“The African Queen” had a huge drop and “Dr. Zhivago” disappeared, but the biggest victim in the new rankings of the American Film Institute is the auteur theory.
On June 20, the org released its list of “The 100 Greatest Films of All Time” — the results of polling 1,500 industry workers, critics and educators — which updated a similar poll released in 1998.
Yes, all the greats are there: Steven Spielberg has five pics on the roster, beating Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder, with four each.
But top honors go to — drumroll, please — Victor Fleming, a talented director who is considered the quintessential studio-contract helmer rather than an auteur. He is the only person with two films in the top 10 (“Gone With the Wind” at No. 6 and “The Wizard of Oz” at No. 10).
The lone-helmer theory also took a hit with the inclusion of three films that had dual directors — “King Kong,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “West Side Story” — and one pic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (No. 34), that has six directors credited onscreen.
Otherwise, the list is filled with mysteries. Why was “The Godfather” ranked No. 2 (behind only “Citizen Kane”) but “Godfather Part II” at No. 32? Why did “The Searchers” soar to No. 12 this year from No. 96 a decade ago, when its director John Ford only had two films on the list (what, nobody likes “Stagecoach” anymore?). With three titles, John Huston has more films than Ford but his “The African Queen” fell to No. 65 this year from No. 17 in ’98.
George Cukor, Howard Hawks, D.W. Griffith, Buster Keaton, Sam Peckinpah and Preston Sturges had one apiece. And, for the record, no film directed by a woman made the top 100.
Better luck next decade, guys ‘n gals!