Thursday, January 24, 2013

Double Feature: Separate Tables (1958) & M*A*S*H (1970)

Separate Tables - ****

Featuring the talents of Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, David Niven, Burt Lancaster, and Wendy Hiller, this Oscar-winning drama is based on Terence Rattigan's play, which follows the residents of a British beachside resort. At the forefront are a retired major (Niven), a timid woman (Kerr), her mother (Gladys Cooper), a charming alcoholic (Lancaster), his ex-wife (Hayworth), and the manager (Hiller), among other residents. When a scandal arises with the major, the majority of the household must decide what to do with him, while other conflicts arise between them. However, the alcoholic, his ex-wife, and the manager are caught in a love triangle that must end one way or the other. As a result, several relationships are tested, and the past must be dragged up if these pressing matters are ever to be settled. With such a fine group of classic actors and the juicy melodrama, it's no surprise this received a deserved Best Picture nomination.

The film received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Niven), Best Actress (Kerr), Best Supporting Actress (Hiller), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (B&W), and Best Dramatic/Comedy Score. Niven and Hiller won Oscars for their performances.

Trivia: Niven's performance is under 16 minutes long, making it the shortest Best Actor Oscar-winning performance. Anthony Hopkins has the second shortest for his performance in The Silence of the Lambs, but it's only seconds longer than Niven's work.

M*A*S*H - ****

Robert Altman's famous wartime satire not only won an Oscar, but it also inspired the Emmy-winning TV series that lasted 11 seasons. Set during the Korean War, the film is about the staff of a hospital and the outlandish things that happen in their military service. There are many hijinks in the film, from a fake funeral to a comical football game. Among the excellent ensemble cast, Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould are hilarious as medical officers Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre. Witty, irreverent, and ludicrous, this is a very enjoyable film that is deserving of its Oscar pedigree. I've seen a few episodes on television over the years, but I can't say I'm a fan of the series. The film, on the other hand, I loved. Either way, I'm glad the Academy Awards honored this wonderful comedy, as they don't often do.

The film received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Sally Kellerman), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. Ring Lardner, Jr. won an Oscar for writing the screenplay.

Trivia: Though it won an Oscar, most of Ring Lardner, Jr.'s original screenplay didn't make the final cut of the film (to the chagrin of the writer).

Follow my progress to see every Best Picture Oscar nominee here.


  1. Great post. I loved Separate Tables (minus Kerr, who was oddly awful) but never understood Nevin's win. It was clearly supporting (ensemble if there ever was one) and while he was good, he had nothing on Newman.

    MASH is one of those films that hasn't aged well for me. It feels so incredible dated and not as funny as it intends to be. Still, Sutherland is hilarious and my Actor winner that year.

    1. Thanks. Ha! "Oddly awful". I rewatched it, and I think Kerr's performance is serviceable to her character. I'd argue it's her character that is tough to take.

      Niven didn't deserve to win over Newman, but I'd give James Stewart the win for Vertigo.

      Sutherland wins that year? Good stuff. I see what you mean on its datedness, but I still found it funny.