Friday, March 6, 2015

The 1956 Fisti Awards

[Images May Be Enlarged by Clicking on Them]

1956.  This is a less controversial year, at least with my personal awards.  No one is going to take issue with the Around the World in 80 Days snub, or at least they shouldn't, since it's probably the absolute worst Best Picture Oscar Winner of all time.  Like, seriously, that movie is an awful mess.  The biggest pot stirrer here is the inclusion of La Strada.  Foreign films are a strange rule-bender with the Fistis.  The release dates are so scattered that they become really hard to pin down.  Some are released stateside the same year they are dropped in their home country, other times the following year, sometimes years later (like YEARS later) and other times never at all, and so I adopted one rule that I try to stick to...If it was nominated for an Oscar then it competes in that film year at the Fistis.  If it was not Oscar nominated, then I place it in whichever year I want, either the year it was released stateside or the year it was released in it's home country.  This fluctuates depending on the film years in question, wherever it would fit best.  I know, it's a weird rule but it works best for me.  So, for this reason, La Strada competes in 1956 instead of 1954.  It was nominated for Original Screenplay and even won Foreign Film (how was it eligible for that when it was released in Italy in 1954?) so that is why it is here...and it dominates, as it should!

So, without further ado, I present the Fisti Awards for 1956!

Awards Tally

[5 Wins]
La Strada

[2 Wins]
High Society
The King and I

[1 Win]
Forbidden Planet
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Red Balloon
The Searchers
Somebody Up There Likes Me
Tea and Sympathy
The Ten Commandments
Written on the Wind


  1. I'm a bit disappointed that, despite all your High Society-love, Grace Kelly didn't even crack your Top 12 :)
    But really a great read and interesting choices"

    1. I love High Society in spite of Kelly, who I felt was really dull in the film. It's hard though, because it's so easy to compare it to The Philadelphia story, and Hepburn was iconic in that film. Sinatra was better than Stewart and Crosby, magically, was every bit as good as Grant.

      It's great to hear from you, buddy. How you been?

  2. Okay I have to admit I did my years over at Josh's site for his CinSpec awards and I'm going to port them over here with any changes due to films I've seen in between if that's alright with you.

    It makes my head hurt that the truly awful Around the World in 80 Days won Best Picture and so many other worthies went completely unacknowledged. My ballot and the academy's are very dissimilar this year, sharing few of the same nominees and only one winner in any category. It was a rich year for performances and I had to leave so much good work out, like Borgnine in Catered Affair and Elizabeth Taylor in Giant.

    My biggest blind spots of this year: Tea and Sympathy, The Harder They Fall and Bigger Than Life. I saw La Strada and liked it but it didn't knock me out.

    The Man Who Knew Too Much
    The Searchers-Winner
    Written on the Wind
    With Man Hitchcock returns to his own well and improves on it making a tense nail biter with a simple premise. Giant lives up to its name and Carousel tells a dark story through beautiful songs and somehow makes it poignant instead of ugly while Written on the Wind is a fever dream told in bold colors set to a jazzy score. All are great but none match the elegiac ode Ford creates to the West in The Searchers.

    Cecil B. De Mille-The Ten Commandments
    John Ford-The Searchers
    Alfred Hitchcock-The Man Who Knew Too Much
    Douglas Sirk-Written on the Wind-Winner
    George Stevens-Giant
    Commandments is a grandiose, overbaked but highly entertaining amusement park ride that De Mille keeps on track with his customary skill at handling elephantine excess. Ford trains his camera firmly on the journey of the dogged pair of Wayne and Hunter capturing breathtaking vistas as he goes but Sirk commands the camera to observe the heightened situations his characters find themselves in at bold angles making them more compelling though vantage point, use of color and his perfomers skill.

