As always, my favorite backstage Oscar photo - Hepburn had won the year before but here Kelly would win.  Both deserved it.

As always, my favorite backstage Oscar photo – Hepburn had won the year before but here Kelly would win. Both deserved it.

Introduction:

This is a companion piece to three different series.  The first is the The History of the Academy Awards, in which I covered each category in individual posts.  This was originally done in 2009 and additions were included in 2010.  You can find links to all of these pieces in each individual category.  I have grouped all of the categories together for the same reason that I did so originally – because most pieces on the Oscars don’t approach the awards through the categories, but through the years.  This specific piece is designed to take a closer look at the decade and how I think the Academy did in those years.

The second series is my Year in Film series.  That is mentioned here because in those pieces I included paragraphs about the Oscars as a whole for each year and included a considerable amount of trivia.  Since I had based my Year in Film series and eligibility as such on the Academy calendar, it all seemed very relevant.  Also, I include various prizes (Worst Oscar, Worst Nomination, Worst Omission, etc) and I didn’t want to repeat myself, so following the links will bring you there.  Those links are at the end of this piece, where I do a brief summation of each year and how the Academy did.  Word note on the Year in Film posts – I did those before Oscars.org started putting up official information about release dates.  Several films have been moved from the years where they appeared in those posts – see the Nighthawk Awards posts for more accurate placement – I have included links in the years.

The third series is my History of the Academy Awards: Best Picture series, where I reviewed every film ever nominated for Best Picture (except The Patriot, which is lost).  Those links are also down below, grouped by year.

Keys to all the Numbers / Ranks / Scores, etc:  There are a lot of numbers and lists down below.  The lists are often easy to understand, the numbers not so much.

  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  That takes the winner (say, Actor in 1945) and says where I would rank it for the year (#1 in this case).  Then I average it out, either for category (the first part) or by year (the bottom part).  The closer to 1, the better.
  • Average Winner Rank (without Picture):  Because I rank all films for the year but don’t rank every film in every category, the Best Picture category can really throw things off, especially since every film is eligible in this category.  So, in a year like 1932-33, where Best Picture (Cavalcade) is my #99 film of the year but no other winner ranks below #22, the average winner rank goes from 9.13 to 19.11.  So, down below, in the years, I include a score both with and without Best Picture.
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  Quite simply what it says.  Cavalcade may have ranked 99th on the year, but only 8th among the 10 Best Picture nominees.  The key is this – the first Average Winner rank tells you what I think of the winner.  This one tells you what I think they in relation to what they nominated.  Like, in Best Art Direction (color), where from 1946 to 1949 my Winner Ranks are 6, 1, 1 and 5.  But all four of them were the best choice among the nominees, so the score was 1, 1, 1, 1.  A high disproportion between the two scores means I think they chunked the nominees, but that will show up in the Score.  Again, the closer to 1, the better.
  • Score:  This is a score of their nominees versus mine.  It’s complicated and bizarre and has to do with assigning a numeric value to a function of art.  But it measures a year against itself.  1978 is a good example – not a single one of my Best Picture nominees from 1978 would have made my list for 1977.  But if the Academy and I agreed 5 for 5, it would still score 100.  It’s a comparison between what the Oscars nominated and what I think they should have nominated, not a comparison to any other year.  Suffice it to say, the closer to 100 the better.  By the way, the Score determines the Best and Worst Year in everything except Picture, which is ranked based on my original ranked list.
  • Score  (P-D-S):  The score, averaged among Picture, Director and Screenplay.
  • Score  (Acting):  The score, averaged among the four acting categories.
  • Score  (Tech):  The score, averaged among Editing, Cinematography, Score, Sound, Art Direction, Visual Effects and Costume Design (and in later decades Sound Editing and Makeup).

Stats and Trivia for the Decade:

  • Most Nominations:
  1. All About Eve  (14)
  2. From Here to Eternity  (13)
  3. A Streetcar Named Desire  /  Ben-Hur  /  On the Waterfront  (12)
  4. Sunset Blvd.  (11)
  5. Roman Holiday  /  Giant  /  Sayonara  (10)
  • Most Oscars:
  1. Ben-Hur  (11)
  2. Gigi  (9)
  3. From Here to Eternity  /  On the Waterfront  (8)
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai  (7)
  • Over 60 years later, still the all-time Oscar points champ.

    Over 60 years later, still the all-time Oscar points champ.

    Most Points:

  1. From Here to Eternity  (675)
  2. Ben-Hur  (660)
  3. On the Waterfront  (655)
  4. All About Eve  (625)
  5. The Bridge on the River Kwai  (520)
  6. Gigi  (510)
  7. A Streetcar Named Desire  (485)
  8. A Place in the Sun  (470)
  9. Sunset Blvd.  (445)
  10. Marty  (445)

note:  The 50’s still dominate this list.  Those top 4 are all still in the Top 6 and Eternity is still the all-time champ.  The only other decade to have six films with over 500 points is the 90’s and there were only two 600+ films in that decade.

  • Most Nominations without Best Picture:  The Bad and the Beautiful  /  Hans Christian Anderson  /  Lili  /  A Star is Born  /  The High and the Mighty  /  Sabrina  /  Love Me or Leave Me  (6)
  • Most Nominations with No Wins:  Peyton Place  (9)
  • Films Nominated for All 4 Acting Categories:  Sunset Blvd.  /  A Streetcar Named Desire  /  From Here to Eternity
  • Films Nominated for All 5 Major Tech Categories:  All About Eve  /  Ben-Hur
  • Director with Most Films Nominated for Best Picture:  George Stevens  (4)  –  won Best Director twice but no Best Picture win
  • Director with Most Films Nominated for an Oscar:
  1. Vincente Minnelli  (10)
  2. George Cukor  /  Jean Negulesco  (9)
  3. Henry Koster  /  Fred Zinnemann  (8)
  • Leslie-Caron-Gene-Kelly-Vincente-Minnelli-American-in-ParisDirector with Most Total Nominations for their Films:
  1. Vincente Minnelli  (43)
  2. Elia Kazan  (38)
  3. William Wyler  /  Fred Zinnemann  (36)
  4. Billy Wilder  (34)
  5. George Stevens  (33)
  • Director with Most Oscars for their Films:
  1. Vincente Minnelli  (22)
  2. Elia Kazan  /  William Wyler  (15)
  3. Fred Zinnemann  (14)
  4. George Stevens  (11)
  • Director with Most Points for their Films:
  1. Vincente Minnelli  (1860)
  2. Elia Kazan  (1710)
  3. Fred Zinnemann  (1555)
  4. William Wyler  (1540)
  5. George Stevens  (1395)

note:  Stevens clearly had the most impressive decade, possibly ever.  He only directed 5 films in the decade.  One of them wasn’t nominated for anything.  The other four all earned Picture and Director nominations and got him into the top 5 of total nominations, Oscars and points for the decade.

  • image0201Studio with Most Best Picture Nominees:
  1. MGM  (10)
  2. 20th Century-Fox / Paramount / United Artists (8)
  3. Columbia  (7)
  4. Warner Bros  (6)
  • Studio with Most Best Picture Wins:
  1. MGM / Columbia  (3)
  2. United Artists  (2)

note on Studios: Of the 8 major studios, two of them are not listed here.  RKO would received its last Best Picture nominations in 1947 and go out of business in 1958.  Universal wouldn’t received any BP nominations between 1937 and 1969.  The other six are all here, evenly spread out, with between 6 and 10 nominations each, with Warners coming on slowly (one nomination in the first half of the decade), Paramount ending badly (one nomination in the second half of the decade) and MGM dominating early (4 noms in the first two years) and late (winning back-to-back in 1958 and 1959).  The only other studios to receive nominations would be Republic (1952), Allied Artists (1956) and Continental (1959).

