Sunday, January 6, 2008

22nd Academy Awards

The 22nd Academy Awards Ceremony awarded Oscars for the best in films in 1949 and the ceremony was held on March 23rd, 1950 at the Pantages Theatre.

This year's Best Picture was All the King's Men, a 1949 drama film based on the Robert Penn Warren novel of the same name. It was directed by Robert Rossen and starred Broderick Crawford in the role of Willie Stark. All The King's Men is the story of the rise of politician Willie Stark from a rural county seat to the spotlight. Along the way, he loses his initial innocence, and becomes just as corrupt as those who he assaulted before for this characteristic. Also included is the romance between one of his "right hand women" and the up-and-coming journalist who brings Stark to prominence. Rossen originally offered the starring role to John Wayne, who found the proposed film script unpatriotic and indignantly refused the part. Crawford, who eventually took the role, won the 1949 Oscar for best male actor, beating out Wayne, who had been nominated for his role in The Sands of Iwo Jima.

Broderick Crawford gained fame in 1937, when he starred as Lenny in Of Mice and Men on Broadway. He moved to Hollywood afterward, but did not get the role in the movie version of the play. (The role instead went to Lon Chaney, Jr., who was thereafter typecast as a hulking brute.) In 1949, Crawford was cast as Willie Stark (a character based on Louisiana politician Huey Long) in All the King's Men for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. The following year he starred in another smash hit film, Born Yesterday. Despite these successes, Crawford's career suffered because of typecasting and his sometimes belligerent personality. In 1955, prominent television producer Frederick Ziv decided that the former Academy Award winner was worth taking a chance on, and he offered Crawford the lead role of "Chief" Dan Mathews in the police drama Highway Patrol. Crawford died in 1986 in Rancho Mirage, California, after suffering a stroke.

The Best Actress award went to Olivia deHavilland for The Heiress (second Oscar), and the Best Supporting Actress award went to Mercedes McCambridge for All The King's Men. She began her career as a radio actor during the 1940s while also performing on Broadway. Her Hollywood break came when she was cast opposite Broderick Crawford in the 1949 film All the King's Men. In 1954, McCambridge co-starred with Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden in the offbeat western drama, Johnny Guitar, now regarded as a cult classic. McCambridge and Hayden publicly declared their dislike of Crawford, with McCambridge labeling Crawford "a bad egg." In 1956, McCambridge played the supporting role of "Luz" in the George Stevens classic Giant, which starred James Dean. She was nominated for another Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress but lost to Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind.
McCambridge was also well-known for providing the dubbed-in voice of the demonically possessed character in The Exorcist, acted by Linda Blair. McCambridge's only child, her son John Lawrence Fifield (who later adopted his stepfather's surname and became known as John Markle), killed his family and then himself in a murder/suicide in 1987. She died on March 2, 2004 in La Jolla, California, of natural causes, aged 87.

Dean Jagger was named Best Supporting Actor. Jagger made his film debut in The Woman from Hell (1929) with Mary Astor. He became a successful character actor, without becoming a major star, and appeared in almost 100 films in a career that lasted until shortly before his death. He received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O'Clock High (1949). Other notable film roles included Brigham Young (1940), Western Union (1941), Sister Kenny (1946), White Christmas (1954), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Vanishing Point (1971), and the 1956 British science-fiction film X the Unknown. He died from heart disease in Santa Monica, California aged 87.

The Best Director Oscar went to Joseph L Mankiewicz. During his long career in Hollywood, Mankiewicz wrote forty-eight screenplays, including All About Eve, for which he won an Academy Award. He also produced more than twenty films including The Philadelphia Story which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1941. However, he is best known for the films he directed, twice winning the Academy Award for Directing, first for A letter to Three wives in 1949 and then for All About Eve in 1950. In 1944, he produced The Keys of the Kingdom, which starred his wife, Rose Stradner, and Gregory Peck. In 1958, Mankiewicz directed The Quiet American an adaptation of Graham Greene's 1955 novel about the seed of American military involvement in what would become the Vietnam War. Mankiewicz, under career pressure from the climate of anti-Communism and the Hollywood blacklist, distorted the message of Greene's book, changing major parts of the story to appeal to a national audience. He was the younger brother of Herman J. Mankiewicz. His son is Tom Mankiewicz. He died in 1993 aged 83.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a pop standard with words and music by Frank Loesser. Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party. The female voice in the song is called "The Mouse" and the male "The Wolf." The lyrics consist of his attempts to convince her to stay with him at the end of a date; her indecisive protests reveal that although she feels obligated to go home, she is tempted to stay, partially because, as the title suggests, "it's cold outside." In at least one published version the tempo of the song is given as "leserado," a humorous reference to the composer's name.
In 1948, after years of informally performing the song at various parties, Loesser sold its rights to MGM, which inserted the song into its 1949 motion picture, Neptune's Daughter. The film featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Special Awards
To The Bicycle Thief (Italy), voted by the Academy Board of Governors as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1949
To Bobby Driscoll, outstanding juvenile actor of 1949
To Fred Astaire for his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures
To Cecil B. DeMille, distinguished motion picture pioneer, for 37 years of brilliant showmanship
To Jean Hersholt for distinguished service to the motionpicture industry .
The awards were hosted by Paul Douglas. The 5'11" actor is best remembered by some for two baseball comedy movies, Angels in the Outfield (1951) and It Happens Every Spring (1949). He also played Richard Widmark's police partner in the thriller Panic in the Streets, Porter Hollingsway in A Letter to Three Wives, Sgt. Kowalski in The Big Lift, Josiah Walter Dudley in Executive Suite, Joe Brewster, and the con man turned monk in When in Rome. He was married five times, last to actress Jan Sterling from 1950 until his death, by whom he had a son, Adams Douglas (1955-2003). Paul Douglas died on September 11, 1959 of a heart attack in Hollywood, at the age of 52.

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