Director: Laurence Olivier
Distributed by: Rank Film Distributors
Laurence Olivier, the premiere Shakespeare actor of the 20th century wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the title role. OK, that's pretty impressive. Olivier would win Best Actor, along with Best Picture, but interestingly enough, not Best Director. Oh well, you can't win them all! Hamlet is probably Shakespeare's most popular play, next to Romeo and Juliet, so I don't really have to tell you the story. Just know that people love this movie, and this also probably won because Henry V was snubbed two years before. The academy has a funny way of fixing their mistakes, but they are usually not so prompt. Regardless, the movie deserved the win, though it won over the popular Treasure of Sierra Madre and Red Shoes, two movies that could have won in any other year. The movie, like I said, is still popular, but some like Olivier's other works, if only because they don't have Hamlet basically making out with his mother.
Winner: All the King's Men
Director: Robert Rossen
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
All the King's Men is about the rise and fall of Willie Stark, a politician who goes from crusader against corruption, to corrupt himself once he becomes Governor. It's basically a loose biography of Huey Long, a Louisiana Governor in the 1930's who was later assassinated. Long was murdered in 1935, meaning that Long's memory had yet to fade from the public's mind. This, along with acting Broderick Crawford, gave All the King's Men the momentum to win. That, and the rest of the nominees were pretty bad. Two were war movies, and Hollywood was just realizing the the public was getting tired of seeing war on screen. Funny story: John Wayne was offered the part of Willie Stark but turned it down calling it unpatriotic. Wayne would instead star in Sands of Iwo Jima. Both Wayne and Crawford were nominated for Best Actor. Crawford ended up winning. Sorry, Mr. Wayne, but I guess people like unpatriotic movies more.
Winner: All About Eve
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
This film deals with the pain of getting older in the entertainment industry. Specifically when you are an actress. Funny enough, another movie that was nominated, Sunset Boulevard, dealt with the same exact issue. What probably propelled this movie above Sunset Boulevard and other such movies like King Solomon's Mine, Father of the Bride, and Born Yesterday, was the sheer amount of star power in the cast. The cast included Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, and Hugh Marlowe. Not too shabby, This was basically Bette Davis' comeback and is considered her best film. Too bad she didn't win an Oscar for it. I guess she'll just have to be happy with her two Oscars and being voted #2 on the list of greatest female stars of all time.
Winner: An American in Paris
Directors: Vincent Minnelli, Gene Kelly
Distributed by: MGM
This is actually one that I saw recently, and it wasn't bad. It had a lot of dancing. I mean what do you expect, it's Gene Kelly. The problem with the end is that it's about twenty minutes straight of dancing. I got up in the middle of it, went to the bathroom thinking it would be done by the time I came back, but no, it was still going strong. If you don't like long dancing numbers than stay away from this film. Gene Kelly plays a painter named Jerry in the film, who falls in love with a girl that is with someone else, but with whom she doesn't love. A wealthy lover of paintings takes Jerry under her wing but is more interested in him than his art. Hilarity ensues. Wait, did I say hilarity? I meant to say dancing. A lot of it. But that's OK because Kelly is a really good dancer and can sing to boot. The story is kind of weak, but I kind of feel like all Kelly wanted was to show audiences a movie filled with nothing but dancing numbers. I guess the academy liked Kelly and his dancing because this movie beat out A Streetcar Named Desire. This is one of those years where the winner didn't deserve to win in the slightest, and everyone knows that now. I'm convinced Kelly has the ability to hypnotize people with his twirling.
Winner: The Greatest Show on Earth
Director: Cecil DeMille
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
This is another film that basically didn't deserve the award. Not that it's a bad movie per-se, but most believe it's not as good as High Noon or John Wayne's The Quiet Man. Most equate this to a makeup for all times DeMille didn't get an Oscar win, since he did sort of help create Hollywood and all. This was considered his last shot, so to speak, and the Academy probably wanted to make sure he got something. Others claim that the political climate helped the movie win. Joseph McCarthy was making it hard for filmmakers and actors that didn't play his game, which meant that certain movies were getting bad reps because their director/lead actor/lead actress/ producer was under suspicion of being a communist. DeMille was a staunch supporter of McCarthy so it may have helped it along by not being bogged down by communist allegations. Most critics today consider it to be the worst Best Picture of all time, though others go with Crash. Again, this was probably more than anything a lifetime achievement award for DeMille. The movie does boast a ton of stunts, circus acts and more star cameos than you can shake a stick at. Here's the cast list: Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame, Henry Wilcoxon, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby. This cast was loaded with stars, though some, like Hope and Crosby, were just short cameos. Steven Spielberg said that the train wreck scene was part of the reason he became a filmmaker, so there's that! If it weren't for this circus movie, we wouldn't have a ton of really good movies!