When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1951, it gave its Best Picture award to An American in Paris, a musical that I neither dislike nor am especially fond of. Any of these would have been a better choice:
1. Ace in the Hole
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder, Lesser Samuels, and Walter Newman
Wilder's darkest, bleakest film. But it's still a funny one.
2. Strangers on a Train
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Czenzi Ormonde, Raymond Chandler, Whitfield Cook, and Ben Hecht, from a novel by Patricia Highsmith
Walker's 32nd Law: You shouldn't bother trying to remake a Hitchcock movie. Corollary to Walker's 32nd Law: If you absolutely must remake a Hitchcock movie, for the love of God don't give your starring role to Billy Crystal.
3. The Thing from Another World
Directed by Christian Nyby and/or Howard Hawks
Written by Hawks, Charles Lederer, and Ben Hecht, from a novella by John W. Campbell, Jr.
"An intellectual carrot? The mind boggles."
4. A Streetcar Named Desire
Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by Tennessee Williams and Oscar Saul, from a play by Williams
Yes, they bowdlerized the play, but I have yet to see a better performance of it. No, not even the one with Marge Simpson.
5. The Tales of Hoffmann
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Written by Powell, Pressburger, and Dennis Arundell, from an opera by Jacques Offenbach and Jules Barbier
Many years ago, I watched this in the middle of the night while my wife was out of town. Our daughter woke up in her crib and started crying, so I let her rest with me and the movie; looking at the dancers calmed her down. The next time someone tells you this is a "difficult" film, remember that a baby can enjoy it.
6. The Lavender Hill Mob
Directed by Charles Crichton
Written by T.E.B. Clarke
"I propagate British cultural depravity."
7. Miracle in Milan
Directed by Vittorio De Sica
Written by De Sica, Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Mario Chiari, and Adolfo Franci, from a novel by Zavattini
A strange hybrid of neorealism and fantasy, with squatters using witchcraft to battle the authorities. My favorite De Sica film.
8. The Man in the White Suit
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Written by Mackendrick, and Roger MacDougall, John Dighton
Unions and corporate chieftains join forces to suppress an invention that would make their industry unnecessary. Screw Star Wars: This is Alec Guinness' best science-fiction movie.
9. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Written and directed by Albert Lewin
The high point in Jack Cardiff's career as a cinematographer.
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Visconti, Cesare Zavattini, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, and Francesco Rosi
For a comedy, this made me awfully sad.
11. People Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
12. The African Queen (John Huston)
13. Four Ways Out (Pietro Germi)
14. Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson)
15. On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray)
16. He Ran All the Way (John Berry)
17. Susana (Luis Buñuel)
18. Rabbit Fire (Chuck Jones)
19. The Man from Planet X (Edgar G. Ulmer)
20. The Tall Target (Anthony Mann)
Of the films of 1951 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Venom and Eternity.