Monday, January 21, 2008

44th Academy Awards

The 44th Academy Awards were presented April 10, 1972 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. The ceremonies were presided over by Helen Hayes, Alan King, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Jack Lemmon.

The French Connection is a 1971 Hollywood crime film directed by William Friedkin. The film was adapted and fictionalized by Ernest Tidyman from the non-fiction book by Robin Moore. It tells the story of two New York City policemen who are trying to intercept a heroin shipment coming in from France. It is based on the actual, infamous "French Connection" trafficking scheme. It stars Gene Hackman (as porkpie hat-wearing New York City police detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle), Roy Scheider (as his partner "Cloudy" Russo), and Fernando Rey. It also features Eddie Egan and Sonny "Cloudy" Grosso, the real-life police detectives on whom Hackman's and Scheider's characters were based. It was the first R-rated movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since the introduction of the MPAA film rating system. It also won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gene Hackman), Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Ernest Tidyman). It was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Roy Scheider), Best Cinematography, and Best Sound. Tidyman also received a Golden Globe Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, and an Edgar Award for his screenplay. In 2005 the film was added to the list of films preserved in the United States National Film Registry.

William Friedkin was named Best Director. After seeing the movie Citizen Kane as a boy, Friedkin became fascinated with movies and began working for WGN-TV immediately after high school. He eventually started his directorial career doing live television shows and documentariesIn 1965 Friedkin moved to Hollywood and two years later released his first feature film, Good Times starring Sonny and Cher. Several other "art" films followed (including the gay movie The Boys in the Band), although Friedkin did not want to be known as an art house director. In 1971, his The French Connection was released to wide critical acclaim. Shot in a gritty style more suited for documentaries than Hollywood features, the film won five Academy Awards, including Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director. Friedkin followed up with 1973's The Exorcist, based on William Peter Blatty's best-selling novel, which revolutionized the horror genre and is considered by some critics to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The Exorcist was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Unfortunately, Friedkin's later movies did not achieve the same success. Sorcerer, an American remake of the movie Wages of Fear starring Roy Scheider, was overshadowed by the box office smash, Star Wars, which was released around the same time. Friedkin has two sons: Jack (with actress Lesley-Anne Down) and Cedric, whose mother is Australian dancer Jennifer Nairn-Smith. He has been married four times, including a short marriage to French actress Jeanne Moreau. He is currently married to former film executive Sherry Lansing.

The Best Actor award went to Gene Hackman. Already over 30 years old, Hackman decided to become an actor, and joined the Pasadena Playhouse in California. It was there that he forged a friendship with another aspiring actor, Dustin Hoffman. Hackman began performing in several off-Broadway plays. Finally, in 1964, he had an offer to co-star in the play Any Wednesday with actress, Sandy Dennis. This opened the door to film work. His first role was in Lilith, with Warren Beatty in the leading role. Another supporting role, Buck Barrow, in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. In 1970, he was again nominated for the same award, this time for I Never Sang for My Father, working alongside Melvyn Douglas and Estelle Parsons. The next year he won the Best Actor award for his memorable performance as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, marking his graduation to leading man status. He followed this with leading roles in the disaster film The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) which was nominated for several Oscars. That same year, Hackman appeared in one of his most famous comedic roles as the Blindman in Young Frankenstein. He later appeared in the star-studded war film A Bridge Too Far (1977), and showed a talent for both comedy and the "slow burn" as Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1980).By the end of the 1980s, Hackman was a well respected actor and alternated between leading and supporting roles, earning another Best Actor nomination for Mississippi Burning, and appearing in such films as Reds, Under Fire, Hoosiers, Power, and Bat*21. In 1992, he played the violent sheriff Bill Daggett in the western Unforgiven, directed by Clint Eastwood and written by David Webb Peoples which earned him a second Oscar, this time for Best Supporting Actor, the film itself won Best Picture. In 1995, he played John Herod in The Quick and the Dead, as well as Captain Frank Ramsey in the film Crimson Tide. He also starred in the 1998 film Enemy of the State, where his character was reminiscent of the one he played in The Conversation.Hackman has an ability to disappear into the roles he plays, blending a character actor aesthetic with his leading man status. He is also versatile, able to deliver hard-edged performances in The French Connection and Mississippi Burning as well as convincing comedic turns in fare such as The Birdcage and The Royal Tenenbaums. Hackman's first wife was Faye Maltese. They had three children, Christopher Allen, Elizabeth Jean, and Leslie Anne, but the couple divorced in 1986 after 30 years of marriage. In 1991, Hackman married Betsy Arakawa. They live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Betsy is co-owner of an upscale retail home-furnishing store in Santa Fe, called Pandora's, Inc.

