1959

Film #256: The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

Films based on true life stories have always been synonymous with scooping Oscar nominations and it was no different in the 1960s. The next film on our list is The Diary of Anne Frank which is based on a story which the majority of you should already been familiar with.


However if you’re not familiar with the tale it revolves around the Jewish girl of the title who writes of her experiences while being holed up in a cellar in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. The film starts with Anne’s father Otto returning to the cellar and finding his daughter’s diary which he then begins to read. The diary, and the film, document Anne’s time in the cellar where her family were forced to share the cramped space with the Van Daan family and later with Jewish dentist Mr Dussell. The film, which is based on an award-winning play, looks at the group’s silent activity in the day and their nights which were mainly spent listening to updates on the allies’ progress in the war. As the years pass by, Anne’s views on Peter Van Daan start to change and their affections towards each other grow. The only issue is that the situation in the attic is worsening and the factory workers aiding the group have less of a chance of getting to them. Though the story doesn’t end well for Anne, there is an inspiring message of hope to be had from the film.

It is said that Otto Frank wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Anne, but she told him that she felt herself too old to play the role but saw his daughter as a great role model. In the end the part went to Millie Perkins, an relative unknown, who I felt fared rather well transitioning the character of Anne from giddy schoolgirl to realistic teenager. I was shocked to learn that Perkins wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar, with the acting recognition going to the more senior members of the supporting cast. Indeed, Shelly Winters actually won the award for her portrayal of the larger-than-life Mrs Van Daan, who she portrayed as an overbearing mother. Meanwhile Ed Wynn, as the long-in-the-tooth, Mr Dussell, was also nominated in the Supporting Actor role and I found him to be rather endearing. Personally, I found the best performance came from Joseph Schildkraut as Otto Frank, as I felt he got the emotional edge to his character just right. George Stevens was able to capture the mood of the attic spectacularly and I felt captured the sense of hopelessness and paranoia that the group would’ve been feeling. Alfred Newman’s score was another highlight and I found it to be a stirring piece of music in what would otherwise be a fairly bleak film. Personally, I found The Diary of Anne Frank to be another film on the list which was far too long and could’ve done with thirty minutes shaving off its almost three hour running time. I also wasn’t too fond of the way that the romance between Anne and Peter was handled and I found it to be a little bit too Hollywood for my liking. Overall though The Diary of Anne Frank was an admirable attempt to film an iconic story and I felt George Stevens more than did Anne’s tale justice.

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