CLYDE GILMOUR Picks the Best and Worst MOVIES OF 1954
CLYDE GILMOUR Picks the Best and Worst MOVIES OF 1954
These were the Ten Best
These were the Ten Worst
2 JOHNNY GUITAR 3 WALKING MY BABY BACK HOME 4 FORBIDDEN 5 THE SINNER 6 HUMAN DESIRE 7 JUBILEE TRAIL 8 BACK TO GOD’S COUNTRY 9 RIDING SHOTGUN 10 SUSAN SLEPT HERE
THESE SCORED INDIVIDUAL ZEROS WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS: Lana Turner in Flame and the Flesh. WORST ANIMAL PERFORMANCES: the lions overcome too easily by Victor Mature in Demetrius and the Gladiators.
WORST SINGER: Gene Kelly in Brigadoon. CORNIEST DIALOGUE: Love scene between Terry Moore and Tyrone Power in King of the Khyber Rifles. WORST MUSICAL: Walking My Baby Back Home. WORST WORK BY A TOP DIRECTOR: Human Desire, by Fritz Lang, who also directed The Big Heat, best crime movie of year.
FOR MORE GILMOUR CHOICES TURN PAGE
MOVIES WERE wider, brighter, louder and in some respects better than ever in 1954. Celluloid trash was still being produced on both sides of the Atlantic, and some of the trash was prospering at the box office. By and large, however, the hackneyed slogan of “quality rather than quantity” was finally getting more than mere lip service from the film industry. Fewer and better pictures had become the rule. Hollywood was making hundreds of cheap quickies for television but spending more time and money on films intended for theatrical distribution. And the policy was paying off—in bigger crowds and increased public esteem.
By mid-November both of Canada’s major theatre chains were expecting ’54 to be their most profitable year since the postwar boom of 1946-47, when any movie was almost certain to flourish.
To my taste, not one of the roughly four hundred feature films I saw in ’54 was quite as impressive as From Here to Eternity or High Noon, my choices as the best of ’53 and ’52 respectively. But the average was improving. The moviemakers in ’54 hit fewer home runs but banged out a goodly number of solid three-baggers, many of them with bases loaded.
One year ago this column suggested that further non-Biblical successes after The Robe would be needed before anyone could logically salute the new wide-screen CinemaScope process as a versatile storytelling medium. Further successes have resoundingly arrived. Included are two superior musicals, A Star Is Born and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which rate high among my nominations for the Ten Best Movies of ’54.
A Star Is Born, although too long and at times too intimate for the vast CinemaScope screen, is a
brilliant and fascinating showpiece for Judy Garland in her triumphal return to films. Moss Hart’s screen play, adapted from the original 1937 version which co-starred Janet Gaynor anfi Fredric March, puts to shame the ordinary “backstage musical” by examining Hollywood itself with uncommon irony and penetration.
The well-known story tells of the tragic romance of a once-great male star who sinks alcoholically into oblivion and suicide while his young wife, whom he had plucked from obscurity, rises to the heights. Miss Garland’s performance, in my estimation, makes her the No. 1 screen actress of the year. She is staunchly supported by James Mason as the husband, by Charles Bickford as a somewhat idealized producer, and by Manitoba-born Jack Carson as a vengeful studio publicist. George Cukor’s expert direction and the good songs by
Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin further entitle A Star Is Born to the major bite it is already taking out of the North American box-office dollar.
The Kidnappers, a poignant and funny comedydrama, was about two wee Scots who secretly adopt a lost infant because their stern grandfather won’t let them have a dog. It probably was the best of 1954’s several worthy exports from Britain. Fiveyear-old Vincent Winter was incomparable among the year’s juvenile performers.
The Caine Mutiny missed inclusion on my Ten Best roster, but Humphrey Bogart’s portrayal of the alarming Captain Queeg seemed to me the top acting performance of the year. Bogart also did well as a sedate tycoon in Sabrina, as a shabby adventurer in John Huston’s chaotic farce Beat the Devil, and as a broken-down film director in The Barefoot Contessa. The latter re-established producer-director-writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz (of All About Eve and Julius Caesar) as one of the smartest one-man moviemakers in the business, but it was a bit too pretentious and stony-hearted to qualify among the finest pictures of the year.
The Stratford Adventure, a National Film Board documentary about the Shakespeare* festivals in Ontario, was the best Canadian movie I saw in ’54. Jean Renoir’s The Golden Coach, starring Italy’s Anna Magnani, was the best foreign film.
