Tag Archives: Academy Award

Possible Oscar Boycott Ignores Other Underrepresented Actors

Time To Put A Stop To Hollywood’s Casting Bias – Microcephalics Insultingly called “Pinheads” Get The Shaft in Oscar Process

microphely 1

Everyone is now aware that for the 2016 Academy Awards no African-Americans were nominated for Academy Awards in the major acting categories. This has led to some people calling out the racist members of the Academy saying they will boycott the Oscars and things “have to change.”

microphely 2 zipBut there are so many groups not represented with nominations. If we’re going to go through with this diversity campaign let’s go full tilt.

In this country where we strive for equality the question arises – is it fair to single out the omission of only African Americans?

There is one group of entertainers that has been far more glaringly ignored in the Oscar process since the Academy’s  founding, and yet no one is standing up for them.

Microcephalic actors have not been recognized by the Academy – ever. Disparagingly called “pinheads” by sideshow aficionados, these people have been thoroughly neglected by the Hollywood elite and the Academy.

Schlitzie in Tod Browning's Freaks

Schlitzie in Tod Browning’s Freaks

Director Tod Browning was the only filmmaker brave enough to break the stigma of using people with microcephaly prominently in a film with his 1932 classic Freaks.

Since then, I know of no film that has featured a microcephalic actor with any prominent role. Therefore there have been no microcephalic actors nominated for an Academy Award.

True, Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin starred in 1993’s The Coneheads, but they were only actors who looked like people with microcephaly and they were not nominated for anything either.

How can we let this obvious oversight and discrimination continue? When will we see a fair representation of this unrecognized group of people?

Beetlejuice - An Academy Award winner if given the chance?

Beetlejuice – An Academy Award winner if given the chance?

Besides Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern Show and Patrick from Spongebob Square Pants, where are microcephalics being represented in entertainment? Continue reading

Ten Great Films From The 1940s Featuring New York City

Filming Around New York City In The 1940s

On The Town posterDuring Hollywood’s golden years from the 1930s through the early 1950s there were many films set in New York City, but the vast majority were made on the studio lots in southern California. Almost every studio had their own New York set which would convey “the Big Apple.”

The reasons for doing so were obvious; the costs of actually sending the cast and crew on location to film would be cost prohibitive and complete control could be exercised in the studio for crowd control, noise, lighting and other technical issues.

Occasionally films would use stock footage of New York or a second unit directing team would be sent to capture a New York scene or two to be used as establishing shots showing the audience, yes this is New York. Usually though none of the principal characters in the film were ever actually in New York, but back in Hollywood, playing against what is called a “process shot” a background screen showing New York footage usually while the actors were walking or driving.

Even such quintessential “New York” films such as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) were shot completely in Hollywood.

So when the cast and crew actually did any filming in New York it was a rare treat, especially looking back today at the much changed metropolis.

Here are ten of the best 1940s films where a part of the movie was actually filmed on location in New York City.

Saboteur Cummings and Lloyd Statue of LibertySaboteur (1942) This cross-sountry chase of one man falsely accused of sabotage pursuing the real saboteur winds up in New York. Director Alfred Hitchcock had his second unit shoot footage in the city that shows New York in the midst of World War II. We see Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the waterfront and other familiar city sights.  A masterpiece of storytelling the film moves at a smooth pace as you bite your nails watching. Spoiler alert: Sinister character actor Norman Lloyd battles hero Robert Cummings on Bedloe’s Island at The Statue of Liberty in one of the most iconic conclusions to a film ever shot.

