Sunday, December 30, 2007

16th Academy Awards

The 16th Academy Awards was the first Oscar ceremony held at a large public venue, Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Free passes were given out to men and women in uniform. The more theatrical approach makes it a forerunner of the contemporary Oscar telecast.
For the first time, supporting actors and actresses took home full-size statuettes, instead of smaller-sized awards mounted on a plaque.

This year's winner of the Best Picture Oscar was Casablanca, directed by Michael Curtiz who also won for Best Director stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund. It focuses on Rick's conflict between, in the words of one character, love and virtue: he must choose between his love for Ilsa and doing the right thing, helping her and her Resistance leader husband escape from Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. Although it was an A-list movie, with established stars and first-rate writers, nobody involved with its production expected Casablanca to be anything out of the ordinary; it was just one of dozens of pictures being churned out by Hollywood every year. The film was a solid, if unspectacular, success in its initial release, but has grown in popularity as time has gone by, consistently ranking near the top of lists of great films. Critics have praised the charismatic performances of Bogart and Bergman, the chemistry between them, the depth of characterization, the taut direction, the witty screenplay and the emotional impact of the work as a whole. Casablanca is now ranked among the greatest cinematic achievements of all time. In 1989, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 1999, it was ranked by the American Film Institute as the second greatest American film ever made, behind only Citizen Kane. The 2007 revised AFI list moved it down to third, after Citizen Kane and The Godfather. One of the lines most closely associated with the film—"Play it again, Sam"—is a misquotation. When Ilsa first enters the Café Americain, she spots Sam and asks him to "Play it once, Sam, for old times' sake." When he feigns ignorance, she responds, "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.' " Later that night, alone with Sam, Rick says, "You played it for her and you can play it for me." and "If she can stand it, I can! Play it!" The line "Here's looking at you, kid.", spoken by Rick to Ilsa, is not in the draft screenplays, and has been attributed to the poker lessons Bogart was giving Bergman between takes. It was voted in a 2005 poll by the American Film Institute as the fifth most memorable line in cinema history. Six lines from Casablanca appeared in the top 100, by far the most of any film (Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were next, with three apiece). The others were: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."(20th), "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'" (28th), "Round up the usual suspects." (32nd), "We'll always have Paris." (43rd), and "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." (67th).

The director was Michael Curtiz, Hungarian born, for which he had won the Best Director Award. He directed at least 50 films in Europe and a further hundred in the US, among the best-known being The Adventures of Robin Hood, Angels with Dirty Faces, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy and White Christmas. He thrived in the heyday of the Warner Bros. studio in the 1930s and 40s, where he gained a reputation for efficient competence, but also for being difficult to work with.In the mid-30s, he began the highly successful cycle of adventure films starring Errol Flynn that included Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Sea Hawk and Santa Fe Trail (1940). By the early 1940s Curtiz had become fairly wealthy, earning $3,600 per week and owning a substantial estate, complete with polo pitch. One of his regular polo partners was Hal Wallis, who had met Curtiz on his arrival in the country and had established a close friendship with him. Wallis's wife, the actress Louise Fazenda, and Curtiz's third wife, Bess Meredyth, an actress and screenwriter, had been close since before Curtiz's marriage to Meredyth in 1929. Curtiz was frequently unfaithful, and had numerous sexual relationships with extras on set. Prime examples of his work in the 1940s are The Sea Wolf (1941), Casablanca (1942) and Mildred Pierce (1945).After his relationship with Warners broke down, Curtiz continued to direct on a freelance basis from 1954 onwards, with some of his best efforts done at Paramount, where he directed White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye; We're No Angels (1955), starring Humphrey Bogart; and King Creole (1958), starring Elvis Presley. His final film, The Comancheros, was released less than a year before his death from cancer on 10 April 1962. Curtiz received four nominations for the Academy Award for Best Director: before Casablanca won in 1943, he was nominated for Yankee Doodle Dandy in 1942, and for Angels with Dirty Faces and Four Daughters in 1938. Captain Blood came second as a write-in nomination in 1936.

The Best Actor Award went to Paul Lukas, a hungarian born actor. He arrived in Hollywood in 1927 after a successful stage and film career in Hungary, Germany and Austria. At first, he played elegant, smooth womanizers, but increasingly he became typecast as a villain. In 1933, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He was very busy in the 1930s, appearing in such films as Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, the comedy Ladies in Love, and the drama Dodsworth. He followed William Powell and Basil Rathbone portraying the series detective Philo Vance, a cosmopolitan New Yorker, once in 1935 in The Casino Murder Case, but his major role came in 1943's Watch on the Rhine, when he played a man working against the Nazis. To modern viewers, Paul Lukas is best known for his role as Professor Aronnax in Walt Disney's classic 1954 film version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. By that time, however, he was at age 60 was suffering from memory problems during the production, apparently leading him to lash out at cast and crew alike. Even fellow Hungarian and friend Peter Lorre was not immune to the abuse.The remainder of his career moved from Hollywood to the stage to television. His only singing role was as Cosmo Constantine in the original 1950 Broadway stage version of Irving Berlin's Call Me Madam, opposite Ethel Merman. He died in Tangier, Morocco.

The Best Actress award went to Jennifer Jones for her role in The Song of Bernadette. Jones attended Monte Cassino Junior College in Tulsa and Northwestern University, where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, before transferring to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1938. It was here she met and fell in love with fellow acting student Robert Walker. The two were married on January 2, 1939, when Jones was just 19 years old.While Walker found steady work in radio programs, Isley worked part-time modeling hats for the Powers Agency while looking for possible acting jobs. When she learned of auditions for the lead role of Claudia in Rose Franken’s hit play of the same name, she presented herself to David O. Selznick’s New York office, but fled in tears after what she thought was a bad reading. Selznick, however, overheard her audition and was impressed enough to have his secretary call her back. Following an interview, she was signed to a seven-year contract. She was carefully groomed for stardom and given a new name: Jennifer Jones. Director Henry King was impressed by her screen test as Bernadette Soubirous for The Song of Bernadette, and she won the coveted role over hundreds of applicants. That year, Jones' friend, Ingrid Bergman, was also a Best Actress nominee for her work in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Jones apologized to Bergman, who replied, "No, Jennifer, your Bernadette was better than my Maria." Jones presented the Best Actress Oscar the following year to Bergman for Gaslight. Over the next two decades, Jones appeared in a wide range of roles selected by Selznick. Her dark beauty and sensitive nature appealed to audiences and she projected a variable range. Her initial saintly image - as shown in her first starring role - was a stark contrast three years later when she was cast as a provocative biracial woman in Selznick’s controversial film Duel in the Sun. Other notable films included Since You Went Away, Love Letters, Cluny Brown, Portrait of Jennie, Madame Bovary, We Were Strangers, Carrie, Ruby Gentry, Indiscretion of an American Wife, Beat the Devil, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Good Morning Miss Dove, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and A Farewell to Arms. Jones' first marriage to Robert Walker produced two sons, Robert Walker Jr. (born April 15, 1940), and Michael Walker (born March 13, 1941). Both later became actors. Jones later left Walker for producer David O. Selznick. Jones married Selznick on July 13, 1949, a marriage which lasted until his death on June 22, 1965. After his death, she semi-retired from acting; her last appearance was a strong supporting role in the 1974 film The Towering Inferno, playing the ill-fated Lisolette Mueller. Jones' only child with Selznick, Mary Jennifer Selznick (born August 12, 1954), committed suicide in 1976 by jumping from a 20th floor window. This led to Jones' interest in mental health issues. Jones married multi-millionaire industrialist, art collector and philanthropist Norton Simon on May 29, 1971. The couple remained married until Simon's death in June 1993. She is currently on the board of directors of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. Jennifer Jones is a breast cancer survivor.

The Best Supporting Actor award went to Charles Coburn for The More the Merrier. Coburn formed an acting company with Ivah Wills in 1905. They married in 1906. In addition to managing the company, the couple performed frequently on Broadway. After his wife's death in 1937, Coburn relocated to Los Angeles and began acting in films. He was also nominated for The Devil and Miss Jones in 1941 and The Green Years in 1946. Other notable film credits include Of Human Hearts (1938), The Lady Eve (1941), Kings Row (1942), The Constant Nymph (1943), Heaven Can Wait (1943), Wilson (1944), Impact (1949), The Paradine Case (1947), Everybody Does It(1950), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and John Paul Jones (1959).In the 1940s, Coburn served as vice-president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a right-wing group opposed to Communists in Hollywood. His leadership of the Hollywood blacklist of anyone with any connection to Communism, led to a myriad of talented actors, writers and directors being driven out of Hollywood and deprived of their livelihood.In 1959, Coburn married Winifred Natzka, who was forty-one years his junior and the former wife of Oscar Natzka, an opera singer. He died from a heart attack on August 30, 1961 in New York, aged 84.

The Best Supporting Actress award went to Katina Paxinou. She was selected to play "Pilar" in the 1943 film For Whom the Bell Tolls, winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. She continued appearing in Hollywood films until 1949. She made one British film as well, the 1947 film version of Uncle Silas, starring Jean Simmons. After 1949, Paxinou returned to Hollywood only once more, to play, again, a gypsy woman, this time in the 1959 Technicolor religious epic, The Miracle. In 1950, Paxinou resumed her stage career. In her native Greece, she formed the Royal Theatre of Athens with Alexis Minotis, her principal director and her husband since 1940. She continued to accept occasional film roles until her death from cancer in Athens, Greece in 1973 at the age of 72. She was survived by her husband, and her two children from her first marriage.

The Best Song was "You'll Never Know" a popular song written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon based on a poem written by a young Oklahoma war bride named Dorothy Fern Norris. The song was featured in the 1943 movie Hello, Frisco, Hello where it is sung by Alice Faye. It was also performed by Faye in the 1944 film Four Jills in a Jeep. It was recorded in 1943 by, among others, Frank Sinatra and Dick Haymes (whose version was a #1 hit on the R&B charts that year). A 1952 recording by Rosemary Clooney is also well known, even a version recorded in 1954 by Big Maybelle.

The Honorary Award was given to George Pal- For the development of novel methods and techniques in the production of short subjects known as Puppetoons (plaque).

The Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award was awarded to Hal B Wallis for the second time. THe awards were hosted by Jack Benny, an American comedian, vaudeville performer, and radio, television, and film actor. Benny was known for his comic timing and his ability to get laughs with either a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated "Well!". Benny had been only a minor vaudeville performer, but he became a national figure with The Jack Benny Program, a weekly radio show which ran from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1949 to 1955 on CBS, and was consistently among the most highly rated programs during most of that run. The television version of The Jack Benny Program (which never used the sponsor's name) ran from October 28, 1950 to 1965. The show appeared infrequently during its first two years on TV, then ran every fourth week for the next two years. For the 1953-1954 season, half the episodes were live and half were filmed during the summer, to allow Benny to continue doing his radio show. From 1955 to 1960 it appeared every other week, and from 1960 to 1965 it was seen weekly.In October 1974, Benny canceled a performance in Dallas after suffering a dizzy spell, coupled with a feeling of numbness in his arms. Despite a battery of tests, Benny's ailment could not be determined. When he complained of stomach pains in early December, a first test showed nothing but a subsequent one showed he had inoperable pancreatic cancer. Choosing to spend his final days at home, he was visited by close friends including George Burns, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson. He succumbed to the disease on December 26, 1974 at the age of 80. Two days after his death, he was interred in a crypt at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California. Mr. Benny's will arranged for flowers, specifically a single long-stemmed red rose, to be delivered to his widowed wife, Mary Livingstone, every day for the rest of her life. Mary Livingstone died nine years later on June 30, 1983. He retruned to host the awards in 1946.

15th Academy Awards

The 15th Academy Awards were held on March 4, 1943 at the Coconut Groove, The Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles hosted once again by Bob Hope. For the first time the award statuettes are made of plaster due to the war. All are replaced with standard statuettes after the war ends. It is announced at the ceremonies that 27,677 members of the industry are serving in the armed forced.

The winner of the year as Best Picture was certainly Mrs. Miniver, directed by William Wyler and starring Greer Garson in the title role. The film is based on the fictional English housewife created by Jan Struther in 1937 for a series of newspaper columns.The film adaptation of Mrs. Miniver was produced by MGM in 1942. Under the influence of the American Office of War Information, the film attempted to undermine Hollywood's prewar depiction of England as a glamorous bastion of social privilege, anachronistic habits and snobbery in favour of more democratic, modern images. To this end, the social status enjoyed by the Miniver family in the print version was downgraded and increased attention was given to the erosion of class barriers under the pressures of wartime. The film exceeded all expectations, grossing $5,358,000 in North America (the highest for any MGM film at the time) and $3,520,000 abroad. In Britain, it was named the top box office attraction of 1942. 555 of the 592 film critics polled by American magazine Film Daily named it the best film of 1942. On June 14, 2006 it was named #40 on the American Film Institute's list celebrating the most inspirational films of all time. The film won 6 Oscars and was nominated for another six.

The Best Director award went to William Wyler for the above film. He was known to require tens of takes for every shot in his films and for demanding control over the story, location and crew of each production, yet his exacting nature and attention to detail paid off in the form of both popular and critical success. Wyler was born Willi Weiller to a Jewish family in Mulhouse in the French region of Alsace (then part of the German Empire). He was related to Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Pictures, through his mother (a cousin of Laemmle's). His family connections served him well, as he became the youngest director on the Universal lot in 1925. In 1928, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He soon proved himself an able craftsman, and in the early 1930s became one of Universal's greatest assets. He later signed with Samuel Goldwyn and directed such quality films as These Three, Come and Get It, Dodsworth, Dead End, Jezebel, Wuthering Heights, The Letter, The Westerner, and The Little Foxes. Between 1942 and 1945 he also directed two key films which first captured the mood of the nation as it prepared for battle and, four years later, peace. Mrs. Miniver (1942), a story of a middle class English family adjusting to the war in Europe, helped condition American audiences to life in wartime (and galvanized support for the British). The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), the story of three veterans arriving home and adjusting to civilian life, dramatized the problems of returning veterans for those who had remained on the homefront. Wyler won Best Director Oscars for both films (which also won Best Picture Oscars). During the 1950s and 1960s, Wyler directed a handful of critically acclaimed and influential films, most notably Roman Holiday (1953) for introducing Audrey Hepburn to American audiences and leading to her first Oscar, The Heiress earning Olivia de Havilland her second Oscar, Friendly Persuasion (1956) which was awarded by the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the Cannes Film Festival, and Ben-Hur (1959) for its eleven Oscar wins (matched only twice, by Titanic in 1997 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003). In 1965, Wyler won the Irving Thalberg Award for career achievement. Eleven years later, he received the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. In addition to his Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins, ten of Wyler's films earned Best Picture nominations. He received twelve Oscar nominations for Best Director, winning three times, while three dozen of his actors won Oscars or were nominated. Wyler was briefly married to Margaret Sullavan (25 November 1934 - 13 March 1936) and married Margaret Tallichet on 23 October 1938 until his death; they had four children.

The Best Actor award went to James Cagney for his role in Yankee Doodle Dandy. He won acclaim for a wide variety of roles, including the career-launching The Public Enemy. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Cagney eighth among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. On September 28, 1922, he married dancer Frances Willard (aka: “Billie”) Vernon (1899 – 1994) with whom he remained for the rest of his life. They adopted a son, James Cagney Jr, and a daughter, Cathleen “Casey” Cagney. Both his brother William, who was also a producer, and sister Jeanne were actors. Cagney began his acting career in vaudeville and on Broadway. When Warner Brothers acquired the film rights to the play Penny Arcade, they took Cagney and co-star Joan Blondell from the stage to the screen. Cagney went on to star in many films, making his name as a 'tough guy' in a series of crime films beginning with The Public Enemy (1931), which made him an immediate sensation. He won an Oscar playing George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). He returned to his gangster roots in Raoul Walsh's film White Heat (1949) and played a tyrannical ship captain opposite Jack Lemmon and Henry Fonda in Mister Roberts (1955). Cagney's health deteriorated substantially after 1979. Cagney's final appearance in a feature film was in Ragtime (1981), capping a career that covered over 70 films. He was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild and its president from 1942 to 1944. James Cagney died at his Dutchess County farm in Stanfordville, New York, aged 86, of a heart attack.
The Best Actress Award went to Greer Garson, again for Mrs Miniver. Louis B. Mayer discovered Garson while he was in London looking for new talents. Garson was signed to a contract with MGM in 1936 but did not appear in her first American film, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, until 1939. She received her first Oscar nomination for the role, but lost to Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind. She received critical acclaim the next year for her role as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1940 film, Pride and Prejudice. Garson starred opposite Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet in 1941 and that same year, became a major box office star with the sentimental Technicolor drama Blossoms in the Dust which brought her the first of five consecutive Best Actress Oscar nominations, tying Bette Davis' 1938-1942 record, a record that still stands. Garson won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1942 for her role as a strong British wife and mother in the middle of World War II in Mrs. Miniver. (Guinness Book of World Records credits her with the longest Oscar acceptance speech, at five minutes and 30 seconds, after which the Academy Awards instituted a time limit. She was also nominated for Madame Curie (1943), Mrs. Parkington (1944), and The Valley of Decision (1945). She made only a few films after her MGM contract expired in 1954. In 1958, she received a warm reception on Broadway in Auntie Mame, replacing Rosalind Russell who had gone to Hollywood to make the film version. In 1960, Garson received her seventh and final Oscar nomination for Sunrise at Campobello, in which she played Eleanor Roosevelt, this time losing to Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8. Garson's last film, in 1967, was The Happiest Millionaire, although she made infrequent television appearances. Garson was married three times. Her first marriage, on September 28, 1933, was to Edward Alec Abbot Snelson(1904-1992), later Sir Edward, a British civil servant who became a noted judge and expert in Indian and Pakistani affairs. The actual marriage reportedly lasted only a few weeks, but was not formally dissolved until 1943. Her second husband, whom she married in 1943, was Richard Ney (1915-2004), the younger actor who played her son in Mrs. Miniver. They divorced in 1949, with Garson claiming that Ney had called her a "has-been" and belittled her age. Ney eventually became a respected stock-market analyst and financial consultant. That same year, she married a millionaire Texas oilman and horse breeder, E. E. "Buddy" Fogelson (1900-1987), and in 1967, the couple retired to their "Forked Lightning Ranch" in New Mexico. Greer Garson died from heart failure in Dallas on April 6, 1996, at the age of 91.

The Best Supporting Actor Award went to Van Heflin for his role in Johnny Eager. Heflin began his acting career on Broadway in the early 1930s before being signed to a contract by RKO Studios. He made his film debut in A Woman Rebels (1936). He was signed by MGm Studios, and was initially cast in supporting roles in films such as Santa Fe Trail (1940), and Johnny Eager (1942), for which he won the Oscar. Among his more notable film credits are Presenting Lily Mars (1943), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Possessed (1947), Act of Violence (1948), The Three Musketeers (1948), The Prowler (1951), Shane (1953), and 3:10 to Yuma (1957). He also performed on stage throughout his acting career. His stage credits include The Philadelphia Story on Broadway opposite Katharine Hepburn and Joseph Cotten, and the Arthur Miller play A Memory of Two Mondays. Heflin's last major role was in Airport (1970). He played "D. O. Guerrero", a failure who attempts to blow himself up on an airliner so his wife (played by Maureen Stapleton) can collect on a life insurance policy. On July 6, 1971, Heflin had a heart attack. He lay unconscious for days, apparently never regaining consciousness. Van Heflin died at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital on July 23, 1971.

The Best Supporting Actress was another win for Mrs Miniver as it went to Teresa Wright. In the fall of 1939, she appeared in the stage play Life with Father, playing the role of Mary Skinner for two years. It was there that she was discovered by a talent scout hired by Samuel Goldwyn to find a young actress for the role of Bette Davis' daughter in the 1941 adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. She was immediately signed to a five-year Hollywood contract but asserted her seriousness as an actress. Wright was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her screen debut in The Little Foxes (1941). The following year, she was nominated again, this time for Best Actress for The Pride of the Yankees, in which she played opposite Gary Cooper as the wife of Lou Gehrig; that same year, she won Best Supporting Actress as the daughter-in-law of Greer Garson's character in Mrs. Miniver. No actor has ever duplicated her feat of receiving an Oscar nomination for each of her first three films. In 1943, Wright was loaned out by Goldwyn for the Universal film Shadow of a Doubt, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She played an innocent young woman who discovers that her beloved uncle, played by Joseph Cotten, is a serial murderer. Other notable films include The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), an award-winning film about the adjustments of servicemen returning home after World War II, and The Men (1950). Wright rebelled against the studio system of the time. When Samuel Goldwyn fired her, citing her refusal to publicize the film Enchantment (1948), she expressed no regret about losing her $5,000 per week contract. After 1959, she worked mainly in television and on the stage. Wright was married to writer Niven Busch from 1942 to 1952; they had two children. She married playwright Robert Anderson in 1959; they later divorced, but maintained a close relationship until the end of her life. She died of a heart attack at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut at the age of 86.

