Nobody refers to 1951 as an annus mirabilis for Hollywood film, world cinema, or anything else for that matter. Which isn't to say that the year didn't see the release of some noteworthy, groundbreaking, or even classic films: '51 was the year of An American In Paris, A Place In The Sun, Strangers On A Train, and A Streetcar Named Desire, to name but a few American movies. (Quo Vadis was the year's box-office champ.) Our friends overseas gave us the likes of Tales of Hoffman and Rashomon.
And none of those pictures are even mentioned in Manny Farber's article " 'Best Films' of 1951," published in the January 5, 1952 number of The Nation. "Let Stevens and Kazan win their Oscars," Farber announces right off the bat; "The Nation's Emanuel—a life-size drip celluloid statue of Kirk Douglas, ranting and disintegrating in the vengeful throes of death—goes to the man or men responsible for each of the following unheralded productions of 1951." After this tongue-in-cheek (or was it? so hard to tell nowadays...) intro, Farber more-or-less soberly extols the virtues of a very interesting crop of genre pieces.
In celebration of Farber, and of the recent Library of America publication of Farber on Film, in which the above-cited piece is reprinted, I figured it would be fun, and perhaps even illuminating, to have a look at the pictures Farber praises therein. One a week, in order of citation, until we get to the end. And so we start with the Robert-Lippert-produced B Western Little Big Horn.