Sunday, December 23, 2007

The 8th Academy Awards

The 8th Academy Awards were held on March 5, 1936 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. They were hosted by Frank Capra. For the last time write-in nominations are allowed. For the first time an organization external to the Academy, the public accounting firm Price Waterhouse Co., tabulates the voting ballots. Many Academy members are boycotting the awards party, because of disputes between industry guilds and the Academy over union issues.

Mutiny on the Bounty is a 1935 film starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable based on the Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall novel Mutiny on the "Bounty". An anecdotal note about the cast is that James Cagney, David Niven, and Dick Haymes were uncredited extras in the movie. The movie chronicles the real-life mutiny aboard the HMAV Bounty led by Fletcher Christian against the ship's captain, William Bligh. Like the novel, it portrays Captain Bligh as an abusive villain whose cruelty towards the crew and most of the officers lead Christian to mutiny. It contains scenes of the trials of those who had been put off the ship on the launch. It also deals with the aftermath. The film was one of the biggest hits of its time and remains a classic today and, although its historical accuracy has been seriously questioned (inevitable as it is based in a novel about the facts, not the facts themselves) it is considered by film critics to be the best film inspired by the mutiny. A 1962 three-hours-plus widescreen Technicolor remake, starring Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian and Trevor Howard as Captain Bligh, became notorious when Brando reportedly practically took over the film even to the point of rewriting and adding scenes for himself, and was a disaster both critically and financially at the time, but has come to be reevaluated by critics over the decades. In 1984, Mel Gibson played Christian opposite Anthony Hopkins as Bligh in a lavish remake called The Bounty. This final version, which gives a far more sympathetic view of Bligh, is considered to be the closest to historical events. Mutiny on the Bounty, produced by Irving Thalberg and Albert Lewin, won an Oscar for Best Picture for its studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It also received seven additional Academy Award nominations: Best Actor in a Leading Role - Clark Gable, Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone, Best Director - Frank Lloyd, Best Film Editing - Margaret Booth, Best Music, Score- Nat W. Finston (head of department) and Herbert Stothart ("Love Song of Tahiti" written by Walter Jurmann, uncredited) and Best Writing, Screenplay - Jules Furthman, Talbot Jennings and Carey Wilson. This film is, as of 2006, the last Best Picture winner to win in no other category.

