Wednesday, January 9, 2008

27th Academy Awards

The 27th Academy Awards honored the best in films of 1954 and were held at teh Pantages Theater on March 30, 1955.

The Best Picture winner (of producer Sam Spiegel), director Elia Kazan's semi-documentary, expose, and thriller, On the Waterfront (with twelve nominations and eight wins) matched two other films with eight wins - but they each had thirteen nominations: Gone with the Wind (1939) and From Here to Eternity (1953). The low-budget, black and white Best Picture was filmed entirely on location in Hoboken and told the gritty story of New York dock workers, brutality, corruption, and embroilment with a gangster union boss. It provided an expose of union racketeering while showcasing the murder of an innocent longshoreman. Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg justified their own naming of names (blacklisting-testimony against alleged Communists) as friendly witnesses before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the early 50s with the film's story of an heroic longshoreman informant Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) who stood alone and turned witness against the corrupt and intimidating union bosses and became a marked 'pigeon'. The film marked a comeback for Brando, who hadn't won a Best Actor Oscar - yet.

Besides the Best Director Oscar for Kazan, the film also brought the first Oscar as Best Actor to Marlon Brando. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential actors of all time. Brando is best known for his roles in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, both directed by Elia Kazan in the early 1950s, as well as his Academy-Award winning performance as Vito Corleone in The Godfather and as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, the latter two directed by Francis Ford Coppola in the 1970s. Brando also garnered worldwide attention by playing Jor-El in Superman: The Movie (1978), directed by Richard Donner. Brando was also an activist, lending his presence to many issues, including the American Civil Rights and American Indian Movements. He was named the fourth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. He achieved real stardom, however, as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' play A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947, directed by Elia Kazan. Brando sought out that role, driving out to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where Williams was spending the summer, to audition for the part. Williams recalled that he opened the screen door and knew, instantly, that he had his Stanley Kowalski. Brando's performance revolutionized acting technique and set the model for the American form of method acting. Brando's first screen role was as the bitter paraplegic veteran in The Men in 1950. True to his method, Brando spent a month in bed at a veterans' hospital to prepare for the role. He made a much stronger impression in 1951 when he brought his performance as Stanley Kowalski to the screen in Kazan's adaptation of Tennesse Williams' A Streetcar Name Desire. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for that role, and again in each of the next three years for his roles in Viva Zapata! in 1952, Julius Caesar in 1953 as Mark Antony, and On the Waterfront in 1954. These first five films of his career established Brando as perhaps the premier acting talent in the world. Brando became a hero for the younger generation by playing motorcycle rebel Johnny Strabler in 1953's The Wild One. He created the rebel image for the rock-and-roll era. Under Kazan's direction, and with a talented ensemble around him, Brando won the Oscar for his role of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. Brando followed that triumph by a variety of roles in the 1950s that defied expectations: as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, where he managed to carry off a singing role; as Sakini, a Japanese interpreter for the U.S. Army in postwar Japan in The Teahouse of the August Moon; as an Air Force officer in Sayonara; and a Nazi officer in The Young Lions. Although he won an Oscar nomination for his acting in Sayonara, his acting had lost much of its energy and direction by the end of the 1950s. In the 1960s Brando starred in films such as Mutiny on the Bounty (1962); One-Eyed Jacks (1961), a western that would be the only film Brando would ever direct; a star-studded but unsuccessful potboiler The Chase (1966), in which he played an uncorrupted Texas sheriff; Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), portraying a repressed gay army officer; and Burn! (1969), which Brando would later claim as his personal favorite, although it was a commercial failure. His performance as Vito Corleone in 1972's The Godfather was a mid-career turning point. Director Francis Ford Coppola convinced Brando to submit to a "make-up" test, in which Brando did his own makeup (he used cotton balls to simulate the puffed-cheek look). Coppola was electrified by Brando's characterization as the head of a crime family, but had to fight the studio in order to cast the temperamental Brando whose reputation for difficult behavior and demands was the stuff of backlot legend. Brando's "sit down" scene between rival mobsters is generally described as one of the greatest moments in film history. Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. Brando turned down the Academy Award, the second actor to refuse a Best Actor Oscar (the first being George C. Scott for Patton). Brando boycotted the award ceremony, sending Native American Rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather to state his reasons, which were based on his objections to the depiction of Native Americans by Hollywood and television.The actor followed with one of his greatest performances in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1973 film, Last Tango in Paris, but the performance was overshadowed by an uproar over the erotic nature of the film. Despite the controversies which attended both the film and the man, the Academy once again nominated Brando for the Best Actor.His career afterward was uneven. He was paid one million dollars a week to play the iconic Colonel Kurtz in 1979's Apocalypse Now. He was supposed to show up slim, fit, and to have read the book Heart of Darkness. He showed up weighing around 220 pounds and hadn't read Heart of Darkness. This is why his character was shot mostly in the shadows and most of his dialogue was improvised. After his week was over, Director Francis Ford Coppola asked him to stay an extra hour so that he could shoot a close up of Brando saying, "The horror, the horror." Brando agreed for an extra $75,000. After this film his weight began to limit the roles he could play.Brando's suggestions to portray Superman's father Jor-El as a "green suitcase" or a bagel in the 1978 Superman: The Movie were less successful. He agreed to the role only on assurance that he was paid a large sum for what amounted to a small part, that he did not have to read the script beforehand and his lines would be displayed somewhere off-camera.Some later performances, such as The Island of Dr Moreau, earned him some of the most uncomplimentary reviews of his career. Despite announcing his retirement from acting in 1980, he subsequently gave interesting supporting performances in movies such as A Dry White Season (for which he was again nominated for an Oscar in 1989), The Freshman in 1990 and Don Juan DeMarco in 1995. In his last film, The Score (2001), he starred with fellow method actor Robert De Niro. He married actress Anna Kashfi in 1957, mistakenly believing her to be of Indian descent when she was in fact from Wales and of Irish Roman Catholic extraction. Her real name was Joan O'Callaghan. O'Callaghan did not discourage Brando's mistake; in fact, she dressed and made herself up as an Indian beauty after learning that Brando gravitated toward exotic women. They divorced in 1959 after having one son together, Christian Brando. In 1960, Brando married Movita Castaneda, a Mexican actress seven years his senior; they were divorced in 1962. Castaneda had appeared in the first Mutiny on the Bounty film in 1935, some 27 years before the 1962 remake with Brando as Fletcher Christian. Brando's behavior during the filming of Bounty seemed to bolster his reputation as a difficult star. He was blamed for a change in director and a runaway budget, though he disclaimed responsibility for either. The Bounty experience affected Brando's life in a profound way. He fell in love with Tahiti and its people. He bought a twelve island atoll, Tetiaroa, which he intended to make part environmental laboratory and part resort. Tahitian beauty Tarita Teriipia, who played Fletcher Christian's love interest, became Brando's third wife on 10 August 1962. At just 20 years old, Tarita was 18 years younger than Brando at the time of their marriage.Teriipia became the mother of two of his children. They divorced in July 1972. Brando eventually had a hotel built on Tetiaroa. It went through many redesigns due to changes demanded by Brando over the years, but is now closed. A new hotel consisting of 30 deluxe villas is due to open in 2008.In May 1990, Dag Drollet, the Tahitian lover of Brando's daughter and Christian's half-sister, Cheyenne, died of a gunshot wound, after a confrontation with Christian at the family's hilltop home above Beverly Hills. Christian, then 31, claimed the shooting was accidental. After heavily publicized pre-trial proceedings, Christian pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and use of a gun. He was sentenced to 10 years. Before the sentencing, Brando delivered an hour of testimony in which he said he and his ex-wife had failed Christian. He commented softly to members of the Drollet family: "I'm sorry... If I could trade places with Dag, I would. I'm prepared for the consequences." Afterward, Drollet's father said he thought Brando was acting and his son was "getting away with murder." The tragedy was compounded in 1995, when Cheyenne, suffering from lingering effects of a serious car accident and said to still be depressed over Drollet's death, committed suicide by hanging herself in Tahiti. On July 1, 2004, Brando died in the hospital at the age of 80. The cause of his death was intentionally withheld, with his lawyer citing privacy concerns. It was later revealed that he died at UCLA Medical Center of respiratory failure brought on by pulmonary fibrosis. He also suffered from congestive heart failure, failing eye sight due to diabetes, and had recently been diagnosed with cancer.

