Wednesday, January 16, 2008

36th Academy Awards

The 36th Academy Awards, honoring the best in film for 1963, were held on April 13, 1964 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica. They were hosted by Jack Lemmon.

Tom Jones is a 1963 British comedy film which won the award for Best Picture. It is an adaptation of Henry Fielding's classic novel The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749), starring Albert Finney as the titular hero. It was one of the most critically acclaimed and popular comedies of its time. The film was directed by Tony Richardson and the screenplay was adapted by playwright John Osborne. The film is notable for its unusual comic style: the opening sequence is performed in the style of a silent movie, and characters frequently break the fourth wall by looking directly into the camera and addressing the audience.

The film's director Tony Richardson won the Oscar for Best Director. Representative of the British "New Wave" of directors, he developed the ideas that led to the formation of the English Stage Company, along with his close friend George Goetschius and George Devine. As a young director, Richardson directed plays such as Pericles at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1958. Richardson later co-founded Woodfall Films with the dramatist John Osborne. Richardson and Osborne eventually fell out during production of the film Charge of the Light Brigade. In 1964 Richardson received two Academy Awards (Best Director and Best Picture) for Tom Jones (1963). He was married to the actress Vanessa Redgrave between 1962 and 1967 (he left her for actress Jeanne Moreau), and had two daughters, Natasha Richardson (born 1963) and Joely Richardson (born 1965), both of whom are actresses. Richardson was bisexual (which he had carefully hidden for as long as possible), and died of complications from AIDS at 63 in 1991.

The Best Actor award went to Sydney Poitier. He broke through as a star in acclaimed performances in American films and plays, which, by consciously defying racial stereotyping, gave a new dramatic credibility for black actors to mainstream film audiences in the Western world. In 1963, Poitier became the first black to win the Academy Award for Best Actor - for his role in Lilies of the Field. The significance of this achievement was later bolstered in 1967 when he starred in three very well received films - To Sir, With Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - making him the top box office star of that year. Poitier has directed a number of popular movies such as Uptown Saturday Night, and Let's Do It Again (with friend Bill Cosby), and Stir Crazy (starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder). In 2002, 38 years after receiving the Best Actor Award, Poitier was chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to receive the Honorary Award. Poitier tried his hand at the American Negro Theater, where he was handily rejected by audiences. Determined to refine his acting skills and rid himself of his noticeable Bahamian accent, he spent the next six months dedicating himself to achieving theatrical success. On his second attempt at the theater, he was noticed and given a leading role in the Broadway production Lysistrata, for which he got excellent reviews. By the end of 1949, he had to choose between leading roles on stage and an offer to work for Darryl F. Zanuck in the film No Way Out (1950). His performance in No Way Out as a doctor treating a white bigot was noticed and led to more roles, each considerably more interesting and prominent than most black actors of the time were getting, though still less so than those white actors routinely obtained. Poitier's breakout role was as a member of an incorrigible high school class in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle. At age twenty-seven, like most of the actors in the film, he was not a teenager. Poitier was the first male black actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award (for The Defiant Ones, 1958), and also the first to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (for Lilies of the Field in 1963). He acted in the first production of A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway in 1959, and later starred in the film version released in 1961. He also gave memorable performances in The Bedford Incident (1965), A Patch of Blue (1965) co-starring Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters; Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967); and To Sir, with Love (1967). Poitier played Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania detective in the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night and its two sequels: They Call Me Mister Tibbs (1970) and The Organization (1971).Poitier was first married to Juanita Hardy from April 29, 1950 until 1965. He has been married to Joanna Shimkus, a Canadian-born former actress of Lithuanian descent, since January 23, 1976. He has four children by his first marriage and two children by his second marriage, all girls. His fifth daughter is actress Sydney Tamiia Poitier.

