*All About Eve (1950)*


Starring: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, Marilyn Monroe

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Summary: An ingenue insinuates herself into the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends.

Other Nominations: Director*, Actress (Davis), Actress (Baxter), Supporting Actor (Sanders)*, Supporting Actress (Holm), Supporting Actress (Ritter), Adapted Screenplay*, Dramatic/Comedy Score, Sound Recording*, B&W Art Direction, B&W Cinematography, B&W Costume Design*, Film Editing


-Both of the female leads are fantastic playing two of the great female roles in cinema. Davis basically plays herself, a star on the downside of her career. She’s entertaining, bitchy with a little bit of camp, and this role would basically define the rest of her career where she played similar roles, although she hasn’t gone overboard to self-parody here like she eventually would. Baxter gets arguably the tougher role, considering she has to be convincing to the audience (at least initially) that she’s something other than what she is, while still giving us hints to her true nature. She hits it out of the park, especially towards the end when she gets to bare her fangs.

-George Sanders is also terrific playing…George Sanders as he is in most of his movies. I cannot imagine anyone else playing the part, as he is so naturally acerbic, cynical and detached from humanity.

-The script is excellent, especially the dialogue which has a lot of wit, fun, drama in addition to having a great arc for both of our main characters.

-Marilyn Monroe has a bit part in this movie, from before she became famous. Even here, she stands out and you can tell that something interesting is in store for her in the future (whether it be as a star or at the minimum, a Jayne Mansfield or Mamie Van Doren type career).


-Gary Merrill is easily the weakest of the main characters, even if his mediocrity doesn’t have that huge of an overall impact because he’s the 5th most important character.

Other Stuff

-Originally Claudette Colbert was cast in the Bette Davis role until she injured her back filming another movie and then they ended up re-writing the part slightly. Seeing Colbert here would have been fascinating, as she is so totally different than Davis in her persona and I don’t know how the movie would have worked as well.


Classic story about the cutthroat entertainment business and the people who inhabit it, with some stellar performances and a great script backing it.

Rating: A-

Born Yesterday (1950)


Starring: Judy Holliday, William Holden, Broderick Crawford, Howard St. John

Director: George Cukor

Summary: A newspaper reporter takes on the task of educating a crooked businessman’s girlfriend

Other Nominations: Director, Actress (Holliday)*, Adapted Screenplay, B&W Costume Design


-The entire movie hinges on Holliday’s performance, and it’s fantastic. She’s able to pull off a really challenging comedic performance, where she has to be both dumb and obnoxious, but still very likeable and funny. Only a handful of people could have succeeded here: Holliday originated the role on Broadway, but it was originally written for Jean Arthur who bowed out at the last minute, and Marilyn Monroe did a screen test for it; all of them could have been good, but I’m not sure how they would have been better than Holliday who completely owns the role. Her winning an Oscar over one of the most competitive Best Actress fields ever has to be considered a massive upset, but she had nothing to apologize for-she’s great. Also, her voice here had to be the inspiration for Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series, it’s a dead ringer.

-Crawford and Holden are also very good in their supporting roles, with Crawford being very entertaining (most of the time) as a rich, corrupt, loud-mouth New Yorker, and Holden does a solid job as the straight man in the movie, even if the character himself isn’t that interesting


-The movie has an obvious political message, and while it’s sincere enough, it was the weakest aspect of the film for me. It gets heavy-handed, they’re usually the dullest parts and it’s been done before in more interesting ways (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is essentially the same thing).


This is a really good comedy anchored by an outstanding lead performance from someone who sadly was not in all that many movies-Holliday died at age 43 due to breast cancer, although she did go on to win a Tony after this movie. Recommended.