Also notable at the ceremony, Irving Berlin presented the Academy Award for Best Song, which he ended up winning for "White Christmas". whose lyrics reminisce about White Christmases. The morning after he wrote the song — Berlin usually stayed up all night writing — the songwriter went to his office and told his musical secretary, "Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I've ever written — hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!" "White Christmas" was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1942 musical Holiday Inn. In the film, he sings it in a duet with Marjorie Reynolds.Though Marjorie Reynolds was the actress playing Linda Mason, her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears for the movie, and in the script as originally conceived, Reynolds, not Crosby, was to sing the song. The song initially performed poorly and was far overshadowed by the hit song of Holiday Inn, "Be Careful, It's my Heart". By the end of October, "White Christmas" topped the "Your Hit Parade" chart and remained in that position until well into the new year. Eventually, Crosby's "White Christmas" single sold more than 50 million copies. The Guinness Book of World Records currently lists the song as a 100-million seller (this encompassing all versions of the song, including on albums). The song was also the title theme for the 1954 musical White Christmas, starring Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, which was the highest-grossing film of 1954. The Crosby recording is the biggest selling single of all time, as confirmed by the 2008 Guinness Book of Records.

The Honorary Awards were awarded to:

M-G-M Studio- For its achievement in representing the American way of life in the production of the Andy Hardy series of films (certificate).
Charles Boyer - For his progressive cultural achievement in establishing the French Research Foundation in Los Angeles as a source of reference (certificate).
In Which We Serve (1942) - Noel Coward- For his outstanding production achievement.

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award was awarded to:

Sidney Franklin who directed 5 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Norma Shearer, Merle Oberon and Luise Rainer. Rainer won for her performance in The Good Earth (1937).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

14th Academy Awards

The 14th Academy Awards, held on February 26th 1942 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, may be most famous as the year Citizen Kane did not win Best Picture. John Ford won his third Oscar for Directing Best Picture of the year How Green Was My Valley, the story of Welsh coalminers in changing times. Indeed, Orson Welles was booed when he picked up Kane’s only Oscar for the night, for Original Screenplay.The event is nearly canceled following the Pearl Harbor attack. Academy president Bette Davis suggests moving the event to an auditorium and allowing the public to buy tickets benefiting the Red Cross. Instead it is decided to tone down the event, as a 'dinner' rather than a banquet, including a ban on formal wear.

How Green Was My Valley stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and Roddy McDowall. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five and beating out such classics as The Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane for Best Picture. The film tells the story of the Morgans, a close, hard-working Welsh family at the turn of the twentieth century. It chronicles a socio-economic way of life passing and the family unit disintegrating. In 1990, How Green Was My Valley was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The Best Actor award went to Gary Cooper for Sergeant York. Cooper's career spanned from the 1920s until the year of his death, and saw him make one hundred films. He was renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, individualistic, emotionally restrained, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited for the many Westerns he made. Cooper received five Oscar nominations for Best Actor, winning twice. He also received an Honorary Award from the Academy in 1961. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Cooper among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking at No. 11.He became a major star with his first sound picture, The Virginian, in 1929. The lead in the screen adaptation of A Farewell to Arms (1932) and the title role in 1936's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town furthered his box office appeal. Cooper was producer David O. Selznick's first choice for the role of Rhett Butler in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. When Cooper turned down the role, he was passionately against it. He is quoted as saying, "Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I’m glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling flat on his nose, not me". Alfred Hitchcock wanted him to star in Foreign Corresponden (1940) and Saboteur (1942). Cooper later admitted he had made a "mistake" in turning down the director.In 1942, he won his first Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as the title character in Sergeant York. Alvin York refused to authorize a movie about his life unless Gary Cooper portrayed him. In 1953, Cooper won his second Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Marshal Will Kane in High Noon, considered his finest role. Ill with an ulcer, he wasn't present to receive his Academy Award in February 1953. He asked John Wayne to accept it on his behalf, a bit of irony in light of Wayne's stated distaste for the film. Cooper continued to appear in films almost to the end of his life. Among his later box office hits was his portrayal of a Quaker farmer during the Civil War in William Wyler's Friendly Persuasion in 1956. His final motion picture was a British film, The Naked Edge (1961), directed by Michael Anderson. Among his final projects was serving as narrator for an NBC documentary, The Real West, in which he helped clear up myths about famous Western figures. On December 15, 1933, Cooper wed Veronica Balfe, (May 27, 1913 - February 16, 2000). Balfe was a New York Roman Catholic socialite who had briefly acted under the name of Sandra Shaw. She appeared in the film No Other Woman, but her most widely seen role was in King Kong, as the woman dropped by Kong. Her third and final movie was Blood Money. Her father was governor of the New York Stock Exchange, and her uncle was Cedric Gibbons. During the 1930s she also became the California state women's Skeet Champion. They had one child, Maria, now Maria Cooper Janis, married to classical pianist Byron Janis. Cooper separated from his wife between 1951 and 1954. He was friends with Ernest Hemingway, and spent many vacations with the writer in the winter wonderland of Sun Valley, Idaho. In 1961, Cooper died of prostate cancer six days after his 60th birthday. He had undergone surgery for the cancer which had spread to his colon in the previous year, but as there were no means of monitoring the progress of cancer in those days it then spread to his lungs and then, most painfully, to his bones. Cooper was too ill to attend the Academy Awards ceremony in April 1961, so his close friend James Stewart accepted the honorary Oscar on his behalf. Stewart's emotional speech hinted that something was seriously wrong, and the next day newspapers all over the world ran the headline, "Gary Cooper has cancer". One month later Cooper was dead.

Most public attention was focused on the Best Actress race between sibling rivals Joan Fontaine in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion and Olivia de Havilland for Hold Back the Dawn. Fontaine’s victory was the only time an actor won for a performance in an Alfred Hitchcock film. Fontaine was born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland in Tokyo, Japan, the younger daughter of Walter de Havilland, and the former Lilian Augusta Ruse, a British actress known by her stage name of Lilian Fontaine, who married in 1914. Her film debut was a small role in No More Ladies (1935). She was selected to appear in a major role alongside Fred Astaire in his first RKO film without Ginger Rogers: A Damsel in Distress (1937) but audiences were disappointed and the film flopped. She continued appearing in small parts in about a dozen films but failed to make a strong impression and her contract was not renewed when it expired in 1939, the same year she married her first husband, the late British actor Brian Aherne. That marriage was not a success. Her luck changed one night at a dinner party when she found herself seated next to producer David O. Selznick. She and Selznick began discussing the Daphne du Maurier novel Rebecca, and Selznick asked her to audition for the part of the unnamed heroine. She endured a grueling six-month series of film tests, along with hundreds of other actresses, before securing the part. Rebecca marked the American debut of British director Alfred Hitchcock. In 1940, the film was released to glowing reviews and Joan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She didn't win that year (Ginger Rogers took home the award for Kitty Foyle) but Fontaine did win the following year. Olivia de Havilland, her sister, was the first to become an actress; when her sister, Joan, tried to follow her lead, their mother, who allegedly favoured Olivia, refused to let her use the family name. So Joan was forced to invent a name (Joan Burfield, and later Joan Fontaine, utilizing her own mother's former stage name). As Joan stepped forward to collect her award, she pointedly rejected Olivia's attempts at congratulating her and that Olivia was both offended and embarrassed by her behavior. Several years later, Olivia would remember the slight and exact her own by brushing past Joan, who was waiting with her hand extended, because Olivia had allegedly taken offense at a comment Joan had made about Olivia's then-husband. Olivia's relationship with Joan continued to deteriorate after the incident at the Academy Awards in 1942. This was the near final straw for what would become a lifelong feud, but the sisters did not completely stop speaking until 1975. According to Joan, Olivia did not invite her to a memorial service for their mother, who had recently died. Olivia claims she told Joan, but that Joan had brushed her off, claiming that she was too busy to attend. Both sisters have refused to comment publicly about their feud and dysfunctional family relationships. She went on to continued success in the 1940s, during which she excelled in romantic melodramas. Among her memorable films during this time were The Constant Nymph (1943), Jane Eyre (1944), Ivy (1947), and Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948). Her film successes slowed a bit during the 1950s and she also began appearing in television and on the stage. Her last theatrical film was The Witches (1966), which she also co-produced. She made sporadic television appearances throughout the 1970s and 1980s and was nominated for an Emmy for the soap opera, Ryan's Hope in 1980. She resides in Carmel, California, in relative seclusion. Joan Fontaine was married four times: Brian Aherne(1939 - 1945) William Dozier (1946 - 1951) Collier Young (1952 - 1961) Alfred Wright, Jr. (1964 - 1969), a magazine editor. She has one daughter, Deborah Leslie Dozier (born in 1948), from her union with Dozier, and another daughter, Martita, a Peruvian adoptee, who ran away from home.