Jane Fonda is a two-time Academy Award-winning American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru. She rose to fame in the 1960s with films such as Barbarella and Cat Ballou and has appeared in films ever since. She has won two Academy Awards and received several other awards and nominations. She initially announced her retirement from acting in 1991, and said for many years that she would never act again, but she returned to film in 2005 with Monster in Law, and later Georgia Rule released in 2007. Fonda has served as an activist for many political causes, one of the most notable and controversial of which was her opposition to the Vietnam War. She has also protested the Iraq War and violence against women. The daughter of actor Henry Fonda and socialite Frances Ford Seymour, and named Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda, she became interested in acting in 1954, while appearing with her father in a charity performance of The Country Girl, at the Omaha Community Theatre. After attending The Emma Willard School in Troy, NY and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, she was introduced by her father to renowned drama teacher Lee Strasberg in 1958, and subsequently joined his Actors Studio. Fonda's career breakthrough came with Cat Ballou (1965), in which she played a schoolmarm turned outlaw. This comedy Western received five Oscar nominations and was one of the year's top ten films at the box office. It was considered by many to have been the film that brought Fonda to stardom at the age of twenty-eight. After this came the comedies Any Wednesday (1966) and Barefoot in the Park (1967), the latter co-starring Robert Redford. In 1968, she played the lead role in the science fiction spoof Barbarella, which established her status as a sex symbol. In contrast, the tragedy They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) won her critical acclaim, and she earned her first Oscar nomination for the role.Fonda won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1971, again playing a prostitute, the gamine Bree Daniel, in the detective murder mystery Klute. Her second Award was in 1978 for Coming Home, the story of a disabled Vietnam War veteran's difficulty in re-entering civilian life. She also received positive reviews and an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of playwright Lillian Hellman in the 1977 film, Julia. During this period, Fonda announced that she would make films only that focused on important issues, and she generally stuck to her word. She turned down An Unmarried Woman because she felt the part was not relevant. She followed with popular and successful films such as The China Syndrome (1979), about a cover-up of an accident in a nuclear power plant; and The Electric Horseman (1979) with her previous co-star, Robert Redford. In 1980, Fonda starred in the office-politics comedy Nine to Five with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Her character was re-entering the workforce after a divorce had devastated both her finances and self-confidence. The film was one of Fonda's greatest financial successes, contributing significantly to her wealth. She had long wanted to work with her father, hoping it would help their strained relationship. She achieved this goal when she was cast as a supporting actress alongside Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond (1981). The film brought Henry Fonda his only Academy Award for Best Actor, which Jane accepted on his behalf, as he was ill and home bound. In April 1991, after three decades in film, Fonda announced her retirement from the film industry. In May 2005, however, she returned to the screen, after a fourteen-year absence, with the box-office success Monster-in-Law, a comedy in which she played the manipulative prospective mother-in-law of Jennifer Lopez's character. Fonda married first husband Roger Vadim, a French film director, in 1965. The couple had a daughter, Vanessa. In 1973, shortly after her divorce from Vadim, Fonda married author and politician Tom Hayden. Their son, Troy Garity (born 1973) was given his paternal grandmother's surname. "Troy" was an Americanization of the name of a Vietnamese man accused of conspiring to kill Robert McNamara in Vietnam. Fonda and Hayden raised a foster daughter, Mary Luana Williams, who is an activist born to members of the Black Panthers. Fonda and Hayden divorced in 1990. Fonda's married third husband, cable-television tycoon and CNN founder Ted Turner, in 1991. The pair divorced in 2001.

