Thursday, January 10, 2008

30th Academy Awards

The 30th Academy Awards, held at the Pantages Theater on March 27, 1958, was the first time the entire ceremony was broadcast live. The Oscar for Writing Based on Material From Another Medium was awarded to Pierre Boulle for The Bridge on the River Kwai, despite the fact that he did not know English. The actual writers, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson were blacklisted at the time and did not receive screen credit for their work. Foreman and Wilson have since been acknowledged by the Academy for their contributions.

The Bridge on the River Kwai is the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is a 1957 World War II war film based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwaï by French writer Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942-43 for its historical setting. It was directed by David Lean and stars Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa, Jack Hawkins and William Holden. In 1997, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry. The movie begins with two prisoners of war burying a corpse in the graveyard of a Japanese World War II prison camp in southern Burma. One of them, American Navy Commander Shears (William Holden), routinely bribes the guards to ensure he gets sick duty, which allows him to avoid hard labour. A large contingent of British prisoners arrives, marching in defiantly whistling the Colonel Bogey March, under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness). The camp commander, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), addresses them, informing them of his rules. He insists that all prisoners, regardless of rank, will work on the construction of a bridge over the Kwai River as part of a railroad that will link all of Burma. The largely fictitious film plot is based on the building in 1943 of one of the railway bridges over the Mae Klong - renamed Khwae Yai in the 1960s - at a place called Tamarkan, five kilometres from the Thai town of Kanchanaburi. This was part of a project to link existing Thai and Burmese railway lines to create a route from Bangkok, Thailand to Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar) to support the Japanese occupation of Burma. About a hundred thousand conscripted Asian labourers and 12,000 prisoners of war died on the whole project. Many directors were considered for the project, among them John Ford, William Wyler, Howard Hawks, Fred Zinnemann, and Orson Welles. Producer Sam Spiegel later said that David Lean, then virtually unknown outside of the United Kingdom, was chosen "in absence of anyone else." Alec Guinness later said that he subconsciously based his walk while emerging from "the Oven" on that of his son Matthew when he was recovering from polio. He called his walk from the Oven to Saito's hut while being saluted by his men the "finest work I'd ever done". Lean nearly drowned when he was swept away by a river current during a break from filming. The film was an international co-production between companies in the UK and the United States. It is set in Burma, but was filmed mostly near Kitulgala, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), with a few scenes shot in England. The filming of the bridge explosion was to be done on March 10, 1957, in the presence of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, then Prime Minister of Ceylon, and a team of government dignitaries. However, cameraman Freddy Ford was unable to get out of the way of the explosion in time, and Lean had to stop filming. The train crashed into a generator on the other side of the bridge and was wrecked. It was repaired in time to be blown up the next morning, with Bandaranaike and his entourage present. A memorable feature of the movie is the tune that is whistled by the POWs — the Colonel Bogey March when they enter the camp. The piece was originally written in 1914 by Kenneth Alford. It was accompanied by a counter melody composed by Malcolm Arnold (known as The River Kwai March) played by the off-screen orchestra taking over from the whistlers. Mitch Miller had a hit with a recording of both marches. Arnold won an Academy Award for its score. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. It was ranked #13 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies, #14 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers, and #58 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills.

Nights of Cabiria ( Le notti di Cabiria) is a 1957 Italian film by Federico Fellini, voted the Best Foreign Language Film. Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina, plays Cabiria Ceccarelli, a feisty but naive prostitute in Ostia, then a seedy section of Rome. The name Cabiria is borrowed from the 1914 Italian film Cabiria, while the character of Cabiria herself is taken from a brief scene in Fellini's earlier film The White Sheik. The film follows Cabiria as she searches for love but encounters frequent heartbreak. Mistreated and taken advantage of by almost everybody she encounters, Cabiria eventually meets a man who promises her a respectable future and falls head over heels in love with him. What follows is a series of humiliating episodes, in which the defiantly positive Cabiria is hurt, but never broken.

