Nightman’s Top Ten Films of 1961

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

10: The Young Ones (UK)

9: Judgement At Nuremberg (USA)

8: One Eyed Jacks (USA)

7: The Day The Earth Caught Fire (UK)

6: Breakfast At Tiffany’s (USA)

5: The Innocents (UK)

4: One Hundred And One Dalmations (US)

3: The Hustler (US)

2: The Guns Of Navarone (UK/US)

1: Yojimbo (Japan)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Three

Chart Music Through The Years – 1961

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here –

Greetings, Glancers! Let us twist our heads 180 degrees like a Reagan possessed and see what fell behind us in those heady, innocent days gone by. Hands up if you remember 1961? Not me! I am reliably informed that JFK became President of those United States, that man and chimp ventured off world into space for the first time, The Bay Of Pigs came and went, Catch-22 was released, Ernest Hemmingway died, and Ken first met Barbie. In the world of music, The Beatles performed in The Cabin club for the first time, The Supremes signed to Motown, Mick Jagger met Keith Richards, and rock music continued to challenge the scourge of Swing throughout the year. Indeed, the ten songs featured below suggest a shift in popularity between the old and new, with pop rock upstarts taking the top prizes over the crooners of the past. Looking at the these ten songs, I can’t say that I recognise any of them from the titles alone, but I do know eight of the artists. Lets get stuck in, kids.

  1. The Shadows: Kon-Tiki

The famous twanging guitar, clear and crisp. Yes, it does evoke shimmering images of beach side Caribbean lounging. There’s still a country twist in there too. That this ever made it to Number 1 in the charts is bizarre to me – not because it’s bad, just because. At under two minutes long it doesn’t go very far or ask many questions, but a mild diversion and still sounds good over 50 years later.

2. Billy Fury: Jealousy

Big ass bass and trumpets. String blasts. Sounds like a tango. Certainly a strange collection of tones and styles, offset by the clean, smooth vocals and dark lyrics. Melodies are all over the place though. In trying to go in a hundred directions at the same time, it feels disjointed.

3. Highwaymen: Michael

Whistling. Guitars. Ok, hallelujah. Another bizarre song to ever be in the charts. Nicely sung, has the famous melody, but boring and uneventful – of course plenty of people are into that sort of thing.

4. John Leyton: Johnny Remember Me

Sighing. Cowboy guitars and vocals. Interesting mix of vocals, haunting sound. It frequently feels like the tempo is changing, even though it isn’t. Galloping guitars. This is a good one, even though I don’t like this style of male vocal. This was pretty good, and pretty weird.

5. Shirley Bassey: Reach For The Stars

Scary strings intro. Young Bassey voice… doesn’t sound like the vocals I know her from. Until she hits the bigger notes. It’s a strange song that doesn’t have your typical verse, chorus structure. It’s dreamy and drifting and the melodies don’t have an addictive quality. Difficult to fault the ability of the singer of course, but the vocals at points are too loud and overblown for the music.

6. Elvis: Wild In The Country

Another adventure into Western territory for Elvis, this soothing ballad is straightforward – a soft guitar and humming vocal accompaniment for a gentle Elvis vocal. This feels like a lightweight song that would be easily forgotten if sung by anyone else -even with Elvis singing it feels uneventful, though there isn’t anything inherently wrong with it.

7. Cleo Laine: You’ll Answer To Me

Squealing violin. Stirrings of Stephen King nostalgia. More squealing violins. Suggestive of stabbing, based off the lyrics? Crazy ex or crazy mother? It has a certain charm, and the lyrics are quite funny.

8. Connie Francis: Together

More King nostalgia. Swaying swooning. The complete opposite of the previous song, but retains a certain similar charm. Although the lyrics do become possibly sinister. Spoken part. Not sure if this is happy, creepy, or sad.

9. Del Shannon: Hats Off To Larry

I’ve always liked Del Shannon. More lyrics about lost love. Starts slow, then gets into a ripping tempo with weird blips and Shannon’s trademark high notes. Addictive stuff, angry, but fun, good good.