Best Picture:  Ben Hur would set a new Oscar record for wins (11), but would be the only Best Picture winner of the decade to not win an Oscar for writing.  From Here to Eternity would be the first winner to win both supporting acting awards (and still one of only two to do so).  The 50’s would continue the trend of the late 40’s to separate Picture and Director.  From 1948 to 1956 five times those winners would be different – after 1956, it would take until 1998 for another five times.  Editing would start being attached to the Picture winner – prior to 1953 only twice had the Picture winner won Editing, but from 1953 to 1959 only once did the winners not agree – that film was Marty, the only winner in the decade not to be nominated for Editing.  The same would go for Cinematography – prior to 1951 only five times had the Picture winner won Cinematography, but it would happen seven times in the 50’s – The Greatest Show on Earth would be the only winner of the decade not nominated for Cinematography.  Gigi would be the only Picture winner between 1944 and 1997 to win Best Song, which is kind of easy, because Rocky is the only other winner in that era even nominated.  Ben Hur would be the only Visual Effects winner to win Picture between 1928 and 1994 and the only nominee between 1942 and 1970.  William Holden and Deborah Kerr would lead the decade for Picture – each would be in one winner and five other nominees.  But strangely, they would almost never compete.  In 1950 they combined for three losing efforts (Sunset Blvd. and Born Yesterday for Holden, King Solomon’s Mines for Kerr).  That would be it, though.  Kerr was in the race in 1951, would win and have a second nominee in 1953 and be in again in 1956 and 1958.  Holden would be in a 1954 nominee, two 1955 nominees and the 1957 winner.  Several people would be in two winners, including Charlton Heston (1952 and 1959), Leslie Caron (1951 and 1958) and Ernest Borgnine (1953 and 1955).

I have already said so much on this category in my other posts (see at the bottom, listed under each year).  I also say a bit down below on the films that were snubbed.

The nominees drop a bit from the 1940’s, averaging a 77.0, with 1959 being the best (81.8) and 1956 having the worst average since 1934 (67.6).  The average winner ranks at #235 of all the nominees – about halfway between the 30’s and 40’s.

  • Best Year:  1957
  • Worst Year:  1956
  • Best Winner:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Worst Winner:  The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Worst Nominee:  Peyton Place
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Rashomon
  • Most Egregious English-Language Snub:  Touch of Evil
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  31.2 *
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.8
  • Score for the Decade:  40.2

* – If you take out The Greatest Show on Earth and Gigi, neither of which made the Top 100 in their respective years, this number drops to 9.9

bridgeWinners (ranked):

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. On the Waterfront
  3. All About Eve
  4. From Here to Eternity
  5. Ben Hur
  6. Marty
  7. Around the World in 80 Days
  8. An American in Paris
  9. Gigi
  10. The Greatest Show on Earth

sunset10 Best Nominees That Didn’t Win:

  1. Sunset Blvd.
  2. A Streetcar Named Desire
  3. High Noon
  4. 12 Angry Men
  5. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  6. A Place in the Sun
  7. Mr. Roberts
  8. The Defiant Ones
  9. Roman Holiday
  10. Anatomy of a Murder

peyton_film10 Worst Nominees (#1 being the Worst)

  1. Peyton Place
  2. Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
  3. Three Coins in the Fountain
  4. Father of the Bride
  5. The Greatest Show on Earth
  6. Quo Vadis
  7. The 10 Commandments
  8. Gigi
  9. The Nun’s Story
  10. Auntie Mame

samurai-movies-rashomon-poster-1255807133Ten Biggest Snubs:

  1. Rashomon
  2. The Seventh Seal
  3. Touch of Evil
  4. The Seven Samurai
  5. The Third Man
  6. Singin in the Rain
  7. Paths of Glory
  8. Wild Strawberries
  9. Some Like It Hot
  10. Smiles of a Summer Night

Touch-of-Evil_02Ten Biggest English-Language Snubs:

  1. Touch of Evil
  2. The Third Man
  3. Singin in the Rain
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. Some Like It Hot
  6. The Searchers
  7. Strangers on a Train
  8. North by Northwest
  9. Rebel Without a Cause
  10. Rear Window

Ten Studios with the Most Points (through 1959):

  1. MGM  –  2950
  2. 20th Century-Fox  –  1700
  3. United Artists  –  1650
  4. Warner Bros  –  1650
  5. Paramount  –  1550
  6. Columbia  –  1300
  7. RKO  –  1000
  8. Universal  –  250
  9. First National  –  150
  10. Rank / Two Cities  –  100

bridge-on-the-river-kwai-theredlistBest Director:  This would be the decade for George Stevens and Billy Wilder and both would be oddly treated.  Stevens would be nominated four times and would win twice, but both times that he won (1951, 1956), his film wouldn’t win Best Picture.  Wilder would be nominated five times but three of those times (1953, 1954, 1959), his film wouldn’t be nominated for Best Picture.  John Huston would be nominated the first three years of the decade – the first two without a Picture nomination – but then wouldn’t earn another nomination until 1985.  In a strange bit of foreshadowing, six different directors nominated for Best Director in the 50’s would go on to win Best Director in the sixties (Billy Wilder, Robert Wise – twice, David Lean, George Cukor, Fred Zinnemann, Carol Reed).

This would be the decade where the Directors would make much better choices than were made for Best Picture.  In one of the ten years (1957) the Picture and Director nominees were the same.  In one year (1958), the Picture choices were actually slightly better.  In the other 8 years, the average score for Director is 23 points higher than the score for Picture and in three years (1950, 1951, 1954), it is over 30 points higher.  In those years, films like King Solomon’s Mines, Father of the Bride, Decision Before Dawn, Quo Vadis, Three Coins in the Fountain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were bounced for films like The Third Man, The Asphalt Jungle, The African Queen, Detective Story, Rear Window and Sabrina.

  • Best Year:  1950
  • Worst Year:  1956
  • Best Winner:  David Lean  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  • Worst Winner:  Vincente Minnelli  (Gigi)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Billy Wilder  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Worst Nominee:  Mark Robson  (Peyton Place)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Orson Welles  (Touch of Evil)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  11.5 *
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.4
  • Score for the Decade:  57.5

* – it would be 6.1 if not for Gigi.

Top 5 in Points for the Decade:

  1. George Stevens  –  270
  2. William Wyler  –  225
  3. Billy Wilder  –  225
  4. Fred Zinnemann  –  180
  5. Elia Kazan  –  180

Top 10 in Points (through 1959) *:

  1. William Wyler  –  630
  2. Frank Capra  –  405
  3. John Ford  –  405
  4. Billy Wilder  –  360
  5. George Stevens  –  315
  6. Clarence Brown  –  270
  7. Elia Kazan  –  270
  8. Lewis Milestone  –  225
  9. Frank Lloyd  –  225
  10. Michael Curtiz / Leo McCarey / Joseph L. Mankiewicz / John Huston / King Vidor / David Lean / Fred Zinnemann – 225

* – in a tie, in order of who reached that point total first

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Orson Welles  (Touch of Evil)
  2. Akira Kurosawa  (Rashomon)
  3. Akira Kurosawa  (The Seven Samurai)
  4. Stanley Kubrick  (Paths of Glory)
  5. Ingmar Bergman  (The Seventh Seal)

Best Writing:  The Academy would finally sort out the writing categories, but not until 1957.  Until then they continued to have Best Motion Picture Story as a third category, which seems to be stories that were not written as screenplays, but are vague beyond that.  Sometimes they are a screen story, but it is not always clear.  It’s best for everyone that they finally did away with that category.  The other two categories were changed in 1956 and then normalized in 1957 (see below), and while the names would evolve over time, they would basically stay the same to the present.

