Now in our ninth calendar year!|
PCR #429 (Vol. 9, No. 24) This edition is for the week of June 9--15, 2008.
Hello gang! Not much this week so let's get the party started. Shall we begin?
IF NOMINATED I WILL RUN, IF ELECTED I WILL SERVE
Happy to announce my recent election to the post of Vice President of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle this past week. Thanks to Nolan for giving me this venue to begin my "career," which led to the newspaper gig and, of course, immortality on the back of the "Dorm Daze" and "Dorm Daze 2" DVDs!
CONGRATS TO THE KID
In 1989 a young man began playing professional baseball for the Seattle Mariners. He was fun to watch and, more importantly, seemed to have fun. That young man was Ken Griffey, Jr. I've had the extreme pleasure of meeting Jr a couple of times, where he always very graciously signed a baseball for me (must be the feeling of having a 30 year old man call you "sir"). This past week Jr hit homerun #600. And, again more importantly, he did it clean.
A LITTLE MORE DOH!
Don't cry for the actors who provide the voices for "The Simpsons." They recently received a raise which now pays each actor $400,000 per episode. Nice work if you can get it.
Can you guess which US President replied to a reporter's question about gasoline reaching $4.00 a gallon as such,
"What did you just say? You're predicting $4.00 a gallon gasoline? I hadn't heard that."
Shocked to learn this evening of the passing of NBC reporter and "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert, apparently of a heart attack. My prayers go out to his family.
Make it three in the "Star Trek" family as producer Bob Justman, who worked both on the original series and "The Next Generation," died last week from Parkinson's disease. He was 81. An assistant to Gene Roddenberry on both shows, Justman's greatest contribution to the "Trek" world was his championing of Patrick Stewart for the role of Captain Picard, much to Roddenberry's chagrin. Somewhere in heaven there's one hell of a "Star Trek" convention going on.
AND THE OSCAR FOR 1960 SHOULD HAVE GONE TO...John Wayne behind and in front of the camera made "The Alamo" the film to beat.
April 1960. You're humble scribe was 5 months away from making his big debut. And all of the talk Oscar night was "The Alamo."
Or, more closely, co-star and supporting actor nominee Chill Wills. Well reviewed for his role as the Bee Keeper, Wills seemed a shoe in for the supporting actor award. But then he did the unthinkable. He campaigned for it. I don't mean just mentioning in conversations that he'd like to win. I'm refering to Wills taking out full page ads in the daily trade papers
listing every member of the Academy alphabetically with a picture of Chill and the comment, "Win, lose or draw, you're all my cousins and I love you all." After the ad with the M's ran, Groucho Marx placed his own ad: "Dear Mr. Chill Wills: I am delighted to be your cousin, but I voted for Sal Mineo. Groucho Marx." It got even worse when an advertising and promotions man hired by Wills ran an ad without the knowledge of his client or John Wayne, whose company had produced the film. The ad featured a photo of the ALAMO cast, a picture of Chill in his buckskin costume superimposed over them, and the copy line, "We of the Alamo cast are praying harder -- than the real Texans prayed for their lives in the Alamo -- for Chill Wills to win the Oscar as the Best Supporting Actor -- Cousin Chill's acting was great. Your Alamo Cousins." Though Daily Variety refused to run the full page ad, the Hollywood Reporter did, causing Wayne to run an ad of his own, which read "the Chill Wills ad published in the Hollywood Reporter, of which we had no advance knowledge, [contained] an untrue and reprehensible claim. No one in the Batjac organization [Wayne's production company] or in the Russell Birdwell office has been a party to his trade paper advertising. I refrain from using stronger language because I am sure his intentions were not as bad as his taste." Outraged and embarrassed, Wills fired his promo guy, but the damage was done. Not only did Wills NOT win the award (see below) but it was felt that his campaign so angered Hollywood that the film lost several awards because of it. Of the films seven nominations, including Best Picture, it only took home the prize for Best Sound. After the Wills controversy campaigning for the Oscars were left to the studio and their "for your consideration" ads. However, in 1986 another actor got over zealous. Margaret Avery, a supporting actress nominee for "The Color Purple," ran full page ads imitating the writing style Alice Walker used in her novel. One ad read "Dear God, My name is Margaret Avery. I knows that I been blessed by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg, and Quincy Jones. Now I is up for one of the nominations foí Best Supporting Actress alongst with some fine, talented ladies that I is proud to be in the company of. Your little daughter Margaret Avery." On Oscar night Avery made sure to also thank God that Tina Turner had turned down the role. Sadly, God was not a fan of the film as Avery not only lost the award but the film itself went home 0-11.
So, who won the big ones for 1960?