The Best Actress Oscar went to Grace Kelly, an American actress who, upon marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco in 1956, became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, but was generally known as Princess Grace of Monaco. Princess Grace maintained dual American and Monegasque citizenship after her marriage. The principality's current Sovereign Prince, Albert II is the son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. The American Film Institute ranked Kelly #13 amongst the Greatest Female Stars of All Time. Living in Manhattan's Barbizon Hotel for Women, a prestigious establishment which barred men from entering after 10 p.m., and working as a model to support her studies, Grace began her first term the following October. A diligent student, she would use a recorder to practice and perfect her speech. Her early acting pursuits led her to the stage, most notably a Broadway debut in Strindberg’s The Father alongside Raymond Massey. At 19, her graduation performance was in The Philadelphia Story, a role with which she would also end her film career, in the MGM musical film version High Society. Kelly made her film debut in a small role in the 1951 film Fourteen Hours. The small role led to many offers, all of which she turned down for independence and another chance at the theater. She was performing in Colorado’s notable Elitch Gardens when she received a telegram from Hollywood producer Stanley Kramer, offering her the starring role opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon. According to biographer Wendy Leigh, at age 22 Kelly had an off-set romance with both Cooper and director Fred Zinnemann. High Noon would go to be a popular film of the 1950s. In September 1952, Grace was flown to Los Angeles by MGM to audition for the role of Linda Nordley in the studio's production of Mogambo. Gene Tierney was initially cast in the role, but dropped out at the last minute due to emotional problems. Kelly won the role along with a 7 year contract, although she was hired at a relatively low salary of $850 a week. Kelly signed the deal under two conditions: First, one out of every two years, she have time off to work in the theater and second, that she be able to live in New York City. Just two months later, in November, the cast arrived in Nairobi to begin production. Critics praised Grace's patrician beauty, despite receiving third billing. The role garnered her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. After the heightened success of Mogambo, Grace starred in a TV play The Way of an Eagle, with Jean-Pierre Aumont before being cast in the film adaptation of Frederick Knott's Broadway hit Dial M for Murder. Alfred Hitchcock was slated to direct the film and would become one of Kelly's last mentors. Grace began filming scenes for her next film, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, in January 1954 with William Holden. The role of Nancy, the cordially wretched wife of naval officer Harry (played by Holden), proved to be a minor but pivotal part of the story. In October 1954 Grace received a telegram that Alfred Hitchcock had scheduled her a wardrobe fitting with Edith Head, arguably Hollywood's most premier and elite costume designer, for the director's next film, Rear Window. In going forth with the role of Lisa Fremont, Grace unhesitatingly turned down the opportunity to star alongside Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, which won her replacement, Eva Marie Saint, an Academy Award. She was awarded the role of Bing Crosby's long-suffering wife in The Country Girl, after a pregnant Jennifer Jones bowed out. Already familiar with the play, Kelly was desperate for the part. This meant that, to MGM's dismay, she would have to be loaned out to Paramount. Kelly threatened the studio that she would pack her bags and leave for New York for good. The vanquished studio caved in, and the part was hers. The Country Girl was shot in black and white, surprising an audience that had become accustomed to seeing the blonde in Technicolor. The film also paired Kelly again with William Holden. The wife of a washed-up alcoholic singer, played by Crosby, Kelly's character is emotionally torn between two lovers. Holden willfully begs Kelly to leave her husband and be with him. A piece of frail tenderness manages to cloak itself inside of her, even after having been demonized by Crosby. The following March, Kelly would be honored with the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her character's modest appearance and the film's demanding scenes were a departure from her on-screen persona of the graceful heiress, which she embodied through her last role in High Society, the musical remake of The Philadelphia Story. After the back-to-back shooting of Rear Window, Toko-Ri, Country Girl, and Green Fire, Kelly was exhausted, and flew to France along with department store heir Bernard "Barney" Strauss, to begin work on her third and final film for Alfred Hitchcock, To Catch a Thief. Kelly formed a mutual admiration with her new