Michael Wilson, who would never earn an Oscar nomination outside of this decade, is the top writer for the decade, winning two Oscars (A Place in the Sun, Bridge on the River Kwai) and earning two more nominations.  Billy Wilder, after being the top writer in the 40’s and before being one of the top writers of the 60’s, is second, winning an Oscar for Sunset Blvd. and earning three more nominations, although not one for Witness for the Prosecution, in spite of the Picture and Director nominations.  This would give Wilder nine total noms for the decade, though only one Oscar.

John Huston would earn three nominations, Richard Brooks and Fellini would each earn two and George Seaton would win a second writing Oscar.  Tennessee Williams would also earn two nominations.  Foreign films would start to get more and more nominations, with writer-directors including Bergman, Ophuls, Tati and Truffaut earning nominations.  Well over 100 screenwriters would earn just one nomination on the decade, a list including Alec Guinness, directors Alexander MacKendrick, Leo McCarey and Nicholas Ray and writers James Agee, Louis L’Amour, Jean-Paul Sartre and John Steinbeck.

Best Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium:  This is what the category would finally come to be called in 1957.  Before that it was just Best Screenplay, except in 1956, when it was Best Screenplay – Adapted.

  • Best Year:  1951
  • Worst Year:  1956
  • Best Winner:  All About Eve
  • Worst Winner:  Gigi
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Worst Nominee:  Peyton Place
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Rashomon
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  7.8
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.4
  • Score for the Decade:  58.7

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Rashomon
  2. The Seventh Seal
  3. Touch of Evil
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. Mr. Roberts

Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen:  This was called Story and Screenplay until 1955, was Screenplay – Original in 1956 and took this name in 1957 which it would keep until 1969.

  • Best Year:  1959
  • Worst Year:  1953
  • Best Winner:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Worst Winner:  Designing Woman
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Wild Strawberries
  • Worst Nominee:  David and Bathsheba
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Smiles of a Summer Night
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  8.4
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.0
  • Score for the Decade:  59.3

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Smiles of a Summer Night
  2. The Third Man
  3. Singin in the Rain
  4. Seven Samurai
  5. The Rules of the Game

Best Story:  I list no egregious snub because it’s so hard to figure out what would have been eligible.  Unlike in the 40’s when numerous films appeared in multiple writing categories only two films did in the 50’s – Roman Holiday and Love Me or Leave Me which both won Best Story and lost Best Screenplay.  It also makes the score and average winner rank for this category unreliable.  The average winner rank among nominees is easy though, as it’s only being compared to what else was nominated.

  • Best Year:  1953
  • Worst Year:  1952
  • Best Winner:  Roman Holiday
  • Worst Winner:  The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Rebel Without A Cause
  • Worst Nominee:  The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  3.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.1
  • Score for the Decade:  60.3

Top 5 for Points on the Decade:

  1. Michael Wilson  –  240
  2. Billy Wilder  –  200
  3. Charles Brackett  –  160
  4. Carl Foreman  –  160
  5. Alan Jay Lerner  /  Joseph L. Mankiewicz  /  Dalton Trumbo  –  160

Top 10 for Points through 1959:

  1. Billy Wilder  –  600
  2. Charles Brackett  –  400
  3. Ben Hecht  –  320
  4. John Huston  –  320
  5. Joseph L. Mankiewicz  –  280
  6. Robert Riskin  –  240
  7. Michael Wilson  –  240
  8. Frances Marion  –  200
  9. Norman Krasna  –  200
  10. Emeric Pressburger  /  Richard Schweizer  /  Sidney Buchman  /  Leo McCarey  /  Frank Cavett  /  Walter Reisch /  George Seaton  /  Dalton Trumbo  /  Dudley Nichols  /  Carl Foreman  –  200

bridge-on-the-river-kwaiBest Actor:  This is the decade where Marlon Brando thunders on screen and changes the very concept of what screen acting is.  He somehow doesn’t win an Oscar that first time out, but it’s the first of an unprecedented four straight nominations; he’s one of only two actors to do that (Pacino is the other) and the only one to do it all in the lead category.  His 210 points for the decade are still unmatched by any male actor in any decade.  Brando is the best nominee who didn’t win and was almost the best winner as well.  No one else does better than half his points in the category, with several actors winning an Oscar and getting a second nomination, while only Spencer Tracy manages three nominations (and he loses them all).  Coming into the decade, Spencer Tracy and Fredric March would be tied at 210 points, with March moving ahead in 1951, Gary Cooper tying him in 1952, Tracy tying them in 1955 and then taking the lead in 1958, which he would hold until 1992.

The Score for the decade would improve by 5 points over the 40’s, with only two years scoring below a 70 (1950, 1957) and two years above a 90 (1952, 1953).  The best year is 1951, even though its score is lower because it has the best 5 nominees (the score is not as high because in spite of the impressive nominees they missed out on Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train and the pick of Kirk Douglas performances in Ace in a Hole and Detective Story).  The winners wouldn’t be as good as the decade before – in the 40’s only one winner failed to make my Top 5 while this time there are four winners who fail to do that and Heston fails to even make the Top 10 in 1959.

  • Best Year:  1951
  • Worst Year:  1950
  • Best Winner:  Alec Guinness  (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  • Worst Winner:  Charlton Heston  (Ben Hur)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Marlon Brando  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Worst Nominee:  Spencer Tracy  (Father of the Bride)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Orson Welles  (Touch of Evil)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  4.4
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.3
  • Score for the Decade:  80.8

wellesFive Biggest Snubs:

  1. Orson Welles  (Touch of Evil)
  2. Victor Sjöström  (Wild Strawberries)
  3. Kirk Douglas  (Paths of Glory)
  4. James Dean  (Rebel Without a Cause)
  5. Kirk Douglas  (Ace in the Hole)

Top 5 Points for the Decade  (Actor only):

  1. Marlon Brando  –  210
  2. Alec Guinness  –  105
  3. Humphrey Bogart  –  105
  4. William Holden  –  105
  5. Jose Ferrer  /  Spencer Tracy  –  105

Top 10 Points through 1959  (Actor only):

  1. Spencer Tracy  –  280
  2. Fredric March  –  245
  3. Gary Cooper  –  245
  4. Laurence Olivier  –  210
  5. Marlon Brando  –  210
  6. Paul Muni  –  210
  7. James Stewart  –  210
  8. Ronald Colman  –  175
  9. Clark Gable  –  140
  10. Gregory Peck  /  Bing Crosby  /  Humphrey Bogart  /  James Cagney  /  Charles Laughton  –  140

A-Streetcar-Named-Desire-vivien-leigh-4584101-720-480Best Actress:  There were 10 Best Actress winners on the decade.  Seven of them were the best choice.  The eighth was my #2 choice, but the best of the nominees.  The other two, Judy Holliday and Susan Hayward, were the worst of the 5 nominees and finished at #10 and #12 in their respective years.

