THIS SITE IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH, NOR ENDORSED BY, THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES.
In 1955 actor James Dean shocked America’s teenagers by dying young in a car accident. In 1955 the movie studios, after years of trying to beat television finally joined ‘em by selling the rights to show their movies to the networks.
And speaking of merging Movies and television, an inexpensive, little movie that began as an original Paddy Chayefsky drama on TV,
stunned Hollywood when in 1955, Marty won first prize, the Palme d’or at the famous and prestigious Cannes Film Festival,
thereby catapulting it to the top of the list of nominees for Best Picture 1955 by the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. United Artists ended up spending more money publicizing the movie than it actually cost to make. That’s the first time that ever happened in the movie business and certainly not the last. The publicists for Marty sent sixteen millimetre prints of the film to every academy member so that they could screen Marty at home. They’ve done that every year since because it sure paid off the first time. Marty won Best Picture 1955.
That’s all very nice, I’m sure. Except United Artists concentrated so much on one film, it completely ignored, abandoned, deserted, and forgot about a truly wonderful, magical, gothic film, way ahead of its time in 1955 and is today considered a movie classic. In fact, The Library of Congress deemed the great Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter “culturally significant”, worth preserving in the United States National Film Registry.
Marty is very representative of American culture in 1955 and for that reason, it too was chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress albeit two years later. But it’s no better or worse than the other nominees for Best Picture 1955, which isn’t saying much I guess. Like Marty, I’m sure Love is a Many Splendored Thing was just right for the fifties which was the era of the soapy, sorta’ racy movie with a hit song that had more to do with the success of the movie than anything else, really. Remember Theme from A Summer Place? Great theme, bad movie. Picnic was another fifties melodrama so popular in that decade and based on a Broadway play.
Also based on a Broadway play was another nominee, Mr. Roberts. Then there was Marty a Broadway type television play and the Tennessee Williams Broadway hit, The Rose Tattoo rounds out the list of nominees for Best Picture 1955. Those last two were genuine drama that commanded the respect of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that year because they had the feel of those films coming from France, Italy and Britain that were so “in vogue” in the Fifties.
They were a product of their time but I am interested in finding and highlighting the films that are of all time, not just a particular period; films that were overlooked for political reasons, either the politics of the community or the country, films that transcend their genre and their eras to become timeless. Many is the case where films such as these have actually won an Academy Award. Often is the case where they went unrecognized at the time with either not receiving an award or worse, not even being nominated. Such is the case for the motion picture, its direction and its performances in Night of the Hunter by Charles Laughton.
Here’s the thing, though. Marty is time in a bottle; the time being 1955. On the other hand, The Night of the Hunter is timeless. It is gothic.
It does to an audience today exactly what it would have done to an audience in 1955 if anyone had actually seen it back then. Marty took all the oxygen and left nothing for Charles Laughton except the burial of a wonderful movie thereby discouraging a gifted film artist from ever directing another movie again because this one was a box office failure ‘cause nobody saw it and nobody saw it because nobody reviewed it and nobody reviewed it because United Artists didn’t bother telling anybody about The Night of the Hunter.
But today, look to any film school curriculum throughout the world and you will see The Night of the Hunter on the list of films that students are required to study.
I envy anyone who hasn’t seen this movie and is about to. It must seem obvious that I have no hesitation in DeOscarizing Marty Best Picture 1955 for being what I consider to be a dated film. Yet, I hesitate to name The Night of the Hunter the NEW Best Picture 1955 because there was another film made in 1955 that was snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unfairly as the years have shown and perhaps it too will be chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress because it’s just as representative of 1955 as Marty was. More so, in many ways and that is The Seven Year Itch a wonderful Billy Wilder film that featured Marilyn Monroe with an Academy Award-calibre performance as The Girl.
However the hesitation lasts but a moment. Films like The Seven Year Itch and Marty, they were a product of their time but I am interested in finding and highlighting the films that are of all time, not just a particular period; films that were overlooked for political reasons, either the politics of the community or the country, films that transcend their genre and their eras to become timeless. The Night of the Hunter still enthralls today as it should have then. Just thinking of the scene where Shelley Winters’ dead character is seen sitting in a car, her hair flowing with the current of the river in which she has drowned just sends an electric rush through my system. What an image! From the mind of the great Charles Laughton;
a great actor, a great lecturer (very rare, if not extinct these days) and it turns out, an accomplished stage director
and it turns out a very great film director. Unfortunately the failure of Night of the Hunter, at the box office and in the publicists’ list of priorities prompted Laughton to abandon thoughts of directing another film ever, ever again. This I got from Peter Ustinov
when I asked him in the 1970’s why Laughton never directed another film after Night of the Hunter. Nobody saw the film because nobody knew about it. It was stuck as the first of a weekday matinee double bill in many theatres. Mr. Ustinov became quite wistful when he saw the shock on my young 20 year-old face at the news that Night of the Hunter had been considered a failure because it failed at the box office. My initial reaction was, “But it’s such a great film! Every film student in every post-secondary institution in North America knows of the greatness of Night of the Hunter! Failure? How could that be?”. As I said, that reaction made Mr. Ustinov very wistful. He expressed the wish that Laughton had lived to hear him tell the story of our encounter. That would have been great. Instead I believe that I am about to DeOscarize Marty
to finally give The Night of the Hunter its rightful due as NEW Best Picture 1955 and so in keeping with the philosophy of DeOscarize which is to finally give credit where it is rightfully due and until I hear a good argument to prevent this from happening I hereby invite you to come to DeOscarize dot com to support or appeal my intention and on your behalf to DeoOscarize Marty and declare The Night of the Hunter the NEW Best Picture 1955.
This means too that we will probably be encouraged to DeOscarize Delbert Mann to make way for Charles Laughton.
After all in the world of DeOscarize dot com if his film is good enough to be The New Best Picture then its director is good enough to be the New Best Director 1955. Robert Mitchum for Best Actor
should be reconsidered and Lillian Gish deserves sober second thought for Best Supporting Actress 1955.
The logic, the justice to be found at DeOscarize dot com is never-ending and ever vigilant and fun to ponder. It is for me anyway.
Of course I can see where folks might think I’m wrong. I’m prepared to make my case for DeOscarizing Marty. Can you make the case to prevent it? Is there another film you would DeOscarize Marty for?
Let’s discuss it.
Pick a year! Pick a category! Pick a Nominee! Name your own Nominee!
It’s Your Choice! It’s Your Universe!
Enjoy! Discuss! Prevail!
Copyright © 2014 Thomas O’Neill