best film:  Strangers on a train is the easy #1 film for me in 1951. There are plenty of artistic highlights to choose from beginning with that tracking shot showing just the legs of the men and who they meet. The finale grand merry-go-round set piece is one of hitchcock’s best and walker’s haunting performance has to be emphasized and praised as well.

most underrated:   detective story is wyler’s best film (and he’s the 69th best director of all-time according to my calculations) and one of kirk douglas’ best performances and it still can’t find a stop in the top 1000 on TSPDT. Wyler’s deep focus gorgeous b/w photography captures a depressing film with douglas at his most antagonistic (which is saying something for someone who specialized in playing bastards as he put it). It is certainly underrated.

most overrated:. Miracle in milan at #496 is far too lofty for me. My disclaimer here is that I’m very late to the game on this as I only just saw rossellini’s highly praised film in the last 3 years or so and have only seen it once. After one passing I thought it was a fine film but couldn’t help but feel tremendously disappointed that he had taken such a stylistic vacation from his neo-realist roots. This is a fantasy film.

gem I want to spotlight: I’m cheating and picking three films here that I couldn’t find a spot for in my top 10 but are films are go back to very often. The thing from another world (produced, not directed, by hawks) is inferior to the 1982 remake by carpenter but it is wildly entertaining I’d be fine putting it in the back half of any year’s top 10. A Christmas Carol from Charles Dickens has been adapted to the screen countless times and this is easily the best version and I come back to it over during Christmas. Many fine actors have tried to top it (and come before it) but Alastair Sim is the best Scrooge. Lastly, I’m a big admirer of disney’s alice in wonderland and think it’s perfect marriage of source material and adapted film. It’s underrated in the Disney pantheon and doesn’t get mentioned often enough with the likes of the films from the last 30’s/40’s and the resurgence in the 90’s and Dreamworks era beyond that.

trends and notables:  I still have some work to do on his 1940’s films but as of 2017 when writing this 1951 marks the first archiveable film for Ingmar Bergman. He would basically go on to show up every year in the yearly archives for the next 30 years (with saraband later). He makes a strong claim to being the greatest director of all-time of course. 1951 also give us the debut of a stunning, and stunningly talented Audrey Hepburn in the lavender hill mob. I also think 1951 is an important year for color cinema. 1950 had zero color films in the top 10 and 1951 gives us three including works from Renoir, Minnelli (who really use the growing technical innovation as an artistic tool) and Huston (who made a great film but really didn’t).

best performance male:  Marlon Brando in a streetcar named desire is a landmark achievement in film acting. His work here is genius and it dwarfs the others in this year and most great performances of any other year… having said that, it’s impossible not to at least mention how good Montgomery Clift is in a place in the sun, Robert walker is in strangers on a train, and how commanding and downright nasty kirk douglas is both ace in the hole and detective story- both of which are top 5 male performances of the year.  Karl Malden deserves a mention for streetcar as well.

best performance female: I want to single out 5 female performances from 1951. Four of them come from two films: streetcar and a place in the sun. I’m giving my best performance to Vivian Leigh for streetcar. It may seem like a practiced performance compared to Brando but she’s so good at being so irksome in this film and it just has more weight to it then the wonderful, but smaller performances like kim hunter in the same film and both shelley winters and Elizabeth taylor in a place in the sun. My last mention has to go to another all-time irritating performance (which to me is a sign the actor or actress is doing a great job and is effective)- and that’s to the great Katharine Hepburn in the african queen.

top 10

  1. Strangers on a Train
  2. A Streetcar Named Desire
  3. Detective Story
  4. The River
  5. A Place in the Sun
  6. Ace in the Hole
  7. An American In Paris
  8. Diary of a County Priest
  9. Early Summer
  10. The African Queen

Archives, Directors, and Grades

A Christmas Carol R
A Place in the Sun- Stevens HR/MS
A Streetcar Named Desire- Kazan MS
Ace in the Hole- Wilder HR
Alice In Wonderland
An American In Paris- Minnelli HR
Brave Bulls- Rossen
Detective Story- Wyler MS
Early Summer- Ozu HR
His Kind of Woman
Miracle in Milan- De Sica HR
On Dangerous Ground- N. Ray R
Outcast of the Island- C. Reed R
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman R
Quo Vadis
Royal Wedding- Donen R
Show Boat R
Strangers on a Train- Hitchcock MS
Summer Interlude- Bergman R
Tales of Huffman- M. Powell
The African Queen- J. Huston HR
The Day the Earth Stood Still- Wise R
The Death of a Salesman
The Diary of a Country Priest- Bresson HR
The Enforcer R
The Lavender Hill Mob R
The Man in the White Suit-Mackendrick R
The Mating Season- Leison R
The Prowler- Losey R
The Red Badge of Courage- J. Huston R
The River- Renoir HR
The Steel Helmet- Fuller R
The Thing From Another World HR

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives