1962: The Year Oscar Really Needed 10 Nominees This year Hollywood nominated 10 films for Best Picture instead of the usual five, leaving some movie buffs feeling nostalgic for years that honestly could have used more Best Picture slots. Critic Bob Mondello points to one year in particular that had more than its share of potential contenders.
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1962: The Year Oscar Really Needed 10 Nominees

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1962: The Year Oscar Really Needed 10 Nominees

1962: The Year Oscar Really Needed 10 Nominees

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GUY RAZ, host:

This past week, the Oscar nominations came out and there were a lot more of them than usual. Now, for almost 70 years, the Academy limited the Best Picture nominees to five, but this year, 10 movies are up for the top prize.

And, Bob, do you think that's a little overkill?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BOB MONDELLO: Yes, if it allows "Blind Side" in, yes.

RAZ: That is, of course, our film critic, Bob Mondello. And, Bob, in a normal year, you actually think there's no need to nominate more than five films for Best Picture. But there was one year you've been talking about in the hallways all week, where it would've been justified. And that year was?


RAZ: And why 1962?

MONDELLO: Well, it was just an amazing year and it came out of nowhere. And if you listen to the ones that were actually nominated, they're pretty impressive.

Here's Olivia De Havilland from the 1962 awards broadcast.

(Soundbite of TV show, "35th Academy Awards")

Ms. OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND (Actor): They are "Lawrence of Arabia," "The Longest Day," "The Music Man," "Mutiny on the Bounty," "To Kill a Mockingbird."

MONDELLO: That's a pretty good list, no?

RAZ: That's unbelievable, and if I have my movie trivia right, "Lawrence of Arabia" won that year.

MONDELLO: That's right, it did, and deservedly so. But when you stopped at five nominees, that's almost criminal. Consider some of the list that didn't get nominated. Here's the list:

(Soundbite of paper crumpling)

RAZ: That is a long list. Let's see, you have "The Miracle Worker," "Birdman of Alcatraz" and then:

(Soundbite of movie, "The Manchurian Candidate")

Ms. ANGELA LANSBURY (Actress): (As Mrs. Iselin) You are to shoot the presidential nominee through the head.

RAZ: Are you kidding me?

(Soundbite of movie, "The Manchurian Candidate")

Ms. LANSBURY: (As Mrs. Iselin) And Johnny will rise gallantly to his feet, rallying a nation of television viewers into hysteria to sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy.

RAZ: Bob, how could they have left out "The Manchurian Candidate"?

MONDELLO: Well, I don't know. And these days, you think of that as just, you know, that's a classic from that year.

RAZ: Right.

MONDELLO: But there were a lot of others. There was "Advise and Consent," "Days of Wine and Roses," with Jack Lemmon. There was "Lolita," "The Long Day's Journey into Night" got Katharine Hepburn's, this amazing performance, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" "Jules and Jim," "Billy Bud," "Divorce and"...

RAZ: Okay, Bob. I think Bill Conti and the Academy Awards orchestra are playing you off the stage here.

MONDELLO: But wait, "Gypsy."

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: But seriously, I mean, that list is unbelievable. Was there any year that you know of that even matches 1962?

MONDELLO: Well, if you go all the way back, yes, there were some. The one that everybody says is 1939, but they actually had 10 nominees and "Gone With the Wind" won the Oscar that year. But the 10 Best Picture nominees included "The Wizard of Oz" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "Stagecoach" and "Wuthering Heights" and "Of Mice and Men" and "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and where do you want to cut those?

RAZ: Yeah.

MONDELLO: You know? So it was tough. But that was customary back then. They had that many awards.

RAZ: So, when did they actually cut it to five?

MONDELLO: They decided to - this is not a joke - they decided to make it uniform during the war. You get to actually, in years prior to that, they used to have two or three nominees sometimes for Best Actor or Best Actress. Because, remember, this is a device to honor the Hollywood studios, not necessarily their employees. So, that was the basic idea.

RAZ: So, Bob, I imagine that between 1939 and 1962, you now have our listeners' minds racing trying to figure out what their favorite movie years are.

MONDELLO: Oh, it will be great if they'd let us know. I'd love to see. You can go to our Web site and vote for your favorite year. It has to be after 1943 because prior to that, they actually had 10 nominees. But after that, any year that you choose would be grand.

RAZ: And that would be npr.org/movies. And there's a place where you can join this conversation and many others and let us know, as Bob said, what you think the best year for movies was. And, Bob, my personal favorite was 1949.


RAZ: "Kind Hearts and Coronets," "All the King's Men," "The Third Man."

MONDELLO: And you're leaving something out.

RAZ: Which one?

MONDELLO: That's me.

RAZ: Oh, that's your...

MONDELLO: That was the year of my birth.

RAZ: Of course, the year of your birth, so not a bad pick.

MONDELLO: Excellent pick. I'm pleased.

RAZ: That's our film critic Bob Mondello. Bob, thanks so much.

MONDELLO: It's always a pleasure.

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