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1948 Best Picture:


Competition: Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of Sierra Madre

Other Winners:

Best Actor:  Laurence Olivier, Hamlet
Best Actress:
Jane Wyman, Johnny Belinda
Best Supporting Actor:  Walter Huston, The Treasure of Sierra Madre 
Best Supporting Actress:  Claire Trevor, Key Largo

Best Director:
John Huston, The Treasure of Sierra Madre

Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Basil Sydney, Eileen Herlie, Peter Cushing, Harcourt Williams 

Storyline: Perhaps the most celebrated of William Shakespeare's works, and the only one to ever become an Oscar-winning film, this is the story of Hamlet, the Danish Prince, who avenges his father's death against his uncle, who takes the throne, as well as Hamlet's mother. 

Did it deserve to win: I suppose it did!  But I can't help thinking that this particular year belonged to John Huston.  

This is a very good interpretation of Hamlet, in fact, who am I kidding - it's the best there is!  This is the defining moment in the career of Olivier.  His work on the British stage was legendary, but for the world, this film was proof. Forever after, Sir Laurence Olivier would be regarded as one of the greatest actors of our century. 

But, The Treasure of Sierra Madre was so good, and perhaps the best work of John Huston, not to mention his star, Humphrey Bogart.  Huston was recognized with the Best Directing Oscar, so perhaps it's fitting, as the two films earned recognition.  

Critique: No doubt about it, that Hamlet is not for all tastes.  In fact, first time viewers might want to get the notes before watching.  

Interpretations of Shakespeare's work require some concentration, but it is well worth it.  The story is Shakespeare, and it has lasted for the past 600 years, so you just know that it's got to be good.  

I watch this film thinking about how it would look on stage, and I suspect that Olivier, when filming it, had past stage productions in mind as well.  I'm no expert, but I suspect that Shakespeare is best interpreted symbolically for film (as is this film), and not so literally, as it was written with the confinements of the stage in mind.  

Olivier uses dark shadows, and minimal sets, which sets a tone that is appropriate for a story that was never actually intended for the wide open spaces that film can provide.  

Best Scene:  Some mothers do 'ave 'em!  When Hamlet confronts his mother, the drama really starts, and their scene together is actually heart pounding.  If you couldn't follow it before, you can't keep your eyes off it by this point. 

Behind the Scenes: Laurence Olivier was forty three at the time of filming.  The part of his mother was played by Eileen Herlie, who was twenty eight at the time. 

This year marked the beginning of the end of the studio system.  The big studios, MGM, RKO, Paramount, Warner's, and Fox, were ruled to be in violation of anti-trust laws, that forbade them to be in ownership of both studios and theatres.

It was also the year that Foreign films began to be recognized.  The Red Shoes, from Britain, was also nominated for Best Picture, and the Italian film, The Bicycle Thief, was drawing crowds in independent theatres across the country.

Ethel Barrymore had to eat crow that year.  She publicly criticized Olivier's version of Hamlet, claiming that her brothers performance was better.  At the ceremony, she presented the award for Best Picture to an absent Olivier.  

Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, the feuding sisters, were at it again that year.  When Jane Wyman won the Oscar for Best Actress, the nominated de Havilland (for The Snake Pit) blamed her sister for her loss, after Joan underwent a serious media campaign for her work that year.

Wyman's win was bittersweet.  That year she lost a baby, and later, her husband, Ronald Reagan.





Laurence Olivier's defining film gets the Best Picture nod! 
Olivier plays the title role, the blonde Prince of Denmark.
Jean Simmons is Ophelia. 
Hamlet confides to his friend, Horatio, played by Norman Woodland, that he's pissed that his mother is marrying his uncle.
Hamlet and company are confronted by a ghost of his father!
"Get thee to a nunnery!" Hamlet gets set to dump Ophelia.   
Ophelia breaks down.
"To be or not to be!" Hamlet delivers the famous line, from the famous speech!
Dr Who? The dead man on stage is Patrick Troughton, who would later be known as the second actor to play Dr. Who!

Hamlet contemplates killing Claudius.

Eileen Herlie plays Hamlet's mother.  He hates her for conspiring with the uncle.

By this time, Ophelia is over the deep end.

Basil Sydney, as Claudius, banishes Hamlet.  
Hamlet talks to the skull of his father's court jester.
Dr. Who?  Peter Cushing, the original Dr. Who, is Osiris.