) (marking the third time in five years that Director has scored over 30 points higher than Picture), the majors earn a 68.  The acting earns an 86.4, the highest since 1928 (when there were fewer categories) and the Tech categories earn a 57, the highest since 1932.

Golden Globe Best Picture – Comedy / Musical:

The category is at least back in this year, but there is only a winner.  Sadly, the winner is Carmen Jones, which, in the year of A Star is Born and Sabrina, doesn’t say much for the Globes choice, especially since they gave both Actor and Actress to A Star is Born.

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  On the Waterfront  (reviewed here)

One of Hitchcock's best.

One of Hitchcock’s best.

2  –  Rear Window  (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

There are many critics who view Vertigo as the greatest of Hitchcock films – as the film in which so many of his themes come to full fruition.  But in a number of ways, Vertigo is a lesser version of Rear Window, a film that hit a lot of the same concepts but did them with more precision.

In his earlier films, Hitchcock tended to focus on the innocent man who was caught up in events, usually finding himself falsely accused.  But there is also the question of the man who is not so innocent – who has strange obsessions that push him on.  Spellbound had a bit of that (and a bit of the former), Strangers on a Train had it and Rear Window takes it further before it goes over the top with films like Vertigo and Psycho.  But here, it is more balanced.  Jimmy Stewart’s character is an innocent man, but one who can’t help but look out at the world and wonder what he can discover, even if he’s not exactly going about it in the right way.

Then there is the question of a man ignoring what is right in front of his eyes in order to follow his obsession.  In Vertigo, of course, those things happen to be the same thing.  But here, they are separate and it flows better – Stewart can’t bring himself to just passionately love the most beautiful woman who ever lived, standing right in front of him.  He’s too obsessed with what is going on around him.

Some of the things are strengths in both films.  Hitchcock does a masterful job of directing.  Stewart plays against his old type to show us a man who isn’t quite all together there – just a bit too obsessed with discovering what he wants to discover (he does a better job of this in Vertigo).  The cinematography is first-rate and the color helps everything leap off the screen.  The music is strong here, though much better in Vertigo.

Then we get down to the real differences between the films.  Rear Window has a much stronger script and flows better from start to finish (and doesn’t have the annoying vertigo effects).  But they key difference is in the acting outside of Stewart.  Kim Novak is never really convincing enough as the woman he would be obsessed with and there is nothing in Vertigo like Grace Kelly and certainly no supporting performance even close to as good as Thelma Ritter.

Don’t get me wrong.  I do think Vertigo is a great film – a low-level **** film.  It just bothers me when people try to hold it up as the best Hitchcock film or as the greatest film ever made.  I’ll take Rear Window any day.

The brutal cost of war contrasted against the innocence of childhood.

The brutal cost of war contrasted against the innocence of childhood.

3  –  Forbidden Games  (dir. Rene Clement)

Why is that the rest of the world can do this so much better than we can?  Why do I have the feeling that if Hollywood had tried to make a film out of this book that it would have screwed it up, that it would have been sentimental slop?  And yet, this film is an undisputed classic.

Forbidden Games is the story of two children during the war.  One of them, a little girl, loses her parents at the start of the film.  They have been evacuating in France and her parents are shot down.  But she is more concerned about the death of her dog and when she comes across a local peasant boy she follows him home.  Before long they have buried her dog and that leads to burials of more animals and a bond that begins to grow between the boy and the girl.

This seems to be where Hollywood would have screwed this up.  This film is really told at the children’s level.  We understand what these two kids are going through – both are lost (metaphorically) and are finding some measure of direction in each other and in this graveyard they create for deceased animals (though the crosses they use for the animals they steal from other places).  The adults aren’t mean or stupid – they just don’t understand what is going on with these kids and they have their own concerns as the war continues on.  But, even though this film is about two kids and we always understand them, it does not condescend, nor is this a children’s film.  It is a bleak story, with a bleak ending (although far less bleak than the ending in the novel) that makes us understand the strange human cost that sometimes happens during war and the humanity that can emanate from a child but can be lost with adulthood.

The film that proves that some remakes can be truly great.

The film that proves that some remakes can be truly great.

