Oscar 1956: Foreign Language Nominees–La Strada Winner

In the first year of the foreign-language Oscar category, the five nominees were: Fellini’s “La Strada” from Italy, which won, Helmut Kautner’s “The Captain of Kopenick,” from the Federal Republic of Germany, “Gervais” from France, “Harp of Burma” from Japan, and “Qivitoq,” from Denmark.

The Captain of Kopenick

Based on the stage work by the famous playwright Karl Zuckmayer, this satire, directed by Helmut Kautner, centers on an unemployed man who impersonates an army officer, leading to a military takeover of city hall in Kopenick, a suburb of Berlin.

Gervais

Rene Clement’s adaptation of Emile Zola’s popular but grim social-realist novel stars Austrian Maria Schell (sister of Maxmillian) as a woman who marries an alcoholic co-worker, after being deserted by her lover and having to support two children, and becomes one herself.

The film’s accomplished production values and box-office popularity in the US and elsewhere might have accounted for its inclusion in the category, plus the reputation of Clement (born 1913) as the director of “Forbidden Games” (1952). A commercial director, he’s also responsible for the well-executed thrillers “Purple Noon” and “Rider on the Rain,” among others.

Harp of Burma

Set at the end of WWII, Kon Ichikawa’s powerful anti-war drama “Harp of Burma” (aka “The Burmese Harp”) relates the story of a Japanese soldier who stays in Burma after the War, driven by a strange religious motive to bury the dead.

Qivitoq

Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Nordisk, Erik Balling’s Qivitoq is a cultural collision saga about the Danes and Eskimos in Greenland.

La Strada

C-starring Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina, Fellini’s masterpiece was nominated for two Oscars: Foreign Language which it won, and Original Screenplay, penned by Fellini and Tullio Pinelli. The writing Oscar that year went to another foreign-language film, “The Red Balloon,” by Albert Lamorisse.

Made back to back with “Nights of Cabiria,” also with Giulietta Masina, “La Strada” placed Fellini at the forefront of international director, making a string of innovative hits, such as “La Dolce Vita” and “81/2.”