What Should Have Won the 1953 Best Picture Oscar?

Welcome back, to the first Best Picture poll for v. 3, WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars: 1953-1963.

The Academy went for a very respectable, honorable choice for Best Picture: From Here to Eternity. Famous everywhere for that passionate kiss in the surf — and kudos to Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr for ignoring the sand being shoved up their shorts by the waves — From Here to Eternity is a fine middle-of-the road blockbuster, well worth watching more than once:

Here is part of what I had to say about my parents’ favorite movie from v. 3: “From Here to Eternity is a very expansive film, taken from an even more expansive novel by James Jones. The attack on Pearl Harbor provides the climax, but the lives and passions of a number of soldiers and women form the subject matter. Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, and Ernest Borgnine star. What remains striking to me is that From Here to Eternity is a movie about adults, and adult concerns. Were the film made today, inevitably, it would focus on the more lurid aspects of the story, and the Pearl Harbor attack would be a special effects extravaganza. Here, the problems of love, fidelity, character, the individual vs. the community, and the responsibility one bears as a mark of maturity are handled deftly and tellingly. The movie has some problems – not least among them the way in which Pearl Harbor conveniently wraps up the story lines, rather than having the solutions emerge from the characters. The Montgomery Clift story arc feels awkward at times, due to the censorship issues.”

On a personal note, Sinatra’s success in this film rebooted his career in both movies and the recording studio, allowing Sinatra to record his album masterpieces of the Fifties and early Sixties. If you’ve never listened to those albums — particularly Songs for Swingin’ Lovers — you’re in for a treat!

The other official nominees for Best Picture of the Year were Marlon Brando going Shakespearean in Julius Caesar, Richard Burton going overboard (along with everybody else) in the first Cinemascope release, The Robe, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck going fairy tale in Roman Holiday, and Alan Ladd taking down Jack Palance and then refusing to come back in the widescreen western, Shane.

Here are some other possibilities, beginning with the unthinking omission of Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17, with William Holden going cynical in a concentration camp comedy (I still can’t believe Hogan’s Heroes won the plagiarism lawsuit); Leslie Caron going childish in Lili; Clark Gable going wild in Mogambo over Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner (hey, you’d go wild too…for one or more of those three…); Otto Preminger thumbing his nose at the censors in the surprisingly tame The Moon Is Blue; John Wayne going 3-D in the western Hondo; Sam Fuller going anti-communist with Thelma Ritter in Pickup on South Street; Fred Astaire with the naughty Cyd Charisse in the classic musical The Band Wagon; Richard Brooks tackling the Korean War in Take the High Ground!; Richard Burton fighting the Nazis in The Desert Rats; Jimmy Stewart doing his best Captain Ahab impression in Anthony Mann’s Western, The Naked Spur;  a boy wandering Coney Island in Morris Engel’s extremely low-budget Little Fugitive; Alec Guinness ferrying back and forth between his two wives, Celia Johnson and Yvonne de Carlo in The Captain’s Paradise; coasting a roller in the showcase This Is Cinerama; Doris Day ripping off Annie Get Your Gun in Calamity Jane; Dr. Seuss on screen in the insanely bizarre The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T; Shakespeare meets Broadway in Kiss Me Kate; Charles Laughton going all Henry again in Young Bess; Robert Taylor puts on another iron jockstrap in Knights of the Round Table; Marilyn Monroe tries to learn How to Marry a Millionaire; aliens forget to take their cold medicine in War of the Worlds; Disney runs with the Lost Boys (didn’t he always?) in Peter Pan; Jane Russell tries to prove Marilyn Monroe is wrong in thinking Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; Vincent Price goes bonkers in the 3-D horror classic House of Wax; Ray Harryhausen animates his friend Ray Bradbury’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms; Marlon Brando rebelling against everything in The Wild One; Gloria Grahame and a cup of hot joe in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat; Ida Lupino directing The Hitch-Hiker and The Bigamist; and John Wayne crashing in Island in the Sky.

Feel free to add other choices, but for foreign films, please use the AMERICAN release date, as that is how the Academy runs things.

As always, I have much more to say in my book:http://www.amazon.com/WHO-Irreverent-Look-Oscars-Volume/dp/069232318X

Please vote here!