10. Eden Kane: Get Lost

More funky rock n roll. Strange mix of whispers, growls, and Elvis for the vocals. This is pretty good too, not as instantly catchy as Shannon’s. What was that about a shotgun?

A very good second half of songs, any of which I’d be happy to listen to again. The group of songs are a fair reflection of what was popular and good in 1961, with the year’s top selling songs including other hits by Elvis and Shannon. I’m not even going to attempt to pick an alternate top 10 for 1961, primarily because they wouldn’t be too different from the artists listed above, and also because albums were not really a big deal yet – mostly collections of singles and covers and tracks not good enough to be singles. Feel free to leave a comment about any of the songs or artists from 1961, and let us know what you were up to then!

1961 Academy Awards Prize Summary

So, 1961 was a funny old year. The bromance between the US and Cuba fell apart, Soviet Spies were lurking in all corners of the world, Eddie Murphy, George Clooney, and Michael J Fox were all born, The Beatles performed at The Cavern Club for the first time, and 2 of the greatest singles of the 60s were released – Stand By Me and Runaway. Apparently a tonne of films were released too, and a few of them won precious, pointless Oscars. Flipping spacwards through the wrongs of time, we bring you the films which REALLY won, in the alternate version of happening that you wish had…. happened:

My Winners From The Actual Nominations: 

West Side Story: 5

The Hustler: 4

Breakfast At Tiffany’s: 4

La Dolce Vita: 2

Judy Garland: 1

Judgement At Nuremberg: 1

Yojimbo: 1

The Guns Of Navarone: 1

Through A Glass Darkly: 1

Jackie Gleason: 1

Audrey Hepburn: 1

Paul Newman: 1

Federico Fellini: 1

Henry Mancini: 1

Saul Chaplin: 1

The Spac Hole Nominations:

The Guns Of Navarone: 11

The Hustler: 9

West Side Story: 9

Breakfast At Tiffany’s: 8

Yojimbo: 8

The Innocents: 5

The Pit And The Pendulum: 5

La Dolce Vita: 5

Through A Glass Darkly: 4

The Day The Earth Caught Fire: 4

El Cid: 4

Atlantis, The Lost Continent: 3

The End Of Summer: 3

Judgement At Nuremberg: 3

The Absent Minded Professor: 2

101 Dalmations: 2

The Human Condition: 2

Splendour In The Grass: 1

Mothra: 2

Veridiana: 2

Two Women: 1

The Children’s Hour: 1

Hogs And Warships: 1

Nefertiti: 1

Flower Drum Song: 1

La Notte: 1

The Long Absence: 1

The Commancheros: 1

One Eyed Jacks: 1

The Young Ones: 1

Judy Garland: 1

Rita Moreno: 1

Jackie Gleason: 1

Montgomery Clift: 1

Russ Tamblyn: 1

Anthony Quinn: 1

David Niven: 1

Audrey Hepburn: 1

Sophia Loren: 1

Natalie Wood: 1

Deborah Kerr: 1

Piper Laurie: 1

Paul Newman: 1

Max Von Sydow: 1

George Peppard: 1

Gregory Peck: 1

Vincent Price: 1

Toshiro Mifune: 1

Federico Fellini: 1

Robert Rossen: 1

J. Lee Thompson: 1

Ingmar Bergman: 1

Akira Kurosawa: 1

Jack Clayton: 1

Henry Mancini: 1

Anita Ekberg: 1

And finally, the All-Important……. Spac Hole Winners!

The Hustler: 3

Breakfast At Tiffany’s: 2

La Dolce Vita: 2

Yojimbo: 2

The Innocents: 2

The Guns Of Navarone: 2

101 Dalmations: 1

Judy Garland: 1

Judgement At Nuremberg: 1

The Pit And The Pendulum: 1

West Side Story: 1

Atlantis, The Lost Continent: 1

The Day The Earth Caught Fire: 1

The Young Ones: 1

Henry Mancini: 1

Jackie Gleason: 1

Audrey Hepburn: 1

Paul Newman: 1

Federico Fellini: 1

My Recommended Viewing:

The Guns Of Navarone. The Hustler. Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The Innocents. Yojimbo. La Dolce Vita. Judgement At Nuremburg. 101 Dalmations. The Pit And The Pendulum. The Day The Earth Caught Fire. The Human Condition. Through a Glass Darkly.

