Sunday, February 28, 2016

And the Oscar Goes to... Winners of the Costume Awards

Good evening everybody and welcome everyone to the first ever Costume Awards. Bob Hope wanted to be here tonight to help me announce the winners this evening but he couldn't find his sarong.

Tonight's Awards honors the costumes and their designers for all of the films released before the Academy Award for Best Costume was instituted. There were many great and beautiful costumes in the films released between 1930 and 1947 and we are here tonight to recognize the tireless work and effort that went into them and that decades later still bring us delight when we see them on the big (tv) screen whether it's the first time or the 20th time.

Now I know some of you have been waiting for this moment for quite some time so I won't waste any time in announcing the winners.

Drumroll please...

For the year 1930... and the winner is...
Adrian with 71% of the votes for his beautiful gowns for Miss Shearer in The Divorcee


For the year 1931... and the winner is...
Adrian, for the second year in a row for his gowns in Possessed with 57% of the votes

For the year 1932... and the winner is...
Adrian - Grand Hotel - 55%

For the year 1933... and the winner is...
Adrian - Dinner at Eight - 62%

For the year 1934... and the winner is...
Dolly Tree - The Thin Man - 44% (barely won over Cleopatra)

For the year 1935... and the winner is...
Milo Anderson - Captain Blood - 54%
For the year 1936... and the winner is...
Adrian - Camille - 50%

For the year 1937... and the winner is...
Adrian - Maytime - 44%

For the year 1938... and the winner is...
Milo Anderson - The Adventures of Robin Hood - 44%

For the year 1939... and the winner is...
Walter Plunkett - Gone With the Wind - 87% (the other 12% went to The Wizard of Oz)

For the year 1940... and the winner is...
Adrian & Gile Steele (mens) - Pride and Prejudice - 50%

For the year 1941... and the winner is...
Adian - Ziegfeld Girl barely won over Edith Head's The Lady Eve with 57% (Head - 42%)

For the year 1942... and the winner is...
Orry-Kelly - Now, Voyager - 50%

For the year 1943... and the winner is...
Gile Steele (Supervised by Irene) - Du Barry was a Lady - 55%

For the year 1944... and the winner is...
Irene Sharaff - Meet Me in St. Louis - 62%

For the year 1945... and the winner is...
Leah Rhodes - Saratoga Trunk - 42%

For the year 1946... and the winner is...
A tie between Irene's The Postman Always Rings Twice & Jean Lewis' Gilda, both with 30%

For the year 1947... and the winner is...
Milo Anderson (Marjorie Best) - Life With Father - 62%

Sidney Poitier & Denzel Washington: Oscar Legends

I was watching some old Oscar videos on YouTube and I wanted to share these three with you. The first is Sidney Poitier's win at the 1964 Oscars for his role in Lilies of the Field. I love presenter Anne Bancroft's reaction.

The second is Denzel Washington presenting Sidney Poitier with an Honorary Oscar at the 2002 Awards.

The third is Denzel Washington's second Oscar win, also at the 2002 Awards and his first Oscar in the Best Actor Category for Training Day. Why I'm sharing it? It has Sidney Poitier in it and Julia Robert's reaction is pretty much the same as Anne Bancroft's.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The William Powell Oscar Snubs

William Powell is undoubtedly one of my favorite actors. Within the past two years I have watched almost all of his "talkies": all the films with Myrna Loy, his very first film, his last. This man is a genius who was given the same type of roles over and over again but who managed to make each one a memorable performance. He is most famous for the beloved character of Nick Charles in the Thin Man series, the witty and always slightly inebriated detective married to the "perfect wife," Myrna Loy, an actress who like Powell was also typecast and given the same type of roles over and over again. Powell's two other most famous films, of which he was nominated for an Academy Award, are My Man Godfrey (1936) and Life with Father (1947). He was also nominated for The Thin Man (1934), which gave new life to his dwindling career. Three nominations (and even that is upsetting as it is such a small number)... and not a single win.

Part of the problem is that the voters in the Academy always seemed to prefer dramatic performances over comedic ones, something that still holds true today. But what comedic actors and actresses make look so effortless is in reality a talent, a rare gift. To be able to pull off comedy without stooping to ridiculousness is a real art that sadly seldom gets rewarded.

So who did win those three years that William Powell was nominated?

1934 - Nominated for The Thin Man
Winner - Clark Gable in It Happened One Night

Don't get me wrong, It Happened One Night is a great movie. Like The Thin Man, it was also a low budget film and was from one of the Poverty Row studios, Columbia. Claudette Colbert had to be bribed and it was a punishment for Gable. But the film was a runaway hit, garnering five Oscars, for Best Picture and one each for it's stars, it's director, and it's writers. Gable is great in it, but not necessarily Oscar worthy.

