A George Stevens Production. Copyright 1959 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Palace: 18 March 1959. U.S. release: March 1959. U.K. release: July 1959. Australian release: 1 October 1959. Running times: 170 minutes (USA and UK), 178 minutes (Aust).
NOTES: First published in 1952, the book became an almost immediate best-seller and was translated into 21 languages. The play opened on Broadway at the Cort Theatre on 5 October 1955 and won the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics Award and the Antoinette Perry Award. It was produced by Kermit Bloomgarden and directed by Garson Kanin; Susan Strasberg was Anne, Dennie Moore was Mrs. Van Daan and Jack Gilford was Mr. Dussell. In the film, Schildkraut, Huber and Jacobi are repeating their original Broadway roles... Stevens reportedly screened 10,244 applicants for the role of Anne before deciding on New Jersey-born model, Millie Perkins. The film won three Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress, Shelley Winters, Black-and-white Cinematography, William C. Mellor (only — the 2nd unit scenes photographed by Jack Cardiff were presumably thought to be inferior to Mellor's studio work), and Black-and-white Art Direction, defeating "Career", "The Last Angry Man", "Some Like It Hot", and "Suddenly Last Summer".
On the year's "Ten Best" lists, number 2 on the Film Daily annual poll of American film critics, number 5 on New York Journal American, number 10 for Gerald Pratley, number 4 for the National Board of Review, number 1 for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, number 3 on The New York Daily Mirror, and tied with The Nun's Story for 2nd place on the Filmfacts composite listing. In alphabetical lists figured on Time, John Springer, New York Times, New York World Telegram, Milwaukee Journal.
Although the play ran a highly successful 717 performances, returning its astute backers something like ten times their original investments, the film did far less well. Including the cost of the screen rights and being aware of Stevens' ultra-expensive working methods, you'd be looking at a negative cost of at least $3 million — probably a lot more. Perhaps the story was better left to the East German DEFA's 20-minute 1958 "A Diary for Anne Frank" which packs an enormous amount of actuality background material (stills, newsreels, documents) into its well-researched account.
COMMENT: Slow-moving, but inspiring. Very much a filmed stage-play, rather blandly directed, yet somewhat heavily theatrical. Despite her stunning movie debut in the title role, Millie Perkins' subsequent career — "Wild in the Country" (1961), "Ensign Pulver" (1964), "Wild in the Streets" (1968) — didn't capitalize on her potential. Miss Perkins is a Jean Seberg in reverse.
The other players try hard (perhaps too hard) to gain dominance over the central character. Shelley Winters come off best, and Diane Baker impresses in a small role, but Schildkraut, Wynn and Jacobi act as though they were treading the boards on Broadway instead of miming in front of a movie camera.
OTHER VIEWS: A masterpiece. — Time. A surprisingly ordinary movie. — Films In Review. Profoundly moving... A film for which the industry can take a prideful bow. — Variety. Often magnificent. — Saturday Review. A masterpiece. — New York Herald Tribune. Shows Hollywood at its most honorable and least imaginative. — Monthly Film Bulletin. Easily the finest film 20th Century-Fox ever made. — Samuel Goldwyn.