5 - 1
What? The undeniable brilliance of this MGM musical wasn’t always considered a beloved family fixture? Seriously? Believe it or not. While it garnered good notices upon its initial release, the studio was shocked that the final tallies showed this adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel in the red. In fact, it wasn’t until the late ‘50s, and what would eventually become an annual showing of the star-studded spectacle on holiday television, that turned a decent showing into a national treasure. Today, no one can hear “Over the Rainbow” and not think of Judy Garland and her iconic Ruby Red slippers. Back then, it was just another middling movie.
Here’s another holiday “classic” that can thank the cathode ray tube and clueless network programmers for its place in motion picture history. Director Frank Capra had hoped his 1946 effort would lift a still wounded nation out of its post-World War II blues. Instead, the movie bombed at the box office, received terrible notices from critics, and almost destroyed the filmmaker’s career (he only made five more movies after it). Don’t let the Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Director fool you. That was studio meddling in the Awards Season situation. When it fell into the public domain and became a Christmas time treat, that’s when it earned its current accolades.
Ridley Scott was red hot at the time. Alien had struck a nerve with late ‘70s audiences, making it one of the most well regarded horror sci-fi mash-ups of all time. But after said ‘haunted house in space’ established his commercial reputation, Scott went out on a limb to deliver a pure example of his fascinating visual panache. The result was despised by the studio, who demanded cuts and the addition of an unnecessary voiceover narration - and even then, it tanked at the box office. But thanks to something called home video, Runner was revived, and is today, one of the director’s most memorable and adored works.
Yes, that’s right. The long running number one, the film many consider to be among the greatest, if not the greatest of all time, was actually considered a disaster at the time it was released. Many believed the then 26 year old Orson Welles was too brash and overly ambitious to warrant any real consideration. Only the critics embraced him, while audiences more or less ignored his fictional overview of William Randolph Hearst’s life. The publisher, angered by what he saw, set out to destroy the movie. While he didn’t quite succeed, it took the film’s rediscovery by the French New Wave movement of the ‘50s to reestablish its greatness.
Of all the movies the Coen Brothers have made, of all the Oscars they have won and Awards Season debates they’ve helped fuel, this movie remains their most culturally fascinating ‘failure.’ It barely earned decent reviews when it came out and tanked royally at the box office. In fact, when you consider they were coming off the Academy fave Fargo, this movie couldn’t have seemed like a bigger letdown. Yet over the years, with home video guiding the way, this has become the brother’s most mainstream effort. There’s even a considered cult built around the film that transcends it’s obvious eccentricities.