The Best Pictures Year by Year – PT3 – (1953-9).


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1953 Oscar-Nominated Films                     


Julius Caesar

The Robe

Roman Holiday


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This was one of the best years ever, in my opinion. Three of the nominees were terrific, but Julius Caesar and The Robe were rubbish. Cole Porter’s brilliant Kiss Me Kate was overlooked completely, as were two other fabulous musicals, Calamity Jane and The Band Wagon. In the not too distant future the musically inferior West Side Story and The Sound of Music would win everything while the above-mentioned three wonderful musicals could not even land a Best Picture nomination between them. From Here to Eternity was a worthy winner, but Shane and Roman Holiday were worthy contenders.

My Top 10 for 1953

From Here to Eternity

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Kiss Me Kate

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Roman Holiday

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How to Marry a Millionaire

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Calamity Jane

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Pick-up on South Street

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Escape from Fort Bravo

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The Band Wagon

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1954 Oscar-Nominated Films

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The Caine Mutiny

The Country Girl

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Three Coins in the Fountain



On the Waterfront was always going to win. It was a powerful enough story, was directed by Elia Kazan and had the ‘flavor of the decade’, Marlon Brando, playing the lead. How could it lose? Personally, I preferred three pictures ahead of it, only one of which was nominated. My top four were all fine movies, but the other six more or less made up the numbers. The best of an ordinary lot, so to speak. The two Hitchcock efforts, Rear Window and Dial ‘M’ for Murder, were typical of the standard. Broken Lance might seem to be an odd choice to head my list, but I have watched it several times and cannot find fault with it. Spencer Tracy and Richard Widmark are standouts in it and the script is first class. It narrowly tipped out the equally fine The Caine Mutiny.

My Top 10 for 1954

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Broken Lance

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The Caine Mutiny

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri

On the Waterfront

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River of No Return


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

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Rear Window

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Dial ‘M’ for Murder

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Three Coins in the Fountain

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Drum Beat



1955 Oscar-Nominated Films

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Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Mister Roberts


The Rose Tattoo



The extraordinary thing about the list of Best Picture nominees for 1955 is that not one of them could make my top ten. Indeed, they would all have been hard-pressed to make a top 20. It shall always remain one of the great mysteries of the Academy Awards how Charles Laughton’s only crack at directing, the masterful The Night of the Hunter, could not make the nomination list ahead of the likes of Love is a Many Splendored Thing and Picnic, to name but two. My first three choices were outstanding dramas (all of them ignored by the Academy), the remainder of my choices being light-weight fare, but fare that I found thoroughly enjoyable. I suppose the ‘experts’ will wax lyrical about Marty, but I found it to be ordinary in the extreme. Not my kind of picture at all. Incidentally, I would have rewarded either Bob Mitchum for The Night of the Hunter or Jimmy Cagney for Love Me or Leave Me with a Best Actor Oscar. Instead, they gave it to Ernest Borgnine for Marty. Ho-hum.


My Top 10 for 1955

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The Night of the Hunter

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Bad Day at Black Rock

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Love Me or Leave Me

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Many Rivers to Cross

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Battle Cry

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To Catch a Thief

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To Hell and Back

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The Colditz Story

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The Dam Busters

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The Man from Laramie



1956 Oscar-Nominated Films

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Friendly Persuasion


The King and I

The Ten Commandments



Another complete cock-up by the Academy. Mike Todd’s overblown monstrosity Around the World in 80 Days has not aged gracefully. It is still a very boring travelogue. Friendly Persuasion, I presume, was the Academy’s annual nod to a religious theme, although this particular year The Ten Commandments brought that total to two. There were not a lot of really good movies that year, but John Ford’s exceptional western The Searchers was unbelievably left out of the nominations. So was the Duke’s performance in it. I would have nominated it and the classy British WW2 drama The Man Who Never Was ahead of all five of the actual nominations. I would also argue that High Society was a better musical than The King and I.


My Top 10 for 1956

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The Searchers

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The Man Who Never Was

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A Kiss before Dying

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High Society

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D-Day the 6th of June

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A Town like Alice

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The Battle of the River Plate

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Seven Men from Now

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The Court Jester


1957 Oscar-Nominated Films

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Peyton Place


12 Angry Men

Witness for the Prosecution



They did it again! Probably the best film noir ever made was Sweet Smell of Success, yet it could not even garner a nomination ahead of the likes of Peyton Place, Sayonara or Witness for the Prosecution, none of which was much good. The winner was quite a good film, although there was not a lot of logic to the premise. 1957 was a good year for movies, movies a lot more interesting than most of the nominations. The Kirk Douglas WW1 drama Paths of Glory was a marvelous anti-war film that few people went to see. Bob Mitchum and Deborah Kerr were perfectly cast in the WW2 drama Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, and The Three Faces of Eve provided an opportunity for Joanne Woodward to strut her stuff. Of course, all of these fine films were found wanting by the Academy. Peyton Place? Were they serious?


My Top 10 for 1957

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Sweet Smell of Success

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Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

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Paths of Glory

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The Three Faces of Eve

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The Enemy Below

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Gunfight at the OK Corral

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12 Angry Men

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Three Violent People

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3.10 To Yuma

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Old Yeller


1958 Oscar-Nominated Films

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Auntie Mame

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Defiant Ones

Separate Tables



A completely un-memorable year. The winner, Gigi, was a lavish, widescreen production with good music, so it was probably a worthy winner. I placed it just ahead of the excellent British picture about the Titanic disaster, the best depiction yet put on celluloid. The Hunters was one of the best (if not the best) of the few films set in the Korean War, on a par with The Bridges at Toko-Ri. South Pacific had some of the best music ever by Rodgers and Hammerstein, but the silly decision to utilize color slides for many of the songs effectively spoiled the picture. Pity. Cary Grant and Sophia Loren were a highly watchable combination in the light-weight Houseboat. Richard Widmark made the western, The Law and Jake Wade, a cut above most movies in that genre. Widmark seemed to just get better and better the older he got. So did Robert Taylor for that matter. Together they made this an interesting western. How in Hell did Auntie Mame and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof get a run?  


My Top 10 for 1958


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A Night to Remember

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The Hunters

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South Pacific

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Carve Her Name with Pride

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I Want to Live!

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The Law and Jake Wade

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The Young Lions

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The Defiant Ones


1959 Oscar-Nominated Films

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Anatomy of a Murder

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Nun’s Story

Room at the Top



Well, 1959, was the year of Ben-Hur. I am still not sure why. The winning film, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Nun’s Story took care of the religious quota well and truly, at the expense of the best Hitchcock film, North by Northwest, and the best Billy Wilder film, Some like it Hot. I especially enjoyed the musical Li’l Abner, a production that has never received the respect and appreciation it deserved. It was tuneful, clever, colorful and fun. The performances were all vibrant and exciting, particularly those of Billie Hayes and Stubby Kaye.


My Top 10 for 1959

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North by Northwest

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Some like it Hot

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Operation Petticoat

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Rio Bravo

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Li’l Abner

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Anatomy of a Murder


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Last Train from Gun Hill

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Pillow Talk

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