*Lawrence of Arabia (1962)*

lawrence

Starring: Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Jose Ferrer

Director: David Lean

Summary: A British military officer enlists the Arabs for desert warfare in World War I

Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (O’Toole), Supporting Actor (Sharif), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score*, Sound Recording*, Color Art Direction*, Color Cinematography*, Film Editing*

Positives

-Presentation-wise, it’s pretty much unbeatable. The color cinematography is a textbook display of why Technicolor was so great and unusual, and it succeeds at the relatively difficult task of making the barren desert look interesting and beautiful, along with generally flawless cinematography in general. Maurice Jarre’s score is one of the best ever for an epic, with the main theme being stuff of legends. The sets and costumes all look incredibly authentic (they made up 300 buildings just for the town of Aqaba). They simply don’t make movies like this anymore.

-The cast is excellent-you know you’re living good when you get Claude Rains and Jose Ferrer to do bit parts. Peter O’Toole was actually the third choice, after Marlon Brando (who didn’t want to film for ages in the desert) and Albert Finney (a then unknown who balked at the producer’s contract demands); it’s hard to imagine anyone else as Lawrence, playing him with the requisite showmanship, charisma and inner struggle of the man. Sharif is the other standout in his first English speaking role (and was the 4th choice for his role). You really do get the sense of a great friendship (or maybe something more?) between the characters due to the eventual quiet warmth of his performance.

-One thing that really distinguishes David Lean’s epics from most others of the time was that he gave some real thought to his themes and characters. Lawrence is a complex character with a lot of different but still coherent with each other motivations, personal demons and interests, and he comes across as an exceptionally vivid character (especially when combined with O’Toole’s performance). One thing interesting with Lean is that a number of his films criticize “Britishness”, despite being British himself, with this kind of commentary about one’s own people being unusual at the time; here, the longstanding British interest in empire building without caring about what the people themselves wanted or how they got it, along with the stuffiness of his own countrymen drives Lawrence away from his own people and results in him feeling like a man out of place in his own country.

Negatives

-At 3 Hours and 47 minutes, it’s either the longest or second longest Best Picture Winner ever (along with Gone With the Wind), depending on if you count the musical breaks. While I never got bored or anything, it took multiple sittings to get through it simply because of its length, something that I consider a negative in a movie.

-The film certainly took liberties with the story and the character, giving him the primary trait of being an attention-seeker, yet the opposite was true in real life according to most. It didn’t bother me that much, but still.

Other Stuff

-Strangely enough, it wasn’t nominated for Color Costume Design; apparently, this is because the studio forgot to submit the designer for a nomination.

-Alec Guinness plays King Faisal, which is interesting because just the previous year he had been playing Lawrence on a West End production of the play “Ross.” He wanted to play Lawrence in the movie, but producers thought he was too old for the part.

-Despite being almost 4 hours long, there is not a single line of dialogue from a woman in the movie.

Overall

When you think of film epics, you think of Lawrence of Arabia, and for good reason. The movie on a presentation level is stunning and probably the best you’ll ever see for a movie of the time period (heck, maybe ever) and the performances, characters and themes are substantially better than most other films in the genre.

Rating: A

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The Longest Day (1962)

longest

Starring: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Sean Connery, Eddie Albert, Curt Jurgens, Richard Todd and a million other people with similar sized parts

Directors: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton & Bernhard Wicki

Summary: The Allied forces launch the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France

Other Nominations: B&W Art Direction, B&W Cinematography*, Film Editing, Visual Effects*

Positives

-As pure spectacle, this is a pretty amazing movie. The scope is insane, covering four sides of the invasion (American, British, German and French) with numerous sections and a cast of thousands from all the above countries. They must have set a record for explosions in a movie, as the last hour is almost nothing but stuff blowing up and people getting shot on the beaches of Normandy. The movie does a pretty good job of allowing the viewer to keep track of the seemingly endless number of things going on simultaneously from different perspectives.

-There are lots of great little stories in the movie, especially Robert Mitchum being a cigar smoking badass during the final push and Red Buttons with his parachute snagged on a building, watching the other men around him get machine gunned is emotionally powerful.

Negatives

-While the scope and ambition is admirable, it feels too big and sprawling, even if only technically about one event. What also hurts is how there’s almost never any characters we can latch onto, as nobody’s in the movie for more than 10 minutes.

-The last hour (of this 3 hour epic) being nothing but action gets old after a while, especially since it’s pretty much the same action over and over again.

Overall

Big actiony WWII spectacle, but for the most part you’re not going to get that a lot more out of it than that. Fun seeing all these people together for a movie though.