The Best Actress award was won by Patricia Neal for Hud. In 1948, she made her film debut in John Loves Mary. Her appearance the same year in The Fountainhead coincided with her on-going affair with her married co-star, Gary Cooper, whom she had met the year before, when he was 46 and she was 21. By 1950, Cooper's wife, Veronica, had found out about the relationship and sent Neal a telegram demanding they end it. Neal became pregnant by Cooper, but he persuaded her to have an abortion which made her feel guilty for many years. The affair ended, but not before Cooper's daughter, Maria (now Maria Cooper Janis, born 1937), spat at her in public. Years after Cooper's death, Maria and her mother Veronica reconciled with Patricia Neal. Neal met British writer Roald Dahl at a dinner party hosted by Lillian Hellman in 1951. They married on July 2, 1953, at Trinity Church in New York. The marriage produced five children: Olivia Twenty, who died of measles encephalitis; Chantal Tessa Sophia; Theo Matthew; Ophelia Magdalena; and Lucy Neal. By 1952, Neal had starred in The Breaking Point, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Operation Pacific (the last with John Wayne). She suffered a nervous breakdown around that time, following the end of her relationship with Cooper, and left Hollywood for New York. In films, she starred in A Face in the Crowd (1957) and co-starred in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). In 1963, Neal won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Hud, co-starring Paul Newman. When the film was initially released it was predicted she would be a nominee in the supporting actress category but she began collecting awards and they were always for Best Leading Actress. She returned to the big screen in The Subject Was Roses (1968), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. She lives in New York City, and owns a house on Martha's Vineyard. She is a frequent speaker at Pro-Life meetings and rallies, discussing her conviction that her own abortion was a mistake and the emotional pain it brought her.

The Best Supporting Actor award went to Melvyn Douglas also for Hud. He had a long theatre, film and television career as a lead player, stretching from his 1930 Broadway role opposite his future wife, Helen Gahagan, in Tonight or Never until just before his death. He was the hero in the 1932 horror film The Vampire Bat and the sophisticated leading man in 1935's She Married Her Boss. He played opposite Joan Crawford in several films, most notably: A Woman's Face (1941) and with Greta Garbo in three films: As You Desire Me (1932), Ninotchka (1939) and Garbo's final film Two-Faced Woman (1941).As Douglas grew older, he took on the older-man and father roles, in such movies as The Americanization of Emily, Hud, The Candidate and I Never Sang for My Father, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. In 1959 he made his musical debut playing Captain Boyle in the ill-fated Marc Blitzstein musical Juno, based on Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock. Douglas was married briefly to Rosalind Hightower and they had a son: Gregory Hesselberg (1920). He won the Best Supporting Actor twice for Hud and Being There(1980). In 1931 Douglas married actress-turned-politician Helen Gahagan. As a three-term Congresswoman, she was Richard Nixon's opponent for the United States Senate seat from California in 1950. Douglas and Gahagan had two children: Peter Gahagan Douglas (1933) and Mary Helen Douglas (1938). the couple remained married for many years to come until Helen Gahagan Douglas' death in 1980 from cancer. Melvyn Douglas died a year later, in 1981, in New York City. Film and television actress Illeana Douglas is Melvyn Douglas' granddaughter by his son, Gregory Hesselberg.

The Best Supporting Actress was won by Margaret Rutherford. Rutherford made her stage debut at the Old Vic in 1925 at the age of thirty-three. However, her physical appearance was such that romantic heroines were almost out of the question, and she soon established her name in comedy, appearing in many of the most successful British films of the mid-20th century.She married the actor Stringer Davis in 1945. They often appeared together in films. In the 1950s, Rutherford and Davis adopted the writer Gordon Langley Hall, then in his 20s. Hall later had gender reassignment surgery and became Dawn Langley Simmons, under which name she wrote a biography of Rutherford in 1983. In 1961, Rutherford first played the film role with which she was most often associated in later life, that of Miss Marple in a series of films loosely-based on the novels of Agatha Christie. Rutherford won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe for The V.I.P.s (1963), as the absent-minded Duchess of Brighton, opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease at the end of her life.

(Italian: Otto e mezzo) is a 1963 film written and directed by Italian director Federico Fellini. It is regularly acclaimed by film critics as one of the finest films ever made; it consistently ranks in the "top ten best movies ever" lists by cinema institutes and academies. The film was shot in black-and-white by influential and innovative cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, and features a soundtrack by Nino Rota. The plot revolves around an Italian film director, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni), who is suffering from "director's block". He is supposed to be directing an ill-defined science fiction film but has lost interest amid artistic and marital difficulties. As Guido struggles half-heartedly to work on the film, a series of flashbacks and dreams delve into his memories and fantasies; they are frequently interwoven and confused with reality.8½ won two Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Design (Black and White). It also garnered three other nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Art Direction (Black-and-White).

"Call Me Irresponsible" is a song composed by Jimmy Van Heusen, with lyrics by Sammy Cahn. The song was introduced in the film Papa's Delicate Condition. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 36th Academy Awards. Frank Sinatra's recording is perhaps the most celebrated.

The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
Sam Spiegel

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