    Carlo Battisti-Umberto D.
    Steve Cochran-Come Next Spring
    Kirk Douglas-Lust for Life
    Danny Kaye-The Court Jester
    John Wayne-The Searchers-Winner
    Douglas portrayal of Van Gogh's genius is big and flashy but ultimately exhausting. Carlo Battisti performance in Umberto D. is achingly delicate, haunting really. On the other end of the spectrum Kaye has the role of a lifetime as the hapless Hubert/daring Giacomo to which he gives his all in a sprightly, necessarily hammy, thoroughly captivating piece of work that leaves little room for nuance. But my choice was between Wayne and Cochran. Cochran's atypical work as the errant wanderer returned home full of regret and apprehension is beautifully realized, proof that he was more than the thugs and gangsters that were his usual lot. Ethan Edwards though is the Duke's signature role and is probably the most complex performance he ever gave far worthier of the award than the winning True Grit. Naturally the academy ignored it.

    Doris Day-The Man Who Knew Too Much
    Judy Holliday-The Solid Gold Cadillac
    Guilietta Masina-La Strada
    Virginia McKenna-A Town Like Alice
    Ann Sheridan-Come Next Spring-Winner
    Virginia McKenna is gritty and real during the murderous trek that takes place in Alice. Doris balances the required hysteria and level headedness of her role expertly while Judy as usual is a comic marvel getting more out of one look than most actresses can with reams of dialog. I didn't love La Strada nearly as much as you do but Guilietta Masina is extraordinary in it, a beautiful piece of work. But Ann Sheridan was never better than as the careworn, steadfast Bess Ballot matching Cochran's superlative performance.

    1. I love that we share some, especially in Director, and then you mention performances that I haven't seen. It just goes to show that even when you think you've seen them all, you really haven't.

      I didn't like Lust for Life much at all and found Douglas to be too earnest with his just didn't work for me. I loved Wayne, but ultimately he just couldn't make my ballot.

      As far as Actress is concerned, I haven't seen Holliday, McKenna or Sheridan!

      I'm glad that you at least appreciated what Masina did. Her performance is so transcendent, heartbreaking and yet hopefully honest and strong-willed.

    2. Masina is the heart and soul of La Strada and I knew while watching she would be on my ballot. It's so tough when the year is full of great work and you have to eliminate to fit those five slots. I had Ingrid Bergman in that position and even though her prize was a forgiveness award for that ridiculous condemnation of her when she had Rossellini's child she's very good in Anastasia. I would have loved to have room for Barbara Stanwyck in Sirk's lesser known There's Always Tomorrow another instance of an actress doing terrific work who was slightly past her prime and so the performance goes unnoticed.

      I'm not surprised you haven't seen Come Next Spring, it was a passion project for Cochran, he produced as well as starred, but the studio that made it, Republic, didn't know what to do with it and dumped it into theatres despite promises to Cochran for an A level release. I was after Ann Sheridan's main star period so the film just sort of vanished for many years but it's a lovely quiet film and worth seeking out for their performances.

      By the way I love The Red Balloon I just never thought of it as a feature because of its brevity but it is a special film.

    3. Bergman was on my ballot when I last posted these a year ago, but when I redid the format for reposting, I wound up replacing her with Papas. Bergman is really good in Anastasia, but it's not her best work by any means, and a recent rewatch and discussion (for Twice a Best Actress) had me reconsidering her Fisti nom.

      I'm not very familiar with Sheridan's work, so I'll be sure to check her out.

      Oh, I'm glad you love The Red Balloon. It is a short film, but because I don't have separate categories for them, I consider them for Best Picture. I don't do Foreign, Animated, Doc or Short categories for the Fisti Awards because I lump all of them together and figure, if you're good enough to be the best of the year you should compete in the best category and not be relegated to a lesser category.

    4. I'm so glad to see your love of Masina, Joel! I love her so, and she's so great in La Strada.

      I also agree that Bergman is really good in Anastasia, but it's not particularly great in any way.

    5. I love Ann Sheridan but like most big stars of the studio era she had an enormous output with a lot of junk on her sheet with the occasional gem mixed in. Besides Come Next Spring the films that show her to best advantage are I Was a Male War Bride, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Angels With Dirty Faces, Torrid Zone, They Drive by Night, The Doughgirls, Kings Row, Nora Prentiss, Woman on the Run and Take Me to Town.

