Wednesday, December 26, 2007

9th Academy Awards

The 9th Academy Awards were held on March 4, 1937 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. This ceremony marked the first time in which the categories of Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress were awarded, but the winners receive plaques instead of statuettes for the first seven years.

The Oscar for Best Picture went to The Great Ziegfield, a musical film produced by MGM. Although Florenz Ziegfeld, famed producer of extravagant stage revues, provides a plot thread for this movie, it's really meant to showcase a series of spectacular musical productions. It takes many key liberties with Ziegfeld's life. The film includes original music by Walter Donaldson and Irving Berlin. Featured in the film are William Powell (as Ziegfeld), Myrna Loy (as Billie Burke), Luise Rainer (as Anna Held), Nat Pendleton (as Eugen Sandow), Frank Morgan and Virginia Bruce. Luise Reiner also won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role of Ziegfield's first wife and the movie won a total of 3 Awads and another 4 nominations.

The Oscar for Best Actor in a leading role went to Paul Muni, beating the likes of Gary Cooper, William Powell and Spencer Tracy, for his performance in The Story Of Louis Pasteur. Muni was 29 when he began acting on Broadway in 1924. His first role, that of an elderly Jewish man in the play We Americans, was written by playwright Sam Harris; it was also the first time that he ever acted in English. He was signed by Fox three years later, in 1929, and received an Oscar nomination for his first film The Valiant. However, he was unhappy with the roles and decided to return to Broadway. In 1932, Paul Muni returned to Hollywood to star in such harrowing pre-Code films as the original Scarface and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. The acclaim that Muni received as a result of this performance led Warner Brothers Studios to sign a long-term contract with him. He received his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance as James Allen, but lost to Charles Laughton (The Private Life of Henry VIII). Muni eventually won a long-overdue Oscar for his performance in the biographical drama The Story of Louis Pasteur. Muni was nominated for a total of five Academy Awards, an impressive number by any standard but all the more remarkable for Muni since he only appeared in twenty-five films throughout his career. After several failed projects, Muni made a triumphant return to Broadway, winning a Tony Award in 1956 for the role of Henry Drummond in the play Inherit the Wind. He retired from filmmaking in 1959, soon after receiving his fifth Academy Award nomination for The Last Angry Man; however, he made a final television appearance in the series Saints and Sinners in 1962. Muni died in Montecito, California at the age of 71.

As mentioned above the Best Actress in a leading role Oscar went to Luise Reiner. Luise Ranier appeared in several German language films before being discovered in 1935 by an MGM talent scout, who felt that she might appeal to the same audience as Greta Garbo, then one of their most successful performers. She moved to Hollywood that year and studied English under Constance Collier, and made her first American film appearance opposite William Powell in Escapade (1935). Her next two films won her consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actress, first for her portrayal of actress Anna Held in The Great Ziegfeld (1936), for which she also won a "New York Film Critic's Award", and next as a Chinese peasant in The Good Earth (1937). She made a few films in 1938 but all of them were ill advised and not well received. She refused to be stereotyped or to knuckle under to the studio system and studio head Louis B. Mayer was unsympathetic to her demands for serious roles. Furthermore, she began to fight for a higher salary and she was reported as being difficult and temperamental. Disenchanted with Hollywood, where she later said it was impossible to have an intellectual conversation, she moved to New York City to live with her husband, playwright Clifford Odets whom she had married in 1937. MGM released Rainer from her contract, and Rainer and Odets divorced three years later. She made one more film appearance in Hostages in 1943, and abandoned Hollywood in 1944 after she married publisher Robert Knittel. She had become an American citizen in the 1940s, but they had lived in the UK for most of their marriage. He died in 1989. They had one daughter, Francesca Knittel, now known as Francesca Knittel-Bowyer. Rainer lives in an apartment in Belgravia Square, London, supposedly in an apartment once owned by Vivien Leigh. She made two appearances at the Academy Awards ceremonies (in 1998 and 2003) in special retrospective tributes to past Oscar winners. She is currently the oldest living winner of an Academy Award.

Two new categories were introduced this year, the Best Supporting Actor and Actress. For the Best supporting Actor category it was Walter Brennan who took the award. He is remembered as one of the premier character actors in motion picture history. After service in World War I (where, according to legend, his vocal cords were damaged by mustard gas, which also caused him to age prematurely), he moved to Guatemala and raised pineapples before settling in Los Angeles. During the 1920s, he would become involved in the real estate market, where he would make a fortune. Unfortunately, he lost most of his money when the market took a sudden downturn. Finding himself broke, he began taking bit parts in as many films as he could, including The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and also worked as a stunt man. In the early 1930s, he began appearing in higher quality films and received more substantial roles as his talent was recognized. This culminated with his receiving the very first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Swan Bostrom in the period film Come and Get It (1936).In the 1941 Sergeant York, he played a sympathetic preacher and dry goods store owner who advised the title character played by Gary Cooper. He was particularly skilled in playing the hero's sidekick or as the "grumpy old man" in a picture. Though he was hardly ever cast as the villain, notable exceptions were his roles as Old Man Clanton in the classic 1946 film My Darling Clementine opposite Henry Fonda, the 1962 Cinerama production How the West Was Won as the murderous Colonel Jeb Hawkins, and as Judge Roy Bean in The Westerner, for which he won his third best supporting actor Academy Award, in 1940. While the roles he was adept at playing were extremely diverse, he is probably best remembered for his portrayals in movie Westerns, such as trail hand Nadine Groot in Red River and Deputy Stumpy in Rio Bravo both directed by Howard Hawks. He was the first actor to win three Academy Awards and remains the only person to have won three Best Supporting Actor awards. On his death from emphysema, aged 80, in Oxnard, Brennan was interred in San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles. His widow, Ruth, whom he married in 1920, lived to be 99, and is buried next to him. They had a daughter and two sons.