In the 40’s, though all the scores were close, Best Actress had the lowest Score of the four acting categories; in the 50’s, it’s not as close and Actress has the best Score.  1950 was the best year because of its top performances, but 1951 actually gets a perfect score of 100 because I agree with all 5 nominees.  Perhaps it says everything about how well the Academy did in this decade that all 5 of my biggest snubs were foreign performances.  The next two on that list would be a British film that earned no nominations (Brenda De Banzie in Hobson’s Choice) and another Foreign film (Ingrid Thulin in Wild Strawberries).

  • Best Year:  1950
  • Worst Year:  1955
  • Best Winner:  Vivien Leigh  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Worst Winner:  Susan Hayward  (I Want to Live!)  *
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Gloria Swanson  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Worst Nominee:  Jennifer Jones  (Love is a Many-Splendored Thing)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Eva Dahlbeck  (Smiles of a Summer Night)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  3.1
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.8
  • Score for the Decade:  82.8

*  –  Hayward is the worst winner, but Judy Holliday won in 1950 over Gloria Swanson, Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, making her the worst decision.

smilesdahlbeckFive Biggest Snubs:

  1. Eva Dahlbeck  (Smiles of a Summer Night)
  2. Harriet Andersson  (Sawdust and Tinsel)
  3. Giuleta Masina  (Nights of Cabiria)
  4. Anna Magnani  (Amore)
  5. Anita Bjork  (Miss Julie)

Top 5 Points for the Decade  (Actress only):

  1. Deborah Kerr  –  140
  2. Katharine Hepburn  –  140
  3. Susan Hayward  –  140
  4. Audrey Hepburn  –  140
  5. Elizabeth Taylor  /  Eleanor Parker  /  Anna Magnani  –  105

note:  That’s four noms for Kerr and Kate Hepburn, a win and two other noms for Hayward and Audrey, three noms for Liz and Parker and a nom and a win for Magnani.

Top 10 Points through 1959  (Actress only):

  1. Bette Davis  –  385
  2. Katharine Hepburn  –  315
  3. Norma Shearer  –  245
  4. Greer Garson  –  245
  5. Ingrid Bergman  –  245
  6. Olivia de Havilland  –  210
  7. Susan Hayward  –  210
  8. Janet Gaynor  –  175
  9. Irene Dunne  –  175
  10. Jane Wyman  /  Jennifer Jones  /  Deborah Kerr  –  175

note:  Everyone knows that Kate Hepburn had the record 12 noms and 4 Oscars (until passed in noms by Meryl), but she wouldn’t take over the points lead until 1968.

maldenstreetcarBest Supporting Actor:  Karl Malden is the supporting actor of the decade – he wins the Best Winner and just barely didn’t win the Best Nominee that Didn’t Win.  But it was Anthony Quinn who actually won two Oscars on the decade (though I don’t think he should have won either).  Burl Ives had the most annoying Oscar, as he clearly should have won for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – they simply nominated him for the wrong film.

It’s still a solid decade for the category, even though it slips four points in Score from the 40’s.  It never falls below 60, but it only twice rises above 81 – in 1959 when it gets an 87.5 and 1954 when it earns a 91.4.  The winners are fairly good choices – only two fall outside my Top 5 and neither falls below 7th place.

  • Best Year:  1954
  • Worst Year:  1952
  • Best Winner:  Karl Malden  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Worst Winner:  Burl Ives  (The Big Country)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Erich von Stroheim  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Worst Nominee:  Brandon de Wilde  (Shane)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Toshiro Mifune  (Rashomon)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.1
  • Score for the Decade:  74.0

Toshiro Mifune RashomonFive Biggest Snubs:

  1. Toshiro Mifune  (Rashomon)
  2. Orson Welles  (The Third Man)
  3. Toshiro Mifune  (Seven Samurai)
  4. Burl Ives  (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
  5. Alec Guinness  (Kind Hearts and Coronets)

Top 5 Points of the Decade  (Supporting only):

  1. Anthony Quinn  –  120
  2. Arthur Kennedy  –  90
  3. Karl Malden  –  90
  4. 8 actors at 60, one win each
  5. 4 actors at 60, two noms each

Top 10 Points through 1959 (Supporting only):

  1. Walter Brennan  –  210
  2. Charles Coburn  –  120
  3. Claude Rains  –  120
  4. Anthony Quinn  –  120
  5. Arthur Kennedy  –  120
  6. Thomas Mitchell  –  90
  7. Charles Bickford  –  90
  8. Walter Huston  –  90
  9. Edmund Gwenn  –  90
  10. Karl Malden  –  90

Top 5 Points of the Decade (combined):

  1. Marlon Brando  –  210
  2. Anthony Quinn  –  155
  3. Arthur Kennedy  –  125
  4. Spencer Tracy  –  105
  5. Humphrey Bogart  /  Jose Ferrer  /  William Holden  /  Alec Guinness  –  105

Top 10 Points through 1959  (combined):

  1. Spencer Tracy  –  280
  2. Fredric March  –  245
  3. Gary Cooper  –  245
  4. Walter Brennan  –  210
  5. Laurence Olivier  –  210
  6. Marlon Brando  –  210
  7. Paul Muni  –  210
  8. James Stewart  –  210
  9. Ronald Colman  –  175
  10. Walter Huston  –  160

hunterBest Supporting Actress:  This was the decade of Thelma Ritter.  She would be nominated five times, including an incredible four years in a row (1950-53).  She would lose them all.  Overall, the Academy would make a good choice – five times they would pick my #1 overall choice and they would never pick anyone who ranked below 3rd.  It is the only one of the four categories on the decade in which every winner earns a Nighthawk nomination.

The category would come in with a bang – 1950 earns a score of 94.1, by far the best of the decade and it would have the best 5 candidates to date.  But it would tank at the decade; in 1959 it would have a score of only 40.7, only the second time the category would dip below 60.

  • Best Year:  1950
  • Worst Year:  1959
  • Best Winner:  Kim Hunter  (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • Worst Winner:  Miyoshi Umeki  (Sayonara)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Nancy Olson  (Sunset Blvd.)
  • Worst Nominee:  Patty McCormack  (The Bad Seed)
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Harriet Andersson  (Smiles of a Summer Night)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  1.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.4
  • Score for the Decade:  70.9

smileshaFive Biggest Snubs:

  1. Harriet Andersson  (Smiles of a Summer Night)
  2. Bibi Andersson  (Wild Strawberries)
  3. Bibi Andersson  (The Seventh Seal)
  4. Jan Sterling  (Ace in the Hole)
  5. Machiko Kyo  (Rashomon)

Top Points in the Decade  (Supporting only):

  1. Thelma Ritter  –  150

note:  Ritter is the only person with more than 60 points on the decade just in supporting.  There are 11 actresses tied with 60 points – the 10 Oscar winners and Mildred Dunnock.

