Zinnemann. So, currently the list of the directors with seven of more Academy Award nominations for best director are Wyler, Scorsese, Wilder, Woody Allen, David Lean, Steven Spielberg and… wait for it… Fred Zinnemann. Wild. Austrian-Hungarian born Zinnemann doesn’t belong in this company, he wasn’t one of the best directors of any decade as the academy would have you believe and it is a bit of a stretch to call him an auteur—but he’s not exactly a slouch either. Zinnemann made some special films and his filmography is his strength- it is why he’s at this slot here- just impossible to ignore any longer. When your fourth best film is as good as The Day of the Jackal— that’s impressive. And 12 films overall in the archives—tied (Mervyn LeRoy) for the most remaining left at this point.
Best film: High Noon. I said this about the likes of say Carol Reed and The Third Man but High Noon is not only an exception film- but exceptionally directed. Dimitri Tiomkin’s “The Ballad of High Noon” is woven in so perfectly by Zinnemann. It is an 85-minute masterly tight thriller about Gary Cooper saving a town made essentially in real time. And Zinnemann makes you feel every second of that time (in a good way) bouncing the camera off of an ever-ticking clock and echoes of the Tiomkin score—great form—magnificent.
total archiveable films: 12
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (High Noon)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (High Noon)
most overrated: Nothing really either overrated or underrated for Zinnemann. He has one lone movie on the TSPDT top 1000 (High Noon) and I’m pretty close to it (I’ve actually got rated better than the consensus but about 100 slots). Zinnemann’s next three best films are all somewhere between 1001-2000 on the supplemental TSPDT list. Certainly not overrated.
most underrated : Nothing here.
gem I want to spotlight : The Day of the Jackal. Oddly enough none of Zinnemann’s seven nominations came for The Day of the Jackal– the tides had turned in Hollywood largely by 1973 and he was no longer long as in favor as he was during the previous 2-3 decades but this thriller is a very strong entry—for any director.
- Heightened deadline manipulations through formal repetition and editing both in High Noon and Jackal make for an effective sense of dread—great cinema
- his films did not lack for beauty- as evidenced here in High Noon
- It is mostly about the body of work for Zinnemann
- Serious themes, prestige films, working across genres (Jackal is a great thriller, Oklahoma a musical, High Noon a western, and Eternity a drama (set in a war backdrop)
- His impeccable resume with actors—worked with the method actors early- Brando’s debut and first archiveable film in 1950 and ditto for Clift in 1948 but that’s not all- From Here to Eternity (also another brilliant performance from Clift) earned Lancaster his Oscar win and basically made Sinatra in Hollywood (supporting win for the chairman of the board)— big break for Meryl Streep early in Julia (her big screen debut and first archiveable film)– certainly some of the best actors in history did remarkable work in Zinnemann’s films.
- High Noon
- From Here to Eternity
- A Man For All Seasons
- The Day of the Jackal
- Act of Violence
- The Search
- The Seventh Cross
- The Sundowners
- The Men
By year and grades
|1944- The Seventh Cross||R|
|1948- Act of Violence||R|
|1948- The Search||R|
|1950- The Men||R|
|1952- High Noon||MP|
|1953- From Here to Eternity||HR|
|1959-The Nun’s Story||R|
|1960- The Sundowners||R|
|1966- A Man For All Seasons||HR|
|1973- The Day of the Jackal|
*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