The 16th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1944
On March 15, 1944 the Academy Awards Ceremony went public and was held for the first time at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, Calif. Home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman's is a theater that has hosted the opening of many Hollywood films beginning with deMille's original silent, "King of Kings" in 1927. Although the Awards are now held next door at the Dolby Theater many people still think of Grauman's as the home of the Academy Awards Ceremonies. For those of you interested in the occult, it is said that Grauman's is haunted. One of the ghosts is believed to be a former employee who hanged himself inside the theater. While you won't be able to attend the Academy Awards, you can visit Grauman's to see a movie or just to tour the theater.
Anyone in uniform was given a free ticket to this ceremony with some of them even given seats on the stage! A show of solidarity was part of the War effort. You can see soldiers in the background of the video on the right. Oscar statuettes were made from plaster rather than metal from 1943 to 1945. Winners were allowed to exchange them after the war.
This was the first year Best Supporting Actors and Actresses received Oscar statuettes instead of plaques.
And now ladies and gentlemen, on to the 16th Academy Awards of 1944.
Built by Sid Grauman and opened in 1927. Also home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A dramatic film everyone is familiar with whether they've seen it or not. A love story but also a patriotic film. Set in the early days of WWII in one of the few places still unoccupied, Africa. Not the setting you'd expect to find an ex-lover but that is what happens to Rick Blaine, played superbly by Humphrey Bogart. The cast of this movie is like name dropping in the forties; Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Syndney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and S.K. Sakall.
Our hero, Rick Blaine, is an exiled American who just happens to own the hottest nightspot in town. Behind this plot are two valuable transport letters, these letter allow the bearer to travel anywhere without question by the Germans. These letters have 'accidentally' come into Rick's hands. But of course the plot thickens. The love of Rick's life, who walked out on him, shows up with her husband, Laszlo, Czech Resistance leader who has escaped from a concentration camp. Yup, the letters are for Laszlo and were sent to Rick for safekeeping though he didn't know it. But, here's Ilsa, the love of his life, with her husband. Naturally she winds up explaining why she walked out on him without telling him what was going on. She had thought her husband dead but when she found out he was alive she had to leave with him, with no real explanation to Rick.
The flame rekindles between Rick and Ilsa but there is cross and double cross in this movie. Rick is a patriot at heart and wants to help the war effort but what about the woman he loves? If you haven't seen this classic among classics you really should because that's all I'm going to tell you.
I will add a few interesting facts. For instance, Paul Henreid (Laszlo) did not like Humphrey Bogart and thought he was a "mediocre" actor. Greenstreet, Lorre and Bogart had starred together in "The Maltese Falcon". There were many European exiles and refugees playing minor roles in this film. Bogart stood on blocks in his scenes with Bergman because she was two inches taller than him. The movie was fairly well received when released but has gained in popularity over the years.
Casablanca won Outstanding Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Sceenplay. So, "Here's looking at you kid" and hoping you'll "Play it again" so you can find out why "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine", and why this great film is worth watching.
The Song of Bernadette
"The Song of Bernadette" was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won four, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Black and White, Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and Best Actress for Jennifer Jones for her portrayal as Bernadette. Though this is a religious film you don't have to be religious to appreciate it. The film opens with the lines:
"For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible".
This is the story of St. Bernadette Soubirous and her apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes in 1858. This film is a re-telling of the events that occurred in Lourdes when a young 14 year old girl is visited by a beautiful lady that no one else can see. People begin to follow Bernadette to her meetings with "the Lady" and begin to laugh when Bernadette bends down into the dirt and starts to wash herself. They do not know the Lady has told her to do so. When water begins to spring from the ground, the laughing stops. The Lady identifies herself as "The Immaculate Conception".
The Civil Authorities want to declare Bernadette insane and the Church treats her like a criminal. Her local pastor, Abbé Peyramale, at first skeptical becomes her ally and supporter. The grotto where the Lady appears to Bernadette is closed by the authorities, but other miracles occur and it is reopened.
Bernadette enters a convent and dies at a very young age. The film follows the novel of Franz Werfel pretty closely with of course some liberties taken for the sake of the film. In real life, the Church was not as cruel to Bernadette.
After her death, Bernadette's body was exhumed three times during the Cannonization process and each time her body was perfectly preserved.
As always, I have left out many details to let you can see the film for yourself and make your own decisions about it.
Other Academy Award Winners in 1944
Watch on the Rhine
Best Supporting Actor
The More the Merrier
Best Supporting Actress
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Best Original Screenplay
The Human Comedy
Best Musical Score
This is the Army
Warren & Gordon "You'll Never Know"
Best Original Song
Hello, Frisco, Hello
Glitzen & Goodman
Best Art Direction
Phantom of the Opera
Mohr & Green
Best Cinematography, Color
Phantom of the Opera
Best Film Editing
Sersen & Heman
Best Visual Effects
The Three Stooges - Back From the Front
Hollywood was doing its part during wartime. Patriotic themed films, comedy, anything to help the war effort and keep the world entertained. "The Yankee Doodle Mouse" starring none other than the animated Tom and Jerry won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. A cartoon that had Tom and Jerry chasing each other warfare style with jeeps and bombers, all signs of a society dealing with war.
The Three Stooges made "Back From the Front" and even Daffy Duck got into the act with "Daffy - The Commando".
No year would be complete without a Bela Lugosi film and this year had "Ape Man" and "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman".
Other great movies that the Academy didn't recognize but the public did included "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "A Guy Named Joe". Classics like "Jane Eyre", "Madame Curie", "Lassie Come Home", "My Friend Flicka" and who could forget "Stormy Weather"?
This was the year the famous Betty Grable pin-up was released by 20th Century Fox. I don't think a pin-up since has gotten the attention and devotion this one did.
The movie "The Outlaw" starring Jane Russell and produced by Howard Hughes was finally released. It was considered too "sexy" in 1941 and its release was held off. Still too sexy though in 1943 and it was shelved until 1946 when it was re-released.
Believe it or not, Batman had his own serial adventure shown in theaters. Each week a part of the series was shown leaving the audience hanging so they'd come back for more next week! Hollywood's "cliff hangers".
Obviously, I could go on and on but since this is a piece about the 1944 Academy Awards I think I've done my job here. I hope you've enjoyed it and will leave a comment.
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