Top 10 Points through 1959  (Supporting only):

  1. Ethel Barrymore  –  150
  2. Thelma Ritter  –  150
  3. Anne Revere  –  120
  4. Celeste Holm  –  120
  5. Claire Trevor  –  120
  6. Alice Brady  –  90
  7. Teresa Wright  –  90
  8. Gale Sondergaard  –  90
  9. Agnes Moorehead  –  90
  10. Gloria Grahame  /  Mercedes McCambridge  –  90

note:  Agnes Moorehead is the only actress with 90 points who doesn’t have one win and one other nomination (she has three noms), but Thelma Ritter has five noms without a win.  She holds the record today with 180 points in the category and she never won the Oscar.

Top 5 Points in the Decade  (combined):

  1. Thelma Ritter  –  150
  2. Deborah Kerr  –  140
  3. Katharine Hepburn  –  140
  4. Susan Hayward  –  140
  5. Audrey Hepburn  –  140

Top 10 Points through 1959  (combined):

  1. Bette Davis  –  385
  2. Katharine Hepburn  –  315
  3. Norma Shearer  –  245
  4. Greer Garson  –  245
  5. Ingrid Bergman  –  245
  6. Olivia de Havilland  –  240
  7. Susan Hayward  –  210
  8. Jennifer Jones  –  205
  9. Janet Gaynor  –  175
  10. Irene Dunne  –  175
  11. Jane Wyman  /  Deborah Kerr  –  175

Best Editing:  Best Editing would no longer be the worst Oscar category – ceding that dubious distinction to Best Sound – but it still wouldn’t be a bright spot for the Academy.  Three winners fail to make my Top 10 and two others come in at #10.  But, starting in 1953, I finally have the first time I agree with the Academy, and it would happen twice more in the decade, all for films that I agree with on Best Picture (From Here to Eternity, On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai).  The two biggest editors on the decade would by William Lyon (winner of two Oscars, one very deserving for From Here to Eternity) and Ralph E. Winters (also winner of two Oscars and editor of the worst nominee of the decade – Quo Vadis).  Both would be attached to studios rather than directors, with Lyon working at Columbia and Winters at MGM.

  • Best Year:  1950
  • Worst Year:  1956
  • Best Winner:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Worst Winner:  Around the World in 80 Days
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Worst Nominee:  Quo Vadis
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Rashomon
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  8.0
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.8
  • Score for the Decade:  34.3

Top 3 in Points for the Decade:

  1. William Lyon  –  150
  2. Ralph E. Winters  –  150
  3. William Hornbeck  –  100

Top 10 in Points through 1959:

  1. Barbara McLean  –  200
  2. Ralph Dawson  –  175
  3. William Lyon  –  175
  4. Daniel Mandell  –  150
  5. Ralph E. Winters  –  150
  6. Robert J. Kern  –  125
  7. Conrad Nervig  –  125
  8. Gene Milford  –  125
  9. Anne Bauchens  –  125
  10. William Hornbeck  –  125

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Rashomon
  2. A Streetcar Named Desire
  3. Touch of Evil
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. Seven Samurai

Best Cinematography:  With the exception of 1957, the split in the category between Black & White and Color would continue through the decade.  Leon Shamroy would again be the top cinematographer, earning 8 nominations in the decade (every year except 1950 and 1957) but would never win.  But he was always competing in the less competitive Color category and his work is generally unimpressive; he never even finishes in the Top 10 at the Nighthawks.  Robert Surtees would also earn the same number of points, but would do it by winning three Oscars and showing more range – he won twice for Color (1950, 1959) and once in Black-and-White (1952).

Black-and-White

  • Best Year:  1950
  • Worst Year:  1958
  • Best Winner:  The Third Man
  • Worst Winner:  Somebody Up There Likes Me
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Worst Nominee:  Martin Luther
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Touch of Evil
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  6.1
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.8
  • Score for the Decade:  46.3

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Touch of Evil
  2. Rashomon
  3. Seven Samurai
  4. Paths of Glory
  5. The Seventh Seal

Nominations I Haven’t Seen:

  • Navajo  (1952)
  • Four Poster  (1953)

Color

  • Best Year:  1956
  • Worst Year:  1951
  • Best Winner:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Worst Winner:  Three Coins in the Fountain
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Rear Window
  • Worst Nominee:  Three Coins in the Fountain
  • Most Egregious Snub:  North by Northwest
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  4.2
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.7
  • Score for the Decade:  32.2

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. North by Northwest
  2. Vertigo
  3. The Searchers
  4. East of Eden
  5. Singin in the Rain

Top 5 in Points for the Decade:

  1. Leon Shamroy  –  200
  2. Robert Surtees  –  200
  3. Harry Stradling  –  150
  4. Charles Lang  –  125
  5. Joseph Ruttenberg  /  William C. Mellor  –  125

Top 10 in Points through 1959:

  1. Leon Shamroy  –  450
  2. Charles Lang  –  350
  3. Joseph Ruttenberg  –  325
  4. George Folsey  –  300
  5. William V. Skall  –  275
  6. Ray Rennahan  –  250
  7. Arthur Miller   –  250
  8. Victor Milner  –  250
  9. Harry Stradling  –  250
  10. George Barnes  –  225

Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture  /  Best Scoring of a Musical Picture:  Alfred Newman is the big composer of the decade, which should come as no surprise.  His 400 points is the second most for any composer in any decade, behind only himself in the 40’s.  He would earn at least one nomination in every year in the decade except 1957 (the year of the combined categories) and would earn twice as many points as anyone else.  He has been the #1 person in points since 1939 – John Williams would need 5 more nominations to beat him.  The Academy wouldn’t make great choices in the decade – after only twice having a winner finish outside my Top 10 before 1953, they would do it three times from 1953 to 1958, including 1958, where they would choose the best of the five nominees, but it would be my #11 on the year because their nominees were so bad.

Throughout the decade there would be the split between Dramatic or Comedy and Musical (a note on Musical down below).  The exception would be 1957, when there would just be a Best Score category (covered under Dramatic or Comedy).

Dramatic or Comedy Picture / Score

  • Best Year:  1952
  • Worst Year:  1958
  • Best Winner:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Worst Winner:  Lili
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Worst Nominee:  Perri
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Rashomon
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  6.3
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.8
  • Score for the Decade:  49.7

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Rashomon  (Hayasaka)
  2. The Third Man  (Karas)
  3. North by Northwest  (Herrmann)
  4. Samurai I: Miyamato Musashi  (Dan)
  5. Seven Samurai  (Hayasaka)

Musical Picture

  • Best Year:  1954
  • Worst Year:  1953
  • Best Winner:  Porgy and Bess
  • Worst Winner:  Call Me Madam
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Sleeping Beauty
  • Worst Nominee:  The Medium
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.6
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.4
  • Score for the Decade:  85.7

note:  I’ll be honest here, this is a hard category to judge.  Most of these scores would later qualify as “Adapted”, which I don’t tend to grade.  So I’ve done my best to compare them to other musicals.

Nominations I Haven’t Seen:

  • I’ll Get By  (1950)

Top 5 in Points for the Decade:

  1. Alfred Newman  –  400
  2. Adolph Deutch  –  200
  3. Dimitri Tiomkin  –  175
  4. Andre Previn  –  175
  5. Franz Waxman  /  Johnny Green  –  150

Top 10 in Points through 1959:

  1. Alfred Newman  –  1150
  2. Max Steiner  –  700
  3. Victor Young  –  500
  4. Morris Stoloff  –  450
  5. Miklos Rozsa  –  450
  6. Ray Heindorf  –  400
  7. Dimitri Tiomkin  –  325
  8. Franz Waxman  –  325
  9. Herbert Stothart  –  300
  10. Hugo Friedhofer  –  250

Best Sound Recording:  Quite frankly, this category would continue to suck.  Three times in the decade they would give the Oscar to my #1 choice (The Sound Barrier, From Here to Eternity, Ben Hur).  The other seven times their winner wouldn’t even make my Top 10.  And yet, they weren’t choosing that badly among the nominees – five times they chose the best of the nominees, they never chose the worst nominee and only once went with the fourth best.  Perhaps the strangest omission was The Bridge on the River Kwai, a movie with phenomenal sound that won 7 Oscars but wasn’t nominated.  The highest score in the decade would be a 47.6 (1953) and three times the score would be below 10.