      She did turn down a couple films that could have made her better known. The first was The Strawberry Blonde with James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland which she withdrew from because she was battling with Warner Brothers, they borrowed Rita Hayworth from Columbia, it was a big hit and brought Hayworth much attention which lead her to being cast in Blood and Sand which was her first major breakthrough. She also foolishly turned down Mildred Pierce because she didn't want to play the mother of a teenager.

      She was known to have a quick and cutting wit. When she initially arrived in Hollywood, as Clara Lou Sheridan, one of the contest winners for a wordless bit part in the pre-code film Search for Beauty Paramount decided to sign a few of the contestants to contracts and left who would get the nod to the producers of the film, Lloyd Sheldon and Emanuel Cohen. The two men couldn't decide and agreed to throw the photos of the possibilities in the air and chose whoever's photo landed on their backs with their face up, Sheridan being one of them. When Sheldon related the story to Ann years later at a party she shot back "And I've been on my back ever since you bastard!"

    6. Yeah, Bergman is always good (well, almost always), but Anastasia, in retrospect, is not great.

    7. I love the idea of Sheridan turning down Mildred Pierce for such vain reasons. It's funny how vanity was such a major playing in classic cinema, and yet these days there is this huge rush by these great actresses to 'deglam' for an Oscar.

      Oh how the times have changed.

    8. I think it was partly vanity and partly self preservation. At the time Mildred Pierce was made she was still a viable leading lady playing roles that were either single women or mothers of very young children. To play the mother of a teen who by the end of the film is nineteen ran the risk of her being perceived as taking the first step towards secondary supporting mother roles especially if the film wasn't a big hit, and MP wasn't considered a surefire property.

      Bette Davis could take that risk both because of her reputation and the fact that she was queen of the lot. The women directly under her, Ann, Ida Lupino and Olivia de Havilland could not, not with Eleanor Parker, Patricia Neal or Joan Leslie waiting in the wings to take their place. To be fair to Sheridan she was only 30 in 1945.

      Crawford on the other hand had nothing to lose, aside from being a more age appropriate 40 she was considered washed up. Recognizing the quality of the script she actually fought to be cast, director Curtiz wanted Barbara Stanwyck, submitting to what was seen as the indignity of a screen test which turned the trick, though Curtiz was relentlessly demanding of her throughout filming.

      Now that the studio system mechanism no longer exists actresses have more autonomy to pursue roles from different avenues so they can be more daring with risks but in those days if you misplayed your hand you were shackled to one studio and they could bury you in support or B's which you accepted or didn't work.

    9. The studio element of Old Hollywood really was a bitch. This is all so fascinating. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it.

    10. The studio system definitely had it's down side but it was also able to take a contestant winner from Nowheresville, Texas like Ann or the winner of a pageant like Debbie Reynolds, who was discovered by a studio talent scout when she was crowned Miss Burbank or a high school kid sneaking out of class for a Coke at the malt shop across the street as Lana Turner was and because the apparatus was in place, assess their potential, train them, refine their look and technique while they received experience in small parts and over time mold them into a star. There is no place that sort of experience can be gleaned today. Most stars while admitting that it was exhausting and often hell also acknowledged that it was invaluable and that they never would have achieved the level of success they did without it.

      There is a terrific book called The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger that takes an in depth look at the process.

    11. Yeah, I can see how it helped in that regard. I'm intrigued by that book...might have to check that out!

  3. Supporting Actor:
    Jeffrey Hunter-The Searchers-Winner
    Lee Marvin-Seven Men from Now
    Everett Sloane-Patterns
    Robert Stack-Written on the Wind
    Hank Worden-The Searchers
    Wow we're far apart on this one! Marvin and Sloane both put memorable spins on their villains and Stack digs deep into the troubled pysche of Kyle Hadley but goes a bit overboard at times. My main choices came from the neglected Searchers though. I love Worden's performance of the gentle Mose he's a catalyst for much of the action then recedes into the background but you remember him when the picture is over, he's one of those great character actors who is consistently good but never acknowledged. Nevertheless my winner is Hunter. His extreme attractiveness worked against his acceptance as a serious performer, I would never say he was a great actor but certainly competent, but his callowness suited the role and flashes of anger and grim determination in the face of Wayne's callousness provide dimension to their scenes adding to the tension of their journey.