Best Cast- 1961

My Nominations: Guns Of Navarone. The Hustler. Judgement At Nuremberg. West Side Story.

Only four picks for this year for Best Cast. Guns Of Navarone is a minor ensemble piece with Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quale, and James Darren leading the way, propping up the likes up Richard Harris and Gia Scala in minor roles. The Hustler is an altogether smaller affair but may have the more standout individual performances from Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C Scott. Likewise, Judgement At Nuremberg relies more on it’s big players, such as Spencer Tracey, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Burt Lancaster, but also up and comers like William Shatner and Maximillian Schell. Finally, West Side Story’s tale of harmless gangs is given life by Natalie Wood, Russ Tamblyn, John Astin, Rita Moreno, Richard Beymer, and a host of other faces you didn’t realise appeared both in some of your favourite TV shows and movies and in this all singin, all dancin bonanza.

My Winner: Guns Of Navarone

Guns Of Navarone

Bang bang, did I get it? Let me know in the comments and in the poll


Best Stunt Work – 1961

My Nominations: Guns Of Navarone. Yojimbo. El Cid. The Comancheros. Mothra. One-Eyed Jacks.

For my nominations this year we have two early action classics, one old school epic, one slice of Japanese madness, and a forgotten film waiting to be resurrected. The Guns Of Navarone is one of the most popular man’s-man’s films, featuring an essentially all muscle cast throwing punches, running, hiding, shooting, and crashing their way across Nazi Greece. The action is on such a large scale that there are too many Stunt performers to mention, but thanks to the work of heroes like Bob Anderson (Star Wars Trilogy, LOTR Trilogy), Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin), Jimmy Lodge (Goldfinger, Live And Let Die), Joe Powell (Zulu, You Only Live Twice), and Bob Simmons (Dr. No, Goldinger), Navarone remains thrilling over 50 years later.

Yojimbo’s sword play was masterminded by Hiroshi Kanesu, Ryu Kuze (known for many Kurosawa collaberations), and Yoshio Sugino (Seven Samurai) while Mothra’s stunts were largely the product of Ishiro Honda and the effects crew. El Cid is one of the greatest epics from the early 60s and sees inspired work (especially involving horsies) from Buff Brady (The Green Hornet, Escape From New York), the Canutt Brothers (The Omega Man, The Wild Bunch, Ben Hur), and Jack Williams (The Magnificent Seven, Wild Wild West) amongst others. The Comancheros has more horse action with many of the same performers from El Cid and also featuring Jim Burk (Conan The Barbarian, Young Guns) and Chuck Hayward ( Blues Brothers, Spartacus). The forgotten One-eyed Jacks has strong work from the likes of Henry Wills (Bonanza, Magnificent Seven) and Paul Baxley (Dukes Of Hazard, Star Trek).

My Winner: Guns Of Navarone.


Best Make-Up – 1961

The award did not exist in 1961, so I’ll give my retrospective nominations and vote.

My Nominations: Atlantis, The Lost Continent. The Day The Earth Caught Fire. The Pit And The Pendulum.

Sure, Atlantis is a terrible film famous for its use of stock footage, but the effects are pretty damn good and the make-up is also up to scratch. The Pit And The Pendulum scores another personal nomination for its use of make-up, adding greatly to the darkly gothic feel, while The Day The Earth Caught Fire has a subtle use of make-up to play off the excellent effects. My win goes to Atlantis and the stellar work of William Tuttle and Mary Keats.