Allthough all three leading men from the Mutiny on the Bounty were nominated for Best Actor the award went to Victor McLaglen, an English boxer and actor, who later became a naturalized American citizen. McLaglen's career took a turn in the 1920s, when he moved to Hollywood. He became a popular character actor, with a particular knack for playing drunks. The highlight of his career was an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in The Informer (1935), based on a novel by Liam O'Flaherty. Near the end of his career he was nominated again, this time for Best Supporting Actor, for his role opposite John Wayne in The Quiet Man (1952). He was especially popular with director John Ford, who frequently included McLaglen in his films. Toward the end of his career, McLaglen made several guest appearances on television, particularly in Western series such as Have Gun, Will Travel and Rawhide. The episodes of those series in which McLaglen guest starred were both directed by his son, Andrew V. McLaglen, who later was a film director. He died of a heart attack in 1959. He had by that time become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The Best Actress award went to Bette Davis for Dangerous. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional comedies, though her greatest successes were romantic dramas.Davis was the co-founder of the Hollywood Canteen, and was the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She was the first actor to receive ten Academy Award nominations and the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. Her career went through several periods of decline, and she admitted that her success had often been at the expense of her personal relationships. Married four times, she was once widowed and thrice divorced, and raised her children as a single parent. Her final years were marred by a long period of ill health, however she continued acting until shortly before her death from breast cancer, with more than one hundred film, television and theater roles to her credit. After more than twenty film roles, the role of the vicious and slatternly Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage (1934) earned Davis her first major critical acclaim. Many actresses feared playing unsympathetic characters, and several had refused the role, but Davis viewed it as an opportunity to show the range of her acting skills. Her costar, Leslie Howard, was initially dismissive of her, but as filming progressed his attitude changed and he subsequently spoke highly of her abilities.When Davis was not nominated for an Academy Award for Of Human Bondage, The Hollywood Citizen News questioned the omission and Norma Shearer, herself a nominee, joined a campaign to have Davis nominated. This prompted an announcement from the Academy president, Howard Estabrook, who said that under the circumstances "any voter...may write on the ballot his or her personal choice for the winners", thus allowing, for the only time in the Academy's history, the consideration of a candidate not officially nominated for an award. Claudette Colbert won the award for It Happened One Night but the uproar led to a change in Academy voting procedures the following year, whereby nominations were determined by votes from all eligible members of a particular branch, rather than by a smaller committee, with results independently tabulated by the accounting firm Price Waterhouse. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for the role in Dangerous, but commented it was belated recognition for Of Human Bondage. During the filming of her film, Jezebel, Davis entered a relationship with the director, William Wyler. The film was a success, and Davis's performance as a spoiled "Southern Belle" earned her a second Academy Award, which led to speculation in the press that she would be chosen to play a similar character, Scarlett O'Hara, in Gone with the Wind. Davis expressed her desire to play Scarlett, and while David O. Selznick was conducting a search for the actress to play the role, a radio poll named her as the audience favorite. Warner offered her services to Selznick as part of a deal that also included Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, but Selznick did not consider Davis as suitable, and rejected the offer.In contrast to Davis's success, her husband, Ham Nelson, had failed to establish a career for himself, and their relationship faltered. In 1938, Nelson obtained evidence that Davis was engaged in a sexual relationship with Howard Hughes and subsequently filed for divorce citing Davis's "cruel and inhuman manner. By this time, Davis was Warner Bros.' most profitable star, described as "The Fourth Warner Brother", and she was given the most important of their female leading roles. Her image was considered with more care; although she continued to play character roles, she was often filmed in close-ups that emphasized her distinctive eyes. All This and Heaven Too (1940) was the most financially successful film of Davis's career to that point, while The Letter was considered "one of the best pictures of the year" by the Hollywood Reporter, and Davis won admiration for her portrayal of an adulterous killer. During this time she was in a relationship with her former costar George Brent, who proposed marriage. Davis refused, as she had met Arthur Farnsworth, a New England innkeeper. They were married in December 1940.In January 1941, Davis became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but antagonized the committee members with her brash manner and radical proposals. Faced with the disapproval and resistance of the committee, Davis resigned, and was succeeded by Jean Hersholt, who implemented the changes she had suggested. William Wyler directed Davis in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941), but they clashed over the interpretation of the character, Regina Giddens. Davis refused to compromise. She received another Academy Award nomination for her performance, and she never worked with Wyler again. In August 1943, Davis's husband, Arthur Farnsworth, collapsed while walking along a Hollywood street, and died two days later. An autopsy revealed that his fall had been caused by a skull fracture which had occurred about two weeks earlier. Davis testified before an inquest that she knew of no event that might have caused the injury, and a finding of "accidental death" was reached. Highly distraught, she attempted to withdraw from her next film Mr. Skeffington (1944), but Jack Warner, who had halted production following Farnsworth's death, convinced her to continue. Davis married an artist, William Grant Sherry, who also, when necessary, worked as a masseur, in 1945. She had been drawn to him because he claimed that he had never heard of her and was therefore not intimidated by her. Davis refused the title role in Mildred Pierce, a role for which Joan Crawford ultimately won an Academy Award, and instead made The Corn is Green (1945). Possessed (1947) had been tailor-made for Davis and was to have been her next project after Deception (1946). However, she was pregnant and went on maternity leave. Joan Crawford played her role in Possessed and was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress. In 1947, Davis gave birth to a daughter, Barbara (known as B.D.). By 1949, Davis and Sherry were estranged and Hollywood columnists were writing that Davis's career was at an end. She filmed The Story of a Divorce (released in 1951 as Payment on Demand) but had received no other offers. Shortly before filming was completed, the producer Darryl F. Zanuck offered her the role of the aging theatrical actress, Margo Channing, in All About Eve (1950). Claudette Colbert, for whom the part had been written, had severely injured her back, and although production had been halted for two months in the hope that she might recover, she was unable to continue. Davis read the script, described it as the best she had ever read, and accepted the role. Within days she joined the cast in San Francisco to begin filming. During production, she established what would become a life-long friendship with her costar, Anne Baxter, and a romantic relationship with her leading man, Gary Merrill, which led to marriage. On July 3, 1950 Davis's divorce from William Sherry was finalized, and on July 28 she married Gary Merrill. With Sherry's consent, Merrill adopted B.D., Davis's daughter with Sherry, and in 1950, Davis and Merrill adopted a baby girl they named Margot. The family traveled to England, where Davis and Merrill starred in a murder-mystery film, Another Man's Poison. When it received lukewarm reviews and failed at the box office, Hollywood columnists wrote that Davis's comeback had petered out, and an Academy Award nomination for The Star (1952) did not halt her decline. Davis and Merrill adopted a baby boy, Michael, in 1952. Davis was also severely ill and was operated on for osteomyelitis of the jaw. Margot was diagnosed as severely brain damaged due to an injury sustained during or shortly after her birth, and was eventually placed in an institution. Davis and Merrill began arguing frequently. She accepted her next role, in the Grand Guignol horror film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? after reading the script. She negotiated a deal that would pay her ten percent of the worldwide gross profits, in addition to her salary. The film became one of the year's biggest successes. Davis and Joan Crawford played two aging sisters, former actresses forced by circumstance to share a decaying Hollywood mansion. After filming was completed, their public comments against each other allowed the tension to develop into a lifelong feud, and when Davis was nominated for an Academy Award, Crawford campaigned against her. Davis also received her only BAFTA Award nomination for this performance. In 1977, Davis became the first woman to receive the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1983, after filming the pilot episode for the television series Hotel, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Within two weeks of her surgery she suffered four strokes which caused paralysis in the right side of her face and in her left arm, and left her with slurred speech. During this time, her relationship with her daughter, B. D. Hyman, deteriorated when Hyman became a born-again Christian and attempted to persuade Davis to follow suit. With her health stable, she travelled to England to film the Agatha Christie mystery Murder with Mirrors (1985). She collapsed during the American Cinema Awards in 1989 and later discovered that her cancer had returned. She recovered sufficiently to travel to Spain where she was honored at the Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival, but during her visit her health rapidly deteriorated. Too weak to make the long journey back to the U.S., she travelled to France where she died on October 6, 1989, at the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine.

