Wednesday, January 2, 2008

17th Academy Awards

The 17th Academy Awards were held at the Grauman's Chinese Theater on March 15th ,1945 and marked the first time this awards ceremony was broadcast nationally on the ABC Radio network. Through the 1940’s, the ceremony and academy rules continued to evolve into the form by which we know them today. This is the first year that the Best Picture category was limited to 5 pictures. This was also the first and last time an individual was nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for playing the same role in the same film. Barry Fitzgerald was nominated in both categories for the character of Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way.

Going my way was the winner of the Best Picture Oscar, directed by Leo McCarey and starring Bing Crosby. It is a light-hearted drama about a new young priest (Bing Crosby) taking over a parish from an established old veteran (Barry Fitzgerald). It was followed the next year by a sequel, The Bells of St. Mary's. The Movie won a total of seven Oscars, the second one for Leo McCarey as Best Director, and 3 more nominations.

Both male acting awards went to actors from the movie, Bing Crosby winning for the leading role. One of the first multimedia stars, from 1934 to 1954 Bing Crosby held a nearly unrivaled command of record sales, radio ratings, and motion picture grosses. He is often considered to be among the most popular musical acts in history and is currently the most electronically recorded human voice in history. Crosby is also credited as being the major inspiration for most of the male singers of the era that followed him, including Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Dean Martin. Yank magazine recognized Crosby as the person who had done the most for American G.I. morale during World War II and, during his peak years, around 1948, polls declared him the "most admired man alive," ahead of Jackie Robinson and the pope. According to ticket sales, Bing Crosby is, at 1,077,900,000 tickets sold, the third most popular actor of all-time behind Clark Gable and John Wayne. Crosby is also, according to Quigley Publishing Company's International Motion Picture Almanac, tied for second on the "All Time Number One Stars List" with three other actors: Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, and Burt Reynolds. Crosby's most popular film, White Christmas, grossed $30 million in 1954, which, when adjusted for inflation, equals $233 million in 2004 dollars. Crosby was also critically acclaimed for his performance as an alcoholic entertainer in The Country Girl. For 15 years (1934, 1937, 1940, 1943-1954), Crosby was among the top 10 in box office draw, and for five of those years (1944-49) he was the largest in the world. He sang four Academy Award-winning songs — "Sweet Leilani" (1937), "White Christmas" (1942), "Swinging on a Star" (1944), "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" (1951). Crosby was married twice, first to actress/nightclub singer Dixie Lee from 1930 until her death from ovarian cancer in 1952. They had four sons (Gary, Dennis, Phillip, and Lindsay). Dixie was an alcoholic, and the 1947 film Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman is indirectly based on her life. After Dixie's death, Crosby had relationships with actresses Grace Kelly, Inger Stevens, and Playboy model Pat Sheehan before marrying the much-younger actress Kathryn Grant in 1957. Bing and Kathryn had three children Harry, Mary (best known for portraying Kristin Shepard, the woman who shot J.R. Ewing on TV's Dallas), and Nathaniel. Following his recovery from a life-threatening fungal infection of his right lung in 1974, Crosby emerged from semi-retirement to produce several notable albums and concert tours. In March, 1977, after videotaping a concert for CBS to commemorate his 50th anniversary in show business, Crosby backed off the stage into an orchestra pit, rupturing a disc in his back that required a month of hospitalization. In his first performance after the accident and his last American concert, on August 16, 1977 in Concord, CA -- the power went out, and he continued singing without amplification. In September, Crosby, his family, and singer Rosemary Clooney began a concert tour of England that included two weeks at the London Palladium. While in England, Crosby recorded his final album, Seasons, and his final TV Christmas special with guests David Bowie and Twiggy. His duet with Bowie on "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy," generated so much interest that it was later released as a single and became an annual holiday classic. At the conclusion of his work in England, Bing flew alone to Spain to hunt and golf. Shortly after 6:00 p.m. on October 14, Crosby died instantaneously from a massive heart attack after a round of eighteen holes of golf near Madrid.