Why Powell should have won: He took a low-budget mystery film that frankly isn't that good, and gave it sparkle. Whereas It Happened One Night had an intesting storyline - heiress runs away from loveless marriage and has to make it alone on the road, The Thin Man was a little routine. But with the insertion of witty dialogue that could have only been delivered by Powell, it was elevated to something magical. The performances of Powell and Loy are the only thing that have kept that film out of obscurity and will continue to keep it alive for decades to come.

1936 - Nominated for My Man Godfrey
Winner - Paul Muni in The Story of Louis Pasteur

First of all, I have never seen The Story of Louis Pasteur. But then again, how many people have? As Carole Lombard's "Forgotten Man" in the now classic My Man Godfrey, Powell is the straight man to the zany Bullock family. He is the glue that holds the picture together and because of this his performance stands out. Watch him. The pain of his past is in his eyes. The way he helps the family without their knowing it, how he acts when he is accused of a crime he didn't commit - all of it is beautiful. It is a performance with depth. And not only was Powell's performance great, but My Man Godfrey was the first film that had a nomination in all four acting categories: Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actors, so you know right away that people liked it. Powell was definitely a favorite as four out of the five films he was in that year were nominated. The Great Ziegfeld won best picture, the first biopic to do so.

1947 - Nominated for Life With Father
Winner - Ronald Colman in A Double Life

The role of Clarence Day in Life with Father was a role Powell fought to get. He knew it was the performance of his career. The film grossed $6 million in it's first run and won Powell the New York Critic's Prize. He knew what he was up against though: "Although he hoped to win the award himself, Powell was also pulling for Ronald Colman, who had given a towering performance as an actor who became so deeply involved in his role in a Shakespearean tragedy that he could not 'turn it off' when he left the stage. It was a tour de force role that any actor would give his eyeteeth to play, and Colman had made the most of it. Ronnie knew that Clarence Day was the finest part Bill had ever played on screen and felt that his old pal was his most formidable opponent in the race for the Oscar. In another ironic twist of fate, William Powell's best chance to win an Academy Award fell before the challenge of his best friend" (Gentlemen: The William Powell Story, Charles Francisco).
UPDATE 2/1/18: I have since seen A Double Life, and while Colman gives an amazing performance, there are several actors who could pulled off the role, but only William Powell could have played a character like Clarence Day and made what could have easily been an unlikeable character lovable. Out of all of his nominations, this is definitely the one he should have won.

His wife, the former Diana Lewis, gave Powell his own statuette. You can read about it in the article below.

Article taken from the Schenectady Gazette, 1970. It appeared in several other newspapers as well.
Another article, quoted in the book William Powell: The Life and Films by Roger Bryant, gives a few more details about the touching scene:
Finally supper was ready and Bill switched off the radio. In the center of the dining room table was a covered object surrounded by candles. Mousie ceremoniously placed Bill in front and made a short presentation speech much like the one they had just heard over the radio. Then with a flourish she whisked the cover off. There was a replica of the Academy Oscar, but this one had Bill's face as made up for his part in "Life with Father" and in one hand the miniature figure was holding a bag.
William Powell may have never won an Oscar, but he is an Oscar winner in the hearts of all his fans and will continue to be for years to come.

William Powell and Jean Harlow at the 1935 Academy awards.

This post is part of The Oscars Snubs Blogathon hosted by Silver Scenes and The Midnite Drive-In. Be sure to read all of the other posts to find out who should have won certain Oscars!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday Jackie Gleason!!

Today is the 100th birthday of one of the world's greatest comedians, Jackie Gleason. I've already paid tribute to him over on my Classic TV blog so I thought I take a quick look at some of his movie roles over here.

Before he was Ralph Kramden, Jackie Gleason was an extra in nine films in 1941 and 1942. One of them is Larceny, Inc. (1942) starring Edward G. Robinson. I almost didn't recognize Gleason!

It wasn't until he started talking that I realized who he was. You can read my post about the film here.

In 1949, Gleason entered television. He appeared in The Life of Riley, which ran for one season, and in 1952 started The Jackie Gleason Show, where his later famous characters first appeared. But back to his movies.

In 1961, Gleason really got back into movies. First up was his now legendary character of "Minnesota Fats" in The Hustler, starring Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott. A pool shark in real life, he did all of his own shots in the film. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role, even though his character only has about 20 minutes of screen time. Let me tell you, those 20 minutes are amazing. It is not often that a performance really impacts me but this one did (the others are John Garfield in Four Daughters and Ethel Barrymore in Portrait of Jennie). He definitely should have won the award that year. He doesn't say much and he doesn't move much - except to shoot pool - but his performance is simply brilliant. I could go on but it is hard to find words to describe it. Let's just say if you've never seen it you need to. A great post on it here.