The Best Director award went to John Ford for The Informer. Ford,an American film director of Irish heritage, is famous for both his westerns such as Stagecoach and The Searchers and adaptations of such classic 20th-century American novels as The Grapes of Wrath. His four Best Director Academy Awards (1935, 1940, 1941, 1952) is a record still unmatched, although only one of those films, How Green Was My Valley, won Best Picture. He married Mary McBryde Smith, on July 3, 1920 (two children). Ford never divorced his wife, but had a five-year affair with Katharine Hepburn after they met during the filming of Mary of Scotland (1936). In 1921, Ford turned to directing, beginning as an assistant to Lois Weber. During the 1920s, he served as president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a forerunner to today's Directors Guild of America. Over 35 years John Wayne appeared in 24 of Ford's films (and 3 TV episodes), including Stagecoach (1939), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), The Searchers (1956), The Wings of Eagles (1957), and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Ford won four Academy Awards as Best Director for The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), and The Quiet Man (1952) - none of them Westerns (also starring in the last two was Maureen O'Hara, "his favorite actress"). He was also nominated as Best Director for Stagecoach (1939). Ford is the only director to have won four Best Director Academy Awards: both William Wyler and Frank Capra won the award three times. He died in Palm Desert, California, aged 79 from stomach cancer.

The award for best song went to "Lullaby of Broadway", a popular song with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin. The song was published in 1935 and introduced by Wini Shaw in the musical film Gold Diggers of 1935 and, in an unusual move, it was used as background music in a sequence in the Bette Davis film Special Agent that same year.

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