Ben Johnson won the Best Supporting Actor award. Johnson married Carol Elaine Jones, daughter of Western (genre) star Buck Jones in 1941, and was married for 53-years until her death on 27 March 1994. The couple had no children. After doing some stunt work in the 1939 movie The Fighting Gringo, in the early 1940s he found work in Hollywood wrangling horses for a studio; he also started doing stunt work involving horses. His steady stunt work began on the controversial Howard Hughes film The Outlaw. With his work as a stunt man he would catch the eye of director John Ford. Ford would hire Johnson for stunt work for the 1948 movie Fort Apache, and then the following year in the 3 Godfathers, then put him in front of the camera in several films, also starring three with John Wayne, including three in a row: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Wagon Master (1950; Johnson played the lead in this non-Wayne Ford western), and Rio Grande (1950). Johnson played in supporting roles in the screen classics Shane (1953) starring Alan Ladd, and One Eyed Jacks (1961) starring Marlon Brando. In 1964 he worked with Ford again in Cheyenne Autumn. He also appeared in four Sam Peckinpah directed films: Major Dundee (1965, with Charlton Heston), The Wild Bunch (1969, with William Holden & Robert Ryan), and two back-to-back Steve McQueen movies, The Getaway and the rodeo film Junior Bonner (both 1972). He teamed up John Wayne again, and director Andrew McLaglen, in two films; appearing with Rock Hudson in The Undefeated (1969), and in a fairly prominent role in Chisum (1970). In between the four Peckinpah films Johnson would win an Academy Award for his performance as 'Sam The Lion' in the classic The Last Picture Show, the Larry McMurtry (novel & screenplay) story made into a film and directed by Peter Bogdanovich (also co-writer screenplay), that co-starred Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, and in her film debut Cybill Shepherd. Johnson continued to work almost steadily until his sudden death in 1996 at his home in Mesa, Arizona.

Cloris Leachman is an Academy Award-, nine-time Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning American actress of stage, film and television. She has won eight primetime Emmy Awards—more than any other female performer—and one Daytime Emmy Award. After winning a scholarship in the beauty pageant, Leachman studied acting in New York City at the Actors Studio with Elia Kazan. She appeared in the Broadway production of William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba. She appeared in many live television broadcasts in the 1950s, including such programs as Suspense and Studio One. She was also one of the Raisonette Girls in the 1960s. She made her feature film debut in Robert Aldrich's film noir classic Kiss Me Deadly, released in 1955. A year later she appeared opposite Paul Newman and Lee Marvin in The Rack (1956). She appeared with Newman again, in a brief role as a prostitute in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Leachman has won numerous awards during her lengthy career. She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in The Last Picture Show (1971), based on the bestselling book by Larry McMurtry. She played the high school gym teacher's wife, with whom Timothy Bottoms' character has an affair. Director Peter Bogdanovich had predicted to Leachman during production that she would win an Academy Award for her performance. The part was originally offered to Ellen Burstyn, who wanted another role in the film. Leachman was married for 26 years (1953 to 1979) to the Hollywood impresario George Englund, with whom she had four sons and one daughter, most of whom are in show business.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italian: Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini) is a film adaptation of Giorgio Bassani's novel of the same name. It was directed by Vittorio de Sica in 1971. It stars Lino Capolicchio as Giorgio (the narrator). It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. It won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. While it was de Sica's penultimate film, it was (according to the DVD's filmographies) the debut or near-debut in feature films for some of the chosen stars for his film, notably the two adult Finzi-Contini children, Micol and Alberto. For Dominique Sanda, who plays the lead female role, Micol Finzi-Contini, it was her first Italian feature film (followed by such films as The Conformist and 1900). For Helmut Berger, who plays her dying brother Alberto, it was his second feature film. The overall plot of the film follows rather faithfully that of the autobiographical novel on which it was based.

"Theme from Shaft", written and recorded by Isaac Hayes in 1971, is the soul- and funk-style theme song to the film Shaft. The theme, released as a single (shortened and edited from the longer album version) two months after the movie's soundtrack, went to #1 in the United States in November 1971. The following year, "Theme from Shaft" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, with Hayes becoming the first African American to win that honor (or any Academy Award in a non-acting category). Since then, the song has appeared in numerous television shows, commercials, and other movies, including the 2000 remake of Shaft, for which Hayes re-recorded the song without making any changes to it. "Theme from Shaft" is sometimes considered more iconic than the movie for which it was written.

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