co-star, Cary Grant. In April 1955, Grace Kelly was asked to head the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival. While there, she was invited to participate in a photo session at the Palace of Monaco with Prince Rainier III, the ruling sovereign of the principality. After a series of delays and complications, Kelly was finally able to make it to Monaco, where she met the prince. Upon returning to America, Grace began work on her next feature film, The Swan, in which she coincidentally portrayed a princess. Meanwhile, she was privately beginning a correspondence with Rainier. In December, Rainier came to America on a trip officially designated as a tour, although it was speculated that Rainier was actively seeking a wife. A 1918 treaty with France stated that if Rainier did not produce an heir, Monaco would revert to France. At a press conference in the United States, Rainier was asked if he was pursuing a wife, to which he answered "No". A second question was asked, "If you were pursuing a wife, what kind would you like?" Rainier smiled and answered, "I don't know—the best." Rainier met with Grace and her family, and after three days, the prince proposed. Grace accepted and the families began preparing for what the press called "The Wedding of the Century". The wedding was set for April 19, 1956.The wedding consisted of two ceremonies. On April 18, a 40-minute civil ceremony took place in the Palace Throne Room, and was broadcast across Europe. To cap the ceremony, the 142 official titles (counterparts of Rainier's) that Kelly acquired in the union were formally recited. The following day, the event concluded with the church ceremony at Monaco's Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Grace's wedding dress, designed by MGM's Academy Award-winning Helen Rose, had been worked on by three dozen seamstresses for six weeks. The 600 guests included Hollywood stars David Niven and his wife Hjordis, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner, the crowned head Aga Khan, and Conrad Hilton. Frank Sinatra initially accepted the invitation to attend, but at the last minute decided otherwise, afraid of upstaging the bride on her wedding day. Queen Elizabeth flatly refused to attend on the grounds of there being "too many movie stars." The ceremony was watched by an estimated 30 million people on television. The prince and princess left that night for their 7-week Mediterranean cruise honeymoon on Rainier's yacht, Deo Juvante II. Nine months and four days after the wedding, Princess Grace gave birth to the royal couple's first child, Princess Caroline. 21 guns announced the event, a national holiday was called, gambling ceased, and free champagne flowed throughout the principality. A little over a year later, 101 guns announced the birth of their second child, Prince Albert. Prince Rainier and Princess Grace had three children: Hereditary Princess Caroline Louise Marguerite, born January 23, 1957, and now heiress presumptive to the throne of Monaco, Albert II, Prince of Monaco, born March 14, 1958 current ruler of the Principality of Monaco and Princess Stephanie Marie Elisabeth, born February 1, 1965. Shortly after their marriage, Prince Rainier banned the screening of her films in Monaco. Princess Grace never returned to acting, choosing rather to fulfill her responsibilities as the consort of Monaco's Prince. In 1962, when Hitchcock offered Grace the lead in his film, Marnie, she was eager to take the opportunity to return to the screen. Rainier consented, but public outcry against her involvement made her reconsider and ultimately reject the project. Director Herbert Ross attempted to lure Princess Grace out of retirement for his 1977 The Turning Point, but Prince Rainier quashed the idea. Later that year, Grace returned to the arts in a series of poetry readings on stage and the narration of the documentary The Children of Theater Street. She also narrated ABC's made-for-television film The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966). As princess, she was active in improving the arts institutions of Monaco, and eventually the Princess Grace Foundation was formed to support local artists. She was one of the first celebrities to support and speak on behalf of La Leche League, an organization that advocates breastfeeding; she planned a yearly Christmas party for local orphans, and dedicated a Garden Club that reflected her love of flowers. In 1981, the Prince and Princess celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. On September 13, 1982, while driving with her daughter Stephanie to Monaco from their country home, Princess Grace, then 52, drove her Rover P6 off the serpentine down a mountainside. Princess Grace was pulled alive from the wreckage, but had suffered serious injuries and was unconscious. She died the following day at The Princess Grace Hospital Centre, having never regained consciousness. It was initially reported that Princess Stephanie suffered only minor bruising, although it later emerged that she had suffered a serious cervical fracture.