The only other film I've seen of Gleason's is the classic Smokey and the Bandit (1977) starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. Gleason plays Sheriff Buford T. Justice. He ad-libs a lot of his lines which means its hilarious (if not a little colorful - definitely not a good movie for kiddies). He reprised his role twice more.

Gleason's last film was Nothing in Common (1986) where he played the father of Tom Hanks and husband of Eva Marie Saint. Gleason died of cancer on June 24, 1987 at the age of 71.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Jean Harlow Films Being Shown on TCM in March

Here is a list of Jean Harlow Films being shown on TCM during the month of March:


Announcing Jean Harlow Month

For quite a while I have been wanting to focus on a star a month, with several posts on a particular star or star couple, their family life, films, and other things about them. I thought the new year would be the perfect time to start this but January had several blogathons I had already signed up for and in February I wanted to focus on Oscars-related posts.

Since Jean Harlow's birthday is March 3rd and as I have recently watched several of her later films, I thought she would be a good star to begin with. Here's the line-up of posts I have scheduled for the month (subject to change and not necessarily in this order):

Jean Harlow Films Being Shown on TCM in March
Harlean Harlow Carpenter: The Blonde Bombshell is Born
The Early Films of Jean Harlow
The Homes of Jean Harlow
Behind the Dress: Jean Harlow & the Bias-Cut
Jean Harlow and William Powell: Their Relationship and Films (Reckless, Libeled Lady)
Myrna Loy on Jean Harlow
Jean Harlow's Untimely Death and Her Final Film
Review of Platinum Doll by Anne Girard (Jan. 26, 2016)
Today is Tonight - Jean Harlow's Novel
The Films of Jean Harlow and Clark Gable (Hold Your Man, Red Dust, China Seas, Wife vs. Secretary, Saratoga)
The Films of Jean Harlow & Franchot Tone (Bombshell, The Girl From Missouri, Reckless, Suzy)
Platinum Blonde (1931)
Dinner At Eight (1933)
Riffraff (1936)
Personal Property (1937)

Links to other Jean Harlow posts and sites:

Review of Platinum Blonde (1931)
2011 Jean Harlow Blogathon
The Platinum Blog
Jean Harlow Bio
Behind the Scenes with Jean and Clark
Saying Goodbye to Jean Harlow, 75 years later
The Death of Jean Harlow
Jean Harlow in the Tabloids
List of Magazine Covers Featuring Jean Harlow
Bombshell (1933) & China Seas (1935)  - CineMaven's Essays from the Couch

Harlow in the Talkies
Jean Harlow

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Murder, He Says (1945) - A MAD Scientist

Today's post for the Movie Scientist Blogathon is another, earlier, MacMurray film, Murder, He Says (1945). I caught this "dark comedy" on TCM in January, as Fred MacMurray was the Star of the Month.
The main difference is that MacMurray is not the scientist this time. He is a pollster, that is, he goes around in the less populated areas and polls the people in the area on what appliances they own. In the case of this film Pete Marshall, MacMurray's character, is looking for a fellow pollster who disappeared in the area.
I'm with the Trotter Poll. We're like the Gallop Poll but not as fast.
By doing some questioning at the general store, he finds out that his friend was last seen going to the Fleagle's, a family that everyone seems to be afraid of. Dusk is falling as he makes his way on his bicycle to the Fleagle homestead. He becomes unnerved after seeing a glow-in-the-dark dog running through the woods. Next thing he knows, he has fallen into a large hole. One of the Fleagle boys comes along but instead of helping him out of the hole tries to push him in! When another member of the family comes along and has him come up to the house.
The Fleagle gang consists of whip-totin' Ma Johnson (Marjorie Main), the twins Mert and Bert - Bert has the crick in his back (both played by Peter Whitney), Ma's latest husband Mr. Johnson - a cooky scientist (Porter Hall), and Elany - who goes around singing the sensless rhyme "Honors flysis/Income beezis/Onches nobis/Inob keesis"(Jean Heather). Pete is also introduced/forced to meet Grandma (Mabel Paige). Grandma glows in the dark, just like the dog Pete saw in the woods. She tells him that her family has poisoned her and that before she dies she wants to tell a secret - the whereabouts of a stash of stolen money totaling $70,000.
Glowing Grandma
Once they are alone, Grandma gives Pete a sampler with some music notes stitched on it. She tells him to give the sampler to Bonnie; she will know what it means. Bonnie Fleagle is the one who stole the money from a bank.
Grandma dies a few minutes later and the Fleagles set to work to try and get Pete to spill where the money is hidden. He keeps telling them the secret is in the sampler but they don't believe him so he has to make something up. He tries to fool them but doesn't get away with it.