The rules on this category were strange.  The nomination went to the head of the studio’s sound department.  This meant that by 1959 only 40 people had ever been nominated in this category (compared to over 100 screenwriters who earned a single nomination in the 50’s alone).  Sound designers themselves wouldn’t earn the nomination until 1969.  And from 1947 to 1951 the nomination went to the studio, so no one earned nominations.

  • Best Year:  1953
  • Worst Year:  1956
  • Best Winner:  The Sound Barrier
  • Worst Winner:  South Pacific
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Porgy and Bess
  • Worst Nominee:  Susan Slept Here
  • Most Egregious Snub:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  6.75
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.25
  • Score for the Decade:  23.9

Nominations I Haven’t Seen:

  • Mississippi Gambler  (1953)

Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  2. Seven Samurai
  3. Paths of Glory
  4. The Third Man
  5. High Noon

Top 5 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Gordon Sawyer  –  120
  2. John Livadary  –  100
  3. Fred Hynes  –  100
  4. Leslie I. Carey  –  100
  5. Carl Faulkner  –  100

Top 10 in Points through 1959:

  1. Douglas Shearer  –  380
  2. John Livadary  –  360
  3. Nathan Levinson  –  340
  4. Thomas T. Moulton  –  280
  5. L. L. Ryder  –  240
  6. E. H. Hansen  –  220
  7. Bernard B. Brown  –  180
  8. J. O. Aalberg  –  160
  9. Gordon Sawyer  –  160
  10. Jack Whitney  –  140

sunset-boulevard-theredlistBest Interior Decoration:  With multiple categories still in effect and the studio system still holding up somewhat, there would be several designers would dominate the decade.  The top two for the decade would earn more points in this decade than anyone working after the combination into one category in 1967 would ever earn.  Four of the top 5 would be designers would had earned multiple nominations in the 40’s.  The final one, Walter M. Scott, would be the one studio era designer to continue to earn numerous nominations after 1967.  Each of the top 5 designers would have streaks of at least 7 straight year with nominations, although the longest streak in Oscar history would be by Hal Pereira, who would finish 6th in the decade, partially because his streak wouldn’t start until 1952, and partially because he only won one Oscar in the decade.  Of the top 5, Edwin B. Willis would have 18 noms and 4 wins, Lyle Wheeler would have 19 noms and 3 wins, Cedric Gibbons, working mostly with Willis, would have 17 noms and 4 wins, and Sam Comer and Walter M. Scott would each have 12 noms and 3 wins.  In 1950, Sam Comer would win both awards.  In 1953, Gibbons and Wheeler would each an unprecedented 100 points, winning in Black-and-White and having three Color nominations.  Gibbons has held the #1 spot in any category longer than anyone in Oscar history, tying for the points lead in 1934 and taking it solo in 1936 and no one else has even half his points, so he is unlikely to ever relinquish it.

moulin1952The distinction between Black-and-White and Color would be dropped in 1957 and 1958 (those years are covered in the Score and Winner ranks for Color).  The scores would go in opposite directions.  The Black-and-White score would go down as the decade passed.  On the other hand, the Color score would only go above 60 once in the first half of the decade and only go below 60 once in the second half, peaking with a score of 90.5 in 1959.  But 1956 is the best year with only a score of 80.8; this is because the year is so packed with great Art Direction that even though three of the biggest snubs of the decade are in that year it’s still packed with great nominees.  The year of the bloated epics was not good for the films in general, but they certainly looked great – this will also be reflected in Costume Design.

Black-and-White

  • Best Year:  1954
  • Worst Year:  1956
  • Best Winner:  Sunset Blvd.
  • Worst Winner:  Somebody Up There Likes Me
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Rashomon
  • Worst Nominee:  The President’s Lady
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Smiles of a Summer Night
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  4.25
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.8
  • Score for the Decade:  55.3

Sommarnattens leende (1955) Filmografinr: 1955/36Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Smiles of a Summer Night
  2. Oliver Twist
  3. The Seventh Seal
  4. Touch of Evil
  5. Wild Strawberries

Color

  • Best Year:  1956
  • Worst Year:  1950
  • Best Winner:  Moulin Rouge
  • Worst Winner:  Picnic
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Lust for Life
  • Worst Nominee:  The Snows of Kilimanjaro
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Singin in the Rain
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  3.7
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.5
  • Score for the Decade:  59.8

Singin-in-the-RainFive Biggest Snubs:

  1. Singin in the Rain
  2. Gate of Hell
  3. Forbidden Planet
  4. Richard III
  5. War and Peace

Top 10 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Edwin B. Willis  –  440
  2. Lyle Wheeler  –  440
  3. Cedric Gibbons  –  420
  4. Sam Comer  –  300
  5. Walter M. Scott  –  300

Top 10 in Points through 1959:

  1. Cedric Gibbons  –  1020
  2. Edwin B. Willis  –  800
  3. Lyle Wheeler  –  660
  4. Thomas Little  –  540
  5. Hans Dreier  –  520
  6. Richard Day  –  480
  7. Sam Comer  –  440
  8. Walter M. Scott  –  300
  9. Paul S. Fox  –  280
  10. Hal Pereira  –  260

Best Special Effects:  As Sci-Fi films began to be more prevalent, the effects in films started to get better.  This category would be oddly treated in the decade.  Until 1956, the nomination went to the studio rather than a visual effects artist.  Also, in 1951 and 1952 there was only a winner – it didn’t seem to be a special award, but there were no other nominees.  This category really started to pick up later in the decade, although some of the best visual effects went either unrewarded (Forbidden Planet) or flat-out un-nominated (The Bridge on the River Kwai).  A. Arnold Gillespie was the only person in the decade with more than one nomination after they started listing the artists again in 1956, winning in 56 and 59 and getting nominated in 58.  Of the 75 artists nominated before the 50’s only seven of them would ever earn another nomination again with Gillespie the only one to earn more than two after 1950.