4  –  A Star is Born  (dir. George Cukor)

It’s hard to decide sometimes when to classify a film as a remake.  Is every Shakespeare film a remake simply because someone has made them before?  I would argue no, and that, for the most part, any film coming from a previously existing source isn’t really a remake.  But when you take an original script and bring it to the screen again, well, there’s no question that this should be called a remake.  For the most part, remakes are a terrible idea, especially, as with more recent films, you remake films that weren’t that great to begin with (Dirty Dancing and Footloose spring to mind).  But A Star is Born was a great film in 1937 and when it was decided to remake it it in 1954, the new filmmakers came up with some ideas that gave it a new vision.  It wasn’t just taking the same film and putting it back on the screen; it took the basic plot and come up with a completely new film to go with it.  It would be done again in 1976 (with lesser results) and, for the most part, yet again in 2011, as The Artist, with brilliant results.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about A Star is Born isn’t that it’s so great, even though it’s a remake.  Perhaps it’s the core irony at the heart of the film.  For those of you who have never seen any of the versions (though why you are here if you have never seen any of those four films), this is the story of a rising young actress, discovered by an alcoholic film star who is just starting his decline.  They fall in love, they marry and his fall crosses paths with her rise, climaxing in a fatal moment  The climactic moment happens when she wins an Oscar and he drunkenly hits her at the ceremony (by accident).  The original film version starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, both of whom had Oscars.  This version stars Judy Garland.  Garland had won a special Oscar for The Wizard of Oz but her nomination for this film would be the first of her career (she would lose, in a moment that would shock some and cause outrage for others for years although since Grace Kelly swept the awards it really shouldn’t have been a surprise).  The irony really comes in, though, in that Garland herself was both making a comeback (this was her first film in four years and as I said, earned her her first Oscar nomination) and in the midst of her decline.  She already had severe issues, with depression, with illness, with drugs.  She was playing the up and comer while Mason, playing the man on his way down, was in the midst of his career, coming off a considerable number of films in the previous few years, while also starring in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in this year with North by Northwest and Lolita still in his future.  This has to be obvious to both of them and yet, they both give the best performances of their careers.

It is also worth noting that sometimes it’s an advantage to come along later.  I will always revel in the fact that Star Wars was the first film I ever saw and that I kept seeing it in theaters as a little kid.  I will always love that I got there first.  On the other hand, by coming along later, some films which were cut up – films like Spartacus, Touch of Evil and A Star is Born – I never had to see in their altered forms.  I got to see them restored (granted, this film, like Spartacus, has scenes restored with audio and stills, but I would still rather see this than the shortened version).  So maybe I get a different idea of what this film is than those who saw it in the years between.  But I get to a see a brilliant re-imagining of a classic, a film reborn as a musical with two magnificent performances.

The strange casting of Bogart doesn't keep this from being of the most charming romantic comedies ever made.

The strange casting of Bogart doesn’t keep this from being of the most charming romantic comedies ever made.

5  –  Sabrina  (dir. Billy Wilder)

So, can the 1995 Sabrina be called a remake?  There is an argument to be made that it is not since it was based on a play to begin with.  But either way, it was unnecessary to make it again, even if they did do one small thing better (it is unreasonable to ever believe that Audrey Hepburn could have been ignored, even as the chauffer’s daughter, just as it was unreasonable to ever assume she could have been a guttersnipe; Julia Ormond, on the other hand, made the transformation more believably – she wasn’t any better, she’s just more believable in the role of being ignored than Hepburn ever could have been).  Some would argue that the remake did a second thing better, but I’ll make the argument that they didn’t.

Sabrina is one of the most charming romantic comedies ever made.  There are a variety of reasons for this.  It provide a little of the fairy tale world that so many people go to the movies to see, and it provides us with a nice in-road to it.  It gives us that world through the eyes of Sabrina, the daughter of the chauffeur for a very rich Long Island family.  She isn’t rich, but through chance, has grown up in this world and looks at it through the same rose-colored eyes that the people in the theater would.  Then she gets to go to Paris and we get a whole different fairy tale world.

There is the script.  Early on, after Sabrina has left for Paris, she sends a letter home to her father that he reads aloud to the other employees of the household.  It is brilliant and hilarious – something that you don’t often see in a romantic comedy scene that doesn’t involve any of the major players.  Or there is the scene when Humphrey Bogart rides into town, dictating a note to his younger brother explaining the job that he supposedly has.  Bogart actually gets in a number of good lines through the course of the film in a role that seems miscast.  But, while some may say that the casting of Harrison Ford is one of the improvements in the remake (he is so much better looking), the fact that Sabrina could fall in love with Bogart’s character speaks to the power of the film – if you need a Harrison Ford to fall in love with, maybe you’re not just falling in love with the person.