The Best Supporting Actor award went to Edmond O'Brien, who is perhaps best remembered for his role in D.O.A. (1950). Born in New York, O'Brien made his film debut in 1938, and gradually built a career as a highly regarded supporting actor. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces and appeared in the Air Forces' Broadway play and film Winged Victory. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), and was also nominated for his role in Seven Days in May (1964). His other notable films include White Heat (1949), The Girl Can't Help It (1956), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), The Longest Day (1962), Fantastic Voyage (1966), and The Wild Bunch (1969).He was married and divorced from actresses Nancy Kelly and Olga San Juan. San Juan was the mother of his three children, including actors Maria O'Brien and Brendan O'Brien. He died in Inglewood, California of Alzheimer's Disease.

The Best Supporting Actress award went to Eve Marie Saint. Saint's first feature motion picture role was in On the Waterfront (1954), directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando — a smart, sympathetic, and emotionally-charged role for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Her performance as Edie Doyle (whose brother Joey's death sets the film's drama in motion) which she won over such leading contenders as Grace Kelly, Janice Rule, and Elizabeth Montgomery, also earned her a British Academy of Film and Television Award for "Most Promising Newcomer." Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock surprised many by choosing the stately and serious Saint over dozens of other candidates for the femme fatale role in what was to become a suspense classic North by Northwest (1959) with Cary Grant and James Mason. Written by Ernest Lehman, the film updated and expanded upon the director's early "wrong man" spy adventures of the '30s, '40s, and '50s, including The 39 Steps, Young and Innocent, and Foreign Correspondent. North by Northwest became a box-office hit and an influence on spy films for decades. The film ranks number forty on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time. Although North by Northwest might have propelled her to the very top ranks of stardom, she elected to limit her film work in order to spend time with her husband since 1951, director Jeffrey Hayden, and their two children. Nevertheless, in the 1960s, Saint continued to distinguish herself in both high-profile and more offbeat motion pictures, including co-starring again with Paul Newman in the historical drama about the founding of the state of Israel Exodus (1960), directed by Otto Preminger. She also co-starred with Warren Beatty, Karl Malden, and Angela Lansbury as a tragic beauty in the 1962 drama All Fall Down. Based upon a novel by James Leo Herlihy and a screenplay by William Inge, the film was directed by John Frankenheimer. She was also seen with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the highly-publicized melodrama The Sandpiper for Vincente Minnelli, and with James Garner in the World War II thriller 36 Hours, directed by George Seaton. She was among the all-star casts in the comedic satire The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, directed by Norman Jewison and the international racing drama Grand Prix presented in Cinerama and directed by John Frankenheimer. Although she was announced as the leading lady opposite Steve McQueen in director Norman Jewison's ultra-stylish romantic caper film The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), the meteoric rise of newcomer Faye Dunaway, who was cast instead, cost Saint a rare glamorous and sexy role. In 1970, she received some of the best reviews of her film career for Loving, in which she co-starred as the wife of George Segal in a critically-acclaimed but underseen film drama about a commercial artist's relationship with his wife and the other women in his life. Because of the mostly second-rate film roles that came her way in the 1970s, Saint returned to television and the stage in the 1980s. She has appeared in a number of made-for-TV movies, played the mother of Cybill Shepherd on the hit television series Moonlighting, winning an Emmy nomination for the 1977 miniseries How The West Was Won, a 1978 Emmy nomination for Taxi and an Emmy in 1990 for the mini-series People Like Us. In 2000, she co-starred with Kim Basinger in the motion picture I Dreamed of Africa, with Jessica Lange for director Wim Wenders in Don't Come Knocking (2005) written by Sam Shepard, and in the heart-tugging family film Because of Winn-Dixie. In 2006, Saint once again became a household name by playing Martha Kent, the adoptive mother of Superman, in Superman Returns.