Maybe it's because Hollywood wasn't cranking out hundreds of movies a year, but this period is one of the best as far as Oscar nominees go. Sure, the occasional bloated epic or musical would sneak in as a Best Picture nominee ("Dr Dolittle," "Hello Dolly") but usually the best films and performances one. The nominees for Best Picture included "The Alamo," "The Apartment," "Elmer Gantry," "Sons and Lovers" and "The Sundowners." "The Alamo" is pretty self explanitory, telling the story of the brave men who battled against General Santa Anna's men. Billy Wilder's "The Apartment" was another outstanding film from the master of the "dramedy," detailing the life of a bachelor (Jack Lemmon) who gains promotions at work by letting his superiors, among them Fred MacMurray, use his apartment for their affairs. "Elmer Gantry" featured the always terrific Burt Lancaster as a traveling salesman who becomes a "preacher." Think Jim Baker or Jerry Falwell before television. "Sons and Lovers" was a well received family drama from England while "The Sundowners" featured Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr in a western set in the Australian outback. Films overlooked this year included "Spartacus," "The Entertainer,"
"Inherit the Wind" and "Psycho." Sadly, Cousin Chill and the rest of "The Alamo" went down, with the Oscar going to "The Apartment."
Best Director nominees included Billy Wilder (The Apartment), Jules Dassin (Never On a Sunday), Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Jack Cardiff (Sons and Lovers) and Fred Zinneman (The Sundowners). An impressive list, especially Dassin, who not only wrote his film but co-starred in it. Left off the list: Stanley Kubrick, Stanley Kramer and Tony Richardson, among others. Of the nominees, Cardiff, who already had an Oscar for his photography of "Black Narcissis" and who still, at the age of 94, works today, was the least experienced behind the camera. This was Hitchcock's fifth and last directing nomination. Zinneman already had a Best Director Oscar for "From Here to Eternity" and would win another one later for "A Man For All Seasons." Dassin would only do a few more films, but never touch Oscar glory again. At the end of the night, the winner was Wilder, who not only picked up his 2nd Best Director award that night, but two more trophies for Best Picture and Screenplay. In his career Wilder won six Oscars out of a whopping twenty nominations.
Best Actor boiled down to Jack Lemmon (The Apartment), Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry), Laurence Olivier (The Entertainer), Spencer Tracy (Inherit the Wind) and Trevor Howard (Sons and Lovers). A formible collection of actors who among them assembled an incredible 32 acting nominations and 6 Oscars. Lemmon, Olivier and Tracy already had Oscars prior to this evening (Tracy actually had 2). Lemmon would pick up his 2nd a decade later while Howard would never be nominated again. The winner: Burt Lancaster.
The Best Actress race was not without it's share of drama. Nominees included: Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment), Elizabeth Taylor (BUtterfield 8), Melina Mercouri (Never on a Sunday), Deborah Kerr (The Sundownders) and Greer Garson (Sunrise at Campobello). Again, a talented lot. The drama I mentioned revolved around Taylor, who had earned a lot of negative publicity when Eddie Fisher divorced Debbie Reynolds and shortly after married Taylor. However, shortly afterwards Taylor fell gravely ill, at one time even being pronounced dead at the hospital. Only an emergency tracheotomy saved her life and the scar was quite visible in photos of the actress afterwards. Viewed as a sympathy vote, Taylor was awarded the Oscar for her portrayal of a call girl. Never one to mince words, after the ceremony MacLaine told the press "I lost out to a tracheotomy."
I've already highlighted the troubles in the Best Supporting Actor category. The nominees: "Cousin" Chill Wills (The Alamo), Jack Kruschen (The Apartment), Sal Mineo (Exodus), Peter Falk (Murder, Inc.) and Peter Ustinov (Spartacus). Of couse you know that Wills lost. The winner: the multi-talented Ustinov, who stands as the only actor to win an Oscar for a performance in a film directed by Stanley Kubrick. An acclaimed actor/writer/director Ustinov spoke no less then seven languages fluently and was often referred to as "Britian's Orson Welles." In a historical note, Ustinov was waiting in a garden to interview Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi. As she walked towards him he rose to greet her. Moments later she was assassinated in front of him.
Best Supporting Actress featured two actresses trying to alter their on screen image, both with great success. The nominees: Shirley Knight (The Dark at the Top of the Stairs), Shirley Jones (Elmer Gantry), Janet Leigh (Psycho), Mary Ure (Sons and Lovers) and Glynnis Johns (The Sundowners). Both Jones and Leigh were more thought of as quiet love interests, but here they erased their images with portrayals of a hooker (Jones) and a thief (Leigh). Of course Leigh also had the classic shower scene in "Psycho" to show she could scream with the best of them. But the winner was Jones, who in one film put behind her the musicals that had made her famous. Of course, she would return to sweetness and light a decade later as the mother on "The Partridge Family." Leigh would go on to some fine work in "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Bye Bye Birdie," as well giving the world Jamie Leigh Curtis. Mary Ure would go on to marry Robert Shaw. Tragically, after spending the summer of 1974 with Shaw on Martha's Vineyard on a short "retirement," she agreed to appear in a new play in England. The day after the very negative reviews appeared she was found dead after an accidental overdose of alcohol and barbituates. She was 42.
Well, that's all now. Happy Father's Day to you dads out there. Have a great week. See ya.
"Mike's Rant" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.