The Best Supporting Actor Oscar went to Barry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald went to Hollywood to star in The Plough and the Stars, directed by John Ford. He had a successful Hollywood career in such films as The Long Voyage Home, How Green Was My Valley (1941), And Then There Were None (1945), and The Quiet Man (1952). Fitzgerald achieved a feat never before (or since) seen in the history of the Academy Awards: he was nominated for both the Best Actor Oscar and the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the same performance, as "Father Fitzgibbon" in Going My Way (1944). (Academy Award rules have since been changed to prevent this from reoccurring.) He later broke the head off the award while practicing his golf swing.

The Best Actress Oscar went to Ingrid Bergman for Gaslight. Bergman was a three-time Academy Award-winning and two-time Emmy Award-winning Swedish actress. She also won the Tony Award for Best Actress in the first Tony Award ceremony in 1947. She is ranked as the fourth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute. While still in Sweden, on July 10, 1937, at the age of 21, she married a dentist, Petter Lindström (who would later become a neurosurgeon). On September 20, 1938, she gave birth to a daughter, Pia Lindström. After a dozen films in Sweden (including En kvinnas ansikte which would later be remade as A Woman's Face with Joan Crawford) and one in Germany, Bergman was signed by Hollywood producer David O. Selznick to star in the 1939 English language remake of her 1936 Swedish language film, Intermezzo. It was an enormous success and Bergman became a star, described as "Sweden's illustrious gift to Hollywood". After completing one last film in Sweden and appearing in three moderately successful films in the United States, Bergman joined Humphrey Bogart in the 1942 classic film Casablanca, which remains her best known role. That same year, she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), which was also her first color film. The following year, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gaslight. After losing to her for the 1944 Best Actress Academy Award, Barbara Stanwyck told the press she was a "member of The Ingrid Bergman Fan Club". She received a third consecutive nomination for Best Actress with her performance as a nun in The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). Bergman had been considered for the role of Mother Maria-Veronica in 1944's The Keys of the Kingdom, but the part ultimately went to Rose Stradner, who was then the wife of the film's producer, Joseph Mankiewicz. Later, she would receive another Best Actress nomination for Joan of Arc (1948), an independent film produced by Walter Wanger and initially released through RKO. Bergman had championed the role since her arrival in Hollywood. Bergman starred in the Alfred Hitchcock films Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), and Under Capricorn (1949). In 1949, Bergman met Italian director Roberto Rossellini in order to make the film Stromboli (1950), after having been a fan of two of his previous films that she had seen while in the United States. During the making of this movie, she fell in love with him and became pregnant with a son, Roberto Ingmar Rossellini (born February 7, 1950).The pregnancy caused a huge scandal in the United States. The scandal forced Ingrid Bergman to exile herself to Italy, leaving her husband and daughter in the United States. Her husband, Dr. Petter Lindström, eventually sued for desertion and waged a custody battle for their daughter. Ingrid Bergman married Roberto Rossellini on May 24, 1950. On June 18, 1952, she gave birth to twin daughters, Isabella Rossellini who is a famous actress and model, and Isotta Ingrid Rossellini. Over the next few years, she appeared in several Italian films for Rossellini, Their marriage ended in divorce on November 7, 1957. After separating from Rossellini, she starred in Jean Renoir's Elena and Her Men (Elena et les Hommes, 1956), a romantic comedy where she played a Polish princess caught in political intrigue. Although the film wasn't a success, it has since come to be regarded as one of her best performances. During her time in Italy, anger over her private life had continued unabated in the United States. With her starring role in 1956's Anastasia, Bergman made a triumphant return to the American screen and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for a second time. The award was accepted for her by her friend Cary Grant. Bergman would not make her first post-scandal public appearance in Hollywood until the 1958 Academy Awards, when she was the presenter of the Academy Award for Best Picture. Furthermore, after being introduced by Cary Grant and walking out on stage to present, she was given a standing ovation.Bergman received her third Academy Award (and first for Best Supporting Actress) for her performance in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), but she publicly declared at the Academy Awards telecast that year that the award rightfully belonged to Italian actress Valentina Cortese for Day for Night. In 1978, she played in Ingmar Bergman's Höstsonaten (Autumn Sonata) for which she received her seventh Academy Award nomination and made her final performance on the big screen. In the film, Bergman plays a celebrity pianist who returns to Sweden to visit her neglected daughter, played by Liv Ullmann. The film was shot in Norway. It is considered by many to be among her best performances. She was honored posthumously with her second Emmy Award for Best Actress in 1982 for the television mini-series A Woman Called Golda, about the late Israeli prime minister Golda Meir. It was her final acting role.Ingrid Bergman died in 1982 on her 67th birthday in London, England, following a long battle with breast cancer. Her body was cremated in Sweden. Most of her ashes were scattered in the sea with the remainder being interred in the Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm next to her parents. A single violin played the song "As Time Goes By", the theme from Casablanca, recalling her most famous role, that of Ilsa Lund.