Ray Milland The Lost Weekend Third Avenue photo Life MagazineThe Lost Weekend (1945) Director Billy Wilder takes advantage of New York, shooting many of the exteriors of The Lost Weekend on location. Ray Milland’s portrayal of troubled, alcoholic writer Don Birnam won him an Academy Award for best actor. The film also won Oscars for best picture, best director and best screenplay. There are so many shots of Milland in the city it becomes a game to recognize where the actual locations are. Third Avenue is prominently put on display. The giant street clock Milland passes in one scene is still there today – located on Third Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets. All the mom and pop stores and restaurants along the way are long gone, replaced mostly by chains. P.J Clarke’s on Third Avenue and 55th Street was used in the shooting but many of the interior scenes of the bar were shot back in Hollywood. Continue reading

An Interview With Avery Corman “My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir”

Avery Corman, Author of Kramer vs. Kramer, Talks About His Latest Book: My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir

My Old Neighborhood RememberedThe neighborhood is the Bronx. The time is World War II and the post war years. And the writer is Avery Corman. His newest book My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir (2014) Barricade Books, is his first non-fiction book and is filled with wonderful recollections of growing up.

After graduating college Corman was working on the fringes of advertising and with the encouragement of a friend, Herb Gardner (A Thousand Clowns; I’m Not Rappaport; etc), he took a stab at writing a book. That effort was published as Oh God! A Novel (1971). After that hurdle Corman never looked back and he became a full-time novelist. Oh God! was eventually made into a very popular movie in 1977 starring George Burns and John Denver.

Some of Corman’s other acclaimed novels include The Bust-Out King (1977), The Old Neighborhood (1980); 50 (1987); Prized Possessions (1991); The Boyfriend from Hell (2006) and his most famous work, Kramer vs. Kramer (1977) which was adapted into a movie in 1979 and was the winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Avery Corman’s success must partially stem from his middle-class upbringing in the Fordham section of the Bronx during the 1940’s and 50’s, where he admits he was not the best student when it came to math and science, but did well in the humanities and was surrounded by a loving, extended family.

My Old Neighborhood Remembered A Memoir is more a series of vignettes rather than a straight autobiography and that style comes off well. Corman shares his memories of childhood during World War II up until he becomes a successful author in the late 1960’s. He paints beautiful word pictures, sometimes tinged with sadness, of growing up in a wondrous place that no longer exists. Most of the stories offer short bursts of family life, games, food, education, sports and all the things that contributed to making the Bronx a special place to grow up in.

Corman’s stories resonate with a tender glow of friendships, family and the feeling that neighborhoods were once really neighborhoods, where the familiarity of rituals, people and places were ingrained in the surroundings.

Here are parts one and two of an exclusive interview with Avery Corman.

Part I, Avery Corman talks about what made the Bronx a special place during the war. His unique living situation and school life.

In part II Corman Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #26

Jimmy Stewart & Ginger Rogers Win Oscars – 1941

James Stewart Ginger Rogers Oscars 1941

February 27, 1941 – the Oscars are awarded at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. This was the first time sealed envelopes were used to keep the winners names secret.

Jimmy Stewart won best actor in a leading role for The Philadelphia Story and Ginger Rogers won best actress in a leading role for Kitty Foyle.

Classic Hollywood #19

Cary Grant And Rosalind Russell Accept Awards

Cary Grant Rosalind Russell December 23 1942

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell co-starred together in only one movie. The film, Howard Hawks His Girl Friday (1940), is one of the zaniest and funniest screwball comedies of all-time.

The two stars are seen here on December 23, 1942, 70 years ago today, receiving the Women’s Press Club of Hollywood Most Cooperative Golden Apple Prize.

Incredibly, Cary Grant never won an Academy Award for Best Actor. He was awarded an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1970.When he accepted the award he said “You know that I may never look at this without remembering the quiet patience of directors who were so kind to me, who were kind enough to put up with me more than once, some of them even three or four times. I trust they and all the other directors, writers and producers and my leading women have forgiven me for what I didn’t know. You know that I’ve never been a joiner or a member of any particular social set, but I’ve been privileged to be a part of Hollywood’s most glorious era.”

