Best Writing – Original- 1961

An odd year for this category in that the vast majority of the nominees were non-Americans, yet the winner for his small town tale of religion and sexual repression was Playwright of the Midwest William Inge. Splendor In The Grass touched many a nerve but wasn’t so shocking that critics and audiences were put off. General Della Rovere was based on a novel so probably shouldn’t have been nominated here, while Ballad Of The Soldier was released in Russia 2 years earlier and is a complex tale of various relationships during war times. La Dolce Vita is one of the titans of World Cinema and gets my vote as winner, while Lover Come Back is a silly romantic comedy which we won’t mention again.

Actual Nominations:  Splendor In The Grass- William Inge. La Dolce Vita- Federico Fellini. Ballad Of The Soldier- Valentin Yoshov. General Della Rovere- Sergio Amidei. Lover Come Back- Stanley Shapiro.

My Winner: La Dolce Vita

My Nominations: La Dolce Vita. Through A Glass Darkly. Viridiana. The Day The Earth Caught Fire.

My Winner: La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita

Best Writing (Adapted)- 1961

Actual Nominations: Judgement At Nuremberg- Abby Mann. Breakfast At Tiffany’s- George Axelrod. The Guns Of Navarone- Carl Foreman. The Hustler- Sidney Carroll, Robert Rossen. West Side Story- Ernest Lehman.

My Winner: The real winner was the tense Judgement At Nuremberg, but my choice from the actual nominations is Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s

My Nominations: Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The Guns Of Navarone. The Hustler. The Pit And The Pendulum- Richard Matheson. The Innocents William Archibald, Truman Capote, John Mortimer.

My Winner: Close between The Pit And The Pendulum and The Innocents, and as much as I love Matheson, I think The Innocents edges this one. Dreary, deep,creeping, ugly stuff from Capote and William Archibald

The Innocents

Best Costume Design: 1961

Actual Nominations: BW: Piero Gherardhi – La Dolce Vita. Dorothy Jeakins – The Children’s Hour. Howard Shoup – Claudelle Inglish. Jean Louis – Judgement At Nuremberg. Yoshiro Muraki – Yojimbo.  Colour 1961: Irene Sharaff – West Side Story. Bill Thomas – Babes In Toyland. Jean Louis – Back Street. Irene Sharaff – Flower Drum Song. Edith Head/Walter Plunkett – Pocketful Of Miracles.

An interesting year with Jean Louis picking up a nomination in both BW and Colour categories and Irene Sharaff getting two for colour, including the win. Naturally, the eternal Edith Head got her yearly nomination.

My Winner: Out of the actual nominations my winner for colour would be West Side Story, agreeing with The Academy, and for Black and White I would go against La Dolce Vita and choose Yojimbo.

Yojimbo

My Nominations: The Children’s Hour. Yojimbo. West Side Story. The Guns Of Navarone. Hogs And Warships. The Human Condition. Nefertiti. The End Of Summer. Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

I’ve picked a few films which  missed out on nominations- a few Japanese films marked by elegance, a war film accurately costumed, and Nefertiti, Queen Of The Nile which did a great job capturing the age with a limited budget and what would be deemed a lower quality European cast. It’s difficult to argue with the vibrancy of West Side Story once again, so it gets my vote.

My Winner: West Side Story

West Side Story

Best Art Direction: 1961

Actual Nominations:   The Absent Minded Professor. The Children’s Hour. The Hustler. Judgment At Nuremberg. La Dolce Vita. Breakfast At Tiffany’s. El Cid. Flower Drum Song. Summer And Smoke. West Side Story.

It’s difficult to argue against West Side Story as winner due to it being so vibrant and energetic. Out of the actual nominations it would be my winner too, but a lot of this is down to the sheer force of budget which other films couldn’t compete with. The other nominations each share a passion for looking damn good, and lend a realsim to their individual stories and places.

Rockets Vs Dolphins

My Nominations: The Absent Minded Professor. West Side Story. Breakfast At Tiffany’s. El Cid. Atlantis, The Lost Continent. The Pit And The Pendulum.

Ah ha! But the Oscars left out a classic of art direction and scope when they didn’t nominate Corman’s gothic hit. Timeless sets and a unique look lend the adaptation of Poe’s tale a fearful vibe which today’s films can’t equal. Atlantis comes close also for similar reasons, while it always seemed strange that Breakfast At Tiffany’s didn’t receive a nomination here.

My Winner: The Pit And The Pendulum.

Preparing The Pit

Best Cinematography: 1961

Official Nominations: The Hustler. Judgement At Nuremberg. One, Two, Three. The Absent-Minded Professor. The Children’s Hour. West Side Story. A Majority Of One. Fanny. Flower Drum Song. One-Eyed Jacks.

My Winners: The real winners this year were The Hustler for Black and White, and West Side Story for Colour. Fair enough.

My Nominations: I didn’t pick between BW and Colour:

West Side Story. The Day The Earth Caught Fire. The End Of Summer. Yojimbo. The Hustler.

Yojimbo’s Western influenced wide shots (infused with typical Kurosawa flair) and general inspired beauty from Kazuo Miyagawa and Takao Saito earn the win from me. Asakazu Nakai, famous for his work with Kurosawa, instead worked on The End Of Summer, offering tantalising glimpses of Kyoto, while Harry Waxman helped provide the singular vision for The Day The Earth Caught Fire.

