Three Oscars: West Side Story, Lawrence of Arabia and Tom Jones — How Did They Fare?

Since we talked last, the EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy group has watched and evaluated three Oscar-winning Best Pictures: West Side Story (1961), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Tom Jones (1963).

It is with sadness that I report that West Side Story was something of a flop. When young, I found the musical exciting, novel, boisterous, comic and sadly romantic. Now older, our audience gave the movie a rating of 7.95 on a scale of 1-10. That puts the film right in the middle of the pack of the thirty-four films evaluated to date — only an average rating among the Best Pictures.

I abstract the written comments for each show to a single sentence and then reduce that sentence to a single word. Here is the sentence for West Side Story:

“Most loved the music, songs and dancing but hated the message of the movie, because the message is that hate of others for their differences is still with us as it has been since Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; some saw that sad message of hate manifested in our current stuggles to integrate immigrants, our glamorization of gangs and the violence prevalent in our inner cities; there was an air of sadness in the comments that was reflected in the movie doing poorly in its overall rating.”

And, the single word for West Side Story was: “sad.”

Our next film was the 1962 winner, Lawrence of Arabia.” My expectations were high. My youthful memories were of an extravaganza sweeping across the wind-swept deserts with high adventure and lofty ideals. The reality to my older eyes was disappointing. Despite his brash and dashing antics to free and unite the war-torn tribes of Arabia, Lawrence managed only an 8.00 on our 10 scale — again, as with West Side Story, only an average rating for a movie some consider one of the best of all time. And again, I was personally disappointed: both that an old favorite managed so poorly in this modern day and also that I was personally less enamored with that old favorite. Perhaps young eyes are truly more forgiving than those grown older with time.

The single sentence for Lawrence that I took from the written comments is this:

“Most everyone liked the sweeping cinematography and the acting; some found the story confusing; most did not like the hard ugliness of the fighting and the fact that nothing seems to have changed from then to now.”

“Nothing seems to have changed.” Like West Side Story, the innocence of youth appears to have been lost to the realities of older eyes viewing Lawrence of Arabia in the less forgiving desert of today’s world.

The single word for Lawrence: “discouraging.”

For this, I needed some relief.

Tom Jones?

Tom Jones is 1963 film awarded the Best Picture Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It is a comedy of a young man finding his identity and fortune in an improbable romp across merry old England. Quite the new and avant-garde show at the time. How would it be seen today?

The very bottom of the heap! That’s right. For Tom Jones, the rating out of 10 was 3.17, the lowest average assigned by the EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphy audience to a Best Picture to date. I was astonished, astounded and amazed. How could a Best Picture be so bad? Even the Rotten Tomatoes audience gave it a 59%. Collectively, we gave it a slight 8%.

The single sentence for the Tom was:

“Some liked Albert Finney, the scenery, the word plays, film techniques and British humor; most disliked everything, including the scenes, dialect, story, acting, plot and bawdiness.”

To my dismay, the lament into the movies of the ’60’s had continued.

The single word for Tom Jones was “disliked.”

Can hope be on the horizons?


Next week, we move to My Fair Lady (1964) and, after that, The Sound of Music (1965).

Pass the popcorn.

The shows are about to begin.

With guarded anticipation from Dallas, we await the ratings, sentences and single words derived from the studied viewings of our stalwart EthnoFamilyMovieOgraphers.

Until then,

Grandpa Jim

PS: I have not forgotten. I owe you the top movies of the first four decades of the Oscars, the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. The acquisition of the data has taken longer than anticipated. Hopefully, with the next post, we can view the listings of the very best and most highly rated shows. See you back here soon for the results.