Rating: B+

Father of the Bride (1950)


Starring: Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor, Don Taylor

Director: Vincente Minnelli

Summary: A doting father faces mountains of bills and endless trials when his daughter marries

Other Nominations: Actor (Tracy), Adapted Screenplay


-Tracy is good in the lead. The role calls for someone who will be the most sympathetic and relatable person possible to the audience, and choosing someone who’s not especially tall, attractive or has a great voice like Tracy is a good decision. He is the central focus of the entire movie, and he does the best he can to keep things interesting.


-This movie has one joke and it does it over and over again for 92 minutes. The entire middle of the movie is “they said the wedding wouldn’t be big or expensive, but guess what? The wedding is big and expensive!” It’s really hard to stretch a single premise like this for an extended period of time, and some movies have done it successfully (The More the Merrier is a great example of this), but here it lacks any creativity or variation in the jokes and it’s just not very funny or heartwarming. There’s some nice moments towards the end, but it doesn’t make up for the monotony that preceded it.

Other Stuff

-You do have to enjoy the irony of a movie about Elizabeth Taylor getting married. Just before the premiere, she married Nicky Hilton, which the studio massively publicized in conjunction with this movie. She would divorce Hilton the next year, and married 7 more times (six off of divorces, one marriage ending due to her husband Mike Todd’s death).


This was an unfunny and rarely heartwarming movie that was a slog to watch, although Spencer Tracy does the best he can under the circumstances.

Rating: D+

King Solomon’s Mines (1950)


Starring: Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Richard Carlson

Director: Compton Bennett & Andrew Marton

Summary: A spirited woman hires a daredevil jungle scout to find her husband and a lost diamond mine

Other Nominations: Color Cinematography*, Film Editing*


-The movie looks great because it was actually filmed on location in Africa, the first time MGM had done so since Trader Horn, a movie I look at earlier (and hated). This movie bears some similarities to Trader Horn in that both involve a group of white people braving the jungle, wild animals and tribesmen in an effort to try and find a missing white person in Africa. This is a definitely the better movie of the two, as it looks and sounds much better, and it’s nowhere near as racist even if it’s still not great in that department.

-Granger absolutely looks and sounds the part as explorer Allan Quatermain-you might recognize the name if you’re familiar with Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or its hideous film adaptation that was so bad, it made Sean Connery retire from making movies altogether.


-I was expecting a fun action-adventure movie in the vein of Indiana Jones or Errol Flynn; instead, it’s a really boring movie about people walking through the jungles and the plains for two hours without much of anything happening until it finally picks up a bit near the end. There’s almost no action and other than Granger, everybody’s pretty useless. Kerr, who was nominated for Best Actress 6 times in her career, is totally wasted and while she isn’t an active burden like you might expect, she just kind of stands by while things happen around her. Carlson is even more useless and I couldn’t tell you anything about him, either in character or in action, other than that he’s Kerr’s brother in the movie. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I was still extremely disappointed with this lifeless movie.

-There’s a scene where Kerr cuts her hair, and the next time we see her, it’s perfectly curled as it is for the rest of the movie. Apparently she brought a solar powered curling iron with her? It’s actually hilarious.


There’s not much here to keep your interest other than it being a technicolor movie filmed in Africa. Boring and disappointing where not a lot happens.

Rating: D+

Sunset Boulevard (1950)


Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson
Director: Billy Wilder

Summary: A failed screenwriter falls into a mercenary romance with a faded silent-film star
Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Holden), Actress (Swanson), Supporting Actor (von Stroheim), Supporting Actress (Olson), Original Screenplay*, Dramatic/Comedy Score*, B&W Art Direction*, B&W Cinematography, Film Editing