But let’s face it – the heart and soul of this film is Audrey Hepburn.  She is so adorable with her ponytail, crouched up in the tree watching the party at the start of the film that you wonder how David ever could have failed to see her.  But then, when he first sees her at the train station, there’s no question why he would come to a screeching halt.  She is so lovely and she just radiates charm from the first second that she speaks that anyone would instantly fall in love with her.  And she plays the role with such firm belief in romance that you can understand why she would fall in love with the curmudgeon Linus as she manages to pull him out from inside his shell and find the man beneath.

5 Worst Films  (#1 being the worst):

  1. The Silver Chalice
  2. The Egyptian
  3. The Great Diamond Robbery
  4. Prince Valiant
  5. The Bigamist
Watching this you would never think, "hey, this kid could go on to be one of the greatest actors in film history."

Watching this you would never think, “hey, this kid could go on to be one of the greatest actors in film history.”

The Silver Chalice  (dir. Victor Saville)

Some people have great debuts and then are never able to live it down.  Orson Welles would hit greatness again but everyone kept expecting another Citizen Kane.  Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar the first time out and within a decade her career was non-existent.  John Singleton debuted as the youngest Oscar-nominated director in history and has never lived up to it.  On the flip side, has there ever been such a disparity between the quality and length of a career and the awfulness of the debut, both in terms of the film and the performance, as Paul Newman and The Silver Chalice?

Newman himself hated the film.  According to the IMDb he took out an ad when it ran on television in 1966 calling it “the worst motion picture produced during the 1950’s” and imploring people not to watch.  He would show it at his house and encourage his guests to mock it.

It is, quite frankly, not hard to see why.  The Silver Chalice comes from a period in time which is, thankfully, behind us.  But in the 1950’s epic stories about the early years of Christianity, with wonderful costumes and astonishing sets, all filmed in color, were all the rage.  Look at Best Picture nominees like Quo Vadis or The Robe or Best Picture winner Ben-Hur.  I have never been a fan of this particular genre, but at least those films do it right.  They have plenty of budget, they have some serious acting (depending on the film – look at Peter Ustinov in Quo Vadis or Richard Burton in The Robe or just about anyone in Ben-Hur).  They have impressive costumes (Quo Vadis would lose the Oscar to An American in Paris but the other two would win the Oscar), impressive sets (again, Quo Vadis would lose to Oscar to An American in Paris while the other two would win the Oscar).  The Silver Chalice is a pale imitation of these films, and when you read my review of Quo Vadis and realize how little I think of it, those are bold words indeed.  And when I say that The Silver Chalice is the worst of these kinds of films, I’m not dismissing later films like The Greatest Story Ever Told or Barabbas.

The Silver Chalice tries to do many different things and it does them all badly.  First, it tries to tell the story of a slave (he was supposed to be freed but was betrayed) who eventually casts a silver chalice to hold the Holy Grail.  Oh yeah, there’s also the huckster “sorcerer” who is trying to cast himself as the new Messiah.  It lacks the epic storytelling of Ben-Hur or the earnest faith of The Robe.  It’s a dumb story and the script is terrible.  But the directing is worse and the acting doesn’t help.  Newman gives a performance that shows he has no future in Hollywood and yet somehow overcame this to become one of the greatest of all screen actors.  Virginia Mayo and Pier Angeli seem to compete with who is the worse actress.  And Jack Palance, a year after giving the only worthwhile performance in Shane, decides that a sneer and a mug is the way to play the villain here.

But I can’t forget the technical aspects of the film because they are so important.  Yes, the score is decent (it was Oscar-nominated).  But editing makes it look like the film was made for television, with fade-outs of scenes done so badly it’s easy to see where to place the commercials.  But the final insult is the art direction.  In a bizarre difference from, really, from any other film ever made about this period, the sets are all bizarrely stylized.  It’s like the whole film was made on a theater stage with badly designed backdrops.  It’s not that you can’t use matte paintings or can’t have small budgets for the set.  But these are combined in such an inept way that they are a constant distraction throughout the film.  I can’t watch a film, supposedly taking place in Rome, and spend the whole time thinking that it was made on a high school drama set.  So, unless you’re an Oscar completist, do what Paul Newman wanted and skip this film.