    Supporting Actress:
    Celeste Holm-High Society
    Dorothy Malone-Written on the Wind-Winner
    Patty McCormick-The Bad Seed
    Mildred Natwick-The Court Jester
    Debbie Reynolds-The Catered Affair
    Quite a varied crop of performances. McCormick makes the dead eyed Rhoda chilling in her creepy perfection and uncomprehending indifference to human life. From my noms it doesn't look like I cared much for High Society but I do, the performers were edged out though by work in other films except for Holm who is a chic knowing delight, exuding warmth and wisdom. Debbie in one of the few chances she had at straight drama is affecting as the young girl caught between her own wish for a simple wedding and her mother's dreams in The Catered Affair and Mildred Natwick steals every scene she's in against the formidable trio of Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns and Angela Lansbury. We match and agree that Dorothy Malone deserved her Oscar. Her rich but common as dirt Marylee is one of the drollest performances every committed to celluloid. Understanding that the part is seething with frank suggestiveness she wrings it for everything it's worth with an arch of those mink stole eyebrows and line readings dripping in venom effectively wiping her castmates off the screen.

    Some really great songs this year but your pick of Que Sera Sera would be mine too. Funny that when she received the sheet music for it Doris Day didn't think much of the song. She thought it fit its alloted slot in the film and worked as a device to advance the plot but bulked when her record company wanted her to record it as a single saying it was a children's song. She was convinced after much persuasion and dashed it off promptly forgetting about it until its release. But when it took off as a huge hit she re-evaluted it and at that point adopted it as her signature song.

    1. We are all over the place in Supporting Actor, but you haven't seen The Harder They Fall either. I really liked The Searchers, but I wasn't taken by the ensemble as a whole. It was more of a Ford/Wanyne/Hoch show for me.

      Supporting Actress has so many wonderful contenders, and so it really could have gone any which way for me, outside of my winner. McCormick is my #6 and just missed, but there are times when I feel sad about that since it's such an iconic child performance. Reynolds is also quite wonderful. I haven't seen Natwick...

      Once again, you have great insight on another classic! Love that Doris Day tidbit.

    2. Both supporting categories were rich with quality work this year. I had to take Peter Finch's work in A Town Like Alice out to fit in Stack and all the ones I've seen of your picks are worthy although I'd never nominate Quinn for anything but that's just my general distaste for him as an actor. Zorba the Greek was like root canal without novocaine for me! I don't know if I'd include Dean either, he's great in the beginning of Giant but I find his work towards the end less effective, it's my least favorite of his big three performances.

      Supporting actress is even stronger. I can't believe I didn't even think of de Banzie in Man Who Knew Too Much! That's a terrific piece of work as is Donna Reed's in Ransom! Neither would ever beat Malone of course, that's one of my favorite wins ever, but along with Marie Windsor in The Killing their all deserving.

      Debbie Reynolds really is an under appreciated actress. Most of her films didn't really test her dramatic mettle but the few that did, Catered Affair, The Rat Race, Mother etc, she proved very capable. She was so good at singing, dancing and comedy she ended up taken for granted.

    3. Quinn plays one kind of role really well, but he's not always my cup of tea. I find it funny that he won the Supporting Oscar this year for his absolute nothing of a cameo in Lust for Life, when he could have won for this performance, which for me was full of so much depth.

      Supporting Actress, like I said, is just bursting with rich performances.

      I'm with you on Reynolds. I think it's unfair that she really is taken for granted when it comes to her dramatic chops. She wasn't just a song and dance girl, but she was so good at that that it seems she was pretty much relegated to that kind of role for most of her career.

