Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1955--The Year in Review

Another stunning period for movies, as color overtakes black-and-white even further, with opulent stories given the rainbow's full magilla, while smaller, more intimate and, shall we say--pieces done about poorer people--assayed in simpler tones. As great as 1955 is, a complete box office failure now stands as its primary jewel--a dark and heavily stylized film spearheaded by a legendary actor who occupied the director's chair only once in his career. Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter was way too ahead of its time, and so it received zero Oscar love. But we can now see it as providing the ultimate vehicle both for relative newcomer Robert Mitchum and silent film veteran Lillian Gish, each playing off each other to ravishing effect (the film was penned by near-mythical film critic James Agee). The Night of the Hunter looks and feels like no other movie ever made, and for that reason alone, it deserves the top spot. But, then again, two of the finest noir pieces--Aldrich's insanely modern Kiss Me Deadly and Joseph H. Lewis' equally wild B-movie The Big Combo--give Laughton's work much competition. The foreign product this year points further to a world we've yet seen on film, with Satyajit Ray's warm Pather Panchali providing the kind of insight into India's heart rarely seen, even up to the present. France made strides with US expatriate Jules Dassin's exciting heist film Rififi, and then with Cluzot's thrilling Les Diaboliques (which provided a glaring femme fatale role for Simone Signoret that still reverberates); meanwhile, the live-action short film category was owned by two very different but equally influential French classics. In a short career, James Dean would land with two blazing performances, thus cementing his place in film history--a quick blip that would transform the art of acting. And we'd have more classics made by Dreyer, Sirk, Fellini, Kurosawa, Ophuls, Mackendrick, Bergman, and Anthony Mann, among many other filmmaking vets. And musicals would get a bump up, too, with Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, Daddy Long Legs, It's Always Fair Weather, Love Me or Leave Me, The Seven Little Foys, and Disney's Lady and the Tramp providing the year's soundtrack. Again, finally...gosh...Chuck Jones must now SURELY be considered among the most distinctive filmmakers of all time: even without the Warner Brothers stock company, he arrives with a froggy masterpiece. As far as the Oscars were concerned, you have to hand it to 'em for recognizing a tiny little story about a homely butcher called Marty. As good as a year as this is, even The Academy couldn't get it completely wrong. I should note: I couldn't decide between the ravishing black-and-white works of two genius cinematographers, so I had to result to a rare TIE vote. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold. 

PICTURE: THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (US, Charles Laughton) (2nd: Kiss Me Deadly (US, Robert Aldrich), followed by: Pather Panchali (India, Satyajit Ray); East of Eden (US, Elia Kazan); Rififi (France, Jules Dassin); Lola Montes (France, Max Ophuls); All That Heaven Allows (US, Douglas Sirk); Les Diaboliques (France, Henri-Georges Clouzot); Ordet (Denmark, Carl Th. Dreyer); The Ladykillers (UK, Alexander Mackendrick); Smiles of a Summer Night (Sweden, Ingmar Bergman); The Big Combo (US, Joseph H. Lewis);The Man from Laramie (US, Anthony Mann); Lady and the Tramp (Clyde Geromini, Wilfred Jackson and Walt Disney); Marty (US, Delbert Mann); Rebel Without a Cause (US, Nicholas Ray); The Phenix City Story (US, Phil Karlson); Samurai Part Two: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (Japan, Hiroshi Inagaki); Floating Clouds (Japan, Mikio Naruse) Summertime (US/UK, David Lean); Guys and Dolls (US, Joseph L. Mankiewicz); The Desperate Hours (US, William Wyler); Mister Roberts (US, Mervyn Le Roy, John Ford); Il Bidone (Italy, Federico Fellini); I Live in Fear (Japan, Akira Kurosawa); Richard III (UK, Laurence Olivier); Battle Cry (US, Raoul Walsh); Moonfleet (US, Fritz Lang); The Seven Year Itch (US, Billy Wilder); Oklahoma! (US, Fred Zinnemann); Land of the Pharaohs (US, Howard Hawks); The Man With the Golden Arm (US, Otto Preminger); The Trouble With Harry (US, Alfred Hitchcock); To Catch a Thief (US, Alfred Hitchcock); The Quatermass Xperiment (UK, Val Guest); It’s Always Fair Weather (US, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly); Daddy Long Legs (US, Jean Negulesco); The Tall Men (US, Raoul Walsh); Picnic (US, Joshua Logan); Violent Saturday (US, Richard Fleischer); The Big Knife (US, Robert Aldrich); House of Bamboo (US, Samuel Fuller); The Dam Busters (UK, Michael Anderson); Killer's Kiss (US, Stanley Kubrick); The Blackboard Jungle (US, Richard Brooks); We're No Angels (US, Michael Curtiz); The Court Jester (US, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank); It Came from Beneath the Sea (US, Robert Gordon); This Island Earth (US, Joseph M. Newman); Bride of the Monster (US, Edward D. Wood, Jr.))

