PARADOXICALLY a recent American movie which isn’t good enough to be included among the Best Films of 1951 is nonetheless one of the most heartening pieces of evidence that Hollywood, at long last, is “growing up.”
I’m referring to People Will Talk, a wordy and rambling comedy - drama bearing the esteemed imprint of writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz. In most respects this picture compares disappointingly with Mankiewicz’ brilliant 1950 product, All About Eve. But its sound track is devoted, in part at least, to many a frank and grown-up comment on medical ethics, the moral and social aspects of illegitimacy, the institution of the vengeful professional witch-hunt and several other matters not ordinarily dealt with in films manufactured for perpetual adolescents.
Not only that: People Will Talk had the nerve to present two such conventional box-office stars as Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain in a highly unconventional story which the bankers who underwrite Hollywood would never have sanctioned a few years ago. The surgeon hero blandly marries an “illicit” expectant mother after fibbing away her jitters by telling her she isn’t pregnant—and although he is not to blame for her condition.
A Place in the Sun, my nomination as the best movie of the year, is a sensitive modernization of Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy. Here, too, one of the central themes is unmarried motherhood; and the doomed heroheel (Montgomery Clift) walks to the electric chair for murder in the fade-out with no softening or pret.tying-up of Dreiser’s sombre story. A Place in the Sun is a crowning achievement for director George Stevens. Under his guidance actor Clift and actresses Shelley Winters and Elizabeth Taylor have come through with the most compelling performances of their careers.
All the others in my ten-best roster are familiar entries on these pages except one, which I didn’t see until the year was almost over. The River is a beautiful film about nature’s wonders and the aches of young love in India. It was made in that country, under American auspices, by French director Jean Renoir.
Vivien Leigh’s virtuoso portrayal of a tattered plantation Belle, in A Streetcar Named Desire, was the year’s finest acting in the femme division. In the same picture Marlon Brando gives a brilliant and appalling performance as a primeval brute.
The year’s top acting job, beyofid any doubt —beyond any doubt of mine, at least was that of Michael Redgrave as the despairing schoolmaster in The Browning Version, a superior item from Britain.
One comedy, the Lavender Hill Mob, and one musical, An American in Paris, are 1951’s best in their own categories and good enough on all counts, I think, to rate among the top ten.
Old-fashioned escapism, mind you, is still a standard celluloid commodity, probably because it usually finds a ready-made popular market. Sometimes, of course, a frankly escapist movie turns out to be acceptable entertainment for all but the most austere customers. More often it is likely to be the sort of stuff that mercifully vanishes from your memory before you have even finished walking out of the theatre.
The worst films of 1951 were about as bad as the worst of 1950. But the best ones were the best in a long long time. Both Hollywood and the British studios contributed to this pleasant manifestation. Let’s cross our chocolate-coated fingers and hope they keep it up in ’52. if
These Were The Worst
2. I.ll.l.t MARLENE
3. LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE I. HALF ANGEL
5. THREE HUSBANDS
6. NIGHT WITHOUT STARS
7. THE SCARF
8. YOU NEVER CAN TELL
9. I NDF.RWORLI) STORY
Worst performance by an actress: Sally Forrest (as Blanche De Malet roil) in The Strange Door.
Worst performance by an actor: Hugh McDermott (as
Steve, the reporter) in Lilli Marlene.
Worst performance by a juvenile: Ginger Prince (as
Ginger Prince) in .The Prince of Peace.
Worst sequel: The Miniver Story.
These Stars Also Shone in '51
Best Screenplay Written Especially for the Filins
The Lavender Hill Mob: T. E. B. Clarke
Most Athletic Performance
Burt Lancaster (as Thorpe) in Jim Thorpe, AllAmerican
Best Sports-Action Photography
The football shots by Lee Garmes in Saturday’s Hero
1, An American in Paris; 2, Show Boat; 3, Meet Me After The Show
Best Suspense Filin
Strangers on a Train
Biggest Improvement Shown hy a Hitherto Routine Director
Gordon Douglas, for Only The Valiant and Come Fill The Cup
Father’s Little Dividend
Best Late-1950 Films Not Generally Circulated in Canada Until 1951
1, Born Yesterday; 2. King Solomon’s Mines; 3, The Happiest Days of Your Life
BITTER RICE ^ won for Italian Silvana Mangano the undisputed crown as sexiest actress of 1951.
More i$e»t-i*erformuuee Picture» Next Paye
Giimour Picks 19519s Best Movie Performances
HOW GILMOUR RATES THE CURRENT SHOWS
An American in Paris: Musical. Tops. Angels in the Outfield: Comedy. Fair.
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