Rating: C+

The Music Man (1962)

musicman

Starring: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, Hermione Gingold, Ron Howard

Director: Morton DaCosta

Summary: A con artist hawks a monorail, I mean musical instruments and band uniforms, to small-town America

Other Nominations: Adapted Score*, Sound Recording, Color Art Direction, Color Costume Design, Film Editing

Positives

-Robert Preston reprised his signature role of Prof. Harold Hill from Broadway and is perfect, being charming, charismatic, totally self-confident and somehow you still like him most of the time despite being a con-man. I’m really surprised he didn’t get a Best Actor nomination even in this competitive year.

-This is a pretty funny movie overall with a lot of charm and energy. It does a nice job of poking fun at the classic midwestern small town of yesteryear (the kind which the creator of the play was from) and is generally entertaining throughout

Negatives

-The songs are very hit or miss. “Ya Got Trouble” and “Marian the Librarian” are good, but nothing else did a whole lot for me.

-The motivations behind Jones’s character in the second half are clear but I still don’t think you would find almost any real person who would overlook all that Preston does to the extent she does.

Overall

Solid musical with a great lead performance, but it wasn’t entertaining enough and the songs on the whole weren’t good enough to call it anything more than that.

Rating: B-

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

bounty

Starring: Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard, Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith, Tarita Teriipaia

Director: Lewis Milestone (His last film) & Carol Reed (uncredited, fired/resigned during production)

Summary: Lavish remake of the classic tale of the villainous Captain Bligh who drives his crew to revolt during a South Seas expedition

Other Nominations: Original Score, Original Song (“Follow Me”), Color Art Direction, Color Cinematography, Film Editing, Visual Effects

Positives

-The Ship itself looks great, as does the cinematography at sea. The ship was so well-done that they kept using it for other productions, even Pirates of the Caribbean 40 years later; it was unfortunately sunk during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

-The score is pretty good

-Trevor Howard is solid as Captain Bligh, even if he’s not as good as Charles Laughton.

Negatives

-Fletcher Christian played by Brando is much worse than Gable’s version from the original. Brando plays him as a fop and a bore which is a ridiculous choice for a lead in a big adventure epic like this. His performance sucks whatever entertainment value this movie could have had out the window.

-At 3 Hours, 5 Minutes including musical breaks, it’s way too long (the original was 2 hours, 12 minutes for comparison). The biggest problem is that everything in the first part of the story takes ages to get through (getting around cape horn, everything on Tahiti), While the second part of the story doesn’t get enough time-the actual mutiny happens around the time the original was ending and the aftermath is very abbreviated.

Other Stuff

-This was one of the most infamous nightmare productions of all-time, partially for the weather, partially for how its constant script problems, but mostly for Marlon Brando’s antics. Original director Carol Reed couldn’t get along with Brando so he left the project, and his replacement, legendary director Lewis Milestone didn’t fare any better and Brando basically directed the movie himself. Brando’s weight was constantly fluctuating throughout production, he took crew members off the movie to decorate his friend’s wedding in Tahiti, he was constantly late on set, decided to move the villa he was living on two weeks before the end of filming and had MGM spend thousands remodeling the new place, and demanded re-writes on a constant basis. Although everyone hated by the end, Richard Harris had it the worst: he did the project because he wanted to work with Brando, but by the end was so fed up with him that he refused to appear on screen with him in the final scene. The movie was a financial failure due to its budget and got negative reviews, although studio lobbying led to its BP nomination. After the movie, Brando was considered poison by the studios and didn’t do anything of note for another decade as a result.

Overall

Mediocre adaptation of the classic story. It has some great visuals and Howard is good, but it’s ruined by the script, the length and Brando’s performance.

Rating: C-

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

mockingbird

Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham (in her debut), Phillip Alford (in his debut), Frank Overton, Brock Peters, John Megna (in his film debut), Robert Duvall (in his first credited film role)

Director: Robert Mulligan

Summary: A young girl grows up fast when her lawyer father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman

Other Nominations: Director, Actor (Peck)*, Supporting Actress (Badham), Adapted Screenplay*, Original Score, B&W Art Direction*, B&W Cinematography

*Note: When I was in high school, I saw this movie and didn’t have that strong of an opinion of it, so this is the second time I’ve watched this. I also read the book back then.*

Positives

-The performances range from excellent to really good. This is Gregory Peck’s signature performance, and you can see why-his inner-strength, and overall presence and command are vital to the character and everything he does embodies that. Both Peters and Duvall really only have one scene each (Duvall doesn’t even talk), but they both nail it completely. All the kids are good for child actors, although I don’t know if I would have nominated Badham for an Oscar.

-The courtroom scenes are great from beginning to end and are the justifiable reason people remember this movie. Besides the performances by Peck and Peters I mentioned earlier, the dialogue is terrific and the Cinematography is outstanding in these scenes.

-The score is much lighter than most of the period, as it’s heavy on piano and has a lot of soul to it. It reminds me a lot of Aaron Copland’s excellent score for the Our Town.

