The 21st Academy Awards, held at the Academy Theater on Melrose Avenue on March 24, 1949, featured numerous firsts. It was the first time a non-Hollywood production won Best Picture, Hamlet. It was the first time an individual (Laurence Olivier) directed himself in an Oscar-winning performance. Director John Huston directed two Oscar-winning performances in the same year for two different films, Walter Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Claire Trevor for Key Largo. Jane Wyman was the first actor since the silent era to win an Oscar for a performance featuring no lines. Humphrey Bogart failed to receive a nomination for Best Actor in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which at the time was considered one of the Academy’s greatest slips.
So let's begin with the Best Picture Award for Hamlet. A 1948 British film adaptation of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier. Hamlet was Olivier's second film as director, and also the second of his three Shakespeare films. It is the only one of Olivier's directorial efforts to be filmed in black and white. The 1948 Hamlet was the only film in which the leading actor has directed himself to an Oscar-winning performance, until 1997, when Roberto Benigni directed himself to an Oscar in Life Is Beautiful. Olivier is also the only actor to win an Oscar for a Shakespearean role.
As mentioned above, Laurence Olivier won for Best Actor. He is one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. Olivier's Academy acknowledgments are considerable—fourteen Oscar nominations, with two wins for Best Actor and Best Picture for the 1948 film Hamlet, and two honorary awards including a statuette and certificate. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Olivier among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, at fourteen on the list. Throughout his career he insisted that his acting was pure technique, and he was contemptuous of contemporaries who adopted the 'Method' popularized by Lee Strasberg. Olivier met and married Jill Esmond, a rising young actress, on July 25, 1930 and had one son, Tarquin, born in 1936. Olivier was not happy in his first marriage from the beginning, however. Repressed, as he came to see it, by his religious upbringing, Olivier recounted in his autobiography the disappointments of his wedding night, culminating in his failure to perform sexually. He renounced religion forever and soon came to resent his wife, though the marriage would last for ten years. Laurence Olivier saw Vivien Leigh in The Mask of Virtue in 1936, and a friendship developed after he congratulated her on her performance. While playing lovers in the film Fire Over England (1937), Olivier and Leigh developed a strong attraction, and after filming was completed, they began an affair. Olivier travelled to Hollywood to begin filming Wuthering Heights as Heathcliff. Leigh followed soon after, partly to be with him, but also to pursue her dream of playing Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). Olivier found the filming of Wuthering Heights to be difficult but it proved to be a turning point for him, both in his success in the United States, which had eluded him until then, but also in his attitude to film, which he had regarded as an inferior medium to theatre. The film was a hit and Olivier was praised for his performance, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Leigh won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Gone with the Wind, and the couple suddenly found themselves to be major celebrities throughout the world. They wanted to marry, but both Leigh's husband and Olivier's wife at the time, Jill Esmond, at first, refused to divorce them. Finally divorced, they were married on 31 August 1940. Olivier's American film career flourished with highly regarded performances in Rebecca (1940) and Pride and Prejudice (1941). In December 1960 she and Olivier divorced, and Olivier married the actress Joan Plowright, with whom he later had three children. After gaining widespread popularity in the film medium, Olivier was approached by several investors (namely Filippo Del Giudice, Alexander Korda and J. Arthur Rank), to create several Shakespearean films, based on stage productions of each respective play. Olivier tried his hand at directing, and as a result, created three highly successful films: Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III.Famous throughout his career for his commitment to his art, Olivier immersed himself even more completely in his work during his later years, reportedly as a way of distracting himself from the guilt he felt at having left his second wife Vivien Leigh. He began appearing more frequently in films, usually in character parts rather than the leading romantic roles of his early career, and received Academy Award nominations for Sleuth(1972), Marathon Man (1976) and The Boys from Brazil (1978). Having been recently forced out of his role as director of the Royal National Theatre, he worried that his family would not be sufficiently provided for in the event of his death, and consequently chose to do many of his later TV special and film appearances on a "pay cheque" basis. In 1967 Olivier underwent radiation treatment for prostate cancer, and was also hospitalised with pneumonia. For the remainder of his life, he would suffer from many different health problems, including bronchitis, amnesia and pleurisy. In 1974 he was diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disorder, and nearly died the following year, but he battled through the next decade, earning money in case of financial disaster. This explains why Olivier took all the work he could get, so his family would be financially secure after his death. It also explains his appearance in the 1982 film Inchon, widely considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. When presenting the Best Picture Oscar in 1985, he absent-mindedly presented it by simply stepping up to the microphone and saying "Amadeus". He had grown forgetful, and had forgotten to read out the nominees first. He died of cancer in Steyning, West Sussex, England, in 1989 at the age of 82. He left his son from his first marriage, as well as his wife and their three children. Lord Olivier's body was cremated, his ashes interred in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.