Along with wide screens, wide titles became all the rage. Examples: How to Marry a Millionaire, Beneath the Twelve-Mile Reef, King Richard and the Crusaders. My suggestion, offered free of charge, for a really panoramic addendum: Son of Creature From the Black Lagoon Meets Ma and Pa Kettle Amid the Wonders of Stereophonic Sound.
THESE FILMS WERE AMONG GILMOUR’S FAVORITES
Adventures of Robinson The Maggie New Faces Apache The Big Heat Night People The Command Pickwick Papers Escape From Fort Bravo Rear Window Father Brown, Detective Sabrina Hobson’s Choice Thunder Over the Plains Little Fugitive Top Banana
Gilmour Acclaims These 1954 Shows And Stars
BEST ACTRESS: Judy Garland in A Star Is Born. She was also best “pop” singer and made the year’s greatest comeback. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Duncan Macrae as the bleak Scottish grandfather in The Kidnappers. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Brenda de Banzie as the strong-willed Maggie in Hobson’s Choice. BEST SCRIPT WRITTEN ESPECIALLY FOR SCREEN: It Should Happen to You, by Garson Kanin. BEST SCRIPT ADAPTED FOR SCREEN: A Star Is Born, by Moss Hart, based on the 1937 screenplay by Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell and Robert Carson, which in turn was based on a story by Carson and director William A. Wellman. BEST DIRECTOR: George Cukor, for A Star Is Born and It Should Happen to You. BEST PRODUCER: Walter Wanger, for Riot in Cell Block 11. MOST PROMISING NEW DIRECTOR: Richard Quine, for Drive a Crooked Road and Pushover. MOST PROMISING NEW ACTOR: Jack Lemmon, in It Should Happen to You. SHAPELIEST LEGS: Ann Miller’s (age 31 ) in Kiss Me Kate. SHAPELIEST LEGS (SENIOR DIVISION): Joan Crawford's (age 45) in Torch Song. MOST GLAMOROUS ACTRESS: Grace Kelly in Rear Window. BEST PERFORMANCE BY JUVENILE-. Vincent Winter in The Kidnappers. BEST PHOTOGRAPHY IN COLOR: Romeo and Juliet, by Robert Krasker. BEST PHOTOGRAPHY IN BLACK-AND-WHITE: On the Waterfront, by Boris Kaufman. BEST USE OF WIDE CINEMASCOPE SCREEN: Garden of Evil, directed by Henry Hathaway. MOST ALARMING VILLAIN: Jack Palance as Jack the Ripper in Man in the Attic. BEST SCREEN FIGHT (NON-MEDIEVAL): Marlon Brando versus Lee J. Cobb in On the Waterfront. BEST JOUST: Tony Curtis versus David Farrar in The Black Shield of Falworth. FUNNIEST SOLO ACT-. Paul Lynde, on crutches, as back-from-Africa lecturer in New Faces. BEST REISSUE: The Best Years of Our Lives (U. S., 1946).
AMONG OTHER PERFORMANCES GILMOUR ESPECIALLY ENJOYED
Margaret Rutherford as the eccentric shoplifter, Jerry Desmonde as the stuffy merchandising executive, in Trouble in Store . . . David Burns as Danny Kaye’s long-suffering manager in Knock on Wood . . . Robert Morley as the cricket-loving highbrow poet in The Final Test Lauren Bacall as Fred
MacMurray's sardonic wife in Woman’s World . . . Reginald Beckwith as Rock, the silent strong valet, in Man With a Million . . . Spencer Tracy as the tough cattle-baron in Broken Lance . . . Alec Guinness in Father Brown, Detective . . . Peter Ustinov as the fat Prince of Wales in Beau Brummell . . . Richie Andrusco as the boy runaway in Little Fugitive . . . Burt Lancaster as the unconquerable Massai in Apache . . . Louis Calhern as the old
Brazilian playboy in Latin Lovers . . . John Mills as Willie the boot-hand in Hobson’s Choice . . . Ava Gardner as Honey Bear Kelly in Mogambo . . . James Robertson Justice as the bearded senior surgeon in Doctor in the House . . . Rex Harrison as the wily Saladin in King Richard and the Crusaders ... Mervyn Johns as the Friar, Flora Robson as the Nurse, in Romeo and Juliet . . . Van Johnson as Steve Maryk, executive officer, in The Caine Mutiny.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.