The Best Director Award went to Sir David Lean, an English film director and producer, best remembered for big-screen epics such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago and A Passage to India. His first work as a director was in partnership with Noel Coward on In Which We Serve (1942), and he went on to adapt several of Coward's plays into successful films. These included This Happy Breed (1944), Blithe Spirit (1945) and Brief Encounter (1945). These were followed by two celebrated Charles Dickens adaptations - Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), as well as The Sound Barrier (1952) a collaboration with the playwright Terence Rattigan, and what many consider the definitive version of Hobson's Choice (1954). Summertime (1955), marked a new direction in for Lean. Filmed in colour, it was shot entirely on location in Venice. U.S.-financed, the film starred Katharine Hepburn as a middle-aged American woman who has a romance while on holiday in Venice. In the following years, Lean went on to make the blockbusters for which he is best known: The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), for which he won an Academy Award, followed by another for Lawrence of Arabia, (1962). Doctor Zhivago (1965) was another major hit. In addition, Lean directed some scenes of The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) while George Stevens was doing location work in Nevada. Most of his scenes involved Claude Rains and Jose Ferrer, both of whom had previously worked with Lean on Lawrence of Arabia. Following the moderately successful Ryan's Daughter in 1970, he did not direct another film until A Passage to India (1984), which would be his last. He was knighted in 1984.
He was in the midst of planning an epic production of Joseph Conrad's Nostromo when he died from cancer, aged 83. Lean was a long-term resident of Limehouse, East London. His home on Narrow Street is still owned by his family. He was married six times, and divorced five — his last wife survived him: Isabel Lean (1930–1936) (David's first cousin) — one son Peter Kay Walsh (1940–1949) Ann Todd (1949–1957) Leila Matkar (1960–1978) Sandra Hotz (1981–1984) and Sandra Cooke (1990–1991).

The Best Actor award went to Sir Alec Guiness. In 1939, he adapted Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations for the stage, playing the part of Herbert Pocket. The play was a success. One of its viewers was a young British film editor named David Lean, who had Guinness reprise his role in the former's 1946 film adaptation of the play. Guinness won particular acclaim for his work with director David Lean. After appearing in Lean's Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, he was given a starring role opposite William Holden in Bridge on the River Kwai. For his performance as Colonel Nicholson, the unyielding British POW leader, Guinness won an Academy Award for Best Actor. Despite a difficult and often hostile relationship, Lean, referring to Guinness as "my good luck charm", continued to cast Guinness in character roles in his later films: Arab leader Prince Feisal in Lawrence of Arabia; the title character's half-brother, Bolshevik leader Yevgraf, in Doctor Zhivago; and Indian mystic Godbole in A Passage to India. He was also offered a role in Lean's adaptation of Ryan's Daughter (1970), but declined. Other famous roles of this time period included The Swan (1956) with Grace Kelly in her last film role, The Horse's Mouth (1958) in which Guinness played the part of drunken painter Gulley Jimson as well as contributing the screenplay, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Tunes of Glory (1960), Damn the Defiant! (1962), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), Scrooge (1970), and the title role in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973) (which he considered his best film performance). Guinness received his fifth Oscar nomination for his performance in Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit in 1989. He received an honorary Oscar in 1980 "for advancing the art of screen acting through a host of memorable and distinguished performances."Guinness' role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy, beginning in 1977, brought him worldwide recognition by a new generation. Guinness agreed to take the part on the condition that he would not have to do publicity to promote the film. He was also one of the few cast members who believed that the film would be a box office hit and negotiated a deal for two percent of the gross, which made him very wealthy in later life. Guinness married the artist, playwright, and actress, Merula Salaman in 1938, and they had a son in 1940, Matthew Guinness, who later became an actor. Guinness died on August 5, 2000, from liver cancer, at Midhurst in West Sussex. He had been receiving hospital treatment for glaucoma, and had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Joanne Woodward won the Best Actress Award this year for The Three Faces of Eve. She is an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, Emmy and Cannes award-winning American actress. Woodward, who is married to Paul Newman, is also a television and theatrical producer. Woodward's first film was a post-Civil War western Count Three and Pray, in 1955. She continued to move between Hollywood and Broadway, eventually, understudying in the New York production of Picnic which featured Paul Newman. The two were married in 1958 after their work together in the film The Long, Hot Summer. By that time, Woodward had starred in The Three Faces of Eve, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Woodward has continued to act on stage, films, and television in such films as Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams and Philadelphia (1993) in which she played the mother to Tom Hanks' character. She also appeared in the television films Sybil opposite Sally Field and Crisis at Central High. She was the narrator for Martin Scorsese's screen version of The Age of Innocence. Woodward married Paul Newman on January 29, 1958. They have three daughters: Elinor Teresa (1959; known professionally as Nell Potts), Melissa Steward (1961), and Claire "Clea" Olivia (1965). She and Newman live in Westport, Connecticut, but are extremely private about their personal lives. Newman will occasionally venture to California, but Woodward has refused to go west for many years. She was also nominated for Best Actress in 1969 for Rachel, Rachel, in 1974 for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, and in 1991 for Mr. and Mrs. Bridge.

