Category Archives: 1951 Films

Show Boat-1951

Show Boat-1951

Director George Sidney

Starring Ava Gardner, Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson

Scott’s Review #1,177

Reviewed September 14, 2021

Grade: A-

Show Boat (1951) is a liberal-slanted musical centering around racism. It mixes comedy and drama well while remembering it is meant to entertain audiences. But it never loses sight of the important message it’s portraying.

Ava Gardner, who stars, never looked more beautiful.

The picture is based on the 1927 stage musical of the same name by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, and the 1926 novel by Edna Ferber.

The vibrant colors, sentimental songs, and a very Southern flair make it a winner.

Kern and Hammerstein provide the score for this adaptation of their Broadway hit which adds authenticity.

My favorite song is the devastatingly poignant and haunting tune, “Old Man River” which is reprised at the end of Show Boat.

Julie LaVerne (Gardner) and Steve Baker (Sterling) are successfully married entertainers forced to leave the showboat Cotton Blossom when it becomes known that Julie is of mixed race.

Meanwhile, the captain’s daughter Magnolia (Kathryn Grayson) and gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel) take over the act, fall in love, marry, and leave the boat for Chicago. There, they live off his gambling earnings, which dry up fast.

The ending of the film is not happy.

I love the tone of the film. It is a very big-budget production and it shows. Each number is belted out with gusto at the risk of feeling too uptight or stagey but regardless I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

The grandness of the numbers was what got me and never more than with Julie’s big number “Bill”, a very emotional song.

Her other famous number, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” isn’t so bad either.

They would have cast a black actress in a perfect world for authenticity’s sake. Someone like Dorothy Dandridge comes to mind and as wonderful as Gardner is this point gnawed at me throughout. The actress is caucasian though it could almost be the belief that she is of mixed race.

Nonetheless, Gardner also doesn’t sing her songs. Instead, they are sung by Annette Warren. I’m betting this is why she didn’t receive an Oscar nomination.

But, Show Boat isn’t all about Gardner. Showcasing a spectacular cast of black and white actors leads like Grayson and Keel are fabulous. I cared about their character’s trials and tribulations and wondered how much I found Grayson to resemble the legendary Judy Garland.

Supporting players like William Warfield as Joe must be mentioned. His rendition of “Old Man River” moved me. A bass-baritone singer and actor he makes the number quite simply and by far the best moment, musically and pictorially, in the film.

I could watch this scene on replay.

And Agnes Moorehead as Parthy Hawks or the resident bitch provides delicious comedy, intended or unintended.

Some are critical that the 1936 film version is superior and provides a grittier feel and I am conscious of that. I’ve never seen it but the 1951 version does have that Technicolor grandness.

Maybe I’ll check it out for a one-day comparison.

For a slice of southern-flavored showboatin’ check out Show Boat (1951). With a summery flavor, dancing, and superior photography, it is a good old time.

Oscar Nominations: Best Cinematography, Color, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture

A Streetcar Named Desire-1951

A Streetcar Named Desire-1951

Director Elia Kazan

Starring Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh

Scott’s Review #872

Reviewed March 2, 2019

Grade: A

An adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s dark and dreary Broadway play, the stellar cast of A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) features three of the four original members of the stage version who bring the film to the big screen.

Tremendous acting and a southern, morbid setting will leave the viewer transfixed and wondering what chaos and drama will next unfold. The story is sad pitiful and quite heavy as each character suffers guilt, resentment, rage, or regret, but the elements make the film a pure classic.

Aging southern belle Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) has lost her valuable southern plantation and flees her aristocratic livelihood to New Orleans to live with her working-class sister Stella (Kim Hunter) and brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando).

Unhappy, Blanche immediately begins acting snobbish in contrast to regular folks and offends many with her prim and proper ways.

Stanley feels slighted by Blanche convinced that she is keeping the inheritance from Stella resulting in conflict. She meets Mitch (Karl Malden) and it appears she may have a shot at happiness after all.

The most painful and well-dissected character is Blanche. A fun fact is that Leigh is the only actor among the principal four to not appear in the original stage version, the role played by Jessica Tandy.

Leigh undoubtedly is cast because of her star power at that time dives full-steam ahead into the role and gives the perfect blend of pathos and courage adding the most complexity.

Reduced to a life among the poor and struggling, the reality is tough for the once-wealthy heiress who has lost all her money through no fault of her own, her estate taken by creditors after her husband’s tragic death assumed to be suicide.

Almost as complicated is Stanley, played stunningly by Brando, an actor who with this film was beginning to embark on Hollywood success that would surround him throughout most of the 1950s.