Best Music (Scoring) – 1961

Actual Nominations: (Score of a Dramatic or Comedy): Breakfast at Tiffany’sHenry Mancini El CidMiklós Rózsa FannyMorris Stoloff, Harry Sukman The Guns of NavaroneDimitri Tiomkin Summer and SmokeElmer Bernstein

(Scoring of a Musical): West Side StorySaul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal Babes in ToylandGeorge Bruns Flower Drum SongAlfred Newman, Ken Darby KhovanshchinaDimitri Shostakovich Paris BluesDuke Ellington

The actual winners were Breakfast at Tiffany’s and West Side Story. Mancini has just the right mix of Jazz, class, and old Hollywood that this doesn’t feel irratating or dated, while West Side Story is renowned for, if nothing else, it’s music.

My Nominations: Again, I’m not differentiating between the groups but I don’t think I can do any better than the Academy this time, so my win goes to Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Best Original Song- 1961

Actual NominationsMoon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Music by Henry Mancini; Lyric by Johnny Mercer. Bachelor in Paradise from Bachelor in Paradise – Music by Henry Mancini; Lyric by Mack David. Love Theme from El Cid (The Falcon and the Dove) from El Cid – Music by Miklos Rozsa; Lyric by Paul Francis Webster. Pocketful of Miracles from Pocketful of Miracles – Music by Jimmy Van Heusen; Lyric by Sammy Cahn. Town Without Pity from Town Without Pity – Music by Dimitri Tiomkin; Lyric by Ned Washington

Batchelor In Paradise:  Another annoying Mancini, dated, rambling song with lyrics about nothing and a sound straight out of a shopping mall glory hole. It is twee, but surprisingly has some sort of memorable tune.

El Cid: The Falcon And The Dove: This is a different beast entirely, sounding huge with the full orchestra backing, especially when merged with the introduction piece. It does show some aging but it has more of a timeless feel and at least the melody is memorable. It does feel like a bunch of lyrics were thrown in to the epic scoring last minute, but the song still pays off.

Pocketful Of Miracles: The intro may sound like Jingle Bells, and the singing may sound like a group of girl scouts dancing around your garden but it is jolly and has a catchy, advertisement like tune.  After hearing it I feel like I’m being forced into buying a pair of trousers. Or a gun.

Town Without Pity: This is a decent enough song, sung with that late 50s rock drawl with the likes of Elvis and Holly loved to use. There’s a jazzy drunkeness to it and an underlying current of sadness.

My pick from the actual nominations matches the real winner, with Moon River. It’s one of those few movie songs which both transcends the movie and becomes something special in its own right, and also evokes images of the film when its opening notes are heard.

Moon River

My Nominations: Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Moon River). Love Theme (El Cid). The Young Ones (The Young Ones). 101 Dalmations (Cruella De Vil)

My Winner: The Young Ones

My win goes to The Young Ones, mostly due to memories of the TV show. It’s still a great song without these memories and much faster than Moon River.

The Young Ones

Let me know if my ears need a re-tuning, or if I have missed one of your favourites, and have a go at the super-exciting poll!

Best Special Effects- 1961

Actual Nominations: Guns Of Navarone. The Absent Minded Professor

Clearly a quiet year then for this category according to The Academy. We know that isn’t true though. My winner here is GOFN.

Guns Guns Guns

My Nominations: Guns Of Navarone. The Absent Minded Professor. Atlantis. The Day The Earth Caught Fire, Mothra. The Pit And The Pendulum.

My Winner: The Day The Earth Caught Fire

My pick goes to the superb The Day The Earth Caught Fire and Les Bowie. Due to the mix of matte paintings, crumbling effects, post nuke imagery and orange-o-vision, the film retains a unique vision.

The Day The Earth Caught Fire

Let me know your thoughts? Did I miss out on some effects extravaganza!?

Best Sound – 1961

Actual Nominations: West Side Story. The Children’s Hour. Flower Drum Song. The Guns Of Navarone. The Parent Trap.

My choice of winner matches the real winner- West Side Story.

My Nominations: The Innocents. West Side Story. Guns Of Navarone. El Cid. Flower Drum Song.

My personal choice of winner is West Side Story.

West Side Story