Modern Screen‘s review of 1961’s stars, stories, and films, the 1962 Modern Screen Hollywood Yearbook, listed the year’s twelve top films, twelve top performances and two most promising newcomers. Today I’ll be sharing those lists with you!

12 Best Pictures

(Listed alphabetically.) No commentary is given for the “Best Pictures” list — Modern Screen simply names them as the top flicks of the year. I’ve added genre, director and top-billed cast for each film.

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Romance/Comedy/Drama, dir. Blake Edwards
    Starring Audrey Hepburn
  • El Cid
    Adventure/Drama, dir. Anthony Mann
    Starring Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren
  • Fanny
    (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
    (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

    Romance/Drama, dir. Joshua Logan
    Starring Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer, Horst Buchholz

  • Flower Drum Song
    Musical/Romance/Comedy, dir. Henry Koster
    Starring Nancy Kwan
  • The Guns of Navarone
    Action/Adventure/Drama, dir. J. Lee Thompson
    Starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
    Historical Drama, dir. Stanley Kramer
    Starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Max Schell, Montgomery Clift
  • King of Kings
    Biblical Drama, dir. Nicholas Ray
    Starring Jeffrey Hunter
  • La Dolce Vita
    Comedy/Drama, dir. Federico Fellini
    Starring Anita Ekberg, Marcello Mastroianni
  • Loss of Innocence
    Romance/Comedy/Drama, dir. Lewis Gilbert
    Starring Susannah York, Kenneth More, Danielle Darrieux
  • A Raisin in the Sun
    Drama, dir. Daniel Petrie
    Starring Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil
  • Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
    Romance/Drama, dir. Karel Reisz
    Starring Albert Finney
  • West Side Story
    Musical/Drama, dir. Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise
    Starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno


12 Top Performances

(Listed alphabetically by first name.) Commentary is given for each of the twelve top performances, and I’ve typed up some choice quotes below.

  • Albert Finney, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
    The mag compares Finney to a young Laurence Olivier and proclaims, “A star is born.”
  • Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Audrey is described as “more radiant than ever” in her role as Holly Golightly, marking a triumphant return to the screen after the birth of her first child.
  • Geraldine Page, Summer and Smoke
    (Image via
    (Image via

    The mag gives Geraldine Page a backhanded compliment, stating that she “never had” beauty and that her youth “is long since past” — but what she does have is her acting talent, which is described as “her bright and incomparable and shining art.”

  • Jeffrey Hunter, King of Kings
    This performance is described as the crowning achievement of Hunter’s career — “an inspired portrait of Christ.”
  • Leslie Caron, Fanny
    The mag says that there’s “something special about her – her fragile loveliness, her wistful air.” She is also applauded for following her own path, giving up Hollywood to exclusively work overseas and be close to her England-based family.
  • Maurice Chevalier, Fanny
    Chevalier is praised for continuing to exude charm on screen and win the audience over, even at the age of 72.
  • Natalie Wood, West Side Story
    Based on the track record of child actors transitioning to adult stars, Wood “should have been out of the pictures long ago,” according to Modern Screen. “But tenacity and ability kept Natalie in the running. Today she is one of the most important, most dedicated adult actresses in movies.”
  • Rock Hudson, Come September
    Rock Hudson gets what I think is the biggest compliment in this whole feature: “King Cary Grant had better look to his throne.” Hudson was threatening to take the place of Hollywood’s most legendary romantic leading man!
  • Rosalind Russell, A Majority of One
    “Who said we grow cautious with age?,” Modern Screen asks. “Whoever it was never reckoned with Roz.” The actress’ ability to transform herself into different characters and her willingness to make bold choices are lauded.
  • Sidney Poitier, A Raisin in the Sun
    The mag addresses the fact that Poitier was the first black actor to “become a star in movies solely as a dramatic actor” and states that he has “great emotional power, grace, excitement, [and] humanity” not often seen in actors of any race.

    (Image via Flick Facts)
    (Image via Flick Facts)

  • Sophia Loren, Two Women
    “Hollywood tried to make her like all its other screen queens – with fancy hair-dos and gorgeous gowns and sleek make-up. But they were robbing Sophia of her individuality. After a string of beautiful but empty Hollywood flops, she had to go home to Italy to find her own earthly self again.”
  • Spencer Tracy, Judgment at Nuremberg
    Tracy has “surpassed himself” with his work in this film, “after thirty potent years in movies.”

Hottest Newcomers of 1961

Again, Modern Screen offers no commentary for these two picks, which were supposedly chosen by the mag’s readers. For curious minds, I’ve looked up information about where the careers of these two stars went after they were proclaimed the “Hottest Newcomers.”

  • Actress: Deborah Walley
    Walley got her break in 1961 by taking over the title role in Gidget Goes Hawaiian, sequel to the 1959 Sandra Dee flick Gidget. She would continue to work in film and television through the 1980s, making one final TV appearance in 1999 on an episode of Baywatch. Notable appearances include 1965’s Beach Blanket Bingo and a supporting role in the late-’60s TV comedy The Mothers-In-Law.
Deborah Walley as Gidget (Screen capture by TMP)
Deborah Walley as Gidget (Screen capture by TMP)
  • Actor: George Maharis
    George Maharis may never have become a big-time leading man, but he had a good career in Hollywood, appearing in nearly 70 films and television programs by the early 1990s. His career began in 1951 but consisted of mostly small or uncredited roles until he scored the name-making role of Buz Murdock on the TV series Route 66. Maharis also made his name in the world of music, releasing a total of seven LPs in the 1960s. He’s still with us, now 86 years old, and in 2012 gave interviews with outlets such as the New York Times and NPR to commemorate the DVD release of his famed TV series.