The Best Supporting Actress Oscar went to Ethel Barrymore, the sister of actors John and Lionel. Ethel Barrymore was a highly regarded stage actress in New York City and a major Broadway performer. Many today consider her to be the greatest actress of her generation. She made her first motion picture in 1914 and in the 1940s, she moved to Hollywood and started working in motion pictures. The only two films that featured all three siblings, Ethel, John and Lionel Barrymore, were National Red Cross Pageant (1917) & Rasputin and the Empress (1932). She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1944 film None but the Lonely Heart opposite Cary Grant, but made plain that she was not overly impressed by it. On March 22, 2007, her Oscar was offered for sale on eBay. She made such other classic films as The Spiral Staircase (1946) directed by Robert Siodmak, The Paradine Case (1947) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Portrait of Jennie (1948), Pinky (1949), and Kind Lady (1951). Her last film appearance was in Johnny Trouble (1957). She also made a number of television appearances in the 1950s. Ethel married Russell Griswold Colt on March 14, 1909; they divorced in 1923. A devout Roman Catholic, she never remarried.Ethel Barrymore died of cardiovascular disease, following a long battle with a heart condition in 1959 at her home in Hollywood, aged 79. She was two months shy of her 80th birthday.

The Best Song Oscar went to Swinging from a star from the movie Going my way. Swinging on a Star was recorded in 1944 by singer Bing Crosby. His song writer, Jimmy Van Heusen, was at Crosby’s house one evening for dinner and to discuss a song for the movie. During the meal, one of the children began complaining about how he didn’t want to go to school the next day. The singer turned to his son and said to him, “If you don’t go to school, you might grow up to be a mule. Do you wanna do that?” Van Heusen thought that this clever rebuke would make a good song for the movie. He pictured Bing, playing a priest, talking to a group of children acting much the same way that his own child acted that night. When he took his idea to his partner, Johnny Burke, Johnny was quick to approve, and they wrote the song.

The Honorary Award was given to Bob Hope for his many services to the Academy. The award consisted in Life Membership in the AMPAS. The Juvenile Award went to Margaret O'Brien and the Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award to Daryl F Zanuck. The awards were co-hosted by Bob Hope and John Cromwell, an American film director, as well as actor and producer. He directed Tom Sawyer (1930) starring Jackie Coogan in the title role; Sinclair Lewis's Ann Vickers (1933) starring Irene Dunne, Walter Huston, Conrad Nagel, Bruce Cabot, and Edna May Oliver; and Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage (1934) starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, and Frances Dee. Cromwell was president of the Screen Directors Guild from 1944 to 1946. He was blacklisted in Hollywood from 1951 to 1958 for his political affiliations. He died at age ninety-one in Santa Barbara.

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