-This is just an absolutely wonderful movie that works as so many things-it’s a film noir, it’s a horror movie, there’s black comedy elements (what else do you call a movie that has a chimp coffin and solemn funeral in it?), it’s depressing and grotesque yet fascinating, it has everything. Swanson completely sinks herself with no reservations into the role of deluded has-been movie star Norma Desmond with incredible gusto, which is a bold role for someone like Swanson who herself was a has-been movie star. Not only that, but she never goes too far over the line into camp, she plays the character to be depressing consistently throughout. Again, this was one of the strongest Best Actress fields ever, but I’m still shocked she didn’t win considering the two stars of All About Eve split the vote between them, dooming them both; however, Bette Davis and Swanson might have cancelled each other out as well, because there’s some similarities between their characters even if there’s a huge difference in degree. Everybody else is also great in this movie, and I don’t know how Nancy Olson never did much else of consequence after this movie (no, the flubber movies don’t count).
-This is a very complete and expertly-written story, as all four of the main characters are fleshed-out and distinctive with clear goals, motivations and personalities. My favorite subplot is the one between Swanson and von Stroheim’s characters, with von Stroheim playing Swanson’s butler/general caretaker. There’s a fantastic scene where we learn about von Stroheim’s past, and it gives us a lot to think about their relationship with each other in the movie, but still leaves enough unexplained that the audience has to connect some dots and make some guesses, and for that it’s all the more interesting, leading up to the finale which is one of the most iconic in cinema.
-The set design is spot on, centering around Swanson’s mansion which feels like an outdated, opulent mausoleum for a faded career that still feels realistic and believable.


-I have heard others make good points about why they didn’t like this movie (its all-encompassing cynicism and its lack of subtext among other things). I would probably agree with the later


One of the all-time classic films with one of the best screenplays ever and an incredibly gutsy female lead.

Rating: A

1950 in Review

Other Notable Films of 1950

Rashomon: The movie that introduced American audiences to Japanese cinema (along with the always great Toshiro Mifune) and is still considered one of the best films to come out of the country.

Cinderella: The film that saved Disney from bankruptcy after the (then) financial failures Pinocchio, Bambi and Fantasia and was their biggest success since Snow White. Named the 9th Greatest animated film by the AFI.

The Asphalt Jungle: Another classic film noir by a master of the genre, John Huston that has been named to the National Film Registry. Also features a then unknown Marilyn Monroe in a minor role.

Harvey, Broken Arrow & Winchester ‘73: Jimmy Stewart had an amazing 1950, coming out with these three movies. Harvey was named to the AFI 100 laughs list, Broken Arrow was nominated for three Oscars and is noted as one of the first post-war Westerns to have a positive portrayal of Indians, and Winchester ‘73 is in the National Film Registry.

D.O.A & Gun Crazy: Two b-list Film noirs in the National Film registry, the first was written by Dalton Trumbo while he was on the blacklist, the other about a man who knows he’s going to die of being poisoned, but tries to figure out who did it and why.

In a Lonely Place: This was the era of the film noir, this one starring Humphrey Bogart whose reputation has grown tremendously over the years. On the Time 100 best films list and the National Film Registry.

Rio Grande: This John Ford western was the first of five team-ups between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara (who would also co-star in The Quiet Man two years later).

1950 Nominees in Review

Sunset Boulevard: A

All About Eve: A- (Won Best Picture)

Born Yesterday: B+

Father of the Bride: D+

King Solomon’s Mines: D+

Well, 3 out of 5 isn’t bad. This was a very hit or miss year with some great movies and some movies I didn’t like at all, but any year featuring two movies as good as Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve have to be considered memorable. I think the wrong movie won Best Picture, even if it would have been a very worthy choice in many other years, but there’s nothing too objectionable about it. I really wish though that they had sapped out the last two movies for The Asphalt Jungle and Harvey, which are both much more interesting and have some real heft to them.

1951 features three nominees that were named to the original AFI Top 100 list (along with a 4th that wasn’t nominated); the only other times that happened: 1939 (five on the first list, three on the second), 1967 (3 on both lists), 1971 (three on the updated list), 1975 (three on the updated list), 1976 (three on the updated list) and 1994 (three on the updated list). As for the other two nominees, one was a technicolor epic about ancient Rome featuring uncredited performances by Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, and the other is a WWII film about the American Army forming a tenuous relationship with German POWs to gather intelligence.

