21st Academy Awards - 1949
Academy Awards Background
This was the first year the Academy Awards were held in the Academy Theater. Surprisingly Hollywood studios had withdrawn their support. However, they had a reason. It seems there were rumors they were trying to influence the Awards so by withdrawing financial support they couldn't be accused of any wrong doing.
This year's host was Robert Montgomery. Many of you may not recognize the name but you would certainly recognize the face. Mr. Montgomery was an actor and director. His first movie was "The Big House" in 1930. In 1937 he was nominated for a Best Actor in a chiller called "Night Must Fall". He was nominated again in 1942 for "Here Comes Mr. Jones". He was father to the actress Elizabeth Montgomery of Bewitched fame, and actor Robert Montgomery Jr.
This year there were many firsts at the Awards. It was the first time Awards were given for Costume Design. Two separate awards were given, one for color and one for black and white. "Joan of Arc" became the first film not nominated for Best Picture to receive seven nominations. This was the first time a non-Hollywood motion picture was nominated for Best Picture - "Hamlet". One truly different distinction was that Jane Wyman was the first actress to receive an Oscar for a non speaking role - the first since silent pictures.
Certainly not an Academy first, but one worth noting, the first monkey astronaut was launched into space on June 11, 1948.
Now, on to the Academy Awards.
Sir Laurence Olivier
Other Best Picture Nominees
- Johnny Belinda
- The Red Shoes
- The Snake Pit
- The Treasure of Sierra Madre
Every actor's dream of success includes playing Hamlet on the stage. Believe it or not, over fifty films have been made of Hamlet. According to Wikipedia, this version of Hamlet was the most successful and the first "talkie" made in English. Olivier not only starred in this film but directed it. He also cut Fortinbras, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from his film. It would actually have taken four hours to do the complete Hamlet and no movie goer would sit that long!
Olivier was 41 at the time and ironically or more to build up the Oedipal Hamlet, cast a 28 year old Eileen Herliee as Hamlet's mother, dressing her in low cut gowns.
Everyone is familiar with Hamlet on some level, either having read it, seen it on stage or seen one of the movies, really, remember "to be or not to be"?
You might notice actor Peter Cushing as a servant to the Court and of course Jean Simmons as Ophelia. "This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind", so says Olivier in the opening of this film noir. Granted many may find it difficult with the Shakespearean dialogue, not the easiest of films to follow but it is worth a look for the great performances and eerie sets.
The Treasure of Sierra Madre
This is a movie goers film, or should I say a Bogart fan's film? Everyone was surprised this movie did not win the award for Best Picture but it did win for Directing and Writing Adapted Screenplay and Walter Huston won Best Supporting Actor.
As any Bogie fan knows, none of his films can be bad. This one is about two Americans and an old prospector searching for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Oh they find gold all right, but the "corrosiveness" of greed is ever present. Of course you wonder throughout the film if the prospector has a screw loose or is just a cagey character. You can't forget his jackrabbit dance. Though the bottom line is gold this movie is about so much more. The characters and their personalities are really what it is about. Most of the film contains only the three main characters; the prospector, the totally distrusting Ben (Bogart) and a young man Bob (Tim Holt) with morals. At one point in the movie, Ben says;
"Conscience. What a thing! If you believe you got a conscience, it'll pester you to death. But if you don't believe you got one, what could it do to ya?"
Did you know Bogie was wearing a wig in this movie? Well actually all three were wearing muddy wigs, but Bogie was losing his hair due to his heavy drinking and a vitamin B deficiency.
I could tell you more like who Cody, the Texan is and what happens to him or the camp being attacked by bandits, but why ruin it for you? This is a real classic and if you've never seen it you really should. If you've seen it once, its time to see it again.
Treasure of Sierra Madre
Quotes from Key Largo
- You don't like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don't you? If it doesn't stop, shoot it.
- When your head says one thing and your whole life says another, your head always loses.
- After living in the USA for more than thirty-five years they called me an undesirable alien. Me. Johnny Rocco. Like I was a dirty Red or something!
- James Temple: Are you thieves or what? You want money, is this a robbery?Toots: Yeah, Pop, we're gonna steal all your towels.
Another great Bogie film and the last time Bogie and Bacall appear in a film together as well as the fifth film that Bogie and Robinson did together. Claire Trevor won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress but Bogie and Bacall lovers will love this film anyway.
The movie is about a run down hotel in Key Largo, an island in the upper Florida Keys. The main character, Frank McCloud (Bogart) is there to honor the memory of a friend who died in WWII and to meet his widow Nora Temple (Bacall). Though the hotel is managed by her father-in-law it has been taken over by a gangster named Johnny Rocco played superbly by none other than Edgar G. Robinson. Rocco, his mob, and his alcoholic girlfriend are in charge, actually holding the others captive.
Of course, at first McCloud has no intention of getting involved but is drawn in and realizes Rocco needs to be destroyed. A typical stand-off character who turns out to be the good guy. Did I mention the hurricane? A backdrop that adds drama to yet another film noir, emphasizing that cynical attitude.
Yes, this is a must see. Tensions run high, the chemistry between Bogie and Bacall is almost palpable, and as some have described it, a call to arms for those believing in right. Remember the Communist scare was beginning and some believe this was a veiled attempt to tell people to fight it.
I Remember Mama -
Nominated for Best Cinematograpy this was one of my mother's favorite films. The story of a Norwegian family living in the San Francisco area, and the 'Mama' who held the family together. Mama does anything and everything to see her sick child in the hospital, she gives Katrin the gift she wants, she scrubs floors to keep her home nice, and so much more. It is a charming and sentimental film worth watching.
The Snake Pit -
Nominated for Best Dramatic or Comedy Score this is a chilling tale about a woman in an insane asylum. While it might seem out of date today it is still worth watching how Olivia de Havilland struggles with not only being institutionalized but the horror forced upon her by evil matrons and disturbed patients. The snake pit is certainly not the place she wants to wind up, a place where more horror awaits, yet only a place in her imagination. If not for her wonderful doctor things might've been a lot worse. A tormenting film that will show you how those with mental breakdowns were treated. At the time, mental health organizations praised this film for showing how badly people were treated in institutions.
"Johnny Belinda" - Another difficult film but one with warm moments A deaf girl is raped, a very controversial topic for a movie at that time. The movie focuses on small town rumors and the damage the hate can cause. Again, the performances are outstanding and heart wrenching. This movie won:
- Best Actress
- Best Comedy or Dramatic Score
- Best Sound Recording
- Best Art Direction
Do you think the classics, like movies from 1949 are better than the films today?
It seems 1948 was the year of dark movies. In addition to those I've listed other nominees included "Joan of Arc", "Sorry Wrong Number", and "The Naked City", but, there were other more light-hearted movies. "Portrait of Jennie" a difficult to describe film that leads you back and forth through the life of Eben Adams, played by Joseph Cotten, and his obsession with Jennie. This is a hard to classify film as it is light at times and dark at others. Definitely one to watch to make your own determination. While "The Search" was not a happy movie it did have a happy ending. "The Luck of the Irish" is a light-hearted tale with a leprechaun to add some charm. Others include "The Paleface" with Bob Hope and Jane Russell, "A Foreign Affair" with Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, and John Lund. Need I say more?
I hope you've enjoyed this journey back to 1948 and the 1949 Academy Awards and have found some films that are now on your "must see" list!
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