The talented Rosalind Russell was also nominated by the Academy multiple times for Best Actress and never won. She was ultimately given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy in 1973, three years prior to her death in 1976. Interestingly Cary Grant introduced Russell to her future husband Frederick Brisson and Cary was best man at their wedding. Russell once said, “It’s fine to have talent, but talent is the last of it. In an acting career, as in an acting performance, you’ve got to have vitality. The secret of successful acting is identical with a woman’s beauty secret: joy in living.”

Helen Keller And Al Smith 1929

New York State Commission For The Blind Christmas Fundraiser 1929

Helen Keller Al Smith 1929

This news photograph reads:

Helen Keller “Sees” And “Hears” Al Smith — World Famous Blind Deaf-Mute Meets Ex-Governor For First Time At Sale Benefiting The Blind

New York City – Photo Shows: Helen Keller, remarkable and world-famous blind deaf-mute “seeing” and “hearing”former Gov. Alfred E. Smith, who is greeting her with his famous smile and a word of cheer at the annual Christmas sale for the benefit of the New York State Commission for the Blind. Witnesses at the meeting of the famous people said that Miss Keller’s words could be understood. – December 19, 1929

Helen Keller was deaf and blind from infancy. She was born in Alabama on June 27, 1880.  Early in her childhood Miss Anne Sullivan was employed to instruct her, and so well succeeded that by means of touch she was able to communicate knowledge of the world that was closed to her understanding through the usual senses.

Helen Keller’s sense of touch was so acute that she was capable of understanding the speech of another merely by the placing of her fingertips upon their throat. Through the aid of Miss Sullivan, Keller became a highly educated young woman, earning a degree at Radcliffe College. She would go on to write 12 books and many magazine articles. She devoted her life advocating for people with disabilities.

Keller’s childhood story and that of her teacher Anne Sullivan, was told quite dramatically in the Broadway smash The Miracle Worker which ran for 719 performances from 1959-1961. The show won five Tony awards in 1960 including Best Actress in a Leading Performance for Anne Bancroft.  The1962 movie version featured the Broadway stars reprising their roles; Patty Duke as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan. Each won an Academy Award for their performances; Bancroft for Best Actress and Duke for Best Supporting Actress.

Alfred E. Smith was born December 30, 1873 on the lower east side of New York. He was elected Governor of New York, 1919-1920 and again from 1923-1928. In 1928 he became the first Roman Catholic to run for President and was defeated soundly by Herbert Hoover.  After the election Smith became president of Empire State, Inc. the firm that built the Empire State Building.

Al Smith died on October 4, 1944. Helen Keller passed away June 1, 1968.

Classic Hollywood #17

“One Take Woody” Gets A Son – 1937

Film director Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke is mostly forgotten today to many movie fans. He was a good director, and was known in the film industry for working very quickly, shooting many scenes in one take. This earned him the nickname “One Take Woody” and “One Take Van Dyke.”

He directed 90 films during his career and is best remembered for; Tarzan The Ape Man (1932), The Thin Man (1934), and San Francisco (1936) for which he was nominated for the Acadamy Award for Best Director.

This news photo of W.S. Van Dyke and family reads:

Film Director’s New Son Poses For First Photograph

Hollywood, Calif. – Eleven Days of Age Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke Jr., son of the film director, yesterday posed for his first picture. His mother, the former Ruth Mannix, helped him pose while he went through his repertoire of smiles and other grimaces for the cameraman. The Van Dykes have one other child, Barbara Laura, 20 months of age. Feb 25, 1937.

The Van Dykes would add another son in 1939, Winston Stuart Van Dyke.

W.S. Van Dyke was a devout Christian Scientist and battled many ailments the last few years of his life, refusing to be treated with modern medicine. At the age of 53 and suffering from cancer, he commited suicide February 5, 1943.

Classic Hollywood #9

The Cagney’s Arrive At The Academy Awards Ceremony March 12, 1938

From left to right are: William Cagney, producer and manager, Boots Mallory (William’s wife),  Frances (“Bill”) Cagney (James’ wife) and James Cagney, actor extraodinaire.

