Wednesday, January 2, 2008

19th Academy Awards

The 19th Academy Awards continued a trend through the late-1940s of the Oscar voters honoring films about contemporary social issues. The Best Years of Our Lives concerns the lives of three returning veterans from three branches of military service as they adjust to life on the home front after World War II. The classic film It's a Wonderful Life lost in all categories in which it was nominated (Picture, Direction, Actor, Sound Recording and Editing).The Awards ceremony was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on March 13th, 1947 and hosted by Jack Benny.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) is an American drama film about three servicemen trying to piece their lives back together after coming back home from World War II. Samuel Goldwyn was motivated to produce the film after his wife Frances read an August 7, 1944 article in Time magazine which told about the homecoming story of war veterans and their difficulty. Goldwyn hired MacKinlay Kantor to write the story, which was first published as a book, Glory for Me. Robert Sherwood then wrote the screenplay. It was directed by William Wyler, with cinematography by Gregg Toland. The ensemble cast includes Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Hoagy Carmichael. It also features Harold Russell, an actor who had lost both his hands in a training accident. The film received seven Academy Awards. Despite his touching Oscar-nominated performance, Harold Russell was not a professional actor and the Board of Governors considered him a long shot to win, so he was given an honorary award "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance". However, he was named Best Supporting Actor to a tumultuous reception, making him the only actor to receive two Academy Awards for the same performance. In 1992, Russell needed money for his wife's medical expenses. In a controversial decision, he sold his Oscar to a private collector for $60,500. Russell defended his action, saying: "I don't know why anybody would be critical. My wife's health is much more important than sentimental reasons. The movie will be here, even if the Oscar isn't." The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has required all Oscar recipients since 1950 to sign an agreement forbidding them from selling their award. Also honored were William Wyler as Best Director and Fredric March as Best Actor in a leading role; for both it was the second Oscar.

The Best Actress award went to Olivia de Havilland for her role in To Each His Own. Her younger sister is the actress Joan Fontaine (b. 1917), from whom she has been estranged for many decades, not speaking at all since 1975. De Havilland's career began co-starring with Joe E. Brown in Alibi Ike in 1935. De Havilland played opposite Errol Flynn in such highly popular films as Captain Blood and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and as Maid Marian to Flynn's Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). She starred opposite Flynn in eight films. She played Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939) and received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance. She played the only one of the four main characters of Gone with the Wind to die in the film but outlived all the others (Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard) in real life. In 1941, de Havilland became a naturalized citizen of the United States and was becoming increasingly frustrated by the roles being assigned to her. She felt that she had proven herself to be capable of playing more than the demure ingénues and damsels in distress that were quickly typecasting her, and began to reject scripts that offered her this type of role. When her Warner Bros. contract expired, the studio informed her that six months had been added to it for times she had been on suspension; the law allowed for studios to suspend contract players for rejecting a role and the period of suspension to be added to the contract period. In theory this allowed a studio to maintain indefinite control over an uncooperative contractee. Most accepted this situation, while a few tried to change the system; Bette Davis had mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against Warner Bros. in the 1930s. De Havilland mounted a lawsuit in the 1940s, supported by the Screen Actors Guild and was successful, thereby reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to the performers. The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings until that time in Hollywood. Her courage in mounting such a challenge, and her subsequent victory, won her the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her sister Joan Fontaine. She won Best Actress Academy Awards for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949), and was also widely praised for her Academy Award nominated performance in The Snake Pit (1948). This was one of the earliest films to attempt a realistic portrayal of mental illness, and de Havilland was lauded for her willingness to play a role that was completely devoid of glamour and that confronted such controversial subject matter. De Havilland continued acting on film until the late 1970s, afterwards continuing her career on television until the late 80s, which included her winning a Golden Globe for her performance as the Dowager Empress Maria in the 1986 miniseries Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. De Havilland had relationships with John Huston, James Stewart and Howard Hughes in the early 1940s. She married novelist Marcus Goodrich in 1946 but they divorced in 1953. They had a son, Benjamin, who died of complications from Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1991. She was married to Pierre Galante from 1955 until 1979, producing a daughter, Giselle, in 1956. When de Havilland and Galante divorced they remained on good terms, and she nursed him through his final illness in Paris, which was the stated reason for her absence from the star-studded 70th Anniversary of the Oscars in 1998. De Havilland was good friends with Bette Davis and has remained a close friend of Gloria Stuart. A resident of Paris since the 1950s, de Havilland rarely makes appearances. She is reported to be working on an autobiography. She appeared as a presenter at the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003. In June 2006, she made appearances at tributes for her 90th birthday at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and the Los Angeles County Art Museum.