The Best Supporting Actor went to Donald Crisp for his role in How Green Was My Valley. From 1908 to 1930 Crisp, in addition to directing dozens of films, would also appear in nearly 100 silent films, many in bit or small parts. One notable exception was his casting by Griffith as General Ulysses S. Grant in Griffith's landmark film Birth of a Nation in 1915. Another was his acclaimed role in the 1919 film Broken Blossoms as the brutal and abusive father "Battling Burrows" opposite Lillian Gish. His final directorial effort was the 1930 film The Runaway Bride starring Mary Astor. With the advent of sound in films, coupled with his acknowledged weariness for directing, Crisp moved entirely to acting after 1930 where he became a much sought after character actor. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he appeared in a wide range of roles along side some of the era's biggest stars, including Katharine Hepburn in The Little Minister (1934), Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Bette Davis and Henry Fonda in That Certain Woman (1937), Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights (1939), Errol Flynn in The Sea Hawk (1940), and Gregory Peck in The Valley of Decision (1945). A versatile supporting actor, Crisp could be equally good in either lovable or sinister roles. During the same period he was playing loving father figures or charming old codgers in classic films like National Velvet and Lassie Come Home, he also turned in an acclaimed performance as Commander Beach, the tormented presumptive grandfather in Lewis Allen's The Uninvited (1944). Undoubtedly, however, Crisp's most memorable role was as the taciturn but loving father in How Green Was My Valley. While widely known to audiences as a talented actor and director, few outside the movie community realized, then or now, that beyond this work, Crisp was one of the most influential people in Hollywood, wielding more power than most directors and even more than many producers or studio executives. Not surprisingly, Crisp eventually became one of the more wealthy members of the film industry. His "banker's sobriety", extensive contacts, and clarity allowed him to make good investments, particularly in the real estate market. He continued to appear in films throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s. During more than half century as an actor in both the early silent and later the sound era, he appeared in as many 400 short reel and feature length productions. His final screen role was as Grandpa Spencer opposite Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Hara in the 1963 film Spencer's Mountain. Crisp was in his eighties by the time he quit acting entirely, continuing to work long after financially necessary simply because he enjoyed it. He was married twice, divorced from his first wife in 1919. He later married film screenwriter Jane Murfin, whom he divorced in 1944. Crisp died in 1974 a few months short of his 92th birthday due to complications from a series of strokes.

The Best Supporting Actress Oscar went to Mary Astor. Most famous for her role as Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941) opposite Humphrey Bogart, Astor began her long motion picture career as a teenager in the silent movies of the early 1920s. After appearing in several larger roles at various studios, she was signed by Paramount again, this time to a one-year contract at $500 a week. She had appeared in several more movies when John Barrymore saw a photograph of her in a magazine and wanted her cast in his upcoming movie. On loan-out to Warner Bros., she starred with him in Beau Brummel (1924). The older actor wooed the young actress, but their engagement ended when he became involved with Dolores Costello. In 1925, Astor's parents bought a Moorish style mansion with one acre of land known as "Moorcrest" in the hills above Hollywood. They lived lavishly on her earnings. Moorcrest is notable not only for its ornate style but its place as the most lavish residence associated with the Krotona Colony, a utopian society founded by the Theosophical Society in 1912. Astor went on appearing in movies at various studios. When her Paramount contract ended in 1925, she was signed at Warner Bros. Among her assignments was another role with John Barrymore, this time in Don Juan (1926). When her Warner Bros. contract ended, she signed a contract with Fox for $3,750 a week. In 1928, she and director Kenneth Hawks were married at her family home, Moorcrest. He gave her a Packard automobile for a wedding gift and they moved into a home high up on Lookout Mountain in Los Angeles Astor took voice training and singing lessons during her time off, but no roles were offered. Her acting career was then given a boost by her friend, Florence Eldridge (wife of Fredric March), whom she confided in. Eldridge, who was to star in the stage play Among the Married at the Majestic Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, recommended Astor for the second female lead. The play was a success and her voice was deemed suitable, being described as low and vibrant.On January 3, 1930, while filming sequences for the Fox movie Such Men Are Dangerous, Kenneth Hawks was killed in a mid-air plane crash over the Pacific. Astor had just finished a matinee performance at the Majestic when Florence Eldridge came to her with the news. She was rushed from the theatre and taken to Eldridge's apartment; a replacement, Doris Lloyd, stepped in for the next show. Astor remained with her friend, Eldridge, at her apartment for some time, but she soon went back to work. Shortly after her husband's death, she debuted in her first "talkie", Ladies Love Brutes (1930) at Paramount, which co-starred friend Fredric March. After working on several more movies, she suffered delayed shock over her husband's death and had a nervous breakdown. During the months of her illness, she was attended to by Dr. Franklyn Thorpe, whom she later married. Astor had four husbands, director Kenneth Hawks (married February 26, 1928-his death on January 3, 1930); physician and surgeon Franklyn Thorpe (married June 29, 1931-divorced 1936); insurance salesman Manuel del Campo (married February 1936-divorced 1941); and stockbroker Thomas Wheelock (married December 25, 1945-divorced 1955). She and Thorpe had one daughter, Marylyn Hauoli Thorpe (born June 16, 1932); she and del Campo had one son, Anthony Paul "Tono" del Campo (born June 5, 1939). Astor began freelancing and accepted the pivotal role of Barbara Willis in Red Dust (1932) at MGM with Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. In late 1932, Astor signed a featured player contract with Warner Bros. Besides spending lavishly, her parents invested in the stock market, which turned out in many instances to be unprofitable. They still lived in Moorcrest, which Astor dubbed a "white elephant" and refused to maintain. She had to turn to the Motion Picture Relief Fund in 1933 to pay her bills. In 1933, she appeared as the female lead, Hilda Lake, the niece of the murder victims, in The Kennel Murder Case, co-starring with William Powell playing detective Philo Vance. Unhappy with her marriage, she took a break from movie making in 1933 and went to New York by herself. In March 1934, Astor was sued by her parents for support and a public family feud burst out violently. The Langhankes said they did not have enough money for the necessities of life. The judge ruled that she should give her parents $100 per month. Moorcrest, now valued at $200,000, went on the auction block and sold for only $21,500. In April 1935, Thorpe divorced her in an uncontested suit and gained sole custody of their daughter. In July 1936, while working on Dodsworth with Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton, Astor sued to gain sole custody, as well as for the recovery of stocks and property paid for by her movie earnings, or the monetary equivalent, and a vicious battle broke out that was also well documented by the press. Fortunately, the scandals caused no harm to Astor's career, which was actually revitalized because of the custody fight and the huge amount of publicity it generated; Dodsworth was released to rave revues, and the public's acceptance assured the studios that she was still a viable commercial property. Some of her best movies were still to come, including The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), John Ford's The Hurricane (1937), and Brigham Young (1940). Astor is probably most famous for her role as Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the scheming temptress who murders Sam Spade's partner, Miles Archer, in John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941) opposite Humphrey Bogart, with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Another noteworthy performance was her Oscar-winning role as Sandra Kovak, the selfish, self-centered concert pianist, who willingly gives up her child, in The Great Lie starring Bette Davis and George Brent. Astor was not propelled into the upper echelon of movie stars by these successes, however. She always declined offers of starring in her own right. Not wanting the responsibility of top billing and having to "carry the picture," she preferred the security of being a featured player. She was kept busy playing what she considered mediocre mother roles. After Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), the studio allowed her to make her Broadway debut in Many Happy Returns (1945). The play was a miserable failure, but Astor received good reviews. On loan-out to 20th Century Fox, she played a wealthy widow in Claudia and David (1946). She was also loaned to Paramount to play Fritzi Haller in Desert Fury (1947) in which she played the tough owner of a saloon and casino in a small mining town. The last straw came when she was cast as Marmee March in Little Women (1949). Astor found no redemption in playing what she considered another humdrum mother and became despondent. The studio wanted to renew her contract, promising to give her better roles, but she declined the offer.After taking a trip around the world in 1964, Astor was lured away from her Malibu home, where she was spending time gardening and working on her third novel, to make what she decided would be her final movie appearance. When she was offered the small role as a key figure in the murder mystery Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, starring her friend, Bette Davis, Astor decided it would serve as her swan song in the movie business. After 109 movies during a career spanning 45 years, she turned in her Screen Actors Guild card and retired. She later moved to Fountain Valley, California, where she lived near her son, Tono del Campo, and his family until 1971. That same year, suffering from a chronic heart condition, she then moved to a small cottage on the grounds of the Motion Picture & Television Country House, the industry's retirement facility in Woodland Hills, where she had her own private table when she chose to eat in the resident dining room. While living there since 1974, Astor had a heart attack, two strokes and developed emphysema. Mary Astor died on September 25, 1987, at age 81, of respiratory failure due to pulmonary emphysema while a patient in the hospital in the Motion Picture House complex, exactly one week before Prisoner of Zenda co-star Madeleine Carroll.

The Best Song was "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from the movie "Lady Be Good", composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

The Honorary Awards went to:

Fantasia (1940) - Walt Disney; William E. Garity; J.N.A. Hawkins; RCA Manufacturing Co.- For their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures through the production of Fantasia.
Fantasia (1940) - Leopold Stokowski (and his associates)- For their unique achievement in the creation of a new form of visualized music in Walt Disney's production Fantasia, thereby widening the scope of the motion picture as entertainment and as an art form (certificate).
Kukan (1941) - Rey Scott- For his extraordinary achievement in producing Kukan, the film record of China's struggle, including its photography with a 16mm camera under the most difficult and dangerous conditions (certificate).
Target for Tonight (1941) - Ministry of Information, UK- For its vivid and dramatic presentation of the heroism of the RAF in the documentary film (certificate).

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award went to Walt Disney. Disney is notable as one of the most influential and innovative figures in the field of entertainment during the twentieth century. As the co-founder (with his brother Roy O. Disney) of Walt Disney Productions, Walt became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world. The corporation he co-founded, now known as The Walt Disney Company, today has annual revenues of approximately U.S. $35 billion. Walt Disney is particularly noted for being a film producer and a popular showman, as well as an innovator in animation and theme park design. He received sixty four Academy Award nominations out of which he won on twenty six occasions. He holds the record for an individual with the most awards and the most nominations. Disney has also won seven Emmy Awards. Disney and his staff created a number of the world's most famous fictional characters, including the one many consider Disney's alter ego, Mickey Mouse. He is also well-known as the namesake for Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in the United States, France, Japan and China. Walt Disney died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966, a few years prior to the opening of his Walt Disney World dream project in Orlando, Florida.

This was also the first year when documentaries were included. The first Oscar for a documentary went to Churchill's Island. The Awards were hosted by Bob Hope for the second time.

Friday, December 28, 2007

13th Academy Award

The 13th Academy Awards honored American film achievements in 1940. This was the first year that sealed envelopes were used to keep secret the names of the winners which led to the famous phrase: "May I have the Envelope, please." The accounting firm of Price Waterhouse was hired to count the ballots, after the fiasco of leaked voting results in 1939 by the Los Angeles Times. A new category was added this year for Best Original Screenplay. Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a six minute direct radio address to the attendees from the White House. It is the first time an American president participates in the event.