The Best Supporting awards went to the film Sayonara namely to Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki. Buttons' role in Sayonara was a dramatic departure from his previous work. In that film, he played Joe Kelly, an American airman stationed in Kobe, Japan during the Korean War, who falls in love with Katsumi, a Japanese woman (played by Miyoshi Umeki), but is barred from marrying her by military rules intended to reassure the local populace that the U.S. presence is temporary. His portrayal of Kelly's calm resolve not to abandon the relationship and touching reassurance of Katsumi impressed audiences and critics alike; both he and Umeki won Academy Awards for the film. After his Oscar-winning role, Buttons performed in numerous feature films, including Hatari!, The Longest Day, Harlow, The Poseidon Adventure, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Pete's Dragon, and 18 Again! with George Burns. Buttons also made many memorable TV appearances on programs including Little House on the Prairie, It's Garry Shandling's Show, ER and Roseanne. From 1947 to 1951, Buttons was married to actress Roxanne Arlen, who would have been only 16 if her year of birth (1931), given by some sources, is accurate. His next marriage was to Helayne McNorton, from December 8, 1949 until 1963. His last marriage was to Alicia Prats, which lasted from January 27, 1964 until her death in March 2001. Buttons had two children, daughter Amy Buttons Norgress and son Adam Buttons. Buttons died of vascular disease on July 13, 2006 at his home in the Century City area of Los Angeles. He was 87 years old.

Miyoshi Umeki was a Japanese-born actress best known for her roles as Katsumi, the wife of Joe Kelly (Red Buttons), in the 1957 film Sayonara, and as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper in the TV series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. In 1958, Umeki won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her first U.S. film role, Sayonara. She was the first Asian performer ever nominated. In 1958, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway premiere production of the musical Flower Drum Song. Although a popular guest on countless television variety shows, she appeared in only four more motion pictures through 1962, including the film version of Flower Drum Song (1961). From 1969-1972 she appeared in The Courtship of Eddie's Father as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper. She retired from acting following that series' end.Her first marriage was to television director Wynn Opie in 1958; they adopted one son before their marriage ended in divorce. She later married Randall Hood; the couple ran a theatrical lighting business that was dissolved following Hood's death in 1976. Contrary to other reports, Umeki had lived in Sherman Oaks, CA, before moving to the small town of Licking, Missouri to be near her son and his family. She never lived in Hawaii. She died of cancer complications at a nursing home in Licking at age 78.

All the Way was proclaimed as the winner for Best Original Song. The music was written by Jimmy Van Heusen, the lyrics by Sammy Cahn. The song was published in 1957 by Maraville Music Corp. It was introduced by Frank Sinatra in the movie The Joker Is Wild. Sinatra also had the best-selling recorded version of the song. Aside from this song, he also sang Chicago (That Toddlin' Town) for the movie. It wound up as the flipside of All The Way when Capitol Records released the song as a single. Céline Dion recorded "All the Way" as a duet with Sinatra (using the vocals from his 1963 Reprise recording) on her 1999 album All the Way... A Decade of Song and also performed the song in virtual duet in her Las Vegas show, A New Day....

Special Honors
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers for their contributions to the advancement of the motion picture industry.
Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, motion picture pioneer, for his contributions to the development of motion pictures as entertainment.
Charles Brackett for outstanding service to the Academy.
B.B. Kahane for distinguished service to the motion picture industry.

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award:
Samuel Goldwyn

The awards were cohosted by a variety of stars, namely Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, David Niven and Rosalind Russell, a four-time Academy Award nominated and Tony Award winning American film and stage actress, perhaps best known for her role as a fast-talking newspaper reporter in the Howard Hawks screwball comedy His Girl Friday, as well as originating the role of Auntie Mame on Broadway and in film. She is the actress (tied with Meryl Streep) with the most Golden Globe Awards (for films) wins, with five. It is notable that she won every Golden Globe for which she was nominated. Russell died after a long battle with breast cancer in 1976 at the age of 69, although initially her age was misreported because she had shaved a few years off her true age. She was survived by her husband and son.

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