Pete and Mr. Johnson, the inventer of the glow-in-the-dark poison.
Later, cousin Bonnie shows up - only she's not really cousin Bonnie but Claire Matthews (Helen Walker), daughter of the bank teller who was blamed for the holdup. She reveals herself to Pete and asks for him to help her clear her father's name by finding the money. Being a nice guy and not wanting to leave her to the ruthless Fleagles, Pete agrees to stay.

Pete and Claire/Bonnie try everything they can think of to find where the money is hidden. Pete tries playing the melody from the sampler on the organ in the hopes that a trap door will open, like in that Bob Hope picture The Ghost Breakers (1940).

There are some hilarious scenes in this film. In one the family has sat down to eat some grits and gravy. Pete realizes that Bonnie's plate is poisoned and keeps turning the lazy-susan table until nobody knows who has the poisoned plate. When Pete blows out the lamp, all of the plates but Mr. Johnson's are glowing.
Another funny scene is when Pete pretends to be able to see and talk to the ghost of Hector P. Smedley, the pollster man that the Fleagle's murdered. Mert and Bert are terrified when the ghost "chases" them through the house.
The most hilarious scene, which could only be pulled off by someone with MacMurray's comedic talent and timing, is when someone knocks out one of the twins in the potato bin as he is wrestling with Pete, who then has to sit on top of him, pretending that the twin's legs are his own when the real Bonnie (Barbara Pepper) shows up. She has broken out of prison and is also looking for the money. The legs of course are going in ways that Pete's real legs never could and this lends to the comic situation. You can watch the scene below.
With the real Bonnie there it really becomes a race against time (and death) as everyone scrambles to find the money first.
A Few Fun Facts:
  • In some scenes, MacMurray's wedding band can be seen.
  • In the film, MacMurray mentions the Bob Hope film The Ghost Breakers (1940).
  • There is a scene in Haunted Honeymoon (1986) where Gene Wilder pretends that someone else's legs are his own, similar to MacMurray's scene.
Final Thoughts: This movie is definitely "different." You don't know quite what to expect but once you've watched it you are glad you did.
Some more clips
This post is part of the Movie Scientist Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Silver Screenings. See my "Good Scientist" post, The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), from yesterday here. Links to the other entries in the blogathon are below.

Timeline of Academy Award-Winning Costumes: 1949-1960

The category for Costume Design at the Academy Awards came rather late - 1949 (for movies released in 1948). The Awards had already been going on for 20 years without any recognition to the talented people who designed the clothes that women and men alike coveted and that transported the viewer to another time and place, or at least, away from their dreary existence as the films of the 1930s did or from violence and war in the 1940s. (You can fix this by voting on the sidebar => for Best Costume Design for the years 1929 to 1948. Click the photo of Scarlet O'Hara at the top for more info.)

Naturally, every costume designer in Hollywood was delighted when a category just for them was announced. Since the Awards were so well established by then, and the suspense that the use of the Envelope brought, it made it all the more exciting.

     *I have not seen all of these films so if you see a costume that doesn't belong please let me know.


That first year, at the 21st Academy Awards, only four films were nominated (as opposed to ten in later years). The award was divided into two sub-categories: Best Costume Design in Black and White and Best Costume Design in Color with black & white costumes being typically contemporary and color costumes being from historical epics and musical spectacles.

For black and white, Irene Lentz was nominated for B.F.'s Daughter (starring Barbara Stanwyck) and Roger K. Furse for Hamlet (Elizabeth Hennings is the uncredited designer, Furse is listed as designer under Art Dept.). Hamlet, which starred Laurence Olivier, won.

For color the suspense was especially high. Edith Head and Gile Steele were nominated for The Emperor Waltz, a film Head considered her best so far. But she was doomed to disappointment when Dorothy Jeakins and Barbara Karinska took the award for Joan of Arc. After that, Head never let her hopes get that high again.


The following year Edith did win her Oscar (first of eight and most of any costume designer) for The Heiress staring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. The costumes not only had to be period correct, but also give insight into the characters. For de Havilland, Edith made the costumes a little ill-fitted or a little too showy to convey her insecurities. It is only near the end of the film that her dresses becomes perfect, showing the end of her personal journey of overcoming her timidness and insecurities.