Independent producer David O. Selznick, who had produced the previous year's big winner Gone with the Wind (1939), also produced the Best Picture winner in 1940 - and campaigned heavily for its win. Selznick was the first to produce two consecutive winners of the Best Picture Oscar. Rebecca was based on Daphne du Maurier's popular novel about a shrinking, child-like bride (Joan Fontaine) who lives in the shadow of her enigmatic widower husband's (Laurence Olivier) first wife at a somber estate named Manderley (run by a mad, steely-eyed and devoted housekeeper (Judith Anderson). Although Rebecca had eleven nominations, it only won for Best Picture and Best Cinematography, Black and White. The film's studio - United Artists - was the last of the original film studios (the others were MGM, Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, and Paramount) to win the Best Picture Oscar. Rebecca was the first American-made film directed by British suspense master Alfred Hitchcock.

The Best Actor award went to James Stewart for The Philadelphia story. Jimmy Stewart as he was known, was an iconic, American film and stage actor, best known for his self-effacing screen persona. Over the course of his career, he starred in many films widely considered classics and was nominated for five Oscars, winning one in competition and one life achievement. He also had a noted military career, rising to the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Air Force.Stewart's career gained momentum after his well-received Frank Capra films, including his Academy Award nominated role in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Throughout his seven decades in Hollywood, Stewart cultivated a versatile career and recognized screen image in such classics as The Philadelphia Story, Harvey, It's a Wonderful Life, Rear Window, Rope, and Vertigo. Stewart left his mark on a wide range of film genres, including screwball comedies, westerns, biographies, suspense thrillers, and family films. He worked for a number of renowned directors later in his career, most notably Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Billy Wilder and Anthony Mann. He won many of the industry's highest honors and earned Lifetime Achievement awards from every major film organization. He died in 1997, leaving behind a legacy of classic performances, and is considered one of the finest actors of the "Golden Age of Hollywood." He was named the third Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. In 1938, Stewart had a brief, tumultuous, and well-publicized affair with Hollywood queen Norma Shearer whose husband Irving Thalberg, head of production at MGM, had died two years earlier. Stewart began a successful partnership with director Frank Capra in 1938, when he was loaned out to Columbia Pictures to star in You Can't Take It With You. Frank Capra had been impressed by Stewart’s minor role in Navy Blue and Gold (1937). The director had recently completed several popular movies including It Happened One Night and was looking for the right type of actor to suit his needs—which other recent actors in his films such as Clark Gable, Ronald Colman, and Gary Cooper did not quite fit. Not only was Stewart just what he was looking for, but Capra also found Stewart understood that prototype intuitively and required very little directing. The following year saw Stewart team with Capra and Arthur again for the political comedy-drama, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Stewart replaced intended star Gary Cooper in the film about an idealistic man thrown into the political arena. Upon the film's October release, it garnered critical praise and became a box office success. For his performance, Stewart was nominated for the first of five Academy Awards for Best Actor.Even after this great success, Stewart’s parents were still trying to talk him into leaving Hollywood and its sinful ways, and to return to his home town to lead a decent life. Instead, he took a secret trip to Europe to take a break, and returned home just as Germany invaded Poland. Stewart also starred opposite Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in George Cukor's classic The Philadelphia Story (1940). His performance as an intrusive, fast-talking reporter earned him his only Academy Award in a competitive category (Best Actor, 1941), and he beat out his good friend Henry Fonda (The Grapes of Wrath). Stewart thought his performance “entertaining and slick and smooth” but lacking the “guts” of "Mr. Smith". Stewart gave the Oscar statuette to his father, who displayed it in the window of his hardware store for many years, along side other family awards and military medals. Stewart was drafted in late 1940 and it coincided with the lapse in his MGM contract, marking a turning point in Stewart's career, with twenty-eight movies to his credit so far. Upon Stewart's return to Hollywood in fall 1945, he decided not to renew his MGM contract. He signed with an MCA talent agency. His former agent Leland Hayward got out of the talent business in 1944 after selling his A-list of stars, including Stewart, to MCA. The move made Stewart one of the first independently contracted actors, and gave him more freedom to choose the roles he wished to play. For the remainder of his career, Stewart was able to work without limits to director and studio availability. For his first film in five years, Stewart appeared in his third and final Frank Capra production, It's a Wonderful Life as George Bailey, a small-town man and upstanding citizen, who becomes increasingly frustrated by his ordinary existence and financial troubles. Driven to suicide on Christmas Eve, he is led to reassess his life by Clarence Odbody AS2, an "angel, second class," played by Henry Travers. Although the film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Stewart's third Best Actor nomination, it received mixed reviews and only moderate success at the box office, possibly due to its dark nature. However, in the decades since the film's release, it grew to define Stewart's film persona and is widely considered as a sentimental Christmas film classic and, according to the American Film Institute, one of the best movies ever made. Stewart decided to return to the stage for the Mary Chase-penned comedy, Harvey, which had opened to nearly universal praise in November 1944. Elwood P. Dowd, the protagonist and Stewart's character, is a wealthy eccentric, whose best friend is an invisible rabbit, living with his sister and niece. His eccentricity, especially the friendship with the rabbit, is ruining the niece's hopes of finding a husband. While trying to have Dowd committed to a sanitorium, his sister is committed herself while the play follows Dowd on an ordinary day in his not-so-ordinary life. James Stewart took over the role from Frank Fay and gained an increased Broadway following in the unconventional play. The play, which ran for nearly three years with Stewart as its star, was successfully adapted into a 1950 film, directed by Henry Koster, with Stewart playing Dowd and Josephine Hull as his sister, Veta. Bing Crosby was the first choice for the movie but he declined. For his performance in the film, Stewart received his fourth Best Actor nomination. During the 1950s, he took on more challenging roles and expanded into the western and suspense genres, thanks largely to collaborations with directors Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock. Other notable performances by Stewart during this time include the critically acclaimed 1950 Delmer Daves western Broken Arrow, which featured Stewart as an ex-soldier making peace with the Apache; a troubled clown in the 1952 Best Picture The Greatest Show on Earth; and Stewart's role as Charles Lindbergh in Billy Wilder's 1957 film The Spirit of St. Louis. Stewart's first appearance in a film helmed by Mann came with the 1950 western classic, Winchester '73. In choosing Mann (after first choice Fritz Lang declined), Stewart cemented a powerful partnership.mOther Stewart-Mann westerns, such as Bend of the River (1952), The Naked Spur (1953), The Far Country (1954), and The Man from Laramie (1955) were perennial favorites among young audiences entranced by the American West. Frequently, the films featured Stewart as a troubled cowboy seeking redemption, while facing corrupt cattlemen, ranchers and outlaws—a man who knows violence first hand and struggles to control it. Their collaborations laid the foundation for many of the westerns of the 1950s and remain popular today for their grittier, more realistic depiction of the classic movie genre. Stewart's starring role in Winchester '73 was also a turning point in Hollywood. Universal Studios, who wanted Stewart to appear in both that film and Harvey, balked at his $200,000 asking price. Stewart's agent, Lew Wasserman, brokered an alternate deal, in which Stewart would appear in both films for no pay, in exchange for a percentage of the profits and cast and director approval. Hollywood's other stars quickly capitalized on this new way of doing business, which further undermined the decaying "studio system." The second collaboration to define Stewart's career in the 1950s was with acclaimed mystery and suspense director Alfred Hitchcock. Like Mann, Hitchcock uncovered new depths to Stewart’s acting, showing a protagonist confronting his fears and his repressed desires. Stewart's first movie with Hitchcock was the technologically innovative 1948 film Rope, shot in long “real time” takes. The two collaborated for the second of four times on the 1954 hit Rear Window, one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. Stewart portrays photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, loosely based on Life photographer Robert Capa, who projects his fantasies and fears onto the people he observes out his apartment window while on hiatus due to a broken leg. Jeffries gets into more than he can handle, however, when he believes he has witnessed a salesman (Raymond Burr) commit a murder, and when his glamorous girlfriend (Grace Kelly), at first disdainful of his voyeurism and skeptical about any crime, eventually is drawn in and tries to help solve the mystery. Limited by his wheelchair, Stewart is masterfully forced by Hitchcock to react to what his character sees with mostly facial responses. It was a landmark year for Stewart, becoming the highest grossing actor of 1954, and the most popular Hollywood star in the world, displacing John Wayne. After starring in Hitchcock's remake of the director's own production, The Man Who Knew Too Much, with co-star Doris Day, Stewart starred in what many consider Hitchcock's most personal film, Vertigo. The film starred Stewart as “Scottie”, a former police investigator suffering from acrophobia, who develops an obsession with a woman he is shadowing. Scottie's obsession inevitably leads to the destruction of everything he once had and believed in. Though the film is widely considered a classic today, and the pairing with Kim Novak one of the screen’s most perfect, ‘’Vertigo’’ met with negative reviews and poor box office receipts upon its release, and marked the last collaboration between Stewart and Hitchcock. Stewart was also disappointed. The director blamed the film's failure on Stewart looking too old to still attract audiences, and replaced him with Cary Grant for North by Northwest (1959). In reality, Grant was actually four years older than Stewart. In 1960, James Stewart was awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and nominated for his fifth and final Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1959 Otto Preminger film Anatomy of a Murder. The early courtroom drama starred Stewart as Paul Biegler, the lawyer of a hot-tempered soldier Ben Gazzara who claims temporary insanity after murdering a tavern owner who raped his sexy wife Lee Remick. The film featured a career-making performance by George C. Scott as the prosecutor. The film was sexually frank for its time (some thought it sordid), and its provocative promotional campaign helped gain it box office success, though Ben-Hur outgrossed all movies by a huge margin and swept the Academy Awards that year. In the early 1960s Stewart took leading roles in three John Ford films, his first with the acclaimed director. Despite his high anticipation for the pairing, the first Ford film, Two Rode Together was a sub-par effort from the director and a disappointing vehicle for Stewart, whose performance was criticized as over the top. The next 1962's twist-ending The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (with John Wayne), is a classic "psychological" western, with Stewart featured as an Eastern attorney who goes against his nonviolent principles when he is forced to confront a psychopathic outlaw (played by Lee Marvin) in a small frontier town. At story's end, Stewart's character — now a rising political figure — faces a difficult ethical choice as he attempts to reconcile his actions with his personal integrity on the day Liberty Valance was shot. The film's billing is unusual in that Stewart was given top billing over Wayne in the trailers and on the posters but Wayne had top billing in the film itself, a system later repeated by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men. The film garnered so-so reviews (Stewart was seen as being far too old for the young character he played) and faired poorly at the box office, but is now considered a late Ford classic. How the West Was Won and Cheyenne Autumn were western epics released in 1962 and 1964 respectively. While the Cinerama production How the West Was Won went on to win three Oscars and reaped massive box office figures, Cheyenne Autumn, in which a white-suited Stewart played Wyatt Earp in a long sequence in the middle of the movie, failed domestically and was quickly forgotten. The Civil War period film Shenandoah (1965) and the western family film The Rare Breed fared better at the box office; the Civil War movie was a smash hit in the South. Stewart was offered the role of the father in On Golden Pond which went instead to Henry Fonda and earning Stewart’s friend his first Best Actor Oscar, just before his death. Long-time friend Grace Kelly, his favorite female co-star, died shortly afterwards. A few months later, Stewart starred with Bette Davis in Right of Way, which had the distinction of being the first made-for-cable movie. After filming several television movies in the 1980s, including Mr. Krueger's Christmas, James Stewart, still receiving considerable offers to play “grandfather” roles, retired from acting to spend time with his family. He had diversified investments including real estate, oil wells, a charter-plane company and membership on major corporate boards. He became a multimillionaire. Stewart died at the age of 89 on 2 July 1997, at his home in Beverly Hills, of cardiac arrest and a pulmonary embolism following a long illness from respiratory problems. He had also suffered from Alzheimer's disease. His death came just one day after fellow screen legend and The Big Sleep co-star Robert Mitchum had died of lung cancer and emphysema.

