Friday, August 15, 2014


The Oscar nominees for Best Picture of 1968 were The Lion in Winter, Romeo and Juliet, Oliver!, Funny Girl and Rachel, Rachel.  Five mighty fine films.  The winner was Oliver! Its director, Carol Reed, won the Oscar for Best Director.

I admit it.  I have quite an affection for Oliver!                                                                                      
Like fellow Best Picture Oscar nominee, William Wyler's Funny Girl, I feel its an excellent screen adaptation of a hit Broadway musical directed by a film director who wasn't known for making musicals.
I was a high school teen when I saw Oliver! for the first time.  I was already a classic film fan.  I noticed that the 1927 silent screen classic, Metropolis, had an influence on Carol Reed.  Remember the workers in Metropolis?  The spiritually beaten down workers who moved in unison and wore the same outfits as they labored?

Look at the opening song, the "Food, Glorious Food" number sung by the orphaned child laborers in Carol Reed's Oliver!
A big, deluxe, colorful, lushly orchestrated and brilliantly choreographed musical may have seemed an odd vehicle for Carol Reed to direct but, when you look at it, you see that he imaginatively took elements of his renowned earlier work and played them on the other end of the scale. The dark elements of Charles Dickens original story run through the musical version.

Oliver! has key components in common with Carol Reed's 1949 classic, The Third Man.
There's crime in The Third Man.  We're made aware of underworld and we see underground activity with shadowy figures and bad behavior.

In Oliver!, there's enormously talented Ron Moody as Fagin, recruiting poor young homeless boys to become street thieves.  This performance earned Moody as Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Fagin answers to the brooding bully Bill Sikes played by beefcake British actor, Oliver Reed.  There will be chases through the streets at nighttime. A faithful pet will lead authorities to the murderer Sikes.
A faithful pet identifies the morally corrupt Harry Lime in The Third Man.
Anna, the very dear woman played by Alida Valli, loves the criminal Harry Lime.
The very dear Nancy, luminously played by Shani Wallis, loves abusive Bill Sikes.
She also loves and will protect little Oliver Twist.  In bad company. hers is a good heart.
Man, do I love Shani Wallis in this movie.  When she sings "As Long As He Needs Me," it wows me every single time -- just like when Judy Garland sings "The Man That Got Away" in A Star Is Born.
Her rendition of that famous showtune is one of the highlights of the film.  Why didn't Hollywood utilize the stellar acting and musical talents of Shani Wallis after Oliver!?  Ms. Wallis is wonderful in this movie.  I was lucky enough to tell her that last summer.

My terrific cousin and I went to Chicago to have dinner with two friends -- Jay North and Jeanne Russell.  There child co-stars when they played Dennis and Margaret in the 1960s CBS series based on the Dennis the Menace comic strip.

We talked, laughed and ate after Jay and Jeanne's appearance at a TV and Film memorabilia convention in a Chicago hotel.  In the lobby on my way to my room, I noticed Ron Moody and Shani Wallis.  There were also guests at the convention and giving autographs.  As we all are, they're older.  Moody now walks with a cane.  Shani Wallis has the same trim figure, pretty face and charismatic charm.  There they were, two friends and former film co-stars, walking arm in arm  through the lobby.  I politely stopped them and we chatted.  They were so sweet and appreciative.  She ended our brief chat with a big smile and a cheery, "Remember...Oliver! is now out on Blu-ray."

I loved meeting them last September.  And I still love Carol Reed's Oliver!

A few years ago, the Motion Picture Academy revived the pre-1944 practice of allowing 10 nominees for Best Picture.  However, we've yet to have a year in which there were indeed 10 nominees as there always were in the Golden Age of Hollywood before the field was reduced to five.  We've had 9 nominees, but not 10.  Can't Hollywood find that one extra film to be a contender?

With that in mind, here are five films that were eligible but did not get nominated for Best Picture of 1968:  Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the original Planet of the Apes, Rosemary's Baby, Bullitt and Mel Brooks' The Producers.

As for Sir Carol Reed, put his films Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol 1948) and The Third Man (1949) on your must-see list of classics.

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