  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  On the Waterfront  (13)
  • Most Nighthawk Awards:  On the Waterfront  (11)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  On the Waterfront  (750)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  The High and the Mighty
  • 2nd Place Award:  Rear Window  (Picture, Director, Editing, Cinematography)
  • 6th Place Award:  A Star is Born  (Director, Adapted Screenplay)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  On the Waterfront  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Awards:  On the Waterfront  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  On the Waterfront  (520)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  Suddenly
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  Hobson’s Choice  (6)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Awards:  A Star is Born  (3)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  A Star is Born  (325)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  Carmen Jones

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  (475)
  • Actress:  Bette Davis  (555)
  • Director:  William Wyler  /  Billy Wilder  (405)
  • Writer:  Billy Wilder  (680)
  • Cinematographer:  Arthur Edeson  /  Gregg Toland  (200)
  • Composer:  Max Steiner  (450)
  • Foreign Film:  Akira Kurosawa  (260)

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

  • Drama:  37 (12)  –  On the Waterfront  (64.8)
  • Foreign:  21  –  Forbidden Games  (73.2)
  • Comedy:  18 (4)  –  Sabrina  (69.5)
  • Musical:  13 (2)  –  A Star is Born  (66.2)
  • Western:  9 (1)  –  Johnny Guitar  (65.1)
  • Adventure:  7  –  The Naked Jungle  (56.3)
  • Suspense:  5  –  Rear Window  (75)
  • Crime:  4  –  Riot in Cell Block 11  (67.3)
  • Action:  3 (1)  –  Gate of Hell  (72.3)
  • War:  2  –  Angels One Five  (69)
  • Mystery:  2  –  Blackout  (59.5)
  • Fantasy:  1  –  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  (84)
  • Sci-Fi:  1  –  Them  (69)
  • Horror:  1  –  Creature from the Black Lagoon  (64)
  • Kids:  0

Analysis:  The three Action films are as many as the eleven previous years combined; not only are there more but they are better – the 72 average is the highest yet.  The Comedies also do well, with the highest average in a decade.  The Foreign films bounce back with the most in four years and the highest average in seven years.  But the Musicals are the most impressive, with the highest average since 1933.  The 37 Dramas, on the other hand, are the lowest since 1944 and the 64.8 average, though several points higher than the year before, are still lower than any other year since 1944.

A Drama win Best Picture for the sixth straight year.  But Gate of Hell becomes, not only the first Action film in the Top 10, but the first in the Top 20.  There are 7 Comedies and 7 Foreign films in the top 20 – the most for Comedies since 1944 and the most for Foreign since 1947.

Studio Note:  For the seventh straight year, 20th-Century Fox is one of the top two studios.  But there are other changes.  For the first time no studio has more than 13 films (Fox has 12).  For only the third time, MGM does not have the most or second-most films and I have only seen 10 MGM films, the first time I have seen fewer than 12.  The second most films are from Columbia (11) – making Columbia the last studio to finally be #1 or 2 on the year.

But just because Fox has the most films doesn’t mean they’re any good.  They average a 60.17, the lowest average for the studio since 1937 and it includes three films that earn **.  And yet, that’s not the worst.  MGM averages a 58.6, also having three ** films; that’s the worst for MGM since 1931 and would be the worst for any studio since 1932 except for one thing.  That one thing is RKO, whose 3 mediocre films average a 56.3, the single lowest average for any studio in any year to date.

Though Fox has the most films and MGM the third most, the only film from either studio in the Top 20 is Broken Lance (Fox) at #20.  And after being the last major studio to win the Nighthawk for Best Picture, Columbia wins it again.

