Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Seventh Academy Awards

The 7th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film for 1934, were held on February 27, 1935 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.The Academy allowed write-in votes on the final ballot after complaints that neither Bette Davis (Of Human Bondage (1934)) nor Myrna Loy (Thin Man, The (1934)) were nominated.

The awards were dominated by the romantic comedy It happened one night, directed by Frank Capra, in which a pampered socialite (Claudette Colbert) tries to get out from under her father's thumb, and falls in love with a roguish reporter (Clark Gable). The plot was based on the story Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams. The film was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), a feat that would not be matched until One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and later by The Silence of the Lambs (1991). In 1993, It Happened One Night was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The leading actor from the movie, Clark Gable was according to legend lent to Columbia Pictures, then considered a second-rate operation, as punishment for refusing roles; however, this has been refuted by more recent biographies. Gable was not the first choice to play the lead role of Peter Warne. Robert Montgomery was originally offered the role, but he felt that the script was poor. Filming began in a tense atmosphere; Gable and co-star Claudette Colbert agreed that the script was below standard, but soon found that the script was no worse than those of many of their earlier films. Both Gable and Frank Capra enjoyed making the movie. Another persistent legend has it that Gable had a profound effect on men's fashion, thanks to a scene in this movie. As he is preparing for bed, he takes off his shirt to reveal that he is bare-chested. Sales of men's undershirts across the country allegedly declined noticeably for a period following this movie. He returned to MGM a bigger star than ever. Gable also earned an Academy Award nomination when he portrayed Fletcher Christian in 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty. Gable once said that this was his favorite film of his own. This was despite the fact that he did not get along with his co-stars Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone. Despite his reluctance to play the role, Gable is best known for his performance of Rhett Buttler in Gone with the Wind (1939), which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. During filming, Vivien Leigh complained about Gable's bad breath, which was apparently caused by his false teeth. They otherwise got along well. Decades later, Gable would say that whenever his career would start to fade, a re-release of Gone with the Wind would instantly revive everything, and he continued as a top leading man for the rest of his life. In addition, Gable was one of the few actors to play the lead in three films that won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Gable's marriage in 1939 to his third wife, successful actress Carole Lombard, was the happiest period of his personal life. As an independent actress, her annual income exceeded his studio salary until Gone With The Wind brought them to rough parity. From their pairing, she gained personal stability and he thrived being around her youthful, charming, and blunt personality. They purchased a ranch at Encino and once Clark had become accustomed to her often blunt way of expressing herself, they found they had much in common, despite Gable being a conservative Republican and Lombard a liberal Democrat. Their efforts to have a child were unsuccessful. On January 16, 1942, Lombard, who had just finished her 57th film, To Be Or Not To Be, was on a tour to sell war bonds when the twin-engine DC-3 she was traveling in crashed into a mountain near Las Vegas, killing all aboard including Lombard's mother and MGM staff publicist Otto Winkler (best man at Gable's wedding to Lombard). Gable flew to the site and saw the forest fire ignited by the burning plane. Lombard was declared the first war-related female casualty the U.S. suffered in World War II and Gable received a personal condolence note from President Roosevelt.Gable was acclaimed for his performance in The Hucksters (1947), a satire of post-war Madison Avenue corruption and immorality. A very public and brief romance with Paulette Goddard occurred after that. In 1949, Clark married Sylvia Ashley, a British divorcée and the widow of Douglas Fairbanks. The relationship was profoundly unsuccessful; they divorced in 1952. Soon followed Never Let Me Go (1953), opposite Gene Tierney. Tierney was a favorite of Gable and he was very disappointed when she was replaced in Mogambo (due to her mental health problems) by Grace Kelly. Mogambo (1953), directed by John Ford, was a Technicolor remake of his earlier film Red Dust, which had been an even greater success. Gable's on-location affair with Grace Kelly sputtered out after filming was completed. Gable became increasingly unhappy with what he considered mediocre roles offered him by MGM, while the studio regarded his salary as excessive. Studio head Louis B. Mayer was fired in 1951 amid slumping Hollywood production and revenue, due primarily to the rising popularity of television, and studio chiefs struggled to cut costs. Many MGM stars were fired or not renewed including Greer Garson and Judy Garland. In 1953, Gable refused to renew his contract, and began to work independently. His first two films were Soldier of Fortune and The Tall Men, both profitable though only modest successes. Gable's fifth wife, whom he met again in 1954 and married in 1955 after an on-again, off-again affair spanning thirteen years, was Kay Spreckels (full name Kathleen Williams Capps de Alzaga Spreckels), a thrice-married former fashion model and stock actress.Gable started to receive television offers but rejected them outright, even though some of his peers, like his old flame Loretta Young, were flourishing in the new medium.Gable's last film was The Misfits, written by Arthur Miller, directed by John Huston, and co-starring Marilyn Monroe, Eli Wallach, and Montgomery Clift. This was also the final film completed by Monroe. Many critics regard Gable's performance to be his finest. Gable had a daughter, Judy Lewis (b. 1935), the result of an affair with actress Loretta Young begun on the set of The Call of the Wild (1935). In an elaborate scheme, Young took an extended vacation and went to Europe to hide the fact that she was pregnant. After a few months she came back to California and gave birth to their child in Venice. Nineteen months after the birth, Loretta claimed to have adopted Judy.On March 20, 1961, Kay Spreckels gave birth to Gable's son, John Clark Gable, born four months after Clark's death. Gable died in Los Angeles, on November 16, 1960, the result of a fourth heart attack.In 1999, the American Film Institute named Gable seventh among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time.In 1996, Steven Spielberg anonymously purchased Clark Gable's Oscar to protect it from further commercial exploitation, gave it back to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, commenting that he could think of "no better sanctuary for Gable's only Oscar than the Motion Picture Academy".