ACTOR: Robert Mitchum, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (2nd: James Dean, East of Eden, followed by: Alec Guinness, The Ladykillers; Ernest Borgnine, Marty; James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause; Ralph Meeker, Kiss Me Deadly; Jean Gervais, Rififi; Frank Sinatra, The Man With the Golden Arm; Laurence Olivier, Richard III; Frederic March, The Desperate Hours)

ACTRESS: Simone Signoret, LES DIABOLIQUES (2nd: Martine Carol, Lola Montes, followed by: Katharine Hepburn, Summertime; Hideko Takamine, Floating Clouds; Jane Wyman, All That Heaven Allows;  Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo; Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow; Eva Dahlbeck, Smiles of a Summer Night; Julie Harris, East of Eden) 

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Raymond Massey, EAST OF EDEN (2nd: Stubby Kaye, Guys and Dolls, followed by: Joe Mantell, Marty; Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts; William Powell, Mister Roberts; Peter Ustinov, Lola Montes; Sal Mineo, Rebel Without a Cause; Cedric Hardwicke, Richard III; Richard Conte, The Big Combo)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lillian Gish, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (2nd: Katie Johnson, The Ladykillers, followed by: Vivian Blaine, Guys and Dolls; Jean Wallace, The Big Combo; Betsy Blair, Marty; Agnes Moorehead, All That Heaven Allows; Peggy Lee, Pete Kelly’s Blues; Jo Van Fleet, East of Eden; Harriet Andersson, Smiles of a Summer Night; Natalie Wood, Rebel Without a Cause) 

DIRECTOR: Charles Laughton, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (2nd: Satyajit Ray, Pather Panchali, followed by: Robert Aldrich, Kiss Me Deadly; Elia Kazan, East of Eden; Douglas Sirk, All That Heaven Allows; Max Ophuls, Lola Montes; Jules Dassin, Rififi; Nicholas Ray, Rebel Without a Cause; Alexander MacKendrick, The Ladykillers; Carl Th. Dreyer, Ordet) 

NON-ENGLISH-LANGUAGE FILM: PATHER PANCHALI (India, Satyajit Ray) (2nd: Rififi (France, Jules Dassin), followed by: Lola Montes (France, Max Ophuls); Les Diaboliques (France, Henri-Georges Clouzot); Ordet (Denmark, Carl Th. Dreyer); Smiles of a Summer Night (Sweden, Ingmar Bergman); Samurai Part Two: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (Japan, Hiroshi Inagaki); Floating Clouds (Japan, Mikio Naruse); Il Bidone (Italy, Federico Fellini); I Live in Fear (Japan, Akira Kurosawa))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: William Rose, THE LADYKILLERS (2nd: Nicholas Ray, Stewart Stern and Irving Shulman, Rebel Without a Cause, followed by: Ingmar Bergman, Smiles of a Summer Night; Philip Yordan, The Big Combo; Peg Fenwick, Edna L. Lee and Harry Lee, All That Heaven Allows; Craine Wilbur and Daniel Mainwaring, The Phenix City Story)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: James Agee, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (2nd: A.I. Bezzerides, Kiss Me Deadly, followed by: Paddy Chayefsky, Marty; Renee Wheeler, Auguste Le Breton, and Jules Dassin, Rififi; Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jerome Geromini, Rene Masson and Frederic Gredel, Les Diaboliques; Paul Osborn, East of Eden; Philip Yordan and Frank Burt, The Man from Laramie)