The most prominent film cover art features a tee-shirt-clad Brando, his muscular arms and torso on display, and his smoldering bad-boy pose. The sexual tension between Stanley and Blanche is undeniable as their love/hate relationship is filled with unbridled passion.

Their carnal attraction is largely due to the brutish masculinity that Brando exudes on camera.

The combined supporting performances by both Kim Hunter and Malden almost match the leads as far as complexity and are just as important to recognize.

Hunter plays Stella as wounded and put-upon, but not weak. She has strength but is unsure who to trust or whether to leave her husband. Malden plays Mitch as benevolent and trusting, enamored with Blanche until her secrets are finally revealed.

Heartbroken, even he, the kindest character in the group is left unhappy. Malden is great at adding an every-man and graceful quality to Mitch.

Who can ever forget the poignant and melancholy wails of “Stella! Stella! Stella!” emitted by the tragic Stanley a moment forever remembered in cinematic history? He longingly begs for Stella’s forgiveness as he looks towards the sky.

The suggested rape, although not shown, is a powerful tidbit and controversial in the film for 1951. The audience not seeing the action is arguably as intense as having seen it as the imagination can often be more prominent.

The black and white cinematography adds emotional treasures as the bleak New Orleans life is captured and the struggle and hardship of the characters are wonderfully portrayed.

The run-down tenement most of the film takes place is dour, suffocating, and dingy, perfectly enveloping the characters’ lives.

Hopelessness and depression are commonalities as director Elia Kazan creates a film that grasps his audience and never lets go.

A Streetcar Named Desire is about conflict, pain, and the human desire for love and feeling thwarted by realism and dire circumstances.

Each of the four characters is capable of being dissected and sympathized with and worthy of discussion. This only proves the complexities of each.

I challenge a good comparison to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and A Streetcar Named Desire as both have similar qualities.

The film set an Oscar record when it became the first film to win in three acting categories (a feat only since matched by Network in 1976).

The awards it won were for Actress in a Leading Role (Leigh), Actor in a Supporting Role (Malden), Actress in a Supporting Role (Hunter), and Art Direction.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) is not an easy watch but assuredly is a feast in excellent acting and a bevy of heartbreaking and wounded characters.

Oscar Nominations: 4 wins-Best Motion Picture, Best Director-Elia Kazan, Best Actor-Marlon Brando, Best Actress-Vivien Leigh (won), Best Supporting Actor-Karl Malden (won), Best Supporting Actress-Kim Hunter (won), Best Screenplay, Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Sound Recording, Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White

A Christmas Carol-1951

A Christmas Carol-1951

Director Brian Desmond Hurst

Starring Alastair Sim

Scott’s Review #871

Reviewed February 26, 2019

Grade: A

A Christmas Carol (1951), released as the American title, or Scrooge in Great Britain, is yet another film incarnation of the world-famous 1843 novel by Charles Dickens.

This version seems to be the popular favorite, historically shown on television around the holidays.

Alastair Sim is perfectly cast as the curmudgeonly Scrooge with the eventual endearing qualities in this earnest and wonderful seasonal effort.

Set in bustling London, a fabulous setting for any Christmas film, the story gets off to a resounding start with Dickens’ words being narrated subsequently presenting a faithful tribute to the book.

The brooding Ebenezer Scrooge (Sim) angrily leaves the London Exchange on Christmas Eve eager for a quiet night at home. He begrudgingly gives his clerk Bob Cratchit (Mervyn Johns) the day off to spend with his poor family and bemoans the holidays as humbug to fellow wealthy businessmen that he encounters.

Scrooge embarks on a strange journey at night as he is visited by his deceased business partner Jacob Marley (Michael Hordern), shackled in chains and doomed to walk the earth clad in chains to represent his greed during his living years.

He warns Scrooge to repent or suffer the same fate as he is visited by three ghosts representing chapters of his life: The Spirit of Christmas Past, the Spirit of Christmas Present, and the Spirit of Christmas Yet to come.

The first two ghosts are more benevolent, and the third ghost is mysterious and frightening and takes Scrooge down a dim journey of what will be after he dies.

The centerpiece that makes A Christmas Carol work so well is its star, Alastair Sims. Hardly handsome, the actor is perfect in the role offering relish with his irritated facial expressions and untamed white locks. As he dismisses a waiter at the realization that he will be charged extra for more bread the penny-pinching Scrooge is in fine form as only Sims can be.

Later, his cleaning lady assumes Scrooge has lost his marbles as he frolics about gleefully in his bedclothes raising her salary beyond comprehension, clearly a changed and jolly man.

Sims play this range of emotions with relish and truthfulness.

