– Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
– Mister Roberts
– The Rose Tattoo
Director: Daniel Mann
Starring: Anna Magnani, Burt Lancaster, Marisa Pavan
Wins (3): Actress (Magnani), Art Direction (B&W), Cinematography (B&W)
Nominations (8): Picture, S Actress (Pavan)
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
I was unable to locate this film, but as soon as I can get my hands on it I’ll watch it.
Director: Joshua Logan
Starring: William Holden, Rosalind Russell, Arthur O’Connell
Wins (2): Art Direction (Color), Film Editing
Nominations (6): Picture, Director, S. Actor (O’Connell)
Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Oh, to live in a small, quaint Kansas town where drifters come and go with a simple hop on and off of boxcars passing by its outskirts. One would count ones’ self lucky to live in a heavenly place untouched by the cares and liberalism of the outside world save for an Achilles’ heel in the form of a train yard unlinking that velvet rope to give the occasional train jumper access to the town like a gelled up Affliction-clothed young man aching to enter a sketchy night club. What a divine fantasy it is to live in such a town where old maids are neighbors to other old maids. Households are made up of 4 single women ranging from the age of 15 to 40 and their excitement and elation rarely extend past their Saturday night date or their staying in to write poetry and dream of leaving the town limits but why they would want to do that, who can say?. To live in this Kansas town would be bliss. A town where train hoppers can waltz in and convince an old maid to let him work in the yard to earn a keep; a town that celebrates not the beginning of the school year nor Labor Day itself, but the end of summer with a massive town-wide picnic plump with field-day activities and fried, baked calorie-heavy food capped off by the crowning of Miss Neewollah and the shoving off of the new queen down the river surrounded on both sides by waving and cheering townsfolk. It all sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. This place is real and it exists in this movie called, Picnic and I’m ever-so-glad that I sat down to watch this delightful film. Seeing this picturesque community through a rectangle hole in my living room only tickled my appetite. And when the film finally came to an end, I wanted only to watch it once more from the beginning and thanked the technology gods that I did not have to wait while the VHS rewound, but merely had to press the menu button on my remote and to select “play” to repeat the glorious experience. However, when I did that, the movie picked right back up where it left off in the ending credits so I just went to “scene selection” and started at the opening credits and then hit the fast-forward button until I stopped seeing words. Problem solved, which is just as well because there are no problems in this Picnic world.
Director: Henry King
Starring: William Holden, Jennifer Jones
Wins (3): Drama/Comedy Score, Original Song, Costume Design (Color)
Nominations (8): Picture, Actress (Jones), Sound Recording, Cinematography (Color), Art Direction (Color)
Rotten Tomatoes: 46%
I should mention how similar this poster looks to that of the previous film, Picnic. Both show a strong-looking William Holden and an utterly unstable woman clinging to him. Though, in Picnic, he looks to be moving away while holding on here. William Holden stars in the Worst Best Picture Nominee of the 1950’s as well as its biggest competitor for the prize in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing. It’s not nearly as awful as Picnic, but has nothing about it whatsoever that I find interesting or in the least bit compelling. Another melodramatic story of forbidden love, but this time, the film leaves the small town setting for one in Hong Kong and the title leaves me with a red squiggly line underlining it. Jennifer Jones plays Dr. Han, who falls in love with an American journalist, Mark (William Holden). They do things together like swim and sit on a hill overlooking the beautiful Hong Kong landscape and go to her Chinese family for permission to marry. The film is based on the 1952 novel written by Han Suyin, the same name as the main character, thus giving off the impression that this is an autobiography. Jennifer Jones received a Best Actress nomination while the film was nominated for Art Direction (Color) and Costume Design (Color) and won for Drama/Comedy Score, Costume Design (Color) and the Original Song with its chorus-y, falsetto-y vocals and lyrics so obviously forced into existence inspired totally by the title of the novel on which the film was based.