Jane Wyman was named Best Actress for Johnny Belinda. Wyman finally gained critical notice in the film noir The Lost Weekend (1945). She was nominated for the 1946 Academy Award for Best Actress for The Yearling (1946), and won two years later for her role as a deaf-mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda (1948). She was the first person in the sound era to win an acting Oscar without speaking a line of dialogue. In an amusing acceptance speech, perhaps poking fun at some of her long-winded counterparts, Wyman took her statue and said, "I won this by keeping my mouth shut, and that's what I'm going to do now." The Oscar win gave her the ability to choose higher profile roles, although she still showed a liking for musical comedy. She worked with such directors as Alfred Hitchcock on Stage Fright (1950), Frank Capra on Here Comes the Groom (1951) and Michael Curtiz on The Story of Will Rogers (1952). She starred in The Glass Menagerie (1950), Just for You (1952), Let's Do It Again (1953), The Blue Veil(1951) (another Oscar nomination), the remake of Edna Ferber's So Big (1953), Magnificent Obsession (1954) (Oscar nomination), Lucy Gallant (1955), All That Heaven Allows (1955), and Miracle in the Rain (1956). She replaced the ailing Gene Tierney in Holiday for Lovers (1959), and next appeared in Pollyanna (1960), Bon Voyage! (1962), and her final big screen movie, How to Commit Marriage (1969). Wyman was also a well-regarded character actress. Wyman's career enjoyed a resurgence when she was cast as the scheming Californian vintner and matriarch Angela Channing in the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest, which ran from 1981 to 1990.After Falcon Crest, Wyman only acted once more, playing Jane Seymour's screen mother in a 1993 episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Following this, she retired from acting permanently. Wyman had starred in 83 movies, two successful TV series, and was nominated for an Academy Award four times, winning once. Wyman married Myron Martin Futterman (1900–1965), a dress manufacturer, in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 29, 1937. Because Wyman wanted a baby and Futterman did not, they separated after three months of marriage. They divorced on December 5, 1938. In 1938, Wyman co-starred with Ronald Reagan in Brother Rat (1938), and its sequel Brother Rat and a Baby (1940). Reportedly engaged to Reagan only after Wyman attempted suicide over the actor's indecision regarding marriage, the two were married on January 26, 1940, at the Wee Kirk o' the Heather at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles; they divorced on June 28, 1948. She and Reagan had three children; Maureen Elizabeth Reagan (1941–2001), Michael Edward Reagan (born March 18, 1945 and adopted shortly after), and Christine Reagan (born prematurely June 26, 1947 and died later that same day). The end of the marriage was hastened by Wyman's affair with her Johnny Belinda co-star, Lew Ayres. Since Reagan is the only U.S. president to have been divorced, Jane Wyman had the unique distinction of having been the only ex-wife of an American President. Following her divorce from Reagan, Wyman married Hollywood music director and composer Frederick M. Karger (1916–1979) on November 1, 1952 at El Montecito Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara, California. They separated on November 7, 1954 and were granted an interlocutory divorce decree on December 7, 1954; the divorce was finalized on December 30, 1955. They remarried on March 11, 1961, and Karger divorced her again on March 9, 1965. Wyman never remarried, and after her conversion to Roman Catholicism, both she and her best friend Loretta Young obtained special indults from their bishop to receive communion.Jane Wyman died at the age of 90 at her Rancho Mirage home on Monday, September 10, 2007, having long suffered from arthritis and diabetes. It was reported that Wyman died in her sleep of natural causes. Since she was a member of the Dominican order of the Catholic church, she was buried in a nun's habit.
