February 23, 2011

4 My Oscar Picks, Part 6 Continued: 1963

This is a continuation of the post on past Academy Awards, comparing the winners with my own choices, that I began last week. I'll be covering the years 1961-1965, presenting my thoughts on one year each day this week. Today: 1963.


The Winner: Tom Jones
My Pick: Tom Jones

The Winner: Tony Richardson, Tom Jones
My Pick: Tony Richardson, Tom Jones

The Winner: Sidney Poitier, Lilies of the Field
My Pick: Albert Finney, Tom Jones

The Winner: Patricia Neal, Hud
My Pick: Leslie Caron, The L-Shaped Room

The Winner: Melvyn Douglas, Hud
My Pick: Melvyn Douglas, Hud

The Winner: Margaret Rutherford, The VIPs
My Pick: Margaret Rutherford, The VIPs

The Winner:
My Pick:

Tom Jones and its director Tony Richardson were the right choices for best picture and best director. This was only the second time a truly British film had taken the best picture award, the first being Olivier's Hamlet in 1948. (The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia were UK-US co-productions.) It's an immensely entertaining movie that packs a tremendous amount of plot into its two-hour running time without ever relaxing its brisk pace. Its irreverent treatment of a classic of British literature is a real treat, as far as imaginable from a stuffy version of a literary classic. It's hard to imagine the film would have been so successful with anyone else playing its roguish hero but Albert Finney, and I picked his performance as the best by an actor that year. In truth it was a toss-up between Finney and Paul Newman's self-centered louse in Hud (for me his second-best performance after The Hustler), but I had chosen Newman just two years before, and that was the deciding factor.

Now about Patricia Neal. The New York Film Critics, who didn't then distinguish between lead and supporting performances, named her best actress for Hud, and the Academy obediently followed with a nomination as best actress. But I just don't see this as a lead performance. She was third-billed in the credits, after second-billed Melvyn Douglas, and Douglas was nominated, and deservedly won, as best supporting actor. When Neal appeared with Robert Osborne on TCM, she agreed with Osborne that her performance in Hud was really a supporting one. (These days it seems to work in reverse, with actors in roles that by any measure should be considered leads accepting nominations in the supporting categories, either to avoid competition with a costar or to increase their chances of winning.) I would gladly have voted for Neal in the supporting category, but I couldn't bring myself to vote for her as best actress. I thought the strongest of the rest of the best actress field was Leslie Caron's sensitive performance in the British film The L-Shaped Room. Caron received both the Golden Globe and a BAFTA award for this performance. Interestingly, Neal received a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress but lost to Margaret Rutherford. Without Neal, the best supporting actress race was a curious one, with three of the five nominees coming from Tom Jones. I chose Margaret Rutherford simply for being Margaret Rutherford. Roman Polanski's first full-length film, Knife in the Water, received a nomination for best foreign language film, and in another year I would gladly have voted for it. But Fellini's great was also nominated, and it simply knocked the Polanski film, as good as it was, out of the running. Biggest omission: Julie Harris, best actress for The Haunting, my own pick as best performance of the year by an actress.

Tomorrow I'll continue with my thoughts on the Academy Awards for 1964.


  1. R.D: I can't argue with any of your selections. I do wish Roddy McDowall had gotten a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for "Cleopatra." Acting wise, he's far and away the best thing in it.

  2. Kevin, it's interesting you should bring up McDowall. I'm not sure what the nomination process was at the time, but I get the impression that studios or producers submitted candidates for nomination to the Academy. I've read that McDowall was considered a sure bet for a nomination for best supporting actor but that his name was accidentally entered for best actor. (I checked IMDb, and they repeat this anecdote, blaming 20th Century-Fox for the mistake.) He did receive a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor but didn't win.

  3. I read the same thing about McDowall, that the studio slipped up. Ah, those studios. I agree he should have been nominated. I agree with you about Julie Harris in "The Haunting." She is so good in that film. Otherwise, great job. I've always loved "Tom Jones," although a few years ago I had the pleasure of seeing "How the West Was Won" at the Cinerama Dome in L.A. It changed the way I looked at that film, and I now get -- and accept -- its inclusion as a best picture nominee. "Tom Jones" is in its own class. The other film I wish had received some recognition beyond best song is "Charade."

  4. Filmboy, as you know, I'm a big fan of "Charade." It's too bad that superior entertainments like this have always been looked down on by the Academy. There should have been room for at least one major nomination. Audrey Hepburn was always popular with the Academy and as you know this wasn't an especially strong year for lead performances by actresses, so she probably had the best chance of a nomination of anyone from this movie.

    I've seen only one film in a real Cinerama theater many years ago, and it made watching the film a more impressive experience than it would have been otherwise. When I saw "How the West Was Won" on DVD, the lines separating the three sections of the image were quite apparent and disconcerting. But it was a good movie, better than I expected. The Debbie Reynolds character helped unify an otherwise sprawling story. I liked the first section with James Stewart and a villainous Walter Brennan the best. Oddly, I found the section directed by John Ford the least interesting.