What Should Have Won the 1956 Best Picture Oscar?

Jules Verne was having a field day in the Fifties and early Sixties, from Disney’s adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to this year’s winner for Best Picture, Around the World in Eighty Days (and continuing with From the Earth to the MoonJourney to the Center of the EarthMysterious IslandMaster of the World, and Five Weeks in a Balloon). Hollywood, as ever, loves a winner — and will copy the crap out of anything that makes money, until it doesn’t make money any more…

Here is part of what I had to say in v. 3 of WHO Won?!? An Irreverent Look at the Oscars, 1953-1963:

“In Around the World in Eighty Days, Englishman Phileas Fogg bets the fellow members of the Reform Club a fortune he can perform the feat; French valet Passepartout accompanies him on the journey. Jules Verne’s famous novel about the rapidly shrinking size of the world was brought to the screen as the first movie by the larger-than-life producer Mike Todd, tragically killed in a plane crash a year after the film swept the Oscars (leaving his widow Elizabeth Taylor a wreck). This version stars David Niven in his most famous role, accompanied by the Mexican comedian Cantinflas as his sidekick, Shirley MacLaine as an improbable Indian princess, Robert Newton as the pursuing detective – and the largest set of star cameos ever seen in a Hollywood film (a partial list would include Ronald Colman, Charles Coburn, Marlene Dietrich, Buster Keaton, Red Skelton, Frank Sinatra, Charles Boyer, Peter Lorre, John Carradine, George Raft, and John Gielgud). A sprawling film largely shot on the actual locations with as little model work as possible, Around the World in Eighty Days has a goofy sense of fun that (mostly) keeps the spectacle under control. Nothing like it had ever been made before.  From the Edward R. Murrow introduction (with the complete George Melies’ A Trip to the Moon and a live rocket shot), to the worldwide shooting, to the numerous cameos, Around the World in Eighty Days brought audiences into a greater sense of the variety of locales of the Earth.”

The other official nominees were an evil goose on the loose and Gary Cooper as a violent Quaker in Friendly Persuasion, James Dean getting oily in Giant, Yul Brynner aith arms akimbo in The King and I, and Charlton Heston hurling stone tablets at semi-naked Hebrews in The Ten Commandments.

Other pictures the Academy might have considered — and you can too! — included the American releases of Akira Kurosawa’s utterly brilliant Ikiru and Seven Samurai, the science fiction anti-communist classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and John Ford’s masterpiece of masterpieces, The Searchers, along with Kirk Douglas looking for his ear in Lust for Life, Laurence Olivier humping it in William Shakespeare’s Richard III, Ingrid Bergman returning to Hollywood in Anastasia, Carroll Baker rocking Tennessee William’s cradle in Baby Doll, Patty McCormack earning a spanking in The Bad Seed, Katharine Hepburn getting hot for Burt Lancaster in The Rainmaker, Henry Fonda going Tolstoy with Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace, Marilyn Monroe in giant close-ups while she’s stuck at a Bus Stop, Alec Guinness even more brilliant than usual in The Ladykillers, Anthony Quinn bursting his chains in La strada, that kid with a bull in The Brave One, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly remaking The Philadelphia Story with Louis Armstrong in High Society, a lovely old gentleman tries to survive in Umberto D., Hitchcock remaking himself in color with The Man Who Knew Too Much, Little Richard rocking it for Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can’t Help It, Elvis on the big screen in Love Me Tender, Bogart’s swan song in The Harder They Fall, Robby the Robot and the monster from the id in Forbidden Planet, the greatest heist of all time in Rififi, Kubrick starting to cut loose in The Killers, Douglas Sirk getting mad at American materialism in All That Heaven Allows, Joan Crawford going for a younger kind of nut in Autumn LeavesGodzilla destroying Tokyo for the first time, for the sake of Raymond Burr’s career, Hitchcock getting The Wrong Man, and Danny Kaye confused over the vessel with the pestle in The Court Jester.

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

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