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DISCLAIMER: All film criticism is extremely subjective and there is no such thing as the definitive list of the Greatest (English-language) Films. Great Films can't be measured scientifically because greatness is extremely subjective. Just because we like a film doesn't mean that you will like it as well. Please feel free to leave us a comment with the films that you think are the greatest which we have not included on our list.

Not only was 1961 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the deaths of some truly great talent. Here is a snap shot of the American film industry.

Making Their Film Debuts:

  • Ann-MargretPocketful of Miracles
  • Warren BeattySplendor in the Grass
  • Sandy DennisSplendor in the Grass
  • Louis Gossett, Jr.A Raisin in the Sun
  • Gene Hackman – Mad Dog Coll
  • Ron Howard – Five Minutes to Live
  • George Kennedy – The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come
  • Dudley Moore – The Third Alibi
  • Mary Tyler Moore – X-15
  • Joe Pesci – Hey, Let’s Twist!
  • Burt Reynolds – Angel Baby
  • George Segal – The Young Doctors


Top-grossing Films

1.West Side StoryUnited Artists$43,656,822
2.The Guns of NavaroneColumbia$28,900,000
3.El CidAllied Artists$26,600,000
4.The Absent-Minded ProfessorWalt Disney Productions$25,381,407
5.The Parent TrapWalt Disney Productions$25,150,385
6.La Dolce VitaAstor Pictures Corporation$19,516,000
7.Lover Come BackUniversal$16,937,969
8.King of KingsMGM$14,483,352
9.One Hundred and One DalmatiansWalt Disney Productions$14,000,000
10.Splendor in the GrassWarner Bros.$11,426,000
11.Blue HawaiiParamount$10,440,453
12.Judgment at NurembergUnited Artists$10,000,000
13.Breakfast at Tiffany’sParamount$9,551,904
14.The MisfitsMGM$8,200,000


Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: West Side Story – Mirisch-B&P Enterprises, United Artists

Best Director: Robert Wise and Jerome RobbinsWest Side Story

Best Actor: Maximilian SchellJudgment at Nuremberg

Best Actress: Sophia Loren – Two Women

Best Supporting Actor: George ChakirisWest Side Story

Best Supporting Actress: Rita MorenoWest Side Story


Among Those Who Died In 1961:

  • January 13 – Blanche Ring, 89, American singer and actress, The Yankee Girl, It’s the Old Army Game
  • January 14 – Barry Fitzgerald, 72, Irish actor, Going My Way, The Quiet Man
  • February 2 – Anna May Wong, 56, American actress, Shanghai Express, The Thief of Bagdad
  • February 17 – Nita Naldi, 63, American actress, Blood and Sand, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • March 6 – George Formby, 56, British actor, entertainer, It’s in the Air, Off the Dole
  • March 12 – Belinda Lee, 25, British actress, Long Night in 1943, The Goddess of Love
  • March 29 – Fritzi Ridgeway, 62, American actress, Ruggles of Red Gap, This Is Heaven
  • April 27 – Roy Del Ruth, 67, American director, The Maltese Falcon, Broadway Melody of 1938
  • May 4 – Anita Stewart, 66, American silent-film actress, The Combat, The Suspect
  • May 13 – Gary Cooper, 60, American actor, High Noon, Meet John Doe, Pride of the Yankees, Sergeant York
  • May 18 – Henry O’Neill, 69, American actor, Shadow of the Thin Man, Anchors Aweigh
  • May 19 – Ben Corbett, 69, American actor, The Fighting Renegade, Six-Gun Trail
  • May 22
    • Joan Davis, 53, American actress, Hold That Ghost, If You Knew Susie
    • Edward F. Cline, 69, American director, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
  • June 10 – Vivienne Osborne, 64, American actress, Supernatural, Luxury Liner
  • June 15 – Luther Reed, 72, American director, Rio Rita, Hit the Deck
  • June 17 – Jeff Chandler, 42, American actor, Broken Arrow, Merrill’s Marauders
  • July 9 – Alan Marshal, 52, Australian actor, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, House on Haunted Hill
  • July 23 – Valentine Davies, 55, American screenwriter and director, The Glenn Miller Story, The Benny Goodman Story
  • August 4 – Maurice Tourneur, 85, French director, The Last of the Mohicans, The Poor Little Rich Girl
  • August 17 – Violet Kemble-Cooper, 74, British actress, The Invisible Ray, David Copperfield
  • August 20 – Dorothy Burgess, 54, American actress, In Old Arizona, Black Moon
  • August 27 – Gail Russell, 36, American actress, Angel and the Badman, Seven Men from Now
  • August 30 – Charles Coburn, 84, American actor, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Lady Eve
  • September 10 – Leo Carrillo, 81, American actor, Viva Villa!, Phantom of the Opera
  • September 22 – Marion Davies, 64, American actress, Show People, Cain and Mabel
  • September 23 – John Eldredge, 57, American actor, The Woman in Red, His Brother’s Wife
  • September 26 – Juanita Hansen, 66, American actress, The Magic Cloak of Oz, The Phantom Foe
  • October 11 – Chico Marx, 74, American actor, member of the Marx Brothers, A Night at the Opera, Duck Soup
  • October 13 – Maya Deren, 44, American experimental filmmaker, Meshes of the Afternoon, At Land
  • October 18 – Tsuru Aoki, 69, Japanese-born American actress, The Dragon Painter
  • October 22 – Joseph Schenck, 82, Russian-born American pioneer motion picture executive, The General, Sherlock, Jr.
  • October 29 – Astrid Holm, 68, Danish actress, The Phantom Carriage, Häxan
  • November 15
  • November 24 – Ruth Chatterton, 68, American actress, Dodsworth, Female
  • December 27 – Bernard McConville, 74, American screenwriter, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Phantom of the Opera


The Greatest Films of 1961




Poster for the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

© 1961 Jurow-Shepherd − All right reserved.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

D: Blake Edwards

Fortune hunter Holly Golightly finds herself captivated by aspiring writer Paul Varj