Friday, January 18, 2008

40th Academy Awards

The 40th Academy Awards honoured film achievements of 1967. Originally scheduled for 8 April 1968, the awards were postponed to 10 April 1968 because of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. Due to the increasing rarity of black and white feature films, the awards for cinematography, art direction and costume design were combined into single categories rather than a distinction between color and monochrome. The awards were held at the Santa Monica Civil Auditorium and hosted by Bob Hope.

The ultimate (surprise) winner in the Best Picture category was director Norman Jewison's engrossing thriller-murder mystery and sleeper comedy/drama film, In the Heat of the Night (with seven nominations and five wins - Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound). It illustrated the racial tension, prejudice, and eventual mutual respect and camaraderie expressed between a black police detective from the North (Philadelphia) and a Southern racist, white police chief in the small Mississippi town of Sparta, where both were compelled to work together on the same homicide case. In 2002 the United States Library of Congress deemed the original film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The quote "They call me Mister Tibbs!" was listed as #16 on the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes, a list of top movie quotes. The film was followed by two sequels, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! in 1970, and The Organization in 1971. When a wealthy man planning to build a factory in Sparta, Mississippi, is murdered, Police Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) is pressured to find his killer quickly. Northerner Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), passing through, is picked up at the train station with a substantial amount of money in his wallet. Gillespie jumps to the conclusion he has his (African-American) man, but is embarrassed to learn that Tibbs is a respected Philadelphia homicide detective who had been visiting his mother. After this racist treatment, Tibbs wants nothing more than to leave as quickly as possible, but the victim's widow (Lee Grant) is impressed by the detective's expertise clearing another wrongly accused suspect of the crime and threatens to stop construction on the much-needed factory unless he leads the investigation. Gillespie then talks Tibbs' captain into lending his services. Despite the rocky start to their relationship, they come to respect each other as they are forced to work together to solve the crime.

The Best Director award went to Mike Nichols for The Graduate. Born Michael Igor Peschkowsky in Berlin, Germany, he and his German-Russian Jewish family moved to the United States to flee the Nazis in 1939. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1944. The movies he directed include many hits such as his only win for The Graduate, and Who's affraid of Virginia Woolf, The Working girl, Catch-22, The Birdcage, Primary Colors and most recently Charlie Wilson's War with Julia Roberts. Nichols has been married four times, most notably to TV journalist Diane Sawyer, whom he wed on April 29, 1988. He has three children, Daisy (born 1964), Max (born 1974) and Jenny (born 1977). His daughter-in-law is ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols.

The Best Actor award went to Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night. Steiger appeared in over 100 motion pictures. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Sheriff Bill Gillespie in In the Heat of the Night (1967) opposite Sidney Poitier. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for On the Waterfront (1954), in which he played Marlon Brando's character's brother. The most famous scene in the film is when Brando's Terry Malloy tells his brother that he "coulda been a contender". He was nominated again, this time for Best Actor, for the gritty The Pawnbroker (1965), a Sidney Lumet film in which Steiger portrays an emotionally withdrawn Holocaust survivor living in New York City. He played Jud Fry in the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!, in which he did his own singing. One of his favorite roles was as the rapacious aristocrat Komarovsky in Doctor Zhivago (1965). Steiger, the only American in the cast of that film, was initially apprehensive about working with such great British actors as Ralph Richardson and Alec Guinness, and was afraid that he would stick out. However, his fears proved unfounded, as he won much acclaim for his role in this film. He appeared in memorable roles: in The Big Knife as an overly aggressive movie studio boss who berates movie star Jack Palance; as Al Capone in Al Capone (1959); as the unforgettable Mr. Joyboy in The Loved One; as a theatre actor-serial killer in No Way to Treat a Lady; and as a tragically repressed gay military non-commissioned officer in The Sergeant. He also played well known figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte in Waterloo (1970); Benito Mussolini in The Last Four Days (1974) and again in Lion in the Desert (1981); W.C. Fields in W.C. Fields and Me (1976); Pontius Pilate in Franco Zeffirelli's TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977); and mob boss Sam Giancana in the TV miniseries Sinatra (1992). He appeared in several Italian films including both Francesco Rosi's Hands Over the City (1963) and Lucky Luciano (1974), and also Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dynamite (1971). In France, he starred in Claude Chabrol's Innocents with Dirty Hands opposite Romy Schneider. Among his best known roles in his later years was as the priest who gets pestered by flies in The Amityville Horror (1979); the Latin American crime lord in The Specialist (1994) opposite Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone; and as an aggressive gung-ho general in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!. Among his final feature film roles was as the judge in the Denzel Washington prison drama The Hurricane (1999). The film reunited him with director Norman Jewison, who directed him in In the Heat of the Night and the 1978 Stallone film F.I.S.T. Steiger had five wives: the actress Sally Gracie (married 1952-divorced 1958), the actress Claire Bloom (married 1959-divorced 1969), Sherry Nelson (married 1973-divorced 1979), Paula Ellis (married 1986-divorced 1997) and the actress Joan Benedict (married 2000-his death 2002). He had a daughter, the opera singer Anna Steiger (born in 1965), from his marriage to Bloom, and a son by his marriage to Ellis.He died in Los Angeles at the age of 77, of pneumonia and complications from surgery.