The first actress to win an Academy Award for a Best Supporting role was Gale Sondergaard. She made her first film appearance in Anthony Adverse as "Faith Paleologue" and became the first recipient of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this performance. Her career as an actress flourished during the 1930s, including a role opposite Paul Muni in Academy Award-winning The Life of Emile Zola. Walt Disney Studios used her as the main inspiration for the Wicked Queen in the animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Originally cast as the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz (1939), she was replaced by Margaret Hamilton when MGM decided to change the Wicked Witch from a glamorous character to an ugly one, and Sondergaard refused to wear the necessary disfiguring makeup. In 1940 she played the role with which she is perhaps most identified, the exotic and sinister wife in The Letter, supporting Bette Davis. She received a second Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her role as the King's wife in Anna and the King of Siam in 1946. Married to the film director Herbert Joseph Biberman from 1930, her career suffered irreparable damage during the Red Scare of the early 1950s, when her husband was accused of being a communist and named as one of the Hollywood Ten. Herbert Biberman died in 1971. Sondergaard made a few more film and television appearances, before retiring. She died from cerebral vascular thrombosis in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 86. She was survived by two children, Joan Kirstine Biberman and Daniel Hans Biberman.

The Best Director Oscar went to Frank Capra for Mr.Deeds goes to town. It was his second award."The Way You Look Tonight" is a song featured in the film Swing Time, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936. It was written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The song was sung by John "Lucky" Garnett (played by Fred Astaire) while sitting at the piano. Penelope "Penny" Carroll (played by Ginger Rogers) was busy washing her hair in an adjacent room, and feeling anything but beautiful at the time.
This song was also popularly performed by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, Rod Stewart, Andy Williams Ray Quinn, Steve Tyrell and as a duet between Bing Crosby and his wife Dixie Lee. It was featured in the movies Chinatown, My Best Friend's Wedding, Father of the Bride, Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, Peter's Friends and Kenneth Branagh's version of Love's Labour's Lost.

The awards were hosted by George Jessel. He was famous in his lifetime as a multitalented comedic entertainer, achieving a level of recognition that transcended his limited roles in movies. He was widely known by his nickname, the "Toastmaster General of the United States" (a parody of Postmaster General) for his frequent role as the master of ceremonies at political and entertainment gatherings. In the 1930s, his personal life kept him in the public eye as much as his movies. He had notorious affairs with actresses Pola Negri, Helen Morgan and Lupe Vélez. It was around this time, while emceeing a vaudeville show in Chicago, he decided to introduce a sister act, The Gumm Sisters, to laughs from the audience. When he reintroduced the singing trio as The Garland Sisters (after Carole Lombard's character in the film Twentieth Century) the name stuck. Youngest sister Frances named herself Judy after a popular Rudy Vallee song and went onto become one of the most legendary film and recording stars of the last century. In 1934 Jessel married silent movie star Norma Talmadge, causing a scandal because Talmadge was married at the time that they started their affair. After their divorce in 1939, he caused further scandal by breaking into her house with a pistol and firing shots at her current lover. In 1969 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him for his charity work by awarding him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, a Special Academy Award. His last movie role was in Diary of a Young Comic in 1979. He also appeared as himself as an interviewed witness in the 1981 movie Reds. Jessel died of a heart attack in 1981 at the age of 83.


Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

speaking of Judy Garland, this week over at The Judy Garland Experience they are featuring an ultra rare, never before heard recording of Judy's 1967 Christmas show at Madison Square Garden. Judy is in spectacular form and gives a memorable show (that also features Lorna Luft and Tony Bennett). The are also featuring a rare 1962 Here's Hollywood interview, a private performance from 1964, Judy's radio portrayal of Cinderella, and dozens of other rare recordings including Barbra Streisands 1968 appearance at Carnegie Hall.
If you haven't heard of The Judy Garland Experience it is a group on Yahoo that features rare Garland related audio and pictures, as well as lively discussions.
The group has the largest and most eclectic membership of all the Garland groups.
It is definitely worth checking out.

tashmara said...

thank you, dan b....I will certainly check out the group.