  • Best Year:  1956
  • Worst Year:  1952
  • Best Winner:  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Worst Winner:  Plymouth Adventure
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Forbidden Planet
  • Worst Nominee:  Plymouth Adventure
  • Most Egregious Snub:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.2
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.38
  • Score for the Decade:  61.9

Top 5 in Points through 1959:

  1. A. Arnold Gillespie  –  300
  2. Gordon Jennings  –  220
  3. Fred Sersen  –  200
  4. Farciot Edouart  –  180
  5. Douglas Shearer  /  John P. Fulton  –  160

moulinBest Costume Design:  Edith Head.  That’s it.  It’s all about Edith Head.  She has as many points in this decade as any other costume designer has had in their whole career.  Charles LeMaire is close – he is only 15 points behind and like Head, earns a nomination every year, even in the two years where the categories are combined into one (1957, 1958).  It’s appropriate that they are linked like this – they worked together on the costumes for All About Eve and each won the Oscar.  But after that, Head worked mostly on black-and-white films and LeMaire mostly in color.  Head would win 5 Oscars in the decade and earn 15 nominations.  LeMaire would win 3 Oscars and earn 16 nominations.  LeMaire would compete against himself three times (winning twice) while Head would never compete against herself.  LeMaire would be nominated in both categories three times, only winning one Oscar in those three years.  Head would be nominated in both categories five times, the first time (1950) winning both and the other four times losing both.  After winning the Oscar together in 1950, they would only compete against each other 7 times.  Head would win twice and four times neither would win.  The other time, LeMaire would win for Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, over Head for To Catch a Thief and Head would be bitter: “Charles LeMaire is a good friend of mine and I would tell him to his face that his designs were blah compared to my gowns.  All the costumes Jennifer Jones wore were Chinese cheong sams, the traditional Chinese dress, which could have been purchased in Chinatown if Charles had wanted to.  That loss was the single greatest disappointment of my costume-design career.”  (Inside Oscar, p 265).  Now, Head specialized in gowns, not period costumes, so I’m not a huge fan of her work, but as I have LeMaire’s Oscar as by far the worst of the decade (the only time in either category the Academy picked the worst nominee), I’m inclined to agree with her.  After this decade, Head would continue to earn multiple nominations (stretching her streak through 1966) and awards.  She would earn another 300 points after 1959.  LeMaire, nominated in every year in the decade, would never earn another Oscar nomination.

somelikeThis was not a great decade for the Academy in the Black-and-White Costume Design category, either in the nominations (a low score), or among the winners (only twice in the decade did they pick the best of the nominees and they never picked any film better than my #2 overall). But part of that is because the best period work in Black-and-White were Foreign films, and with a few notable exceptions (Ugetsu, Seven Samurai) those films weren’t nominated and they never won.  On the other hand, Hollywood was doing great things with period pieces in Color and there are lots of great nominations.  Only two winners weren’t the best of the nominees and one of them came in second.  Love is a Many-Splendored Thing is the only Oscar winner to rank lower than 3rd on my list.  This is also reflected in my list of snubs – three of the biggest snubs are from 1956, which is also the best year – that’s because that year was filled with such amazing costumes (like with Art Direction) that there just wasn’t room for them all.

Black-and-White

  • Best Year:  1955
  • Worst Year:  1950
  • Best Winner:  Some Like Hot
  • Worst Winner:  The Solid Gold Cadillac
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Seven Samurai
  • Worst Nominee:  Born Yesterday
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Oliver Twist
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  5.75
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  2.38
  • Score for the Decade:  36.5

oliver-1Five Biggest Snubs:

  1. Oliver Twist
  2. Smiles of a Summer Night
  3. The Seventh Seal
  4. Miss Julie
  5. Sunset Blvd.

Color

  • Best Year:  1956
  • Worst Year:  1950
  • Best Winner:  Moulin Rouge
  • Worst Winner:  Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  Around the World in 80 Days
  • Worst Nominee:  That Forsyte Woman
  • Most Egregious Snub:  Richard III
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  2.9
  • Average Winner Rank among Nominees:  1.5
  • Score for the Decade:  61.5

richardiiiFive Biggest Snubs:

  1. Richard III
  2. Samurai I: Miyamato Musashi
  3. Lust for Life
  4. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  5. Anastasia

Top 5 Points in the Decade:

  1. Edith Head  –  300
  2. Charles LeMaire  –  285
  3. Helen Rose  –  165
  4. Jean Louis  –  150
  5. Irene Sharaff  /  Walter Plunkett  –  135

Top 10 Points through 1959:

  1. Edith Head  –  300
  2. Charles LeMaire  –  285
  3. Helen Rose  –  165
  4. Jean Louis  –  150
  5. Irene Sharaff  –  135
  6. Walter Plunkett  –  135
  7. Gile Steele  –  120
  8. Dorothy Jeakins  –  105
  9. Mary Wills  –  75
  10. Orry-Kelly  /  Travilla  –  60

Best Song:  This is the category that suffers the worst in comparison with the decade before and there are three reasons.  The first is that Oscars.org, beginning with 1953, lists eligible films, and to a certain extent, eligible songs.  That means from there on I can determine when a song (for the most part) was eligible.  The second is that, while the Academy nominated songs from Disney films in the 40’s, they basically gave that up here.  There were more Oscar-winning songs from Disney Animated films in the 40’s (2) than there were nominated in the 50’s (1).  My list contains 10 nominees and 4 winners, and for good measure, two other non-animated Disney films win my Best Song category which didn’t received Oscar nominations.  The third is that rock and roll gets introduced in the mid-50’s but the Academy won’t discover until until decades later.  Case in point: from 1956 to 1958 the Nighthawk Awards contain 7 nominated songs that are sung on film by Elvis Presley; the Academy contains zero.

Sammy Cahn would be the Edith Head of songwriting.  He would earn 140 points in the decade; only 8 other songwriters have ever earned 140 points in their whole careers.  He would be nominated in every year except 1953 (when, ironically, he was eligible for several songs from Peter Pan – see above).  Cahn, a lyricist, would win 3 Oscars out of 11 nominations in the decade.  He would be followed by lyricist Paul Francis Webster (2 wins, 6 noms).  The top composer is Sammy Fain, who wrote music for Webster on 5 of those noms and both wins.  It was not a decade for those who wrote both music and lyrics; only 6 of the 50 nominations in the decade went to one person and none of those resulted in an Oscar.

  • Best Year:  1956
  • Worst Year:  1958
  • Best Winner:  “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’” from High Noon
  • Worst Winner:  “Gigi” from Gigi
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  “Bibbidy-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella
  • Worst Nominee:  “Tammy” from Tammy and the Bachelor
  • Most Egregious Snub:  “That’s Entertainment” from The Band Wagon  (1953)
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  6.2
  • Average Winner Rank among nominees:  2.5
  • Score for the Decade:  40.8

5 Most Egregious Snubs:

  1. “That’s Entertainment” from The Band Wagon
  2. “Love Me Tender” from Love Me Tender
  3. “Make Em Laugh” from Singin in the Rain
  4. “Moses Supposes” from Singin in the Rain
  5. “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty

Top 5 in Points in the Decade:

  1. Sammy Cahn  –  140
  2. Paul Francis Webster  –  80
  3. Sammy Fain  –  70
  4. James Van Heusen  –  60
  5. Ned Washington  /  Dimitri Tiomkin  /  Jay Livingston  –  60

Top 5 in Points through 1959:

  1. Sammy Cahn  –  210
  2. Harry Warren  –  140
  3. Johnny Mercer  –  140
  4. Ned Washington  –  130
  5. Leo Robin  –  110
  6. Mack Gordon  –  100
  7. Harold Arlen  –  100
  8. Jule Styne  –  100
  9. James Van Heusen  –  100
  10. Jerome Kern  /  Irving Berlin  /  Paul Francis Webster  –  90

Nights_of_Cabiria_PosterBest Foreign Film:  This award continued to be a Special non-competitive award until 1956 (except in 1953, when there was no award).  During those years, only three countries won awards – France, which had also won in 1948, shared the award in 1950 and won in 1952, Italy, which had won in 1949, shared the award in 1950 (a France-Italy co-production) and Japan won in 1951, 1954 and 1955.  After that, it became a competitive award, with countries submitting one film each and five nominees being chosen (there’s a link below to lists of all the submitted films).