The Best Actress award went to Ginger Rogers for her role in Kitty Foyle. Rogers was a film and stage actress and singer. In a film career spanning fifty years she made a total of seventy-three films, and is now principally celebrated for her role as Fred Astaire's romantic interest and dancing partner in a series of ten Hollywood musical films that revolutionized the genre. When she was nine years old, her mother got remarried to a man named John Logan Rogers. Ginger took the name of Rogers, although she was never legally adopted. As a teenager, she thought of teaching school, but with her mother's interest in Hollywood and the theater, her young exposure to the theater increased. Waiting for her mother in the wings of the Majestic Theatre, she began to sing and dance along to the performers on stage.When only 17 she married Jack Culpepper, another dancer on the circuit. The marriage was over within months, and she went back to touring with her mother.Within two weeks of opening in Top Speed she was hired to star on Broadway in Girl Crazy by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Fred Astaire was hired to help the dancers with their choreography, and he briefly dated Rogers. Her appearance in Girl Crazy made her an overnight star at the age of 19. In 1930 she was signed with Paramount Pictures for a seven-year contract. After getting bit parts for singing and dancing for most of 1932, she made her screen breakthrough in the Warner Brothers film 42nd Street (1933). She went on to make a series of films with RKO Radio Pictures and, in the second of those, Flying Down to Rio (1933), she again met up with Fred Astaire. Together, from 1933 to 1939 they made nine musical films at RKO and in so doing, revolutionized the Hollywood musical, introducing dance routines of unprecedented elegance and virtuosity, set to songs specially composed for them by the greatest popular song composers of the day, and performed in some of the most glamorous Art Deco-inspired sets ever seen on film. In 1939 Rogers requested a break from musicals saying "I don't want to make a musical for the next year. Don't get me wrong—I'm not ungrateful for what musicals have accomplished for me. However for the last four years I've been doing the same thing with minor variations." After breaking with Astaire, her first role was opposite David Niven in Bachelor Mother. Ginger Rogers won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her starring role in Kitty Foyle. She enjoyed considerable success during the early 1940s, and was RKO's hottest property during this period, however, by the end of this decade her film career was in decline. Arthur Freed reunited her with Fred Astaire for one last time in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) which, while very successful, failed to revive Rogers's flagging career, although she continued to obtain parts throughout the 1950s. In later life, Rogers remained on good terms with Astaire: she presented him with a special Academy Award in 1950, and they teamed up in 1967 as co-presenters of individual Academy AwardsIn 1934, she married her second husband, actor Lew Ayres (1908 – 1996). They separated quickly and were divorced in 1941. In 1943, she married her third husband, Jack Briggs, a Marine. They divorced in 1949. In 1953, Rogers married her fourth husband, lawyer Jacques Bergerac. 16 years her junior, he became an actor and then a cosmetics company executive. They divorced in 1957 and he soon remarried actress Dorothy Malone. In 1961, she married her fifth husband, director and producer William Marshall. They divorced in 1971. Rogers would spend the winters in Rancho Mirage, California, and the summers in Medford, Oregon. Ginger Rogers died on April 25, 1995, of congestive heart failure, at the age of 83, in Rancho Mirage, and was cremated.

The Best Director award went to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath as his second Oscar and the Best Supporting Actor award to Walter Brennan for the third and last time for The Westerner. The Best Supporting Actress went to Jane Darwell, an American theater and film actress. She began her acting career in theater productions in Chicago and made her first film appearance in 1913. After a 15 year absence from films, she resumed her film career in 1930 with a role in Tom Sawyer, and her career as a Hollywood character actress began. Short, stout and plain faced she was quickly cast in a succession of films usually as the mother of one of the major characters.She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as "Ma Joad" in The Grapes of Wrath a role she was given at the insistence of the film's star, Henry Fonda. A contract player with 20th Century Fox, Darwell occasionally starred in "B" movies and played featured parts in scores of major films. By the end of her career she had appeared in more than 170 films, including Huckleberry Finn (1931), Roman Scandals (1933), Once to Every Woman (1934), Little Miss Broadway (1938), Jesse James, The Rains Came, Gone with the Wind (all 1939), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), My Darling Clementine(1946), Three Godfathers (1948) and Caged (1950). Always popular within the film industry, her final role as the old woman feeding the birds in Mary Poppins was personally given to her by Walt Disney. Darwell died from a heart attack in Woodland Hills, California at the age of 88.

The Best original song award was won by "When You Wish upon a Star" a popular song written by Ned Washington and Leigh Harline and introduced in the 1940 Walt Disney movie Pinocchio, where it is sung by Cliff Edwards in the character of Jiminy Cricket, over the opening credits and again in the final scene of the film.The song became a theme song for the Disney company, used in the opening sequences of Disney anthology television series and in Walt Disney Pictures' opening logos. The ships of the Disney Cruise Line, the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic, use the iconic first seven notes of this melody as their horn signals.
The American Film Institute ranked it seventh in their 100 Greatest Songs in Film History, the highest ranked Disney song.

The Honorary Awards went to:

Bob Hope - In recognition of his unselfish services to the motion picture industry (special silver plaque).
Nathan Levinson- For his outstanding service to the industry and the Army during the past nine years, which has made possible the present efficient mobilization of the motion picture industry facilities for the production of Army training films.

The awards were hosted by Walter Wanger, an important film producer. He produced his first motion picture in 1929 titled The Cocoanuts directed by Joseph Santley and starring the Marx brothers. His many significant productions include The Sheik (1921), Gabriel Over the White House (1933), Queen Christina (1933), The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), Stagecoach (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Scarlet Street (1945), Joan of Arc (1948), The Reckless Moment (1949), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), I Want to Live! (1958), and Cleopatra (1963). Wanger married silent film actress Justine Johnstone in 1919. They divorced in 1938 and in 1940 he married Joan Bennett with whom he remained married until 1965. Wanger was given an Honorary Academy Award in 1946 for his service as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He refused another honorary Oscar in 1949 for Joan of Arc, out of anger over the fact that the film, which he felt was one of his best, had not been nominated for Best Picture. His 1958 production of I Want to Live! starred Susan Hayward in an anti-capital punishment film that is one of the most highly regarded films on the subject. Hayward won her only Oscar for her role in the film. Walter Wanger died of a heart attack, aged 74, in New York City.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

12th Academy Awards

The 12th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film for 1939, were held on February 29, 1940 at a banquet in the "Coconut Grove", Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles.

This was the year of Gone with the wind. The movie received the most nominations of the year, with thirteen. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, Love Affair, The Wizard of Oz, The Rains Came, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men and Dark Victory were among the films with multiple nominations. Prior to the announcement of nominations, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gone with the Wind were the two films most widely tipped to receive a significant number of them. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington premiered in Washington with a party hosted by the National Press Club. The film's theme of political corruption was condemned, with the film being denounced in the U.S. Senate. Frank Capra, the director, and James Stewart, the film's star were considered front runners to win awards. Gone with the Wind premiered in December 1939 with a Gallup poll taken shortly before its release concluding that 56.5 million people intended to see the film. The New York Film Critics Award was given to Wuthering Heights after thirteen rounds of balloting had left the voters deadlocked between Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Gone with the Wind. The press were divided in their support for the nominated actors. Time Magazine favoured Vivien Leigh and used her portrait for their Christmas 1939 edition, and the Hollywood Reporter predicted a possible win by Leigh and Laurence Olivier The newspapers, particularly in Los Angeles, predicted Bette Davis would win for Dark Victory.

The director Frank Capra was the incumbent President of the Academy, and in a first for Academy Awards ceremonies, sold the rights for the event to be filmed. Warner Brothers obtained the rights, for $30,000 to film the banquet and the presentation of the awards, to use as a short, and it was shot by the cinematographer, Charles Rosher. Variety Magazine noted that the stars in attendance were conscious of being filmed at the event for the first time, and that the event was marked by glamour with fashion conscious actresses wearing the best of gowns, furs and jewelry. Despite a promise to withhold the results of the voting, by the time the final guests were arriving, the Los Angeles Times had already printed a substantially accurate list of winners, with many of the nominees learning before the ceremony who had won.