The female star of the film, Claudette Colbert also won the Oscar for Best Actress. She was a popular leading lady of Paramount Pictures, one of the best-paid movie stars of the 1930s and 1940s. Her assets were a heart-shaped face, vibrant voice, and versatility.In 1999, she was ranked as the 12th greatest female star of all time of American cinema, by the AFI in their list.Colbert signed a film contract with Paramount Pictures in 1928. Her first hit film was The Hole in the Wall (1929), followed by The Lady Lies (1929) which was also successful. The next year she had another hit entitled The Big Pond, opposite Maurice Chevalier. By 1933 she had starred in some 20 films, approximately four films per year, and early notable films were all box-office success. She would make a total of four films with Fredric March, including Dorothy Arzner's Honor Among Lovers (1931), which fared well at the box office. Later the same year she was paired with Gary Cooper in His Woman. Colbert's star rose with such notable features as the Ernst Lubitsch musical The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), and Cecil B. DeMille epic The Sign of the Cross (1932). This was followed in 1933 by Tonight Is Ours. Also pretty good drama I Cover the Waterfront and the pioneering screwball comedy Three-Cornered Moon (both 1933) expanded her range. The same year, she renegotiated the contract with Paramount and was allowed to star in films at other studios. Perhaps her most famous role was as the runaway heiress, Ellie Andrews in It Happened One Night (1934, loan out to Columbia) for which shw won the Oscar. Colbert decided not to attend the presentation and instead, planned to take a cross-country train trip. After she was named the winner, studio chief Harry Cohn sent someone to "drag her off" the train, which had not left the station, and take her to the ceremony. Colbert arrived wearing a two-piece traveling suit. She was cast in the title role of DeMille's Cleopatra (1934), and then for Universal in the original version of Imitation of Life (1934), her third box office success of the year. Both films also won Oscar nominations for Best Picture. Colbert was also nominated the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1936 for Private Worlds, and in 1945 for Since You Went Away.For many years, she was among the top-earning movie stars: analysts reported that she was the industry's best-paid star in 1938 and 1942; for several years Colbert was voted Hollywood's best-dressed woman. But Colbert really glistened in sophisticated comedies, and was particularly vivid in Preston Sturges' classic The Palm Beach Story (1942).From 1952 to 1954, she traveled to Europe, made fewer films, and stopped making motion pictures by the middle of that decade. Her last starring film role was in the 1961 melodrama, Parrish. She was married to actor/director Norman Foster from 1928 until 1935. Four months after the divorce, Colbert wed surgeon Joel Jay Pressman (1901-1968), but did not have any children. She suffered a stroke in 1993 and never fully recovered; it curtailed her daily swims and speedboat rides. In 1996 she passed away at her vacation home in Speightstown, Barbados at the age of 92. Her permanent address was Manhattan.

