When Best Picture Winners Go Seriously Wrong

A long goal I’ve had is to watch every best picture winner. It’s not a goal I take too seriously. I mean, if I did, then I’d just go and buy them all and start watching one a night. (And I would do it, by golly. Because goals!) But when I have the chance, I try to see new ones now and then. I want to see what people thought was the best picture each year. These must all be awesome movies, right?


Today’s case in point? The Greatest Show on Earth. You’d think it had everything it needed to be excellent. Charlton Heston. Jimmy Stewart. Cecil B. DeMille. It beat out High Noon for best picture, for crying out loud. High Noon! This movie is even better than High Noon!

Except it isn’t. At all. In fact, it isn’t even a good movie for most of it. The first 2/3 of the film play out like one big paid advertisement for Barnum and Bailey. The writing is abysmal. The plot is idiotic and/or non-existent. It’s a bad movie. The ending brings it up a bit, so that it’s somewhat salvageable, but overall, this movie about the circus is ho hum.

So how in the world did it beat High Noon? Easy. Joe McCarthy had just black listed the screenwriter of High Noon, Carl Foreman, and the members of the academy were reluctant to get in the middle of that mess. Sheesh.

Of course, it also helped that Greatest Show on Earth was the highest grossing movie of the year. It was a real hit for its day, but why? I’d say in the end the movie really delivered on spectacle. It’s got some pretty tense circus scenes, and it’s got a huge cast and a whole lot of money up on the screen.

But a great movie? Nope. Just sort of kind of good.

Even more surprising for that year is the movie that wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. Singin’ in the Rain. The moral of the story is that just because everyone says something is a certain way, doesn’t mean they have any clue what they’re talking about.

Happy Friday, all. Have a great weekend!


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