The Best Supporting Actress award went to Ann Baxter for her role in The Razor's Edge. Baxter screen-tested for the role of Mrs. DeWinter in Rebecca, but lost out to Joan Fontaine because director Alfred Hitchcock considered her "too young" for the role. The strength of that first foray into movie acting secured the then sixteen-year-old Baxter a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox. Her first movie role was in 20 Mule Team in 1940. She was chosen by Orson Welles to appear in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), based on the novel by Booth Tarkington. Baxter co-starred with Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney in 1946's The Razor's Edge, for which she won the Academy Award. In 1950 she was chosen to co-star in All About Eve, largely because of a resemblance to Claudette Colbert who had initially been chosen to co-star in the film. Baxter received a nomination for Best Actress for the title role of Eve Harrington, which is one of Baxter's enduring legacies to the history of cinema. Today, Baxter is probably best remembered for her compelling role as the Egyptian princess Nefertiri opposite Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses in Cecil B. Demille's award winning The Ten Commandments (1956). In the 1950s, Baxter was married to and then divorced from actor John Hodiak. That union produced Baxter's oldest daughter, Katrina. In 1961, Baxter and her second husband, Randolph Galt, left the United States to live and raise their children on a cattle station in the Australian outback. Baxter and Galt had two daughters together: Melissa and Maginel. Privately during this period, Baxter chose to refer to herself as Ann Galt amongst her neighbors in Brentwood, Los Angeles, probably as a way to downplay her star status and to raise her daughters as normally as possible. Baxter was briefly married again in 1977 to David Klee, a prominent stockbroker, but was widowed when he died unexpectedly due to illness; Baxter never remarried. Baxter died from a brain aneurysm on December 12, 1985, while walking down Madison Avenue in New York City. She is buried on the estate of Frank Lloyd Wright in Spring Green, Wisconsin as she was his granddaughter.

"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" is a popular song which refers to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. It was written for the 1946 movie, The Harvey Girls, where it was sung by Judy Garland. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The music was written by Harry Warren, and the lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was published in 1944, but the most popular recordings were made the next year.
Charting versions were recorded by Mercer, Bing Crosby, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and Judy Garland and the Merry Macs.

The Honorary Awards went to:
Ernst Lubitsch- For his distinguished contributions to the art of the motion picture (certificate).
Harold Russell- For bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives.
Laurence Olivier- For his Outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director in bringing Henry V to the screen.

The Juvenile award went to Claude Jarman Jr. and the Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award was given to Samuel Goldwyn. Born Schmuel Gelbfisz in Warsaw to a Polish Jewish family, at an early age he left his native Warsaw penniless and on foot. He made his way to Birmingham, England, where he remained with relatives for a few years using the Anglicised name Samuel Goldfish. In 1898, he emigrated to the United States, but fearing refusal of entry, he got off the boat in Nova Scotia, Canada before moving on to New York in January 1899. He found work in upstate Gloversville, New York in the bustling garment business. Soon his innate marketing skills made him a very successful salesman. After four years, as vice-president for sales, he moved back to New York City. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1902. At the time, the fledgling film industry was expanding rapidly and in his spare time, an enraptured Goldwyn went to see as many movies as possible. Before long, he went into the business with Vaudeville performer Jesse L. Lasky, his brother-in-law at the time, and Adolph Zukor, a theater owner. Together, the three produced their first film, using an ambitious young director named Cecil B. DeMille. Disputes arose between the partners and Goldwyn left after a few years but their company evolved to later become Paramount Pictures. Shortly before this, he also divorced his first wife, with whom he had a daughter, Ruth. In 1916 Samuel Goldwyn partnered with Broadway producers Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, using a combination of both names to call their movie-making enterprise the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. Seeing an opportunity, Samuel Goldwyn then had his surname legally changed to the less comical-sounding Goldwyn. The Goldwyn Company proved moderately successful but it is their "Leo the Lion" trademark for which the organization is most famous. Eventually the company was acquired by Marcus Loew and his Metro Pictures Corporation but by then Samuel Goldwyn had already been forced out by his partners and was never a part of the new studio that became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In 1925, he married actress Frances Howard to whom he remained married for the rest of his life. Their son, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. would eventually join his father in the business. After his departure from Goldwyn Pictures Corporation, he established Samuel Goldwyn Inc., eventually opening Samuel Goldwyn Studio on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. For 35 years, Goldwyn built a reputation for excellence in filmmaking and an eye for finding the talent for making films. He discovered actor Gary Cooper, used director William Wyler for many of his productions and hired writers such as Ben Hecht, Sidney Howard and Lillian Hellman. For more than three decades, Goldwyn made numerous successful films and received Best Picture Oscar nominations for Arrowsmith (1931), Dodsworth (1936), Dead End (1937), Wuthering Heights (1939), and The Little Foxes (1941). The leading actors in several of Goldwyn films were also Oscar-nominated for their performances. Throughout the 1930s, Goldwyn released all his films through United Artists, but beginning in 1941, and continuing almost through the end of his career, Goldwyn released his films through RKO. In 1946, the year he was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, Goldwyn's drama The Best Years of Our Lives, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the 1950s Samuel Goldwyn turned to making a number of musicals including the 1955 hit Guys and Dolls starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. This was the only independent film that Goldwyn ever released through MGM. Two years later, in 1957, he was awarded The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes. Samuel Goldwyn died at his home in Los Angeles in 1974 from natural causes at the age of 92.

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