Finally, it was Gone with the wind that took the award for Best Picture (with 9 more). As a movie fan and an Oscar buff this is my old time favorite film, and many other people think or thought the same. Adapted from Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel of the same name and directed by Victor Fleming, the epic, set in the American South in and around the time of the Civil War, starred Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland. It told a story of the Civil War and its aftermath from a white Southern point of view.It was awarded ten Academy Awards, a record that would stand for years. It has been named by the American Film Institute as number four among the top 100 American films of all time. It has sold more tickets than any other film in history. Today it is considered one of the most popular films of all time, and one of the most enduring symbols of the golden age of Hollywood. Adjusting for inflation, the film is the highest grossing of all time. We are all familiar with the many famous lines in the movie, especially the last scene when Rhett Butler finally leaves Scarlett with the famous "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" or the last line Scarlett delivers "Tomorrow is another day. Behind the scenes it was a whole different story. Producer David O. Selznick, head of Selznick International Pictures, decided that he wanted to create a film based on the novel after his story editor Kay Brown read a pre-publication copy in May 1936 and urged him to buy the film rights. A month after the book's publication in June 1936, Selznick bought the rights for $50,000, a record amount at the time. Major financing for the film was provided by Selznick business partner John Hay Whitney, a financier who later went on to become a U.S. ambassador. The casting of the two lead roles became a complex, two-year endeavor. Many famous or soon-to-be-famous actresses were either screen-tested, auditioned, or considered for the role of Scarlett. Four actresses, including Jean Arthur and Joan Bennett, were still under consideration by December 1938. But only two finalists, Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh, were tested in Technicolor, both on December 20. Selznick had been quietly considering Vivien Leigh, a young English actress little known in America, for the role of Scarlett since February 1938, but for publicity reasons David arranged to meet her for the first time on the night of December 10, 1938, when the burning of the Atlanta Depot was filmed. For the role of Rhett Butler, Clark Gable was an almost immediate favorite for both the public and Selznick. Nevertheless, as Selznick had no male stars under long-term contract, he needed to go through the process of negotiating to borrow an actor from another studio. Gary Cooper was thus Selznick's first choice, because Cooper's contract with Samuel Goldwyn involved a common distribution company, United Artists, with which Selznick had an eight-picture deal. However, Goldwyn remained noncommittal in negotiations. Warner Bros. offered a package of Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland for the lead roles in return for the distribution rights. But by then Selznick was determined to get Clark Gable, and eventually found a way to borrow him from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Selznick's father-in-law, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, offered in May 1938 to fund half of the movie's budget in return for a powerful package: 50% of the profits would go to MGM, the movie's distribution would be credited to MGM's parent company, Loew's, Inc., and Loew's would receive 15 percent of the movie's gross income. Selznick accepted this offer in August, and Gable was cast. Nevertheless, the arrangement to release through MGM meant delaying the start of production until Selznick International completed its eight-picture contract with United Artists. Principal photography began January 26, 1939, and ended on June 27, 1939, with post-production work (including a fifth version of the opening scene) going to November 11, 1939. Director George Cukor, with whom Selznick had a long working relationship, and who spent almost two years in preproduction on Gone with the Wind, was replaced after less than three weeks of shooting. Victor Fleming, who had just directed The Wizard of Oz, was called in from MGM to complete the picture, although Cukor continued privately to coach Leigh's and De Havilland's performances. Another MGM director, Sam Wood, worked for two weeks in May when Fleming temporarily left the production due to exhaustion. The film premiered in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 15, 1939 as the climax of three days of festivities hosted by the mayor which consisted of a parade of limousines featuring stars from the film, receptions, thousands of Confederate flags, false antebellum fronts on stores and homes, and a costume ball. The governor of Georgia declared December 15 a state holiday.

The best director award went to Victor Flemming for Gone with the wind though he was also nominated for The wizard of Oz. In 1932 Fleming joined MGM and directed some of the studio's most prestigious films. Red Dust (1932), Bombshell (1933), and Reckless (1935) showcased Jean Harlow, while Treasure Island (1934) and Captains Courageous (1937) brought a touch of literary distinction to boy's-own adventure stories. His two most famous films came in 1939, when The Wizard of Oz was closely followed by Gone with the Wind. Their fame has outstripped that of their credited director. Both were essentially producer-led projects, and in each case Fleming replaced the original directors after filming had begun, although he alone received director credit on both (he replaced Richard Thorpe on The Wizard of Oz after George Cukor had briefly come in and altered some of the makeup. Cukor's alterations remained in the film, and, by coincidence, it was Cukor whom Fleming replaced on Gone With the Wind. )Fleming's few remaining films were disappointing to some, and he died quite suddenly from a heart attack soon after completing Joan of Arc (1948) with Ingrid Bergman. Fleming's film version of the life of Joan remains the definitive one for many movie lovers, and despite mixed reviews, received seven Academy Award nominations, winning two Oscars. In recent years, it has been restored to its full-length of 145 minutes, causing a more positive re-evaluation of the film based on the complete version.

The Best Actor award was contested between Clark Gable and James Stewart though neither won. It was Robert Donat who won for his role in Goodbye Mr.Chips. Donat made his first stage appearance in 1921 and his film debut in 1932 in Men of Tomorrow. His first great screen success came with The Private Life of Henry VIII (playing Thomas Culpepper), under the renowned film director and producer Alexander Korda. He had a successful screen image as an English gentleman who was neither haughty nor common. That made him something of a novelty in British films at the time, and he was likened by critics to Hollywood's Clark Gable and Gary Cooper. His most successful films included The Ghost Goes West (1935), Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935), The Citadel (1938), for which he received his first Oscar nomination, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). He was a major theatre star, however, he suffered from ill-health (chronic asthma) which shortened his career and limited him to twenty films. His final role, as the mandarin of "Yang Cheng" in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) is memorable because it is apparent that he knew that he was close to death. He died of an asthma attack on June 9 of that year at age 53 in London, England. Donat was twice married, first to Ella Annesley Voysey (1929-1946), by whom he had 3 children, and subsequently to British actress Renée Asherson (1953-1958). About Gable's loss, Carole Lombard was quoted as comforting Gable afterwards, with the comment "don't worry, Pappy. We'll bring one home next year". Gable replied that he felt this had been his last chance, to which Lombard was said to have replied, "Not you, you self-centered bastard. I meant me."

The Best Actress award went to Vivien Leigh as predicted by many. An English actress, she won two Academy Awards for playing "southern belles": Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a role she had also played in London's West End. She was a prolific stage performer, frequently in collaboration with her husband, Laurence Olivier, who directed her in several of her roles. During her thirty-year stage career, she played parts that ranged from the heroines of Noël Coward and George Bernard Shaw comedies to classic Shakespearean characters such as Ophelia, Cleopatra, Juliet and Lady Macbeth. Lauded for her beauty, Leigh felt that it sometimes prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress, but ill health proved to be her greatest obstacle. Affected by bipolar disorder for most of her adult life, she gained a reputation for being a difficult person to work with, and her career went through periods of decline. She was further weakened by recurrent bouts of tuberculosis, with which she was first diagnosed in the mid-1940s. She and Olivier divorced in 1960, and Leigh worked sporadically in film and theatre until her death from tuberculosis. The filming of Gone with the wind proved difficult for Leigh; Cukor was dismissed and replaced by Victor Fleming, with whom Leigh frequently quarrelled. She and Olivia de Havilland secretly met with Cukor at night and on weekends for his advice about how they should play their parts. She befriended Clark Gable, his wife Carole Lombard and de Havilland, but she clashed with Leslie Howard, with whom she was required to play several emotional scenes. Adding to her distress, she was sometimes required to work seven days a week, often late into the night, and she missed Olivier, who was working in New York. In February 1940, Jill Esmond agreed to divorce Olivier, and Holman also agreed to divorce Leigh, although they maintained a strong friendship for the rest of Leigh's life. Esmond was granted custody of Tarquin, her son with Olivier, and Holman was granted custody of Suzanne, his daughter with Leigh. On August 30 Olivier and Leigh were married in Santa Barbara, California, in a ceremony attended only by their witnesses, Katharine Hepburn and Garson Kanin. By 1948 Olivier was on the Board of Directors for the Old Vic Theatre, and he and Leigh embarked on a tour of Australia and New Zealand to raise funds for the theatre. During their six-month tour, Olivier performed Richard III and also performed with Leigh in The School for Scandal and The Skin of Our Teeth. The tour was an outstanding success, and although Leigh was plagued with insomnia and allowed her understudy to replace her for a week while she was ill, she generally withstood the demands placed upon her, with Olivier noting her ability to "charm the press." Members of the company later recalled several quarrels between the couple, the most dramatic occurring in Christchurch when Leigh refused to go onstage. Olivier slapped her face, and Leigh slapped him in return and swore at him before she made her way to the stage. By the end of the tour, both were exhausted and ill, and Olivier told a journalist, "You may not know it, but you are talking to a couple of walking corpses." Later he would comment that he "lost Vivien" in Australia. Leigh next sought the role of Blanche DuBois in the West End stage production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, and was cast after Williams and the play's producer Irene Mayer Selznick saw her in the The School for Scandal and Antigone. After 326 performances, Leigh finished her run; however, she was soon engaged for the film version. Her irreverent and often bawdy sense of humour allowed her to establish a rapport with her co-star Marlon Brando, but she had difficulty with the director Elia Kazan, who did not hold her in high regard as an actress. In January 1953, Leigh travelled to Ceylon to film Elephant Walk with Peter Finch. Shortly after filming commenced, she suffered a breakdown, and Paramount Studios replaced her with Elizabeth Taylor. In 1958, considering her marriage to be over, Leigh began a relationship with the actor Jack Merivale, who knew of Leigh's medical condition and assured Olivier he would care for her. In 1960, she and Olivier divorced, and Olivier married the actress Joan Plowright. In May 1967, she was rehearsing to appear with Michael Redgrave in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance when she became ill with tuberculosis but, after resting for several weeks, seemed to be recovering. On the night of July 7, Merivale left her as usual, to perform in a play, and returned home around midnight to find her asleep. About thirty minutes later (by now July 8), he returned to the bedroom and discovered her body on the floor. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered on the lake at her home, Tickerage Mill, near Blackboys, East Sussex, England. A memorial service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields, with a final tribute read by John Gielgud. In the United States, she became the first actress honoured by "The Friends of the Libraries at the University of Southern California". The ceremony was conducted as a memorial service, with selections from her films shown and tributes provided by such associates as George Cukor.

