Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sixth Academy Awards

The 6th Academy Awards were held on March 16, 1934 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles honoring achievements from 1933.

This year's best picture Oscar went to Cavalcade, in the process beating such movies as A farwell to Arms, Little women, the private life of Henry VIII and 42nd street. It was a film that takes a historical view of English life from New Year's Eve 1899 through New Years Day 1933. It is told from the point of view of well-to-do Londoner residents Jane and Robert Marryot (played by Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook). The film chronicles events including the Second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic and the Great War. It used the tagline "The march of time measured by a mother's heart!" The film was directed by Frank Lloyd for which he won the Oscar for Best Director; Reginald Berkeley wrote the screenplay based on the original play by Noel Coward. Winner of three 1933 Academy Awards, the thrid was for best art direction (William S. Darling)and a nomination (Diana Wynyard was also nominated for best leading actress for her role in this picture) it has since fallen into oblivion.

The best actor award went to Charles Laughton for his portrayal 0f Henry the VIII in The Private life of Henry VIII. He was an English stage and film actor, screenwriter, producer and one-time director. He became an American citizen in 1950. While best known for his historical roles in films, he started his career as a remarkable stage actor. Laughton commenced his film career in England. He took small roles in two short silent comedies starring his wife Elsa Lanchester, Daydreams and Blue Bottles (both 1928) and he made a brief appearance as a disgruntled diner in another silent film Piccadilly with Anna May Wong in 1929. He appeared with Elsa Lanchester again in a "film revue," featuring assorted British variety acts, called Comets (1930) and made two other early British talkies. His first Hollywood film was The Old Dark House (1932) with Boris Karloff but his best-remembered film role of that year was as Nero in Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross. That same year, he turned out a number of memorable performances, such as H. G. Wells's mad vivisectionist Dr. Moreau in Island of Lost Souls, and the little clerk in the segment of If I Had a Million directed by Ernst Lubitsch. In Hollywood, he also repeated his stage role as a murderer in Payment Deferred and played a demented submarine commander in The Devil and the Deep with Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. Later films included White Woman (1933) in which he co-starred with Carole Lombard as a cockney river trader in the Malaysian jungle; The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) as Norma Shearer's malevolent father; Les Misérables (1935) as Javert, the police inspector; Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) as Captain Bligh, one of his most famous screen roles which got him nominated for best actor again, co-starring with Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian; Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) as the very English butler transported to early 1900s America; and the title roles in Rembrandt (1936) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Laughton received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his role as Sir Wilfrid Robarts in the screen version of Agatha Christie's play Witness for the Prosecution (1957). He was the first actor to portray Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot when he starred in Alibi - a stage adaptation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - in 1928. He played a British admiral in Under Ten Flags (1960) and worked for the first and only time with his chief acting rival, Laurence Olivier, in Spartacus (1960) as a wily Roman senator. His final film was Advise and Consent (1962), for which he received favorable comments for his performance as a southern U.S. Senator (for which accent he studied recordings of the late Mississippi Senator John Stennis). Laughton worked on the film, which was directed by Otto Preminger, while he was dying from bone cancer. Laughton took a stab at directing a movie, and the result was the legendary The Night of the Hunter (1955), starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. This movie is often cited among today's critics as one of the best movies of the 1950s. He had a long and resilient marriage to actress Elsa Lanchester, although, in her autobiography, Lanchester revealed that Laughton was homosexual. According to her own account, she was shocked to learn about this, but eventually decided to remain married to him. However, she claims as a result of this, she decided not to have children with him. The decision caused him great grief, as he longed to become a father, as many friends of Laughton, among them Maureen O'Hara and Stanley Cortez, have stated. Elsa Lanchester appeared opposite him in several films, including Rembrandt (1936), The Big Clock, and Witness for the Prosecution (1957) for which both received Academy Award nominations. Laughton for Best Actor, and Lanchester for Best Supporting Actress. Neither won.

