Category Best Picture Revisited

Best Picture Revisited: Grand Hotel (1931-1932)

“I want to be alone.”

These memorable words, in Greta Garbo’s Russian-accented delivery, are part of her enduring image. She was the reclusive actress who shied from fame and publicity throughout her estimable career. In the context of Grand Hotel, directed by Edmund Goulding, Garbo’s depressed ballerina urges her handlers to leave her, so that she can remove her costume and forget the disappointing crowd at the performance. Garbo doesn’t employ any dramatics to get our attention in this scene; she doesn’t need to.

Best Picture Revisited: From Here to Eternity (1953)

The Best Picture winner of 1953, From Here to Eternity, could have been a major failure. Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra were not known for dramas. Director Fred Zinnemann had to consolidate an 800-plus-page novel into two hours, and there were many unsavory topics in James Jones’s book to work around: adultery, STDs, homosexuality. The […]


The first time I watched American Beauty, in high school, I knew this was a movie for adults. There were clear similarities: my ordinary suburban house; my dad worked for a large corporation; I felt lonely, isolated. But even then, I sensed the broad strokes Sam Mendes and Alan Ball painted with: this wasn’t my […]


In 1964, most people couldn’t tell you who Marni Nixon was. She had dubbed Deborah Kerr in The King and I and An Affair to Remember, then Natalie Wood in West Side Story — and without screen credit. But when it came to dubbing Eliza Doolittle, Audrey Hepburn suddenly experienced the first noteworthy public backlash to not singing for […]


1968 was a turning point for the movie musical. Voters had given Best Picture to three musicals so far in the sixties: West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music. But then the Academy speciously nominated Doctor Doolittle, the Rex Harrison tuner that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox and, rumor has it, was up for Best Picture […]


Gigi was released in 1958, when the MGM unit was in decline. Musicals had changed since the Gene Kelly days; no more spontaneous dancing and dream ballets. Peter Wollan, in his BFI Film Classics guide to Singin’ in the Rain, suggests it was “McCarthyism, in the broad sense of the term—the determination to destroy all […]


Two hours into Patton, George C. Scott surveys the wounded, with the smoke of battle rolling by. “I love it,” he says as George Patton. “God help me, I do love it so. I love it more than my life.” War is all there is for this General Patton, the merciless commander of the Third […]

Best Picture Revisited: Rebecca (1940)

By the forties, Alfred Hitchcock was the leading creative force on his films, mostly lightweight spy capers like The Lady Vanishes. He had signed a contract with David O. Selznick for a series of American movies, with larger budgets than his British work. But from the outset, he wrestled with Selznick over control: Hitchcock pushed […]

Best Picture Revisited: Hamlet (1948)

Many Best Picture winners from Casablanca to The Godfather now seem like obvious choices for the big award. How could the Oscars have dreamed of not awarding Lawrence of Arabia or On the Waterfront? In this column, we’ll revisit the other Best Pictures that aren’t as well-known. Have all the winners held up so well? […]