The Best Director Oscar went to John Huston for the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He was known for directing several classic films, The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), and The African Queen (1951). He is the father of actress Anjelica Huston and director Danny Huston, and his own father was actor Walter Huston. Huston began his film career as a screenwriter and made films mainly adapted from books or plays. The six-foot-two-inch, brown-eyed director also acted in a number of films, with distinction in Otto Preminger's The Cardinal for which he was nominated for the Academy award for Best Supporting Actor and in Roman Polanski's Chinatown as the film's central heavy against Jack Nicholson. Huston's films were insightful about human nature and human predicaments. They also sometimes included scenes or brief dialogue passages that were remarkably prescient concerning environmental issues that came to public awareness in the future, in the period starting about 1970; examples include The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and The Night of the Iguana (1964). Huston also directed The Misfits (1960) with an all-star cast including Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, and Eli Wallach. Famously, Huston spent long evenings carousing in the Nevada casinos after filming, surrounded by reporters and beautiful women, gambling, drinking, and smoking cigars. In 1941, Huston was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Maltese Falcon. He was nominated again and won in 1948 for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, for which he also received the Best Director award. Huston received 15 Oscar nominations in the course of his career. In fact, he is the oldest person ever to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar when, at 79 years old, he was nominated for Prizzi's Honor (1985). He also has the unique distinction of directing both his father Walter and his daughter Anjelica in Oscar-winning performances (in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Prizzi's Honor, respectively), making the Hustons the first family to have three generations of Academy Award winners.Huston, an Episcopalian, was married five times, to: Dorothy Harvey, Lesley Black, Evelyn Keyes, Enrica Soma and Celeste Shane. All but the marriage to Soma, who died, ended in divorce. Among his children are the director Danny Huston (by Zoe Sallis) and the actress Anjelica Huston (by Enrica Soma) and attorney Walter Antony "Tony" Huston (also by Enrica Soma). He died from emphysema on August 28, 1987 in Middletown Rhode Island, at the age of 81.
His father, Walter Huston won for Best Supporting Actor in the same movie. He began his Broadway career in 1924, he achieved fame in character roles once talkies began in Hollywood. His first major role was in 1929's The Virginian, opposite Gary Cooper. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1936 for Dodsworth, in which he had appeared on Broadway two years earlier. Huston stayed busy throughout the 1930s and 1940s, both on stage and screen (becoming one of America's most distinguished actors), including introducing September Song in Knickerbocker Holiday. Among his films, he starred in Rain (1932) and Mission to Moscow (1943), a pro-Soviet World War II propaganda film as Ambassador Joseph E. Davies. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1948 for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was directed by his son, John Huston. His last film was The Furies in 1950 with Barbara Stanwyck. He died in Hollywood from an aortic aneurysm, one day after his 66th birthday.
