Other Notable Films from 1955
The Night of the Hunter: This movie was a total failure both critically and financially upon its initial release, which is why it’s the only movie Charles Laughton directed; however, it is now acknowledged as one of the best American films of its era. Robert Mitchum’s performance as a reverend turned serial killer makes for one of the most memorable villains of all time. In the National Film Registry.
Rebel Without a Cause & East of Eden: These two movies made James Dean one of the biggest stars in America before he died the very same year in a car crash. Rebel was really the first movie to give a sympathetic portrait of youth’s struggles again the older generation, something that would continue to grow into a bigger problem until it boiled over the next decade; it’s in the National Film Registry. East of Eden was the only starring role of his released in Dean’s lifetime, and was nominated for 4 Oscars (including Dean for Best Actor and Elia Kazan for Best Director) and is one of only 3 Golden Globe Best Drama winners to not get an Oscar BP nomination; the others: Spartacus (1960) and The Cardinal (1963).
Pather Panchali: The first part of the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray, which is generally considered the pinnacle of Indian cinema. Amazingly, Ray had no previous experience whatsoever making films, nor did most anybody involved with the project, and it had no script, only storyboards. Somehow, it all ended up working out and is exceptional for its realistic depiction of poverty.
Ordet: Along with The Passion of Joan of Arc and Day of Wrath, this is considered one of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s greatest works. Noted for its stirring emotional qualities and cinematography, it is considered one of the best movies of all-time, placing #2 on the last Sight and Sound poll.
All That Heaven Allows: Romance movie starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, directed by Douglas Sirk, who was a great influence on director Todd Haynes (especially his film Far from Heaven). In the National Film Registry.
Kiss Me Deadly: A highly unusual film noir that had cold war-era themes about paranoia and the atomic age, and was the first film to feature the great “glowing briefcase” macguffin that was most famously homaged in Pulp Fiction. In the National Film Registry.
The Ladykillers: Acclaimed black comedy starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers amongst others, about a group of thieves living with an eccentric old widow. Named the 13th greatest British film of all-time by the BFI. Remade by the Coen Brothers in 2004 to poor reviews.
Blackboard Jungle: This movie is famous for three things: one, it was Sidney Poitier’s breakout role (along with the debuts of Vic Morrow and Jamie Farr), two, it introduced “Rock Around the Clock” to the nation at-large, changing the music landscape forever, and three, it inspired riots in theaters the UK and was banned there for a time.
The Seven Year Itch: Most famous for Marilyn Monroe’s famous skirt-blowing scene, it was named #51 on the AFI 100 Laughs list, although its director Billy Wilder personally considered it a dud because they couldn’t really explore the themes of adultery in a proper way under the Production Code.
Les Diaboliques: Great psychological thriller, starring future Oscar winner Simone Signoret in her breakout role with a famous ending involving a bathtub. Director Henri-Georges Clouzot optioned the novel’s rights just before Alfred Hitchcock could, and it is generally credited as an influence on Hitchcock’s Psycho.
1955 Nominees in Review
Marty: A- (Won Best Picture)
Mister Roberts: B
The Rose Tattoo: C
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing: C-
This is probably the weakest slate of nominees so far from the 1950’s: even if nothing was outright bad, nothing really stood out other than Marty, which I thought deserved its Best Picture win. The 50’s is full of years where you could have come up with a much more interesting slate of nominees, even just looking at what came out of Hollywood, and this is certainly one of them.
Coming up for 1956: the first year where all the films were in color, and five movies with an average runtime of 176 minutes. Oh joy. We have a Best Picture winner known as more notable for its list of cameos than actually being a good movie; Anthony Perkins only BP nominee and his only Oscar nomination (yes, it was for this, not that other movie that everybody remembers him from); James Dean’s only BP nominee; and Yul Brynner in two movies: one is signature role in a famous Rogers and Hammerstein musical, the other was Cecil B. DeMille’s final film which was, what else, a massive biblical epic that was at the time, the most expensive film ever made.