  4. La Strada is a film that I must finally see this year...if I can find it. I am glad you recognized Forbidden Planet because it deserves this. I have to say I would give John Wayne the best Oscar for his role as Ethan. He played this part so well and the scene when he comes to the burning home of his brother and his wife(his secret love) gets me every time-all his hurt, horror and anger show in that one scene. I have to see 80 Days just to see if I would rank it below the Greatest Show On Earth

    1. Forbidden Planet is such a technically advanced looks like nothing I would have expected from the 1950's.

      I haven't seen The Greatest Show on Earth, but I find it hard to believe that much could be worse than Around the World in 80 Days.

  5. Guilietta Maxina is dynamite in La Strada.

    Some of my picks:

    Best Actor: James Mason for Bigger Than Life

    Best Director: Robert Bresson, A Man Escaped

    1. I was never able to get my hands on A Man Escaped, but I've always wanted to. Once I do, I'll probably make amendments to these awards.

      I wasn't very fond of Bigger Than Life...I don't know, I expected more from it as a whole, but the performances were very good.

      So glad you're a fan of Guilietta!

  6. LOVE all the love for La Strada, one of my all-time favorites. It's been a while since I saw it last, though... isn't Anthony Quinn more of a lead?

    Very sneaky putting The Red Balloon in all these categories when it's a short! Not that I blame you. It's perfect.

    I am shocked that Doris Day didn't get more love at the time for her Man Who Knew Too Much performance. She's so good, especially in the Que Sera scene.

    HOWEVER, I am APPALLED at the lack of love for the greatest Supporting performance of all time (and twisted sister to the year's very worthy champ, the sublime Dorothy Malone), Anne Baxter in The Ten Commandments. THAT is how you steal a movie. THAT is how you make yourself a legend.

    1. YAY, La Strada love!

      For me, this is pretty much entirely Gelsomina's story. Her husband and her pursuer pretty much split screentime in their moments with her, but she is, in my opinion, the sole lead.

      And The Red Balloon may be a short, but like you said, it's perfect...and it was even nominated by Oscar for Screenplay!

      Love Day...that performance is SO GOOD!

      I really like Baxter in The Ten Commandments, and she probably should have made my top twelve, but the film itself is always so much more of a spectacle feature for me than an acting one.

    2. I can see that about La Strada, but I do think that Quinn had far more screentime than Basehart. I'll fully admit that it's the last scene of the film that pushes him (just barely) into lead territory for me, though.

      Yes - the Red Balloon screenplay nom is one of my favorite Oscar nominations of all time!

      Also, kudos to you for also noting de Banzie in Man Who Knew Too Much. Great Supporting work.

      Part of the reason I like Ten Commandments so much is that the acting is just as much spectacle as the actual spectacle - it's big and broad and full of fireworks, and Baxter is a large reason why the first half of the film is as entertaining as it is, keeping all the bombast afloat with just the right amount of air.

    3. That last scene is what sealed Quinn's win for me. I guess it's probably more a gray area, one of those roles that could go either way, but you may be right. It's a Philip Seymour Hoffman type 'supporting' role :-P

    4. LOL YES!

      That last scene is just stunning.

    5. In my humble opinion, it's his finest moment as an actor.

  7. La Strada is one of my favorite Fellini films as I just fell in love with the story as well as Giuletta Massina's performance though I think her best work is in Nights of Cabiria.

    1. I love her in both, but for me this was her finest moment, mostly because of how much she conveyed without having to dramatize much at all.

  8. Great work! La Strada is a deserving winner. I've got it in '54. LOVE your acting winners. I need to give High Society another chance, but I currently don't nominate Bing Crosby for anything (and I *really* want to recognize him somewhere). Ugh. I'm SO behind on this year. I might catch up on it after I finish a few from 2010. (1999 images are coming this week.)

    1. It's weird because this was my first Crosby, and I loved him so much here...and then I saw his Oscar winning work and I was so incredibly underwhelmed that I second guessed his win here. Thankfully I watched the film again so I could be reminded of his brilliance.

      So excited for the 1999 CinSpecs!