20 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; an asterisk means it won the Oscar):

  • Bread, Love and Dreams  (Comencini, Italy)
  • Fear  (Rossellini, Italy)
  • Fever Mounts at El Pao  (Buñuel, Mexico)
  • A Free Woman  (Cottafavi, Italy)
  • Gate of Hell  (Kinugasa, Japan)  *
  • Gojira  (Honda, Japan)
  • Gold of Naples  (De Sica, Italy)
  • L’Air de Paris  (Carne, France)
  • The Lady Without Camelias  (Antonioni, Italy)
  • Late Chrysanthemums  (Naruse, Japan)
  • Lesson in Love  (Bergman, Sweden)
  • Matar our Courrer  (Manga, Brazil)
  • Neopolitan Carousel  (Giannini, Italy)
  • Le Pointe Courte  (Varda, France)
  • Sansho the Bailiff  (Mizoguchi, Japan)
  • Senso  (Visconti, Italy)
  • The Seven Samurai  (Kurosawa, Japan)
  • The Sheep Has 5 Legs  (Verneuil, France)
  • Twenty-Four Eyes  (Kinoshita, Japan)
  • Wuthering Heights  (Buñuel, Mexico)

Note:  Well over half of the films are either from Italy (7) or Japan (6).  See the note on Gojira down at the bottom.

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

  • Justice is Done  (1950)
  • A.T.M.: A toda maqina!  (1951)
  • The Elusive Pimpernel  (1951)
  • The Red Inn  (1951)
  • Summer Interlude  (1951)
  • Angels One Five  (1952)
  • Folly to Be Wise  (1952)
  • Forbidden Games  (1952)
  • The Golden Coach  (1952)
  • The Holly and the Ivy  (1952)
  • Le Plaisir  (1952)
  • The Overcoat  (1952)
  • Anatahan  (1953)
  • Beat the Devil  (1953)
  • Cangaceiro  (1953)
  • The Earrings of Madame De…  (1953)
  • Easy to Love  (1953)
  • El  (1953)
  • Genevieve  (1953)
  • The Glenn Miller Story  (1953)
  • The Illusion Travels by Streetcar  (1953)
  • Indiscretion of an American Wife  (1953)
  • The Kidnappers  (1953)
  • King of the Khyber Rifles  (1953)
  • The Long Long Trailer  (1953)
  • Malta Story  (1953)
  • The Sun Shines Bright  (1953)
  • The Titfield Thunderbolt  (1953)
  • The Unholy Four  (1953)

Note:  These films account for 19 of the Nighthawk nominations, including the 6 for Forbidden Games.  These 29 films average a 68.

Films Not Listed at

  • A.T.M.: A toda maqina
  • Angels One Five
  • A Free Woman
  • The Holly and the Ivy
  • L’Air de Paris
  • The Lady Without Camelias
  • Matar ou Courrer
  • Twenty-Four Eyes

Note:  Starting in this year, I use the list at for deciding which year films are eligible in.  For some films, however, they don’t appear in that database.  For those films, I use the IMDb.  These are the films that aren’t listed in the database but that end up in this year.  Most of the films that will be appearing in this list in various years will be foreign though some, obviously, will be British.

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

  • The Belles of St. Trinian’s  (1955)
  • The Dam Busters  (1955)
  • Doctor in the House  (1955)
  • Green Fire  (1955)
  • Jail Bait  (1955)
  • Mambo  (1955)
  • Phfft  (1955)
  • The Purple Plain  (1955)
  • The Sheep Has 5 Legs  (1955)
  • Svengali  (1955)
  • Vera Cruz  (1955)
  • The Young Lovers  (1955)
  • Animal Farm  (1956)
  • For Better for Worse  (1956)
  • Gojira  (1956)  *
  • A Kid for Two Farthings  (1956)
  • La Strada  (1956)  **
  • Lease of Life  (1956)
  • Monsieur Ripois  (1956)
  • The Seven Samurai  (1956)
  • Wuthering Heights  (1956)
  • Gold of Naples  (1957)
  • Fear  (1958)
  • Fever Mounts at El Pao  (1959)
  • Lesson in Love  (1960)
  • Neopolitan Carousel  (1961)
  • Sansho the Bailiff  (1969)
  • Senso  (1971)
  • Late Chrysanthemums  (1985)

*  –  I count Gojira and Godzilla, King of the Monsters as two different films.  I list both as eligible in 1956.  Gojira is the original Japanese version which is much better and has no Raymond Burr (and has the great score).

**  –  La Strada should be listed above as an eligible Foreign film.  However, it won the initial Best Foreign Film when it became a competitive category in 1956, so it counts there instead, for Foreign film and all other categories.

Note:  These 28 films average a 63, but that’s because Jail Bait is so awful.  Without it, these go up by two points.  On the Waterfront, of course, wouldn’t dominate so much if Seven Samurai was in this year.