Frank Capra was an Academy Award winning Italian-American film director and a major creative force behind a number of highly popular films of the 1930s and 1940s, including It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, among others. Like other prominent directors of the 1930s and '40s, Capra began his career in silent films, initially as a "prop man" and worked his way up to the director's chair. Capra was unable to get any of the actresses he wanted for the part of Ellie Andrews, partly because no self-respecting star would make a film with only two costumes. Harry Cohn suggested Claudette Colbert to play the lead role. Both Capra and Clark Gable enjoyed making the movie, Colbert did not. After the 1934 film It Happened One Night, Capra directed a steady stream of films for Columbia intended to be inspirational and humanitarian. The best known are Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the original Lost Horizon, You Can't Take It with You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It's a Wonderful Life. His ten-year break from screwball comedy ended with the comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. Among the actors who owed much of their early success to Capra were Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant and Donna Reed. Capra credited Jean Arthur as "my favorite actress". Capra's films in the 1930s enjoyed success at the Academy Awards. In 1936, Capra won his second Best Director Oscar for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and in 1938 he won his third Best Director Oscar in just five years for You Can't Take It with You which also won Best Picture. In addition to his three directing wins, Capra received directing nominations for three other films (Lady for a Day, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It's a Wonderful Life). He was also host of the 8th Academy Awards ceremony on March 5, 1936.Although It's a Wonderful Life (1946) was initially considered a box office disappointment, it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Director The film gained a second life on television, where for a number of years it was shown multiple times during the Christmas season. A lapse in its copyright protection caused the film to appear to fall into the public domain, and TV stations believed they were allowed to show it without paying royalties. With the new exposure, It's a Wonderful Life became a Christmas classic.The American Film Institute named it one of the best films ever made, putting it at the top of the list of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers, a list of what AFI considers to be the most inspirational American movies of all time. The film also appeared in another AFI Top 100 list: it placed at 11th on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list of the top American films. Capra's final theatrical film was 1961's Pocketful of Miracles, with Glenn Ford and Bette Davis. Frank Capra died in La Quinta, California of a heart attack in his sleep in 1991 at the age of 94. His son Frank Capra, Jr. — one of the three children born to Capra's second wife, Lou Capra — was the president of EUE Screen Gems Studios, in Wilmington, North Carolina until his death on 19 December 2007. Frank Capra's grandson is Frank Capra III.

Among other awards it is to be noted the first award for Best Song that went to The Continental written by Con Conrad with lyrics by Herb Magidson and was introduced by Ginger Rogers in the 1934 film The Gay Divorcee. The first Juvenile award was given to Shirley Temple for her her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934. Shirley Temple was easily the most popular and famous child star of all time. She got her start in the movies at the age of three and soon progressed to super stardom. Shirley could do it all: act, sing and dance and all at the age of five! Fans loved her as she was bright, bouncy and cheerful in her films and they ultimately bought millions of dollars worth of products that had her likeness on them. Shirley was the box-office champion for three straight years, 1936-37-38, beating out such great grown up stars as Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford. By 1939, her popularity declined. Although she starred in some very good movies like Since You Went Away (1944) and the The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), her career was nearing its end. Later, she served as an ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. It was once guessed that she had more than 50 golden curls on her head.

The awards were hosted by Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb, an American author, humorist, and columnist who lived in New York and wrote over 60 books and 300 short stories, some turned into films.

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