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: NIGHT AND FOG (France, Alain Resnais) (2nd: The Red Balloon (France, Albert Lamorisse), followed by: The Bespoke Overcoat (UK, Jack Clayton); Le Maitres Fous (France, Jean Rouch); The Face of Lincoln (Edward Freed))

ANIMATED SHORT FILM: ONE FROGGY EVENING (Chuck Jones) (2nd: Blinkity Blank (Canada, Norman McLaren), followed by: All Fowled Up (Robert McKimson); The Legend of Rock-a-Bye Point (Tex Avery); Speedy Gonzales (Friz Freleng))

BLACK-AND-WHITE CINEMATOGRAPHY: TIE: Stanley Cortez, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and John Alton, THE BIG COMBO (2nd: Ernest Laszlo, Kiss Me Deadly, followed by: Henning Bendtsen, Ordet; James Wong Howe, The Rose Tattoo; Gunnar Fischer, Smiles of a Summer Night) 

COLOR CINEMATOGRAPHY: Russell Metty, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (2nd: Christian Matras, Lola Montes, followed by: Robert Burks, To Catch a Thief; Ted McCord, East of Eden; Robert Surtees, Oklahoma!; James Wong Howe, Picnic

BLACK-AND-WHITE ART DIRECTION: THE ROSE TATTOO, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Night of the Hunter, I'll Cry Tomorrow, The Desperate Hours

COLOR ART DIRECTION: LOLA MONTES, Guys and Dolls, To Catch a Thief, All That Heaven Allows, Picnic

BLACK-AND-WHITE COSTUME DESIGN: SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, I'll Cry Tomorrow, The Rose Tattoo, Queen Bee, The Night of the Hunter

COLOR COSTUME DESIGN: LOLA MONTES, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma!, To Catch a Thief, The Seven Little Foys

FILM EDITING: THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, Kiss Me Deadly, East of Eden, The Blackboard Jungle, The Desperate Hours

SOUND: REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, Mister Roberts, Oklahoma!, The Night of the Hunter, The Bridges at Toko-Ri

ORIGINAL SCORE: Elmer Bernstein, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (2nd: Ravi Shankar, Pather Panchali, followed by: Maurice Le Roux, The Red Balloon; George Duning, Picnic; Leonard Rosenman, East of Eden; Frank Skinner and Joseph Gershenson, All That Heaven Allows

ADAPTED OR MUSICAL SCORE: Robert Russell Bennett, Jay Blackton and Adolph Deutsch, OKLAHOMA! (2nd: Jay Blackton and Cyril J. Mockridge, Guys and Dolls, followed by: Andre Previn, It's Always Fair Weather; Oliver Wallace, Lady and the Tramp; Alfred Newman, Daddy Long Legs

ORIGINAL SONG: "Bella Notte" from LADY AND THE TRAMP (Music and lyrics by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee) (2nd: "Unchained Melody" from Unchained (Music by Alex North, lyrics by Hy Zaret), followed by: "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" from Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (Music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster); "He's A Tramp" from Lady and the Tramp (Music and lyrics by Sonny Burke and Peggy Lee); "(Love is) The Tender Trap" from The Tender Trap (Music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn); "Something's Gotta Give" from Daddy Long Legs (Music and lyrics by Johnny Mercer))

SPECIAL EFFECTS: THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI, Conquest of Space, It Came from Beneath the Sea


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