"Three Coins in the Fountain" is a popular song which received the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1954. The music was written by Jule Styne, the words by Sammy Cahn. It was written for the musical film, Three Coins in the Fountain, and was subsequently recorded by The Four Aces, who had a #1 hit on the music charts with the song in 1954. Another version of the song was done by Frank Sinatra (1954, 1964) and topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in September-October 1954.

Honorary Awards
Bausch & Lomb Optical Co.- For their contributions to the advancement of the motion picture industry.
Greta Garbo- To compensate for the fact that screen legend Greta Garbo had never received a competitive Best Actress Oscar, she was belatedly presented with a special Honorary statue "for her unforgettable screen performances" - thirteen years after her retirement from her last film, Two-Faced Woman (1941). Garbo had four career nominations for exceptional definitive roles including Anna Christie (1929-30) and Romance (1929-30), Camille (1936) and Ninotchka (1939).
Another Honorary Award was presented to the versatile, red-haired comic Danny Kaye, for "his unique talents, his service to the Academy, the motion picture industry, and the American people." He never even received a nomination throughout his entire film career, that was marked by such great films as Wonder Man (1945), The Kid From Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), Hans Christian Andersen (1952), Knock on Wood (1954), and The Court Jester (1956).
Kemp Niver- For the development of the Renovare Process which has made possible the restoration of the Library of Congress Paper Film Collection.
Jigokumon (1953)- Japan. Best Foreign Language Film first released in the United States during 1954.
Kidnappers, The (1953) - Jon Whiteley- For his outstanding juvenile performance in The Little Kidnappers.
Kidnappers, The (1953) - Vincent Winter- For his outstanding performance in The Little Kidnappers (miniature statuette).

The awards were co-hosted by Bob Hope and Thelma Ritter. Ritter's first movie role was in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). The 45-year-old made a memorable impression in a brief uncredited part, as a frustrated mother unable to find the toy that Kris Kringle has promised to her son. Her second role, in writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's A Letter to Three Wives (1949), also left a mark, although Ritter was again not listed in the credits.Mankiewicz kept Ritter in mind, and cast her in his All About Eve the following year. An Oscar nomination led to popularity, and a second Oscar nomination followed for Mitchell Leisen's' classic screwball comedy The Mating Season (1951) starring Gene Tierney, John Lund and Miriam Hopkins. Ritter enjoyed steady film work for the next dozen years.Throughout her career, Ritter was nominated for an Academy Award six times but never received one. She co-hosted the Oscar ceremony in 1954, trading wisecracks with Bob Hope. Some of her best - known roles include Bette Davis's devoted maid in All About Eve (1950), as Gene Tierney's maid/mother-in-law in The Mating Season (1951), James Stewart's nurse in Rear Window (1954), and as Doris Day's housekeeper in Pillow Talk (1959). Her turn in John Huston's The Misfits (1961), where she played opposite Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, also garnered favorable reviews. Shortly after a 1968 performance on The Jerry Lewis Show, Ritter suffered a heart attack which eventually proved fatal. She was 9 days shy of her 67th birthday.

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