And the rewritten Oscar goes to….A Thousand Clowns.
For me, A Thousand Clowns and The Sound of Music are the two standouts in a field that I suspect is fairly middle-of-the-road. The other nominees are certainly redeemable and effective in their own ways, but they don’t captivate as much as they could. Doctor Zhivago is certainly epic but doesn’t quite resonate, Darling has a lot on its mind but its characters don’t necessarily make for great company, and Ship of Fools, whilst admirable, doesn’t quite have the deft touch required to convey so many hefty concepts.
Of all the 1966 nominees A Thousand Clowns lingers in the mind the most. For all its inimitable personality, quirk and charismatic juxtapositions, Fred Coe’s film had much to say and said it in a manner which distinguished it as the most intriguing and poignant film of the field.
However, it wouldn’t be fair to say the Academy got it wrong with The Sound of Music. Robert Wise’s enduring fan-favourite is the most palatable of the nominees and is by no means short of appeal. It’s the comfortable choice and has all the good-natured charm a film could boast, making it easily the most accessible pick on the list. That said it would’ve been great to see the Academy step out of its comfort zone and go all the way with the more ambitious, creative and ultimately rewarding A Thousand Clowns.
So. Is a rewrite of the 38th Academy Awards record book necessary? No it isn’t. I somehow doubt that A Thousand Clowns’ defeat was seen as an upset in 1966, and the adaptation of Rogers and Hammerstein II’s musical was always destined for great things the moment it hit cinemas, but maybe a more thoughtful film could’ve made for a better choice.
The Sound of Music- ***1/4
Ship of Fools- **3/4
A Thousand Clowns- ****
Doctor Zhivago **3/4
(Ratings are out of 4)