The Best Supporting Actress award went to Claire Trevor for her role in Key Largo. Nicknamed the "Queen of Film Noir" because of her many appearances in "bad girl” roles in film noir and other black-and-white thrillers, she appeared in over 60 films. In 1937 she starred with Humphrey Bogart in Dead End, which would lead to her being nominated for Best Supporting Actress. By 1939 she was well established as a solid "leading lady". Some of her most memorable performances during this period were opposite John Wayne, including the classic 1939 western Stagecoach, which was Wayne's breakthrough role. She also starred opposite Wayne in Allegheny Uprising that same year, and again in 1940 in Dark Command. Another two of her more memorable roles was when she starred in Murder, My Sweet opposite Dick Powell, and fellow film noir flick Born to Kill playing a divorcee who gets more than she bargained for by falling in love with a bad boy who impulsively murders.Trevor won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her 1948 performance in Key Largo, co-starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall. She was nominated again for her performance in The High and the Mighty, a 1954 airplane disaster epic starring John Wayne. Trevor married film producer Clark Andrews in 1938, but they divorced four years later. Her second marriage to Cylos William Dunsmoore produced a son, Charles. The marriage ended in divorce in 1947. The next year, Trevor married Milton Bren, another film producer and soon after moved to Newport Beach, California. In 1978 her only biological child, her son Charles Dunsmoore, died in an airliner crash and her last husband, Milton Bren, died from a brain tumor in 1979. Trevor retired from acting in 1987. She made a special Academy Awards Appearance in 1998 at the 70th Academy Awards. She died of respiratory failure in Newport Beach, April 8, 2000 at the age of 90, survived by several stepchildren by her marriage to Bren. Claire Trevor was cremated and her remains were scattered at sea.
Buttons and Bowes was named Best Song. The music was written by Jay Livingston, the lyrics by Ray Evans. The song was published in 1947. The song appeared in the Bob Hope movie The Paleface. It was a vocal selection on many radio programs in late 1948. The most popular version of the song was recorded by Dinah Shore in 1947, but reached the charts the next year. Charting versions of the song were also recorded by The Dinning Sisters, by Betty Rhodes, by Evelyn Knight, and by Betty Garrett the same year. In addition, the song was also recorded in the United States by Gene Autry and in the United Kingdom by Geraldo and his orchestra (with vocalist Doreen Lundy). It was memorably performed (with most of the lyrics forgotten) by Dr. Frasier Crane in the Frasier episode Look Before You Leap. The song was also used in the sequel Son of Paleface.
The Honorary Awards went to :
Sid Grauman- Master showman, who raised the standard of exhibition of motion pictures.
Adolph Zukor- A man who has been called the father of the feature film in America, for his services to the industry over a period of forty years.
Walter Wanger- For distinguished service to the industry in adding to its moral stature in the world community by his production of the picture Joan of Arc.
Monsieur Vincent (1947)- France. Voted by the Academy Board of Governors as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1948.
The Juvenile award went to Ivan Jandl and the Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award to Jerry Wald, an American producer and screenwriter for motion pictures and radio shows. He was nominated for Academy Awards for Mildred Pierce, Johnny Belinda, Peyton Place, and Sons and Lovers; he won the Oscar for From Here to Eternity.
The awards were hosted by Robert Montgomery. Sharing a stage with George Cukor gave him an in to Hollywood, where, in 1929, he debuted in So This is College. Norma Shearer chose him to star opposite her in Private Lives in 1931, and he became a star. During this time, Montgomery appeared in the first, filmed version of When Ladies Meet (1933). In 1937, he starred opposite Marion Davies in Ever Since Eve from a screenplay by the "hot" playwright of the day, Lawrence Riley, et al. In 1935, Montgomery became President of the Screen Actors Guild, and was elected again in 1946. In 1937 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor as a psychopath in the chiller Night Must Fall, and again in 1942 for Here Comes Mr. Jordan. During World War II, he joined the Navy, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
In 1945 he returned to Hollywood, making his uncredited directing debut with They Were Expendable, where he directed some of the PT Boat scenes when director John Ford was unable to work because of health reasons. His first credited film as director was Lady in the Lake (1947), in which he also starred, and which brought him mixed reviews. He was a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. He died of cancer at the age of 77 in New York City. His daughter, actress Elizabeth Montgomery, also succumbed to cancer in 1995 at the age of 62, and his son, Robert Montgomery, Jr. (better known as Skip), fell victim to it in 2000.