(I started making slideshows for each film but it was taking too long to load)

In the color category, Errol Flynn's film (and Olivia's frequent co-star), Adventures of Don Juan with costumes by Marjorie Best, Leah Rhodes, and William Travilla won.



All About Eve, Bette Davis's "comeback" film, won another Oscar for Edith Head the following year. The famous brown evening gown was a happy accident. The neckline was supposed to be square, but some mis-measurements caused the sleeves to slip off the shoulders. Davis made it work, as there was no time to fix it. It became an iconic gown.


Anne Baxter and Bette Davis in the same costume (Baxter sans wig)



Charles LeMaire's designs for a young Marilyn Monroe in a small part

Cecil B. DeMille's biblical epic, Samson and Delilah won in the color category. The film was costumed by many designers (that way DeMille HAD to be in charge so that the costumes would be seamless). The credited costume designers were Edith Head, Charles LeMaire, Dorothy Jeakins, Elois Jenssen, Gile Steele, and Gwen Wakeling. Head designed the costumes for the leading lady, Hedy Lamarr. The peacock dress is one of the most famous in movie fashion history. DeMille purported to have collected all of the peacock feathers himself from his peacock farm. In reality it was several assistants running around.

The real peacock feathers are on the cape only. The bodice is beaded.




Angela Lansbury


Edith won yet another Oscar for A Place in the Sun starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift (if this is starting to sound like a timeline of Edith Head, I apologize. I DID just finish reading "Edith Head's Hollywood" - hence all the background stories). Taylor's white dress has since become an icon and was copied by the thousands for prom dresses that year.

Taylor, Clift, and Shelly Winters on the set

Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, and Irene Sharaff won in the color division for An American in Paris starring Gene Kelly and newcomer Leslie Caron. The dance/dream sequences give an opportunity for unique costumes.

This is my favorite. I love stars on dresses!




Helen Rose won her first Oscar for the film The Bad an the Beautiful starring Lana Turner and Kirk Douglas.


That's Barbara Billingsley in the dark dress (June Cleaver). 

The color award went to Marcel Vertes for Moulin Rouge starring Zsa Zsa Gabor.



In 1953, Audrey Hepburn stepped gracefully into the scene and swept the fashion world (and everybody else) off their feet. Her first film, Roman Holiday, was costumed by Edith Head and took the award for black and white costume.


Same outfit styled two ways.

 Audrey liked this dress so much she had the bodice re-done and wore it to
the Oscars (below), where she won for Best Actress.

The Robe, starring Richard Burton and Jean Simmons and with costumes by Charles LeMaire and Emile Santiago, won for color costumes.



The following year Edith Head won the Oscar for another Audrey Hepburn film, Sabrina. The thing is, Head only designed some of Hepburn's costumes (the "before France" look, the sailing outfit, and the black slacks and shirt). Hubert de Givinchy designed all of the iconic gowns in the film but was not credited, nor did Head acknowledge his work in her acceptance speech... but that's a different post (Silver Screen Modes has an excellent post). These costumes won no matter who designed them.


You can purchase a replica of this iconic gown here.


A Japenese film, Gate of Hell, won in the color division with costumes by Sanzo Wada.

Helen Rose's costume's in I'll Cry Tomorrow starring Susan Hayward won in the black and white category.

Love is a Many-Splendered Thing starring William Holden and Jennifer Jones, with costumes by Charles LeMaire won in the color category. The film is set in Hong Kong.

The Solid Gold Cadillac, starring Judy Holliday and with costumes by Jean Louis won black and white.

The King and I starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner won in the color category with it's extremely large skirts and that iconic "Shall We Dance" dress designed by Irene Sharaff.

I wonder how wide this dress was exactly?!


For the next two years there was no distinction between color and black and white films. The Best Costume Award for a film made in 1957 was the color film Les Girls with costumes by Orry-Kelly. There's lots of matching costumes going on.
Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, and Tanya Elg

Gigi, starring Leslie Caron and Louis Jourdan won the following year with costumes by Cecil Beaton.




The next year went back to the two category format. This lasted until 1967. The black and white award went to Some Like it Hot starring Tony Cutris and Jack Lemmon (in drag) and Marilyn Monroe. Orry-Kelly did the costumes.

Can you tell who's who?





Joe E. Brown & Jack Lemmon

The sweeping historical epic, Ben Hur starring Charlton Heston, won with costumes by Elizabeth Haffenden.






To see a list of all of the films that won Best Costume after 1960, click here.

This post is for the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula's Cinema Club. Each week is devoted to  different catergory: Week 1 - The Actors, Week 2 - Oscar Snubs, Week 3 - The Crafts, and Week 4 - The Motion Pictures and the Directors. Be sure to visit each blog to view all of the different categories.