The Best Actress Award went to Katherine Hepburn (her second) for Guess who's Comming to Dinner?. The Best Supporting Actor award went to George Kennedy, who has appeared in over 200 film and television productions. He is widely familiar as Dragline in Cool Hand Luke and Joe Patroni in the Airport series of disaster movies from the 1970s. Kennedy began his film career in 1961 in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. He then appeared in several successful films, including 1964's Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, opposite Bette Davis, and 1965's In Harm's Way, opposite John Wayne. He also made numerous television appearances, on "The Andy Griffith Show," "Perry Mason," "Bonanza," "McHale's Navy," and "Gunsmoke." He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Cool Hand Luke (1967). He followed with films such as The Dirty Dozen, Bandolero! and The Boston Strangler. In 1970 he appeared in the Academy-Award-winning film Airport, in which he played one of the film's lead characters, Joe Patroni.Kennedy also appeared in the television series "The Love Boat" in 1984, playing the character Erik Larsen. He then appeared in several less successful films including Savage Dawn, The Delta Force, and Creepshow 2 before appearing in the comedy hit The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! in 1988, playing Captain Ed Hocken. The film had two sequels in which Kennedy co-starred.Kennedy resides in Eagle, Idaho. He is married to Joan McCarthy and has a daughter, Shaunna, and a granddaughter, Taylor, whom the couple have legally adopted.

The Best Supporting Actress award went to Estelle Parsons. Her film career includes an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and a nomination for Rachel, Rachel(1968). She also received a BAFTA Award nomination for her role in Watermelon Man(1970), and appeared in I Never Sang for My Father (1971), A Memory of Two Mondays (1974), For Pete's Sake (1975), Dick Tracy (1990) and Boys on the Side (1995). She was also the original choice to play the part of Pamela Voorhees in the 1980 film Friday the 13th (the part later went to Betsy Palmer).
On television, Parsons played the part of Roseanne Barr's and Laurie Metcalf's pretentious mother, Beverly, on the long-running sitcom, Roseanne.

Ostře Sledované Vlaky is a 1966 Czechoslovakian film directed by Jiří Menzel. It is released as Closely Watched Trains in North America and Closely Observed Trains in the UK. It was filmed in Barrandov Studios, Prague. The film is based on a story by Bohumil Hrabal. It is a coming-of-age story about a boy working at a train station in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II. It won many awards including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Talk to the Animals is a song written by Leslie Bricusse. Written for the film Doctor Dolittle, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 40th Academy Awards. It was performed in the film by Rex Harrison.

Honorary Oscar
Producer/director Alfred Hitchcock was presented with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, possibly in recognition of the fact that he had been nominated for the Best Director Award five times (for Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Rear Window (1954), and Psycho (1960)) but had yet to win. This was Hitchcock's first and only 'Oscar'.

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