And the Oscar Doesn't Go to...
Perhaps the most egregious example of Academy blinking. Best Picture of 1952 according to the Academy? Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth. You've never seen it? I'm not surprised. Look, I actually have a deep affection for this film, but in a guilty pleasure kind of way because it is a really terrible film. The story of the "tangled skeins" of the lives of circus performers that ends with a literal and figurative train wreck! Overly long with pretentious voiceovers by DeMille himself. Charlton Heston is too young to be believable as a crusty circus boss. Betty Hutton--impressive doing her own aerial work--bellows her songs and most of her lines. And poor Cornel Wilde with a wildly fluctuating and undefined accent was terrified of heights and reportedly goaded to tears by DeMille during filming. Oh, and then there's James Stewart. One can't help but wonder if he asked to be kept disguised by clown makeup throughout the film out of embarrassment.
Not that there isn't stuff to enjoy here. Such as first use of elephant as deadly weapon?
And there's some great snarky dialogue between Hutton and Gloria Grahame. But Best Picture in a year that included other nominees:
The Quiet Man
And films that weren't even nominated for Best Picture:
Pat and Mike
The Bad and the Beautiful
Singin' in the Freaking Rain, for godssake!
Greatest film musical ever made and it wasn't even nominated and lost out to a circus train wreck!
Yeah. It doesn't get a whole lot worse than that.
Not quite as egregious but still very very wrong, the tedious Around the World in 80 Days wins over films like Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I. Not even nominated that year? Lust for Life, Anastasia and possibly the greatest western ever made The Searchers.
It's one thing when it's a whole movie, but the Academy screws over the individual, too. One of the worst examples was in 1939, Hollywood's "Golden Year." You can argue that the wealth of fine films and performances played a part in this but it's hard to justify the bland Robert Donat's win for Goodbye, Mr. Chips against powerhouse performances by Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind (he cried, for crying out loud! The big man wept on screen!) and James Stewart's heroic filibuster in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It was a two-for-one screw up that year.
An early example of "beautiful, glamorous woman scrubs off her makeup, dons dowdy clothes, wins award as serious actress" in which Grace Kelly overacted the oppressed wife of an alcoholic singer in The Country Girl to win over Judy Garland's transcendent career-defining performance as a different kind of wife of an alcoholic in A Star is Born.
So. Who else got shafted by the Academy?
*Will not get into Peter O'Toole's shafting in 1962 because I know of at least two people who will hunt me down and hurt me over that one.