What Should Have Won the 1960 Best Picture Oscar?

The Academy had a habit of apologizing to Billy Wilder by handing him Oscars the year AFTER he should have won.

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

“Billy Wilder always seemed to be a year ahead of the Academy. In 1944, his masterpiece Double Indemnity was overlooked for the sentimental Going My Way, so in 1945, they handed him a pile of Oscars for a lesser film, The Lost Weekend. In 1959, his masterpiece Some Like It Hot was snubbed for the gaudy excess of Ben-Hur, so in 1960, they handed him a pile of Oscars for another lesser film, The Apartment. Don’t get me wrong – I love The Apartment. But compared to Some Like It Hot?!? Time-wise, a year late; dollar-wise, a buck short. In The Apartment, Jack Lemmon plays a young corporate nebbish trying to get ahead by letting his superiors use his apartment for sexual trysts. Things go along swimmingly until Shirley MacLaine tries to commit suicide when she realizes her lover Fred MacMurray won’t divorce his wife. Lemmon is left holding the bag – and the girl. The Apartment lives in a world of restrictions and business practices that have largely vanished. What haven’t disappeared are the human issues. Theme-wise, “Some people take and some people get took.” The other truth is the very definition of the friend zone: Lemmon is a friend, not a lover. The first half of The Apartment is sheer genius, as it explores those truths, but where Wilder and company go a bit off the deep end is in the attempt to reverse the eternal struggle between the nice guy and the girl who only falls in love with bad boys. Can we really believe that Lemmon and MacLaine will actually work this transformation (which is why the movie ends where it does, because taking one more step into the plot would reveal the disaster to come)? Essentially, The Apartment is a fantasy, and the further into the movie we go, the less convincing it is, because nobody escapes the friend zone. Nobody. Ever. At least, not anybody I’ve ever met.”

You may disagree, but let’s avoid any name-calling, flame-war wise, ok?

The other official nominees were John Wayne’s bloated paean to American freedom and sacrifice, The Alamo; Richard Brooks’ adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ condemnation of evangelical preachers, with Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons doin’ it for the Lord in Elmer Gantry; D.H. Lawrence and his characters doin’ it in Sons and Lovers; and some sheep doin’ it in front of Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum down under in The Sundowners.

Other possible choices include Anthony Perkins slicing and dicing for mama in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho; Spencer Tracy bible-thumping Fredric March in Inherit the Wind; Laurence Olivier trodding the music hall stage in The Entertainer; Elizabeth Taylor thumping the bed in Butterfield 8; Melina Mercouri hitting the docks, the books, and the bed in Never on Sunday; Ralph Bellamy and Greer Garson stiff-upper lipping polio in Sunrise at Campobello; Kirk Douglas and a cast of thousands crying “I am…” Spartacus; Otto Preminger, Paul Newman, and the founding of Israel in Exodus; Peter Falk filling people full of lead in Murder, Inc.; nuclear holocaust and international love in Hiroshima, mon amour; Richard Attenborough striking in The Angry Silence; Yul Brynner going Japanese in The Magnificent Seven; Judy Holliday improving Dean Martin’s life in Bells Are Ringing; Frank Sinatra ogling Shirley MacLaine’s Can-Can; Cantinflas Jonesing for his horse Pepe; Marilyn Monroe Frenching Yves Montand in Let’s Make Love; Bob Hope and Lucille Ball adulterating in The Facts of Life; Jerry Lewis going Gore Vidal in Visit to a Small Planet; a western remake in Cimarron; Clark Gable going Italian for Sophia Loren in It Started in Naples; Max von Sydow retributing in Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring; Edward G. Robinson heisting again with Rod Steiger in Seven Thieves; Budd Boetticher goin’ gangsta in The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond; Doris Day goin’ crazy in Midnight Lace; Rod Taylor traveling through time itself in H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine; Disney, building the greatest tree house EVER in Swiss Family Robinson; Doris Day and David Niven going suburban in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies; Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack on a heist in Ocean’s 11; Vincent Price and his sensitivity — and the requisite live burial — in House of Usher; a lovely house plant in Little Shop of Horrors; fake dinsoaurs chasing Michael Rennie in The Lost World; Peter O’Toole guards the loot in The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (what, you didn’t think I watched that for ALDO RAY, did you?!?); Jerry Lewis at his most sublime (yeah, I said sublime!) in The Bellboy; lots of angry alien kids in Village of the Damned; Tony Randall cons his way in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with Buster Keaton as a lion tamer; lots of pointless shenanigans in Where the Boys Are; Satyajit Ray’s last installment in the Apu trilogy, The World of Apu; WWII interfering with Russian love in The Cranes Are Flying; and Akira Kurosawa laying out the plagiarism lawsuit for Star Wars with The Hidden Fortress.

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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