Thursday, January 10, 2008

29th Academy Awards

During the 29th Academy Awards, held at the Pantages Theater on March 27, 1957, the regular competitive category of Best Foreign Language film was introduced, instead of only being recognized as a special achievement Honorary Award or as a Best Picture nominee (as in 1938). The first winner in this new category was Federico Fellini's La strada with Anthony Quinn and a second nomination for Original Screenplay. Its win would help to create an interest in foreign-language films - with subtitles. Another Fellini film, The Nights of Cabiria (1957) would win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in the following year. This was also the first year that all of the five Best Picture nominees were in color. Another possible trend, signaled by the victory of Marty (1955), toward simpler, shorter, intimate dramas, did not occur again in 1956. Instead, there was the splashy emergence of wide-scale, expensive super-epics (colorful dramas, musicals, comedies, and costume pieces) all at least two hours long - mostly to compete with the resurgence of television. All of the major awards winners were gigantic - Mike Todd's Around the World in 80 Days, The King and I, Anastasia, Giant, De Mille's The Ten Commandments - the highest grossing film of the year, King Vidor's War and Peace, and Wyler's Friendly Persuasion. And the trend toward blockbusters and colorful spectaculars was established for years to come. The ceremony was co-hosted by Jerry Lewis and Celeste Holm.

Around the World in Eighty Days is a 1956 adventure film made by the Michael Todd Company and released by United Artists. It was directed by Michael Anderson and John Farrow (uncredited) and produced by Michael Todd with Kevin McClory and William Cameron Menzies as associate producers. The screenplay was by James Poe, John Farrow and S. J. Perelman based on the classic novel of the same name by Jules Verne. Around 1872, an English gentleman Phileas Fogg (David Niven) claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He makes a £20,000 wager with several skeptical fellow members of his London gentlemen's club, the Reform Club, that he can arrive back within 80 days before exactly 8:45 pm. The movie boasts a huge cast, with David Niven and Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno in the lead roles of Fogg and Passepartout. Fogg is the classic Victorian gentleman, well-dressed, well-spoken, and extremely punctual, whereas his servant Passepartout (who has an eye for the ladies) provides much of the comic relief as a "jack of all trades" for the film in contrast to his master's strict formality. Joining them are Shirley MacLaine as Princess Aouda and Robert Newton as the detective Fix, which would turn out to be his last role. The role of Passepartout was greatly expanded from the novel to accommodate the well-known Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno, and winds up the focus of the film. Over 40 famous performers make cameo appearances, including Marlene Dietrich, George Raft, and Frank Sinatra to name a few. Although not nominated for best original song, the film's theme song "Around the World" (music by Victor Young, words by Harold Adamson), became very popular. It was a hit for Bing Crosby in 1957, and was a staple of the easy-listening genre for many years. Around 1976, after its last network television broadcast on CBS, UA lost control of the film to Elizabeth Taylor (widow of producer Michael Todd and who had inherited some portion of Todd's estate). In 1983, Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the film from Taylor, and reissued the film theatrically in a re-edited 143-minute version.

