Oscar ~ America America

The only nominated film for Best Oscar in 1963 that I had seen at the local theatre was How the West Was Won and at the time I was very disappointed that this film featuring Debbie Reynolds, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Carroll Baker, and a cast of thousands did not win Best Picture.
However fifty three years later in hindsight having just watched America America on DVD this past week I am now jumping on the Film Historian Foster Hirsch’s band wagon about how unappreciated this film is and feel that this darker film should have won Best Picture for 1963.
I had never heard of the film America America by Elia Kazan until doing the Oscar 1963 posts and watching the highlighted Oscar film clips from that year. The smattering of applause and quick edit on the 1964 Oscar clip fueled my curiosity about the film. This was a Kazan movie why hadn’t I heard of it? Why the snub for Kazan? (Yes I know about HUAC in the 50’s). I realize that immigration in this century is a ‘hot button’ subject however that is not the reason for this post.
America America has the feeling of a foreign film and tells the story of Kazan’s uncle and his trials and tribulations of fulfilling his dream of coming to America. America was partially filmed in Turkey then Greece; it deals with the previous early turn of the centuries conflicts between the Turks, Greeks and the Armenians.
To be perfectly honest what I loved most about this movie was the performance of the virtually unknown in the U.S. Greek actor Stathis Giallelis as the lead character Stavros Topouzoglou. You feel his pain and his determination to honor the wishes and expectations of his father and family.
Frank Wolff, Harry Davis, Estelle Hemsley, Lou Antonio, John Marley, Linda Marsh, Robert H. Harris, Katherine Balfour, and Joanna Frank were the American supporting actors along with the actors and people of Turkey and Greece. America America received the Oscar in 1963 for Best Art Direction (B & W) by Gene Callahan.
There was an ‘aha’ moment for me in the film when I questioned whether a particular scene was an explanation by Kazan of why he did what he did in the 50’s. I re-watched the movie a second time with the commentary by Foster Hirsh. He confirmed my thoughts about the scene between father and son before the son sets off for Constantinople. A young man off alone with the burden of the survival, hopes and future of his family resting squarely on his unexperienced shoulders.
This movie is the perfect example of “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”. …

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