Monday, January 7, 2008

24th Academy Awards

The 24th Academy Awards honored the best in films of 1951, held on March 20, 1952 at the Pantages Theatre. The single film which came out with the largest number of honours was An American in Paris, which scooped six wins, including Best Motion Picture. However, A Streetcar Named Desire took four for itself, including three of the acting awards. Humphrey Bogart and Vivien Leigh took the most coveted best actor and actress awards.

An American in Paris is a 1951 musical film inspired by the 1928 classical composition by George Gershwin. Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant, the film is set in Paris, and was directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script by Alan Jay Lerner. The choreography is by Gene Kelly. All the music is by George Gershwin, the lyrics by his brother Ira. The climax is "The American in Paris" ballet, an 18 minute dance featuring Kelly and Caron set to Gershwin's An American in Paris. The ballet alone cost more than half a million dollars, a staggering sum in those days. The plot is interspersed with showstopping dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to popular Gershwin tunes. Songs and music include "I Got Rhythm," "I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise," "S'Wonderful," "Our Love is Here to Stay" and Concerto in F. Gene Kelly received an honorary Academy Award that year for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film." It was his only Oscar. In 1993, "An American in Paris" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2006 this film ranked #9 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.

Humphrey Bogart won the Best Actor award for The African Queen. Bogart appeared in at least 17 Broadway productions between 1922 and 1935. He played juveniles or romantic second-leads in drawing room comedies. Early in his career, Bogart met Helen Menken. They married in 1926, divorced in 1928, and remained friends. Later in 1928, he married Mary Philips, who, like Menken, had a fiery temper, and who once bit the finger off a police officer who tried to arrest her for drunkenness. Spencer Tracy was a serious Broadway actor whom Bogart liked and admired, and they became good friends. It was Tracy, in 1930, who first called him "Bogie". Tracy and Bogart appeared together in John Ford's early sound film Up the River (1930). Mary Philips refused to give up her Broadway career to come to Hollywood with Bogart, and soon they were divorced. On August 21, 1938, Bogart entered into a disastrous third marriage, with Mayo Methot, a lively, friendly woman when sober, but a paranoid when drunk. She was convinced that her husband was cheating on her. The more she and Bogart drifted apart, the more she drank, got furious and threw things at him: plants, crockery, anything close at hand. Bogart sometimes returned fire, and the press dubbed them "the Battling Bogarts." The leading men ahead of Bogart at Warner Bros. included not just such classic stars as James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, but also actors far less well-known today, such as Victor McLaglen, George Raft and Paul Muni. Most of the studio's better movie scripts went to these men, and Bogart had to take what was left. He made films like Racket Busters, San Quentin, and You Can't Get Away With Murder. The only substantial leading role he got during this period was in Samuel Goldwyn's Dead End (1937), but he played a variety of interesting supporting roles, such as Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) (in which he got shot by James Cagney). High Sierra, a 1941 movie directed by Raoul Walsh, had a screenplay written by Bogart's friend and drinking partner, John Huston, adapted from the novel by W.R. Burnett (Little Caesar, etc.). The film was a step forward for Bogart. He still played the villain, "Mad Dog" Roy Earle, and he still died at the end, but at least he got to kiss Ida Lupino and play a character with some depth. Paul Muni and George Raft had both turned down Bogart's part in High Sierra. Raft then turned down the male lead in John Huston's directorial debut The Maltese Falcon (1941), due to its being a cleaned up version of the pre-Production Code The Maltese Falcon (1931), his contract stipulating that he did not have to appear in remakes. Bogart grabbed the part and audiences saw him play a leading role with real complexity. His character, Sam Spade, was still capable of duplicity and violence, but he was a leading man: handsome, smart, fated to survive. The ending speech he made is famous: "I don't care who loves who. I won't play the sap for you! You killed Miles and you're going over for it. I hope they don't hang you by your sweet neck. If you're a good girl, you'll be out in 20 years and I'll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I'll always remember you."Bogart got his first real romantic lead in Casablanca, playing Rick Blaine, the nightclub owner.Bogart was nominated for the Best Actor in a Leading Role, but lost out to Paul Lukas for his performance in Watch on the Rhine. Only Bogart's fourth marriage, to Lauren Bacall ("Baby"), was a happy one. They met while filming To Have and Have Not. They were married on May 21, 1945 in Lucas, Ohio, at Malabar Farm, the country home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield, who was a close friend of Bogart's. The wedding was held in the Big House. On January 6, 1949, Lauren Bacall gave birth to a son, Stephen Humphrey Bogart, making Bogart a father at 49. He had had months to absorb the news and even had his own baby shower. (Frank Sinatra brought him baby rattles.) On August 23, 1952, they had their second child, Leslie Howard Bogart (a girl named after British actor Leslie Howard, who had been killed in World War II). In 1951, Bogart starred in the movie The African Queen, with Katharine Hepburn, again directed by his friend John Huston. It was a difficult shoot, on location in Africa and just about everyone in the cast came down with dysentery except Bogart and John Huston. He dropped his asking price to get the role of Captain Queeg in Edward Dmytryk's The Caine Mutiny, then griped with some of his old bitterness about it. Like his portrayal of Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Bogart played a paranoid, self-pitying character whose small-mindedness eventually destroyed him. Sabrina (dir. Billy Wilder) and The Barefoot Contessa (dir. Joseph Mankiewicz) in 1954 gave him two of his subtlest roles. During the filming of The Left Hand of God (1955) he noticed his co-star Gene Tierney was having a hard time remembering her lines and was also behaving oddly. He coached Tierney, feeding her lines. He was familiar with mental illness (his sister had bouts of depression), and Bogart encouraged Tierney to seek treatment, which she did. In 1955, he made three films: We're No Angels (dir. Michael Curtiz), The Left Hand of God (dir. Edward Dmytryk) and The Desperate Hours (dir. William Wyler). Mark Robson's The Harder They Fall (released in 1956) was his last film. By the mid-1950s, Bogart's health was failing. Bogart, a heavy smoker and drinker, contracted cancer of the esophagus. He almost never spoke of it and refused to see a doctor until January of 1956, and by then removal of his esophagus, two lymph nodes and a rib was too little, too late. Bogart had just turned 57 and weighed only 80 pounds (36 kg) when he died on January 14, 1957 after falling into a coma. He died at 2:25 a.m. at his home at 232 Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills, California, nearby Hollywood.