Yul Brynner was an Academy Award-winning Russian-born Broadway and Hollywood actor. He appeared in many movies and stage productions in the United States. He is best known for his portrayal of the Siamese king in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The King and I on the stage and on the screen, as well as Rameses II in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille film The Ten Commandments and as Chris Adams in The Magnificent Seven. He was known for his shaved head which he kept as a personal trademark since adopting it in his role in The King and I. Yul Brynner became synonymous with baldness during his lifetime. Brynner's best-known role was that of King Mongkut of Siam in the Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The King and I which he played 4,626 times onstage over the span of his career. He appeared in the original production and subsequent touring productions, as well as a 1977 Broadway revival, and another Broadway revival in 1985. He also appeared in the film version for which he won an Academy Award as Best Actor, and in a short-lived TV version (Anna and the King) on CBS in 1972. Brynner is one of only seven people who have won both a Tony Award and an Academy Award for the same role. He made an immediate impact upon launching his film career in 1956, appearing not only in the film version of The King and I that year, but also in major roles in The Ten Commandments opposite Charlton Heston and Anastasia opposite Ingrid Bergman. Brynner, only 5'10", was reportedly concerned about being overshadowed by Charlton Heston's physical presence in the film The Ten Commandments, and prepared with an intensive weight-lifting program. He later starred in such films as the Biblical epic Solomon and Sheba (1959), as Solomon, The Magnificent Seven (1960), and Westworld (1973). He co-starred with Marlon Brando in Morituri; Katharine Hepburn in The Madwoman of Chaillot and William Shatner in a film version of The Brothers Karamazov. He starred with Barbara Bouchet in Death Rage, 1976. His final feature film appearance was in the sequel to Westworld, titled Futureworld with Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner, in 1976. Yul Brynner was married four times, the first three ending in divorce. He had three children and adopted two others. His first wife, Virginia Gilmore (1944 – 1960), was an actress. They had one child, Yul Brynner II , nicknamed when he was six "Rock" by his father in honor of boxer Rocky Graziano, who won the middleweight title in 1947. Rock is a historian, novelist and university history lecturer. Lark Brynner (born 1958) was born out of wedlock and raised by her mother. His second wife, Doris Kleiner (1960 – 1967), was a Chilean model, whom he married on the set during shooting of The Magnificent Seven in 1960. They had one child, Victoria Brynner (born November 1962), whose godmother is Audrey Hepburn. His third wife, Jacqueline de Croisset (1971 – 1981), was a French socialite. She was the widow of Philippe de Croisset, a publishing executive. Yul and Jacqueline adopted two Vietnamese children: Mia (1974), and Melody (1975). His fourth wife, Kathy Lee, born in Malaysia, was a dancer in The King and I shows. They married in 1983. Brynner died on October 10, 1985 (the same day as Orson Welles, his co star in The Battle of Neretva) in New York City. The cause of death was lung cancer brought on by smoking.

The Best Director award went to George Stevens for Giant, Ingrid Bergman won her second Oscar as Best Actress for Anastasia and Anthony Quinn his Best Supporting actor one for Lust for Life, also his second.

The Best Supporting Actress award went to Dorothy Malone for Written on the Wind. While performing at Southern Methodist University, she was spotted by a talent agent for RKO and was signed to a studio contract, making her film debut in 1943 in The Falcon and the Co-Eds. Much of her early career was spent in supporting roles in B-movies, many of them Westerns, although on occasion she had the opportunity to play small but memorable roles, such as that of the young, brainy, lusty, bespectacled bookstore clerk in The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart, in 1946. In 1956, Malone transformed herself into a platinum blonde and shed her good girl-image to co-star with Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, and Robert Stack in director Douglas Sirk's melodrama Written on the Wind. Her portrayal of the dipso-nymphomaniac daughter of a Texas oil baron won her the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress. As a result, she was offered meatier roles in better films, including Too Much, Too Soon, in which she portrayed Diana Barrymore, Man of a Thousand Faces (with James Cagney), The Tarnished Angels (again with Hudson and Stack, again directed by Sirk), The Last Voyage (with Stack), Warlock, and The Last Sunset (with Hudson). Malone became a household name when she accepted the lead role of Constance MacKenzie on the ABC primetime serial Peyton Place, on which she starred from 1964 through 1968. She had a featured role in the 1976 miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man. Her last notable screen appearance was as a mother convicted of murdering her family in Basic Instinct (1992) opposite Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. Malone was married and divorced three times and has two daughters, Mimi and Diane, from her first marriage to actor Jacques Bergerac.

La strada (The Road) (1954) is an Italian movie, directed by Federico Fellini. The movie is a drama about a naive young girl (played by Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina) who is sold to a brutish man in a coastal town in Italy. La strada won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956. La strada tells the story of Gelsomina, a clownish young girl sold for few coins by her impoverished mother to Gypsy carnival strong man Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), who makes a living by drawing a crowd to a square, expanding his chest to break a chain, and then passing the hat.The theme music, composed by Nino Rota, contains a wistful tune which appears in the story line as a melody played by the Fool on a miniature violin, and later by Gelsomina after she teaches herself to play the trumpet.

"Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)," first published in 1956, is a popular song by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. The song was featured in Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 film, The Man Who Knew Too Much with Doris Day and James Stewart in the lead roles. Day's recording of the song for Columbia Records was a hit in both the United States— where it made it to number two on the Billboard charts—and the United Kingdom. From 1968 to 1973, it was the theme song for the situation comedy The Doris Day Show. It reached the Billboard magazine charts in July, 1956. The song received the 1956 Academy Award for Best Original Song with the alternate title "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)." It was the third Oscar in this category for Livingston and Evans, who previously won in 1948 and 1950.

Honorary Award
Eddie Cantor- For distinguished service to the film industry.

Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
Buddy Adler

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Y. Frank Freeman

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