The cinematographers work wonders creating a magical London set drizzling with celebratory facets. With eons of pure white falling snow and streets filled with young Christmas carolers and city people, the film offers a great feel.

With the Cratchit household modest yet filled with holiday cheer, the film gives the audience the right blend of sentimentality and spirit never turning into schmaltz.

The result is a richly produced film with a small budget proving that a robust budget does not equal greatness.

Rated G, the film has a few dark moments but is largely tailor-made for an all-ages audience. This undoubtedly is a testament to its success and staying power.

Neither a musical nor too heavy in the drama field, the pacing is perfect, and the story builds throughout the running time. After many decades most viewers will be familiar with the conclusion, an enchanting character turn that is always wonderful to witness with joyful glee.

A Christmas Carol (1951) is a legendary film with crackle and spark and an effective atmosphere leaving adoring fans to look forward to more each season.

For an interesting contrast, a suggested companion piece is the aptly titled Scrooge (1970) starring Albert Finney, a musical version of the same story.

Watched in tandem or even traded off, these two similar yet different creations offer interesting perspectives both enchant and celebrating the human spirit.

Strangers on a Train-1951

Strangers on a Train-1951

Director Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Farley Granger, Robert Walker

Top 100 Films #27

Scott’s Review #318


Reviewed January 2, 2016

Grade: A

A thrill-ride-per-minute film, a classic suspense story, filled with tension galore, Strangers On A Train is a great Alfred Hitchcock film from 1951, which began the onset of the “golden age of Hitchcock” lasting throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

A British version of the film exists somewhere, but I have yet to see it.

The American version is a brilliant, fast-paced experience involving complex, interesting characters, including one of the greatest villains in screen history, and a riveting and heart-pounding plot.

Who can forget the important ominous phrase “criss-cross”?

The film begins with a clever shot of two pairs of expensive shoes emerging from individual taxi cabs. Both are men, well-to-do, and stylish.  They board a train and sit across each other, accidentally bumping feet.

We are then introduced to the two main characters- tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) and wealthy Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker). They engage in conversation and immediately we become aware that Bruno is assertive, Guy the more passive individual.

Ultimately, Bruno manipulates Guy into thinking they will exchange murders- Bruno will kill Guy’s unfaithful wife, Miriam, while Guy will murder Bruno’s hated father.  While Bruno takes this dire “deal” seriously, Guy thinks Bruno is joking.

A psychological complexity of the film is the implied relationship between Guy and Bruno. Certainly, there are sexual overtones as flirtation and bonding immediately develop while they converse on the train.

They are complete opposites, which makes the relationship compelling- the devil and the angel if you will. The mysterious connection between these two men fascinates throughout the entire film.

Robert Walker makes Bruno a delicious villain- devious, clever, manipulative, and even comical at times. He is mesmerizing in his wickedness- so much so that the audience roots for him.

The fact that Hitchcock wisely makes the victim Miriam (wonderfully played by Laura Elliot) devious, only lends to the rooting value of Bruno during her death scene. His character is troubled, and almost rivals Norman Bates and Hannibal Lecter as a lovable, evil, villain.

Later in the film when Guy is playing tennis, he gazes into the stands to see the spectators turning left and right in tandem with the moving tennis ball, and the audience sees a staring straight ahead Bruno immersed in the sea of swaying heads.

It is a highly effective, creepy scene.

The pairing of Guy and his girlfriend Anne (a seemingly much older Ruth Roman and, interestingly despised by Hitchcock) does not work. Could this be a result of the implied attraction between Bruno and Guy? Or is this a coincidence?

The casting of Roman was forced upon Hitchcock by the studio, Warner Brothers.

Hitchcock reveals his “mommy complex”, a common theme in his films, as we learn that there is something off with Bruno’s mother, played by Marion Lorde, but the exact oddity is tough to pin down.

She and Bruno comically joke about bombing the White House, which gives the scene a jarring, confusing edge. Is she the reason that Bruno is diabolical?

The theme of women’s glasses is used heavily in Strangers On A Train. Miriam, an eyeglass wearer, is strangled while we, the audience, witness the murder through her dropped glasses. Black and white, the scene is gorgeous and cinematic and continues to be studied in film schools everywhere.

Later, Anne’s younger sister Barbara (comically played by Hitchcock’s daughter Pat Hitchcock), who also wears glasses, becomes an important character as Bruno is mesmerized by her likeness to the deceased Miriam, as a mock strangulation game at a dinner party goes wrong.

The concluding carnival scene is high-intensity and contains impressive special effects for 1951.

The spinning out-of-control carousel, and panicked riders, with the cat and mouse chase scene leading to a deadly climax, is an amazing end to the film.

