Top Ten 1961

1. Viridiana
2. Il Posto
3. The Innocents
4. Divorce Italian Style
5. Lola
6. Mother Joan Of The Angels
7. Leon Morin Priest
8. Last Year At Marienbad
9. Victim
10. The End Of Summer


A career full of charming, low-key performances should not fully overshadow the hilarity of a few caricatures; Marcello Mastroianni flicks his moustache and narrows his eyes, ogling his gorgeous young cousin while trying to murder his wife in Pietro Germi’s terrific Divorce Italian Style. It spawned a lot of terrible, bawdy imitations, but the original still looks terrific.

Honour Roll: James Cagney, One, Two, Three; Toshiro Mifune, Yojimbo; Anthony Perkins, Goodbye Again; Maximilian Schell, Judgment At Nuremberg


There’s no mystery as to why Holly Golightly has become one of the most beloved and influential characters in film history. Combine Truman Capote’s witty writing, the borderline perverse circumstance of a party girl/prostitute who needs to learn about having a heart of gold, and the effortless charms of Audrey Hepburn and you have part of the appeal of Breakfast At Tiffany’s. The rest of it is the fabulous clothes, the parties and Audrey singing “Moon River”. Charade is actually my favourite Hepburn movie, but this is probably her best and most endearing performance.

Honour Roll: Harriet Andersson, Through A Glass Darkly; Ingrid Bergman, Goodbye Again; Deborah Kerr, The Innocents/The Naked Edge; Piper Laurie, The Hustler


Among the all-star cavalcade of famous faces that appear in Judgment At Nuremberg is Montgomery Clift as the victim of a lobotomy who can barely keep it together while delivering his testimony. The once superbly handsome star was now a wreck, his drinking and depression having definitely caught up with him, and it is hard while watching his scenes to separate your pity for the character from your fearful sorrow at where a great star has gone (his co-star Judy Garland, who is also outstanding, elicits a similar response).

Honour Roll: Peter Falk, Pocketful of Miracles; Anthony Quinn, The Guns Of Navarone; George C. Scott, The Hustler


West Side Story is a musical that tends to be a lot more enjoyable when it isn’t trying so hard to be powerful; it’s actually difficult to feel much sympathy for the star-crossed lovers, who are prevented from being together because they belong to rival gangs (one white, the other Puerto Rican). On the other hand, when the kids start to dance, the film really becomes something vibrant and wonderful, and representing that best is Rita Moreno as the spitfire Anita; her presence is so lively that her contributions to the dramatics are when the film has its most impact as well (Natalie Wood was such a marvelous actress but was incredibly miscast in the lead role). Sadly, Moreno was mainly offered roles that fit into a cardboard Latin stereotypes following her Oscar win and did not appear on screen as much as she should have, but this was definitely a career high for her.

Honour Roll: Diane Cilento, The Naked Edge; Ruby Dee, A Raisin In The Sun; Arlene Francis, One, Two, Three; Judy Garland, Judgment At Nuremberg


Catholic fetishism, incest and a blasphemous Last Supper image with beggars and crazy people: naturally I could see why the Spanish censors accidentally let Viridiana slip through their fingers before its Cannes premiere. I can also definitely see why the film, which is the best by Luis Bunuel, became a cause celebre at the festival and shared that year’s Palme D’Or. What a delight!

Honour Roll: Jack Clayton, The Innocents; Blake Edwards, Breakfast At Tiffany’s; Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Mother Joan of the Angels; Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise, West Side Story