Last year's winner Fay Bainter announced the winners for the Best Supporting role. The Best Supporting actor went to Thomas Mitchell. He was an Academy, Emmy, and Tony award winning American film actor as well as a screenplay writer. He is remembered as one of the premier character actors in motion picture history. Mitchell's breakthrough role was as the regenerate embezzler in Frank Capra's classic 1937 film Lost Horizon. Following this performance, he was much in demand in Hollywood. That same year he would also be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance in the film The Hurricane directed by John Ford. Over the next few years Mitchell's credits read like a list from the greatest films of the 20th century. In 1939 alone he would enjoy key roles in five classic films: Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Only Angels Have Wings, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Gone with the Wind. While probably better remembered as Scarlett O'Hara's loving but doomed father in Gone with the Wind, it was for his performance as the drunken Doc Boone in Stagecoach, co-starring John Wayne (in Wayne's breakthrough role), that Mitchell won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Throughout the 1940s and 50's Mitchell would continue to find work in a wide variety of roles in generally high-quality productions, such as 1944's The Keys of the Kingdom (opposite Gregory Peck and 1952's High Noon (as the town mayor). He is probably best known to audiences today for his role as sad-sack Uncle Billy in Capra's 1946 Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life opposite James Stewart.Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s Mitchell would find considerable work in the new medium known as television.Thomas Mitchell died in 1962 at age 70 from cancer in Beverly Hills, California.

It was the Best supporting actress that marked a turning point in movie history. The winner was Hattie McDaniel as the first black performer to win the award for the role of of Mammy in Gone with the Wind. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, and in 2006 became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp. 1934's Judge Priest, directed by John Ford and starring Will Rogers, was the first film in which she would receive a major role. She had a leading part in the film and demonstrated her singing talent, including a duet with Rogers. McDaniel and Rogers became friends during filming. McDaniel had prominent roles in 1935 with her classic performance as a slovenly maid in RKO Pictures' Alice Adams, and a delightfully comic part as Jean Harlow's maid/traveling companion in MGM's China Seas, the latter her first film with Clark Gable. She had a featured role as Queenie in Universal Pictures' 1936 version of Show Boat starring Irene Dunne, and sang a verse of Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man with Helen Morgan, Paul Robeson, and the African-American chorus. Later in the film she and Robeson sang "I Still Suits Me", a song written especially by Kern and Hammerstein for the film. After Show Boat she had major roles in MGM's Saratoga (1937), starring Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, The Shopworn Angel (1938) with Margaret Sullavan, and The Mad Miss Manton (1938), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The competition in Gone with the Wind (1939), for Mammy had been almost as stiff as that for Scarlett O'Hara. McDaniel did not think she would be chosen, because she was known for being a comic actress. Clark Gable recommended the role to go to McDaniel, and when she went to her audition dressed in an authentic maid's uniform, Selznick knew he had found Mammy. Gable was delighted to be working again with Hattie. While the Jim Crow laws kept McDaniel from the Atlanta premiere, she did attend the Hollywood debut on December 28, 1939. This time, upon Selznick's insistence, her picture was featured prominently in the program. She made her last film appearances, Mickey and Family Honeymoon (1949), but was still quite active in her final years on radio and television, becoming the first major African American radio star. McDaniel learned she had breast cancer and by the spring of 1952, she was too ill to work. McDaniel died at age 57, in the hospital on the grounds of the Motion Picture House in Woodland Hills, on October 26, 1952. She was survived at the time by her brother, Sam "Deacon" McDaniel, a film actor. Thousands of mourners turned out to remember her life and accomplishments. It was her wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, along with her fellow movie stars. The owner, Jules 'Jack' Roth, refused to allow her to be interred there, because they did not take blacks. Her second choice was Angelus Rosedale Cemetery. In 1999, Tyler Cassity, the new owner of the Hollywood Cemetery, who had renamed it Hollywood Forever Cemetery; wanted to right the wrong and have Miss McDaniel interred there. Her family did not want to disturb her remains after the passage of so much time, and declined the offer. Hollywood Forever Cemetery then did the next best thing and built a large cenotaph memorial on the lawn overlooking the lake in honor of McDaniel. It is one of the most popular sites for visitors. Olivia de Havilland was among those to make their way to McDaniel's table to offer congratulations after her win at the Oscar ceremony, though it was reported that de Havilland then fled to the kitchen, where she burst into tears. The press reported that an irritated Irene Mayer Selznick followed her, and told her to return to their table and stop making a fool of herself.

The Best Song Oscar went to Over the rainbow from The wizard of Oz sang by Judy Garland who also recieved the Special Juvenile award that year. "Over the Rainbow" (also known as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") is a popular song with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. It was written to showcase Judy Garland's talents in the star vehicle movie The Wizard of Oz, and it became her signature song. She would forever be called upon to sing it in all her public appearances. The song's plaintive melody and simple lyrics depict a pre-adolescent girl's desire to escape from the "hopeless jumble" of this world, from the sadness of raindrops to the bright new world "over the rainbow." It expresses the childlike faith that a door will magically be open to a place where "troubles melt like lemon-drops". The song tops the "Songs of the Century" list compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. It also topped the American Film Institute's "100 Years, 100 Songs" list.
The Honorary awards went to:

Jean Hersholt (president); Ralph Morgan (chairman of the executive committee); Ralph Block (first vice-president); Conrad Nagel; Motion Picture Relief Fund- Acknowledging the outstanding services to the industry during the past year.
Technicolor Co.- For its contributions in successfully bringing three-color feature production to the screen.
Douglas Fairbanks- Recognizing the unique and outstanding contribution of Douglas Fairbanks, first president of the Academy, to the international development of the motion picture
Gone with the Wind (1939) - William Cameron Menzies- For outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood in the production of Gone with the Wind

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award was awarded to:

David O. Selznick one of the iconic Hollywood producers of the Golden Age. He is best known for producing the epic blockbuster Gone with the Wind (1939) which earned him an Oscar for Best Picture. Not only did Gone with the Wind gross the highest amount of money at the box office of any film ever (adjusted for inflation), but it also won seven additional Oscars and two special awards. He would make film history by winning the Best Picture Oscar a second year in a row for Rebecca (1940). He studied at Columbia University and worked as an apprentice in his father's company until his father went bankrupt in 1923. In 1926, Selznick moved to Hollywood and with his father's connections, got a job as an assistant story editor at MGM. He left MGM for Paramount Pictures in 1928, working there until 1931 when he joined RKO as Head of Production. In 1933 he returned to MGM to establish a second prestige production unit to parallel that of Irving Thalberg who was in poor health. His blockbuster classics included Dinner at Eight (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935) and A Tale of Two Cities (1935). He longed to be an independent producer and establish his own studio. In 1935 he realized that goal by forming Selznick International Pictures and distributing his films through United Artists. His successes continued with classics such as The Garden of Allah (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1038), Made for Each Other (1939), Intermezzo (1939) and, of course, his magnum opus, Gone with the Wind (1939). In 1940, he produced his second Best Picture Oscar winner in a row, Rebecca, the first Hollywood production for British director Alfred Hitchcock. Selznick had brought Hitchcock over from England, launching the director's American career. Rebecca was Hitchcock's only film to win Best Picture. After Rebecca, Selznick closed Selznick International Pictures and took some time off. His business activities included loaning out to other studios for large profits the high-powered talent he had under contract In 1944 he returned to producing pictures with the huge success Since You Went Away, which he wrote. He followed that with the classic Spellbound (1945) as well as Portrait of Jennie (1948). In 1949, he co-produced the memorable Carol Reed picture The Third Man. Selznick spent most of the 1950s obsessing about nurturing the career of his second wife Jennifer Jones. His last film, the big budget production, A Farewell to Arms (1957) starring Jones and Rock Hudson, was ill received. But in 1954, he ventured successfully into television, producing a two hour extravaganza called Light's Diamond Jubilee, which, in true Selznick fashion, made TV history by being telecast simultaneously on all networks. Selznick married Irene Gladys Mayer, daughter of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, in 1930. They divorced in 1948. They had two sons, Daniel Selznick and Jeffrey Selznick. He became interested in actress Jennifer Jones, who was then married to actor Robert Hudson Walker, and persuaded her to divorce him; he married her in 1949. They had one daughter, Mary Jennifer Selznick, who committed suicide in 1975. Selznick's brother Myron Selznick became one of the most powerful agents in Hollywood, defining the profession for those that followed. He died in 1944. Selznick died in 1965 following several heart attacks.

The awards were hosted for the first time by Bob Hope, an english born entertainer. Paramount Pictures signed Hope for the 1938 film The Big Broadcast of 1938. During a duet with Shirley Ross as accompanied by Shep Fields and his orchestra, Hope introduced the bittersweet song later to become his trademark, "Thanks for the Memory", which became a major hit and was praised by critics. The sentimental and fluid nature of the music allowed Hope's writers (whom he is said to have depended upon heavily throughout his career) to later invent endless variations of the song to fit specific circumstances, such as bidding farewell to troops while on tour. Hope's regular appearances in Hollywood films and radio made him one of the best known entertainers in North America, and at the height of his career he was also making a large income from live concert performances. Hope was host of the Academy Awards ceremony 18 times between 1939 and 1977. His alleged lust for an Oscar became part of his performing shtick, perhaps most memorably in a scene from Road to Morocco in which he suddenly erupted in a crazed frenzy, shouting about his imminent death from starvation and heat. Bing Crosby reminds him that rescue is just minutes away, and a disappointed Hope complains that Crosby has spoiled his best scene in the picture, and thus, his chance for an Academy Award. Although Hope never did win a Oscar for his performances (nor a nomination), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him with four honorary awards, and in 1960, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. While introducing the 1968 telecast, he famously quipped, "Welcome to the Academy Awards, or, as it's known at my house, Passover." Hope would also gain some recognition as "America's Favorite Funnyman" as well. In 1934 Bob Hope married Dolores Reade, and adopted four children, Linda, Anthony, Laura and Kelley. From them he had four grandchildren. Hope celebrated his 100th birthday on May 29, 2003, joining a small group of notable centenarians in the field of entertainment (including Irving Berlin, Hal Roach, Senor Wences, George Abbott, and George Burns.) To mark this event, the intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles was named Bob Hope Square and his centennial was declared Bob Hope Day in 35 states. Hope spent the day privately in his Toluca Lake, Los Angeles home where he had lived since 1937. Hope lived so long that he suffered premature obituaries on two separate occasions. On July 27, 2003, Bob Hope died at his home at 9:28 p.m. According to one of Hope's daughters, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, he told his wife, "Surprise me."

Further controversy erupted following the ceremony, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that Leigh had won over Davis by the smallest of margins, and that Donat had likewise won over James Stewart by a small number of votes. This led Academy officials to examine ways that the voting process, and more importantly, the results, would remain secret in future years. They considered the Los Angeles Times publication of such details as a breach of faith.