*All the King’s Men (1949)*


Starring: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru, Mercedes McCambridge (in her film debut), John Derek, Sheppard Strudwick

Director: Robert Rossen

Summary: A backwoods politician rises to the top only to become corrupted

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Crawford)*, Supporting Actor (Ireland), Supporting Actress (McCambridge)*, Screenplay, Film Editing


-This movie pulls no punches, and is a raw, gritty and cynical look at the corrupting force of political power, populism, the cult of personality and the inherent flaws in our government that come from kind of people who end up running for political office. It’s pretty timeless, as all of the problems that we see in the movie still exist (in the United States anyway), and I can’t imagine that we will ever be rid of them.

-The cast is good all around, with special mention to Crawford, who was plucked from obscurity into a great lead performance playing Willie Stark, a person who’s already-existing flaws were brought out when he decided to get involved in politics, and McCambridge who plays a very non-traditional female role as a cynical political advisor, although she unfortunately doesn’t do much in the second half of the film. Even if you haven’t seen McCambridge before, you’re probably familiar with one of her performances that I will be covering later-the voice of the demon Pazuzu in The Exorcist.

-The movie, especially in the first half, moves at a brisk pace while still conveying all the information we need with a lot of good scenes. This film is generally considered to be saved in editing: the original cut was an ungodly 250 minutes long, and was trimmed to the release version of 109 minutes when the director told the editor to cut out the beginning and end of every scene and see what it looked like; the result was a movie that made its points quickly and effectively.


-Most of the problems with the movie come from the second half, which peeters out a lot, as keeps covering the same point over and over again without moving forward all that much until the very end. I also didn’t get much out Dru or her character other than that she’s yet another character who gets lured in by power.


A bold movie for its time that would have felt right at home in the 70s with its cynicism about the political process, it’s really good but unfortunately it runs out of gas eventually.

Rating: B+

Battleground (1949)


Starring: Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy, Marshall Thompson, Jerome Courtland, Don Taylor, Bruce Cowling, James Whitmore

Director: William Wellman

Summary: American soldiers in France fight to survive a Nazi siege during the Battle of the Bulge

Other Nominations: Director, Supporting Actor (Whitmore), Original Screenplay*, B&W Cinematography*, Film Editing


-This is easily the most realistic war movie to date and the dialogue is very good. Because the war is over and morale isn’t an issue, it doesn’t shy away from showing how much being a soldier during war time sucks: you’re in the elements, everybody is miserable and can be jerks or cowards, you don’t know anything, and it’s monotonous yet anything can happen to you at any time. It’s great to see a movie that does not glamorize war, yet it doesn’t get bogged down in just showing misery and violence either. Other movies since have done it better, but it still holds up reasonably well. Finally, the banter between the characters also feels authentic as it should-the screenwriter was in the Battle of the Bulge.

-This is a very well-shot film. There’s nothing flashy or anything that stands out in particular, but everything is perfectly framed and you can follow the combat and it feels suitably claustrophobic.


-I think the movie tries to focus on too many characters, with the result being that it doesn’t get into much depth for any of them.

-Production values are hurt from it clearly being filmed on a soundstage. In a related point, and this is a very minor complaint: despite most of it taking place in a snowy forest, you never see anyone’s breath. Since it was mostly filmed indoors, I don’t know why they didn’t go to the trouble of filming in a refrigerated space, as other movies had done.


This was a war movie that was better than I expected, because it made the soldiers look human and it felt as authentic as you’ll find for a movie on the subject from this era. It has flaws, but it’s worth a watch if you like WWII movies.

Rating: B

The Heiress (1949)


Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins

Director: William Wyler

Summary: A father is skeptical that his plain daughter’s suitor is only after her fortune.