Both the Supporting Role Awards went to actors from A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as the Best Actress award for Vivien Leigh. Karl Malden (born on March 22, 1912) is an Emmy Award-winning, Oscar-winning and Golden Globe-nominated American actor of Serbian origin, known for his expansive manner. In a career that spanned over seven decades, he was featured in classic films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront and One-Eyed Jacks, with Marlon Brando, and also starred in the blockbuster movie, Patton. Among other notable film roles are Archie Lee Meighan in Baby Doll and Zebulon Prescott in How the West Was Won both starring Carroll Baker. His best-known role was on television as Lt. Mike Stone on the 1970s crime drama, The Streets of San Francisco. Malden resumed his film acting career in the 1950s, starting with The Gunfighter (1950), which was followed by Halls of Montezuma (1950). The following year, he starred in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), where he played Mitch, Stanley Kowalski's best friend who starts a romance with Blanche DuBois (Vivian Leigh). For this role, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Other films during this period included On the Waterfront (1954), where he played a priest who influenced Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) to testify against mobster-union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). In Baby Doll (1956), he played a power-hungry sexual man who had been frustrated by a teenage wife. Before and after he arrived in Hollywood, he starred in dozens of films of the late 1950s to the early 1970s, such as Fear Strikes Out (1957), Pollyanna (1960), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), Gypsy (1962), How the West Was Won (1962), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), and Patton (1970), playing General Omar Bradley. Malden has been married to Mona Greenberg since December, 1938. Their marriage is one of the longest in Hollywood history.

Kim Hunter performed in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), playing the role of Stella Kowalski. She appeared in the 1951 film, for which she won both the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture. She was blacklisted from film and television during the Hollywood communism paranoia created by McCarthyism. Her other major film roles include David Niven's love interest in the classic film A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and Zira the chimpanzee scientist in the first three of the Planet of the Apes series. In 2002, Kim Hunter died of cardiac arrest in New York City at the age of 79.

The Best Director Oscar was won by George Stevens for A Place in the Sun. Stevens broke into the movie business as a cameraman, working on many Laurel and Hardy shorts. His first feature film was The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble in 1933. In 1934 he got his first directing job, the slapstick Kentucky Kernels. His big break came when he directed Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams in 1935. He went on in the late 1930s to direct several Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies, not only with the two actors together, but on their own. In 1940, he directed Carole Lombard in Vigil in the Night, his films became more dramatic following the war. I Remember Mama in 1948 was the last movie with comic scenes that he made. He was responsible for such classic films as A Place in the Sun, Shane, The Diary of Anne Frank, Giant and The Greatest Story Ever Told. He won another Oscar for Giant. Stevens died after a heart attack on his ranch in Lancaster, California. Stevens is the father of TV and film writer, producer, and director George Stevens, Jr. (founder of the American Film Institute), and the grandfather of TV and film producer and director Michael Stevens.

"In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" is a popular song written by Hoagy Carmichael, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer for the 1951 movie Here Comes the Groom. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The recording by Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman was released by Decca Records. It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on September 21, 1951 and lasted 6 weeks on the chart, peaking at #23.

Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
Arthur Freed

Honorary Awards
To Gene Kelly in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.
To Rashomon (Japan) voted by the Board of Governors as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1951.

The awards were hosted by Danny Kaye. His feature film debut was in producer Samuel Goldwyn's Technicolor comedy Up in Arms (1944), a wartime remake of Goldwyn's Eddie Cantor comedy Whoopee! Kaye starred in several movies with actress Virginia Mayo in the 1940s, and is well known for his roles in films such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), The Inspector General (1949). On the Riviera (1951) co-starring Gene Tierney, White Christmas (1954, in a role originally intended for Fred Astaire, then Donald O'Connor), Knock on Wood (1954), The Court Jester (1956), and Merry Andrew (1958). Kaye starred in two pictures based on biographies, Hans Christian Andersen (1952) about the Danish story-teller, and The Five Pennies (1959) about jazz pioneer Red Nichols. His wife, Sylvia Fine, wrote many of the witty, tongue-twisting songs Danny Kaye became famous for.

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