My Winner: Yojimbo

Yojimbo

Best Animated Film: 1961

Not 101 Dalmations
Not 101 Dalmations

Well there can only be one winner really- 101 Dalmations. Yet another timeless Disney tale this one is notable for a general lack of musical numbers. With Sleeping Beauty not making as much money as expected, this one needed to be a hit or the company could well have collapsed. Luckily it was, thanks to some memorable scenes, but mostly down to the eternal character of Cruella De Vil.

Best Foreign Film: 1961

Actual Nominations: Through A Glass Darkly. Harry And The Butler. Immortal Love. Placido. The Important Man.

Bergman’s allegory is packed with subtext but just isn’t as entertaining or thought provoking as some of his other work- it isn’t one of my favourites but shows a mastery that nothing else could compete with this year. Scandanavia had a good year with Bert Christensen’s Harry And The Butler gaining a nomination, while Spain provided the darker laughs with Placido. Japan was not to be undone with Toshiro Mifune appearing as an Amerindian (obviously) who in a terrific performance strives to be boss of his town in An Important Man. Keisuke Kinoshite’s Immortal Love proved there was more to Japan than Kurosawa and Ozu.

My Winner: Through A Glass Darkly

Through A Glass Darkly

My Nominations: Yojimbo. Through A Glass Darkly. The End Of Summer. La Notte. Viridiana. The Human Condition. The Long Absence. La Dolce Vita.

Well my winner really has to Yojimbo– Kurosawa, Mifune, Samurai, Dogs eating arms, what more do you want? This classic shows a samurai playing two rival towns off against each other for his own gain/entertainment. It’s not an epic like many of his other films but rather shows the devious side of man’s nature on a small scale. Also noteworthy is Antonioni’s La Notte, a classic about nothing, where a middle aged couple experience loss and flirt with other people over the course of a day. Bunuel’s sexually charged Viridiana was snubbed by The Oscars due to it’s controversial nature but remains one of his most accessible works. The End Of Summer is a fitting near final film by Ozu, a family drama dealing with many variations on life and death, while The Long Absence covers better than most that good old ‘my husband/wife/friend went missing years ago but now they are back with amnesia’ story. Special mention to The Human Condition by Masaki Kobayashi which is more typically known as a trilogy but taken as a whole is one of Asia’s greatest ever films.

My Winner: Yojimbo

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Best Supporting Actress- 1961

Official Nominations: Rita Moreno. Judy Garland. Fay Bainter. Lotte Lenya. Una Merkel.

For this year’s category we have a wide variety of characters in a wide range of films. Unsurprisingly, the official winner was Rita Moreno as the feisty and ultimately treacherous Anita. At the opposite end of the scale is Judy Garland as the reluctant Irene, and I reluctantly give her my pick as winner. Fay Bainter stars as a wealthy grandmother in Children’s Hour who doesn’t have much impact on the story and Lotte Lenya and Una Merkel are bizarre choices in movies long since forgotten – The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone and Summer And Smoke.

My nominations: Rita Moreno. Judy Garland. Anita Ekberg.

Unfortunately I cannot do better than the official choices this year, so my nominations are Rita Moreno and Judy Garland, with the Oz creature picking up the win, but I also add Anita Ekberg: If only for jumping around in a fountain in La Dolce Vita, but her performance in the groundbreaking movie was much more.

Judy Garland

As always, feel free to leave your comments below!

Best Supporting Actor- 1961

Actual Nominations: Nuremberg and The Hustler strike again with Montgomery Clift getting a nod for the former and Jackie Gleason and George C Scott for the latter. Peter Falk gets his second nomination in 2 years for Pocketful Of Miracles, whilst George Chakiris picked up the win for West Side Story and hasn’t done a tap since. My pick goes to Jackie as he never got any other nominations.

My Winner: Jackie Gleason

My Nominations: Jackie Gleason. Anthony Quinn. David Niven. Montgomery Clift. Russ Tamblyn.

I’ve added a couple of stalwarts from The Guns Of Navarone to my list – there isn’t much to pick between the rugged Quinn and the explosive (‘s expert) Niven. Throw in Russ Tamblyn as the leader of The Jets, and we have a good mix of stars.

My Winner: Jackie Gleason.

Jackie Gleason

As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments, and your picks in the poll

Best Actress: 1961

Official Nominations: Sophia Loren. Natalie Wood, Piper Laurie, Audrey Hepburn, Geraldine Page

Thankfully the leading actress award is much better than the supporting actress award this year. It was a year of big guns, with Sophia Loren edging out the competition. It was the first time an Oscar had been awarded for a non-English spoken performance and it is well deserved in a gut-wrenching display of emotions. However, Natalie Wood, Piper Laurie, and Audrey Hepburn were also nominated, and my pick, only by a slight amount goes to Hepburn. ‘Cos she’s prettier’. Laurie exudes exuberance in The Hustler and she would get even greater roles as time progressed, while Wood is strong in a role which seemingly proves that if you’re not a whore, you’ll go crazy and be locked up. Rounding up the category is Geraldine Page who would get a succession of nominations and has an adequate time in the Tennessee Williams play adaptation.

My Winner: Audrey Hepburn

My nominations: Audrey Hepburn. Piper Laurie. Sophia Loren. Deborah Kerr. Natalie Wood.

I’ve only added one more nomination to the list – Deborah Kerr’s deliberatly frigid performance in The Innocents in which she cowers in fear, tries to act as a confident maternal figure whilst battling demons and sexual repression.

My Winner: Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey Hepburn

If you agree, disagree, or neither… , let us know in the comments and the poll!