Director: John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy, Joshua Logan
Starring: Henry Fonda, Jack Lemon, James Cagney, William Powell
Wins (1): S Actor (Lemon)
Nominations (3): Picture, Sound Recording
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Mister Roberts is a WWII film taking place on a naval boat, but has all the feel of a stage play. Like 1954’s The Caine Mutiny, this naval boat sees little action, to the chagrin of Henry Ford’s character, Lieutenant Roberts, a well-liked officer of a ship who basically exists as the stand-up go-between between the ship’s very harsh captain (James Cagney) and its good-natured crew. Roberts is desperate to see action in these final days of WWII, but the captain will repeatedly refuses to endorse Roberts’ transfer papers. Roberts shields his sailors for the most part from the harshness of Captain Morton, a habit that only ever ends in Morton’s getting angry at Roberts. Pulver, played by Jack Lemon, is Roberts’ fun-living roommate who avoids the captain, sneaks in alcohol and chases women at every opportunity. The film amounts to a pissing match between Captain Morton and Lieutenant Roberts, who finally is transferred thanks to the crew forging the captain’s signature. Mister Roberts teeters on light-hearted comedy and serious drama about the relationship of a ship’s crew to their altogether unfair and iron-fisted captain and the Lieutenant that takes the brunt end of the force. Henry Fonda plays it straight and Jack Lemon works as the comedic outlet, though his antics aren’t nearly as animated as they’ve been known to be; which to me is a very good thing. The ending of Mister Roberts really seals the deal, too. Such a middle of the road film, tone-wise, makes a quick turn to the dreadfully serious with a really well-executed scene that’s carried by Jack Lemon.
Oscar Winner and Should Have Won
Director: Delbert Mann
Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Joe Mantell, Betsy Blair
Wins (4): Picture, Director, Actor (Borgnine), Original Screenplay
Nominations (8): S Actor (Mantell), S Actress (Blair), Art Direction (B&W), Cinematography (B&W)
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Ernest Borgnine, the brute antagonist in From Here to Eternity, is great as Marty a sensitive 30-something year old butcher who lives with his mother in New York City. He’s such a good-natured man, friendly and talkative and seemingly an all-around happy and optimistic individual, though we know on the inside he’s quite lonely. Marty is the only one left in his family who isn’t married and he’s on the receiving end of constant pressure from them regarding when he’s going to get married. At a ballroom packed with New York City singles one night, Marty meets Clara, for all intents and purposes, female version of Marty, who has just been stood up. Being victims of this plague of loneliness in common, the two hit it off. Marty and Clara find solace in one another and the similar hardships that they suffer through being alone. Things go awry when Marty brings Clara home to meet his mother, whose behavior is not befitting her, for she has been manipulated by her sister to drive Clara away so that Marty won’t leave her alone. Marty realizes his opportunity is passing and reaches back out to Clara, who we find sitting with her parents watching television. Marty is such a simple film, but one that is so loveable and enjoyable. Borgnine won Best Actor for his performance and rightfully so for we at once find so much love and pity for this young man.
It’s a delightful film, but let’s face it, Marty wouldn’t have a chance in a year that wasn’t riddled with some of the worst Best Picture nominees of the decade. I’m fine with it winning, but in a year with Brando or Wayne, Borgnine still might’ve had a shot, but not the film. If Ford had given his all to just one film this year or Huston or Wilder, Zinneman or Lean, Marty would have no shot. So many other directors had films out in this very year that didn’t get nominated. Billy Wilder made The Seven Year Itch. Fred Zinnemann made Oklahoma!, the first film in 70mm. What’s wrong with Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant? James Dean and Natalie Wood are great in Rebel without a Cause, one of my favorites from this year. I’m not crazy about East of Eden, directed by Elia Kazaan and starring James Dean, but it’s certainly better than both Holden movies. Sure, Holden had a monopoly on the year, but he starred in two really awful films and his performances were not good. 1955 is one of the top 3 worst years from an Oscar perspective that I have reviewed these last few years between the 50’s and the 70’s.