The Best Actress award, the first out of four that she'd win in her long career, went to Katharine Hepburn for her role in Morning Glory. A screen legend, Hepburn holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscar wins with four, from twelve nominations (Meryl Streep currently holds the record for most overall acting nominations with fourteen). Hepburn won an Emmy Award in 1975 for her lead role in Love Among the Ruins opposite her friend Laurence Olivier, and was nominated for four other Emmys and two Tony Awards during the course of her more than 70-year acting career. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Hepburn as the top female star of all time. Hepburn had a famous and longtime romance with Spencer Tracy, both on- and off-screen. Her film career was launched alongside legendary actor John Barrymore and director George Cukor, who would become a lifetime friend and colleague. Her nonconformist, anti-Hollywood behavior offscreen, which would make her one of the silver screen's most beloved stars and a feminist icon, at the time made studio executives fret that she would never become a superstar. Though she was headstrong, her work ethic and talent were undeniable, and the following year (1933), Hepburn won her first Oscar for best actress in Morning Glory. That same year, Hepburn played Jo in the screen adaptation of Little Women, which broke box-office records. In 1935, in the title role of the film Alice Adams, Hepburn earned her second Oscar nomination. By 1938, Hepburn was a bona fide star, and her forays into comedy with the films Bringing Up Baby and Stage Door were well-received critically. But audience response to the two films was tepid, and the good reviews from the critics were not enough to rescue her from an earlier string of flops (The Little Minister, Spitfire, Break of Hearts, Sylvia Scarlett, A Woman Rebels, Mary of Scotland, Quality Street). As a result, Hepburn's movie career began to decline. Yearning for a comeback on the stage, Hepburn returned to her roots on Broadway, appearing in The Philadelphia Story, a play written especially for her by Philip Barry, a year after Hepburn had starred in the film version of his play Holiday. She played spoiled socialite Tracy Lord to rave reviews. With the help of ex-lover Howard Hughes, she purchased the film rights to the play and sold them to MGM, which adapted the play into one of the biggest hits of 1940. As part of her deal with MGM, Hepburn got to choose the director — George Cukor— and her costars — Cary Grant and James Stewart. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work. Her career was revived almost overnight. Hepburn made her first appearance opposite Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year (1942), directed by George Stevens. Behind the scenes the pair fell in love, beginning what would become one of the silver screen's most famous romances, despite Tracy's Roman Catholic marriage to another woman. Most of their films together stress the sparks that can fly when a couple try to find an equable balance of power. The sexy sparring over power and control is almost always resolved in an agreement to share and share alike. They appeared in a total of nine movies together, including Adam's Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), Desk Set (1957), and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), for which Hepburn won her second Academy Award for Best Actress. Hepburn had had several prior liaisons, most notably with her agent Leland Hayward and Howard Hughes. Tracy, however, seems to have been her true love. Hepburn took five years off after Long Day's Journey Into Night to care for Tracy while he was in failing health. She was not permitted into the ambulance which carried Tracy off, because she was not his spouse. Out of consideration for Tracy's family, Hepburn did not attend his funeral. Hepburn is perhaps best remembered for her role in The African Queen (1951), for which she received her fifth Best Actress nomination, losing to Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire. She played a prim spinster missionary in Africa who convinces Humphrey Bogart's character, a hard-drinking riverboat captain, to use his boat to attack a German ship.Following The African Queen Hepburn often played spinsters, most notably in her Oscar-nominated performances for Summertime (1955) and The Rainmaker (1956), although at 49 some considered her too old for the role. She also received nominations for her performances in films adapted from stage dramas, namely as Mrs. Venable in Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer (1959) and as Mary Tyrone in the 1962 version of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. Hepburn received her second Best Actress Oscar for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. She always said she believed the award was meant to honor Spencer Tracy, who died shortly after filming was completed. The following year, she won a record-breaking third Oscar for her role as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, an award shared that year with Barbra Streisand for her performance in Funny Girl. Peter O'Toole, her co-star in The Lion in Winter, has said in many interviews that Hepburn was his favorite actor to work with. He and Hepburn remained great friends until her death. Hepburn also appeared with John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn, which was essentially The African Queen done as a western. Hepburn won her fourth Oscar for On Golden Pond (1981), opposite Henry Fonda. In 1994, Hepburn gave her final three movie performances — One Christmas, based on a short story by Truman Capote, as Ginny in the remake of Love Affair; and This Can't Be Love, directed by one of her close friends, Anthony Harvey (The Lion in Winter). On June 29, 2003, Hepburn died of natural causes at Fenwick, the Hepburn family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She was 96 years old. In honor of her extensive theater work, the lights of Broadway were dimmed for an hour. Hepburn's professional legacy is today carried on within her family. Hepburn's niece is actress Katharine Houghton, who appeared as her daughter in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Hepburn's grandniece is actress Schuyler Grant; the two appeared together in the 1988 television movie Laura Lansing Slept Here.

The 6th Academy Awards were hosted by Will Rogers and Rogers also presented all of the awards. He was was a Cherokee-American cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer, Presidential candidate and actor.From 1929 to 1935, Rogers became the star of the Fox Film lot (now 20th Century Fox). Far from being a "B-Movie" level performer, Rogers appeared in 21 feature films alongside such noted performers as Janet Gaynor, Boris Karloff, Myrna Loy, Hattie McDaniel, Ray Milland, Maureen O'Sullivan, Mickey Rooney, and Peggy Wood. He was directed three times by John Ford. By the mid-1930s, Rogers was adored by the American people, and was the top-paid movie star in Hollywood at the time. On an around-the-world trip with aviator Wiley Post, Rogers died when their small airplane crashed near Barrow, Alaska Territory in 1935.

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