In the first four years, France or Italy won every year and each country was nominated every year (with the exception of 1961, Italy would be nominated the first 11 years of the category).  West Germany would also be nominated the first four years of the category.  Only two nominations would go to countries outside Europe – Japan in 1956 and India in 1957.  This is compared to 16 out of the 43 submitted films being from outside Europe.  Federico Fellini would be the primary director, winning the Oscar in the first two competitive years (he would later win twice more).  He would be the only director nominated more than once in those four years.  The only other directors in those four years to have more than one film submitted would be Juan Antonio Bardem (one nominated) and Ingmar Bergman (neither nominated).

  • Best Year:  1951  /  1956  **
  • Worst Year:  1958
  • Best Winner:  Rashomon  /  Nights of Cabiria  (full competitive year)
  • Worst Winner:  The Walls of Malapaga  /  Black Orpheus  (full competitive year)
  • Best Nominee That Didn’t Win:  The Bridge
  • Worst Nominee:  For Better For Worse
  • Most Egregious Snub:  The Seventh Seal
  • Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks:  3.56  *
  • Average Winner Rank among nominees:  1.25  *
  • Score for the Decade:  57.8  *

*  –  The Average Winner Rank at Nighthawks is calculated based on the winner in all 9 years (there was no winner in 1953).  The Average Winner Rank among nominees is based on 1956-1959 only.  The Score for the Decade is based only on submitted films.  Though I think the Academy’s rules are stupid, I can only grade them on what was allowed within the rules.  So, in 1957, the grade does not reflect the absence of Wild Strawberries which was not submitted but it does reflect the absence of The Seventh Seal which was submitted but not nominated.  Full lists of what was submitted can be found here.

**  –  1951 was the best year because they gave the Special Award to Rashomon, which was easily the best Foreign Film of the year.  But in a full competitive year it goes to 1956.

Poster - Seventh Seal, The_025 Most Egregious Snubs:

  1. The Seventh Seal
  2. The World of Apu
  3. The Magician
  4. Cairo Station
  5. High Street

5 Best Films prior to 1956:

  1. Seven Samurai
  2. Ikiru
  3. Smiles of a Summer Night
  4. Miss Julie
  5. Diabolique

5 Best Films not submitted (1956-1959):

  1. Wild Strawberries
  2. Throne of Blood
  3. The Cranes are Flying
  4. The 400 Blows
  5. The Hidden Fortress

4 Worst Submissions (in relation between the film not submitted and the film submitted):

explanation:  On a 100 point scale, the biggest difference between the film that was submitted and what I thought was the best film from that country.  It only works if I have seen the submitted film.  The top 3 films above aren’t on this list because in the case of Wild Strawberries, it was the same year as The Seventh Seal (which is actually better), Throne of Blood isn’t listed because I haven’t seen Akure, the submitted Japanese film, and The Cranes are Flying isn’t listed because the USSR didn’t submit a film that year.  So, for the list above, blame goes on the Academy’s system.  For this list, the blame goes on the submitting country.  There are 10 times in these four years where a country submitted a film, I’ve seen that film, and I think a different film should have been submitted.  Six of those times, the point difference is less than 10.  These four are rather egregious.

  1. 1958 Japan  –  The Ballad of Narayama submitted instead of The Hidden Fortress  (23 pts)
  2. 1957 India  –  Mother India submitted instead of Aparajito  (21 pts)
  3. 1958 India  –  Madhumati submitted instead of The Music Room  (17 pts)
  4. 1959 France  –  Black Orpheus submitted instead of The 400 Blows  (16 pts)

note:  There’s two bits of irony here.  The first is that the 2nd and 3rd on the list are both Satyajit Ray films that weren’t submitted, but in 1959, India did submit a Ray film and it was the second best film of the decade submitted but not nominated.  The other bit of irony is that Black Orpheus, the fourth film on this list, actually went on to win the Oscar.

Nominations I Haven’t Seen:

  • Qivitoq  (1956)
  • Paw  (1959)

Top 4 Countries in Points through 1959 (not including Special Awards):

  1. France  –  120
  2. Italy  –  120
  3. Germany  –  80
  4. Denmark  –  40

Top 5 Counties in Points through 1959  (including Special Awards):

  1. France  –  240
  2. Italy  –  200
  3. Japan  –  140
  4. Germany  –  80
  5. Denmark  –  40

Other Categories:

The following categories didn’t yet exist by 1939: Sound Effects Editing, Makeup and Animated Film.

Sound Effects Editing would finally come along in the 60’s, and thus we miss out on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Seven Samurai, Bridge on the River Kwai and Ben Hur.

Makeup wouldn’t be a competitive award until the 80’s but I don’t know how much that is a problem here – the best makeup in the decade comes from various Hammer Horror films (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula) which would have been unlikely to get any Oscar attention anyway.

Best Animated Film would take until this century to become a category which is both appropriate and inappropriate.  On the one hand, the Disney films deserved Oscars – there were five of them in the decade (Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty) and all of them were good enough to earn this award, with the last two the best.  And those films were mostly ignored by Oscar – only five nominations (three of those for Cinderella) and no Oscars between them.  On the other hand, since there isn’t another animated film in the decade that I deemed worthy of nomination (only two others were even eligible), it’s not so bad to say this category didn’t deserve to exist yet.  They could have at least made it an Honorary Award though, like Best Foreign Film was before 1956.

By Year:

1950:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1950
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  62
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  4.18
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  4.24
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.86
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  55.6
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  80.1
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  51.0
  • Total Nominee Score:  60.2

1951:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1951
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  58
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  4.77
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  3.43
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.95
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  72.2
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  83.3
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  49.2
  • Total Nominee Score:  63.7

1952:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1952
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  73
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  8.82
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  4.14
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.85
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  52.6
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  75.2
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  39.9
  • Total Nominee Score:  51.4

1953:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1953
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  65
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  2.67
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  2.75
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.65
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  50.8
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  83.3
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  49.3
  • Total Nominee Score:  57.4

1954:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1954
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  67
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  3.27
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  3.38
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.95
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  68.3
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  86.4
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  57.0
  • Total Nominee Score:  67.0

1955:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1955
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  74
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  7.91
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  7.29
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.76
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  54.9
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  75.2
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  44.0
  • Total Nominee Score:  54.9

1956:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1956
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  83
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  8.05
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  7.00
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.05
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  25.9
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  73.9
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  39.6
  • Total Nominee Score:  45.1

1957:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1957
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  52
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  3.35
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  3.50
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.53
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  55.6
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  71.3
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  43.5
  • Total Nominee Score:  52.3

1958:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1958
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  69
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  18.16
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  13.28
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  2.79
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  40.5
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  71.1
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  26.1
  • Total Nominee Score:  41.1

1959:

  • Nighthawk Awards for 1959
  • Best Picture:  Reviews of the films can be found here.
  • Best Picture Rank:  #  61
  • Winners Average (with Picture):  4.90
  • Winners Average (without Picture):  4.70
  • Winners Average Among Nominees:  1.95
  • Nominee Score (P-D-S):  59.9
  • Nominee Score  (Acting):  72.8
  • Nominee Score  (Tech Categories):  52.0
  • Total Nominee Score:  57.7
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