Other Nominations: Director, Actress (de Havilland)*, Supporting Actor (Richardson), Dramatic/Comedy Score*, B&W Art Direction*, B&W Cinematography, B&W Costume Design*


-It’s highly original and a credit to everyone involved that they were willing to make such an ugly and depressing movie in the 1940’s. This is a really unusual story for a movie at the time, because none of the three leads are actually likeable (on purpose): the only one you can even argue is de Havilland’s character, who is extremely sympathetic, but (for the most part), is awkward, shy, unglamorous, and not very interesting or intelligent-sympathy and likeablilty are not the same thing. This movie commits to its ugliness in all aspects and because of that it works.

-de Havilland and Richardson are both really good in their roles as the daughter and the father. De Havilland’s role is really challenging, because for the most part, she has to totally commit to being upstaged by the rest of the cast who are (intentionally) way more interesting in one way or another. For someone who was a major lead at the time, this was a bold role and she executes it perfectly. Richardson is cold and vicious with an underlying charisma and nails the showiest role in the movie.

-The score has a lot of warmth and lightness to it, at least compared to typically Max Steiner/Alfred Newman scores and serves as a nice change of pace.


-I loved the last 40 minutes or so, but the hour and 20 proceeding it were very average for me. Almost immediately, we see what the conflict is going to be and we’re just waiting for a payoff for a long time after that. Predictability in itself isn’t necessarily bad, but the problem here is that there aren’t really shifts in characters positions during this time: de Havilland is in love with Clift’s character and doesn’t entertain the possibility that he doesn’t love her; Richardson is completely against their courtship because he doesn’t think Clift loves his daughter and is only in it for the money; Clift’s motives aren’t completely clear, but our opinion of him and his intentions don’t change a lot. This “windup” goes on too long and is the major problem with the movie.

-Clift’s performance isn’t very good, although his character doesn’t give him that much to work with in the first place.


This movie gets unreal praise (an 8.3 on IMDB which is one of the highest for any movie I’ve seen on this) and while I can understand why to an extent, I would never call this great by any means. The stuff towards the end is great, but that doesn’t make up for the majority of the movie being very “eh.”

Rating: B

A Letter to Three Wives (1949)


Starring: Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Jeanne Crain,  Paul Douglas (his feature debut), Kirk Douglas, Jeffrey Lynn

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Summary: A small-town seductress notifies her three best friends that she has run off with one of their husbands

Other Nominations: Director*, Adapted Screenplay*


-Darnell and Paul Douglas are the highlights of the movie, both in terms of acting, and in relationships and characters. Darnell should have gotten a supporting actress nomination for her excellent portrayal of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who has a hard edge to her, being both a classic femme-fatale kind of character, but also being vulnerable which are usually two different things but she makes both work well. Paul Douglas reminds me a lot of Ernest Borgnine, playing a schlubby big guy who has a lot of wealth but also a lot of insecurities of his own. Their relationship is the most memorable of the three because the two play well off each other and it’s the most developed by far.

-While the structure doesn’t always work and some of the movie feels dated, the dialogue is consistently good throughout.


-This movie is basically cut into three segments which look into the relationships between the three wives and their husbands, and why each wife thinks it might be their husband who ran away. As with any anthology-type story, some segments will be better than others, and here the one with Crain and Lynn lags way behind. It doesn’t go on long enough for us to really get to know the characters, and what we see is a basic story about social status insecurity that just isn’t very interesting, from both a character and acting perspective and also is way more dated than the other two segments in terms of how women are characterized.

Other Stuff

-This is one of the few movies to win for Best Director & Screenplay but not Best Picture. The others: 7th Heaven (1927/28), Bad Girl (1931/32), The Informer (1935), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), A Place in the Sun (1951), Traffic (2000), The Pianist (2002), Brokeback Mountain (2005).


This is an uneven relationship drama, but it gets progressively better as it goes on, with the last segment featuring Darnell and Paul Douglas being easily the best.
Rating: B-