Negatives

-For a movie that is considered one of the best ever, it has a more obvious flaws than you would expect. Gregory Peck’s performance is fantastic and he probably deserved the Oscar in an extremely competitive year, but the character of Atticus Finch himself is actually not that interesting, he’s basically Perfect McFlawless. Part of that can be explained by the events being recounted by Scout as a grown woman who idolizes her father (i.e. a semi-unreliable narrator), but that comes across better in a book where we are always aware of who’s narrating, whereas in a movie, it feels like it takes place from an objective point of view. But it isn’t just Finch, pretty much all the characters are flat and lack any real depth which might work in a different story, but not in such a story and theme heavy movie that has plenty of opportunities to explore its characters. Finally, picking up both of the last two points, with the movie having an omniscient perspective, it really would have helped to have some scenes with Atticus talking to Tom Robinson before the trial so that Robinson feels more like a real person instead of just a pure symbol.

-While the first hour does everything it has to from a setting and atmosphere-building perspective, it doesn’t really do anything more than that. There’s not much memorable about it, and it missed an opportunity to build its characters.

Overall

It certainly has its flaws, but it has more than enough great elements so that it’s still a really good movie even if I don’t consider it one of the all-time great films.
Rating: B+

1962 in Review

Other Notable Films from 1962

Jules and Jim: One of the most famous movies to come out of the French New Wave, it’s about a love triangle between two friends, Jules and Jim, and the woman who Jules falls in love with, Catherine. It’s a movie about the transition into adulthood and how it affects the way people can have relationships one another-as children, they were friends, but as adults, things cannot be the same as they love the same woman. Named to Time 100 Films list.

The Miracle Worker: This adaptation of Helen Keller’s autobiography was nominated for 5 Oscars, winning for Best Actress (Anne Bancroft) and Supporting Actress (Patty Duke), it was probably the film that would have gotten a BP nomination if not for the studio push behind Mutiny on the Bounty. Ranked #15 to the AFI 100 Cheers list.

La Jetee: Probably the most famous short film (at 28 minutes) after Un Chien Andalou, it was the direct inspiration for 12 Monkeys (1995), a very good movie in its own right. Remarkably, it’s almost entirely told through still images and has almost no dialogue, just narration. #50 on the Sight and Sound poll.

Dr. No: The film that launched the James Bond franchise, and Sean Connery’s legendary career. As far as Bond movies go, it’s pretty good and has most of the series’ tropes off the bat-Bond girls, the gunbarrel opening, exotic locales, SPECTRE, etc.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?: Famous for its two legendary stars, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford playing some of the darkest roles of their career, and the real-life bitter rivalry the two had during and after filming, with Davis taking full credit for the movie’s success, and Crawford possibly lobbying against Davis’ Oscar bid despite being her co-star. Even though it’s known as a cult film, it was nominated for 5 Oscars including Davis for Actress.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: This one has one of the best casts for a Western ever with genre greats John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, John Carradine, Lee Van Cleef, Strother Martin, Andy Devine and directed by John Ford. Oddly enough though, it was shot in B&W and on soundstages, due to either artistic or monetary reasons. In the National Film Registry.

The Manchurian Candidate: Classic Cold War thriller starring Laurence Harvey as a former soldier who has been brainwashed in order to secure the Presidency under Communist influence and Frank Sinatra as the former soldier in his outfit out to stop him. In the National Film Registry.

Ride the High Country: Generally considered Sam Peckinpah’s first great film, this Western was Randolph Scott’s final film where he teams up with Joel McCrea as two old guns involved in a gold heist. In the National Film Registry.

Cape Fear: Robert Mitchum does what he does best here-playing sinister and remorseless villains, here playing convict Max Cady who after getting released tries to murder the man (Gregory Peck) who he considers responsible for his incarceration and his entire family.

1962 Nominees in Review

Lawrence of Arabia: A (Won Best Picture)

To Kill a Mockingbird: B+

The Music Man: B-

The Longest Day: C+

Mutiny on the Bounty: C-

1962 was the two-horse race I expected it to be in that there were two clear best movies, but it wasn’t really that close of a race. Lawrence of Arabia deservedly won Best Picture, as it’s probably the best execution of a film epic that we’re ever going to see, especially considering how cost prohibitive it would be to do today and how no one would film for 17 months in the desert again. Overall, it was a decent year with nothing being truly awful (although Mutiny on the Bounty was close), but only two real movies of note.

For 1963: The rare Best Picture nominee whose cast was made up entirely of unknowns; The longest Best Picture nominee ever at 248 minutes and held the record for most expensive movie ever made for 15 years; One of only two narrative features to be made for Cinerama; The first African-American Actor to win a competitive Oscar; and the only movie with 3 Supporting Actress nominations.