Strangers On A Train (1951) is one of Hitchcock’s best classic thrill films.

The Day the Earth Stood Still-1951

The Day the Earth Stood Still-1951

Director Robert Wise

Starring Michael Rennie

Scott’s Review #155


Reviewed August 18, 2014

Grade: B+

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is one of the best, most credible, original, science fiction thrillers and certainly stands the test of time considering it is over sixty years old.

Made in 1951, the film is a message movie that tells the tale of a spaceship that suddenly arrives on planet Earth in the United States capitol of Washington D.C.

Michael Rennie is fantastic as Klaatu, the calm, poised, leader of the spaceship who, along with Gort, a 7-foot tall robot, intends to deliver a message of peace and humanity to the leaders of Earth.

The arrival sets off a panic and Klaatu is captured, only to escape and meet local townspeople as he tries to pass himself off as human and deliver his message.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a liberal-slanted, anti-war, pro-tolerance, and acceptance movie, but also a good, old-fashioned black-and-white science fiction thriller rolled into one.

It’s an important film.

It is an edgy, questioning film that can easily still be viewed and appreciated today (sad that not much seems to have changed in the world after all these years).

It is political and the setting of Washington D.C. is wise and symbolic.

While a handful of humans are portrayed as intelligent and accepting, most of Earth’s human beings, especially politicians, are portrayed as war-happy, foolish individuals.

The viewer will question the world around him or herself, and hopefully begin to question political decisions and the horrors of war that go on and on and on.

An American in Paris-1951

An American in Paris-1951

Director Vincente Minnelli

Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron

Scott’s Review #120


Reviewed July 19, 2014

Grade: B+

A classic film directed by Vincente Minnelli, An American in Paris is a musical from 1951, set in marvelous Paris- though to be fair, the entire film save for the opening scenes of Paris, is shot exclusively on a sound stage.

Gene Kelly stars as a struggling American artist named Jerry Mulligan, who lives in a quiet neighborhood, with his best friend, Adam Cook.

Jerry optimistically sings and tap dances his way through life, befriending neighbors and school kids and spending time in the local cafe until he is finally noticed by wealthy art buyer Milo, played by Nina Foch.

This sets off a quadrangle when Jerry falls for youthful Lise (Leslie Caron), already dating a suave French singer, Georges Guetary.

An American in Paris is a cheerful, fantasy film. It is bright, colorful, and filled with musical numbers and dancing.

Highlights in this department are “’S Wonderful” and “I Got Rhythm”.

The brilliance is the awesome eighteen-minute epic finale involving Gene Kelly’s ballet throughout Parisian sets of various artists. It is as innovative as anything in film history.

The drawback of the film is the lack of chemistry between Kelly and Caron, an aspect I notice more with each passing viewing.

There is more chemistry between Kelly and Foch, who is meant to be the odd woman out, and I still find myself rooting for the two of them instead of the intended couple.

I do love how none of the four characters involved in the story is considered a villain, which adds to the merry feel of the film.

The predictable ending is wonderful and romantic.

An American in Paris won the 1951 Best Picture, Oscar, upsetting the heavily favored A Streetcar Named Desire.

Oscar Nominations: 6 wins-Best Motion Picture (won), Best Director-Vincente Minnelli, Best Story and Screenplay (won), Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (won), Best Art Direction, Color (won), Best Cinematography, Color (won), Best Costume Design, Color (won), Best Film Editing

The African Queen-1951

The African Queen-1951

Director John Huston

Starring Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn

Scott’s Review #76


Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B-

The African Queen (1951) is a difficult film to review.

Revered and appearing on many greatest films of all time lists, overall this film is disappointing to me.

Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn star as a couple who despise each other, stranded together on a tugboat in Africa on the eve of World War I.

Sure, the chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn (Hollywood royalty in their day) is there and opposite attraction has a definite rooting value as the passion between them oozes off the screen.

He is a grizzled alcoholic, American. She is a repressed, puritanical British woman. The locales of Africa, as the couple traverses on a makeshift boat, are gorgeous.

That is it for me though- nothing else about the film is spectacular.

The plot is rather silly and unrealistic and the two are thrown together purely for plot purposes. The adventure seems quite secondary to the love story at hand.

How far-fetched is that an “old maid” and a sailor could build torpedoes and blow up an enormous German warship?

The film is a decent, old-fashioned romantic adventure film, but not much more and that disappoints me because I was expecting much more due to the film’s accolades.

Bogart won the 1951 Best Actor Oscar for this performance.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Director-John Huston, Best Actor-Humphrey Bogart (won), Best Actress-Katharine Hepburn, Best Screenplay