In 1938 the Cagney family had no nominations for any awards, and that is an unlikely reason for the dour looks on everyone’s faces. Maybe they had a fight on the way over to the ceremony.  We’ll never know, but they certainly don’t look happy.

The following year James Cagney would be nominated for a best actor award for Angels With Dirty Faces. He lost to Spencer Tracy in Boys Town.

James Cagney would win a best actor Oscar in 1942 for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Below, a great speech by James Cagney accepting the lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute in 1974.

Classic Hollywood #5

The Great One, 1954

Jackie Gleason, star of one of the funniest televsion shows ever, The Honeymooners, takes a break from the show after hurting his ankle.

A great Gleason story was told by TV talk host legend, Mike Douglas, in his captivating autobiography I’ll Be Right Back: Memories of TV’s Greatest Talk Show; Simon & Schuster (2000):

Douglas is referring to acting legend Anthony Quinn’s penchant for telling funny stories.

One of his best stories was about Requiem For A Heavyweight, with Anthony starring as the beleaguered fighter opposite Jackie Gleason’s streetwise manager. There was one scene where Anthony had to appear exhausted after a bout. He ran around the block several times before shooting began and returned to see Gleason relaxing in a chair, reading the paper, smoking a cigarette. Gleason looked up.

“Where ya been?”

Anthony was panting, dripping sweat.

“Running…getting into it… you know…”

He saw Gleason wasn’t impressed and asked him about his own methods.

“You don’t ever do anything to get ready for a scene?”

The Great One shrugged and flicked his ashes.

“That’s why they call it acting kid.”

Quinn won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice. One for Viva Zapata! (1952) and the other for Lust For Life (1956).

Gleason on the other hand, could supposedly look at a script once and have it down.  His Honeymooners co-star Audrey Meadows, said Gleason had a photographic memory.

Babe Ruth (Again) And Lou Gehrig – Recently Discovered Film Footage

Babe Ruth And Lou Gehrig On Film

The New York Times reports more film footage of the mighty Babe Ruth has been unearthed, this time from 1927 showing Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig up close and personal in a barnstorming tour.  The article goes on to say that in the Major League Baseball archives there is less than an hour’s worth of film footage of Ruth!  The majority of film footage that probably still exists resides in attics across the country waiting to be discovered. This film was found in a cellar in Illinois and shows Ruth and Gehrig in or around Sioux City, Iowa on October 18, 1927.

Gehrig and Ruth were good friends, had a presumed falling out (over mysterious circumstances) and eventually made up when Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis which ended up taking his life at the age of 37.

The public perception via film of Ruth and Gehrig together is not really when they are together at all.

Hollywood accomplished that trick with The Pride of the Yankees, the 1942 movie depicting the life of Lou Gehrig ,who is played by Gary Cooper. Babe Ruth plays himself in the picture.  No mean feat as Babe was already 46 years old and was significantly heavier than in his playing days.  Ruth would not be embarrassed.  Before the movie started shooting, Babe went on a diet and dropped a significant amount of pounds so he could play the part himself.

While the picture is embellished for the silver screen, it still covers a fair portion of Gehrig’s baseball accomplishments while telling more Lou’s devotion to his family and the love story between Eleanor Twitchell (the future Mrs. Gehrig) and Lou.  The movie almost never got made.  Producer Samuel Goldwyn knew nothing about baseball and knew from experience that baseball movies were never “big box office.” But Goldwyn had been shown a newsreel of Gehrig’s farewell speech at Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day by Niven Busch, a Goldwyn screenwriter. Busch was confident a movie about Gehrig would be a success. By the end of the newsreel Goldwyn was crying and had made up his mind to acquire the rights to Gehrig’s story. The end result was a success, with the picture being nominated for 11 academy awards, including best picture.

Here are some photos of The Babe and Lou together. (click to enlarge)

Gehrig and Ruth in a posed publicity photo

Ruth and Gehrig 1927

Babe Ruth Scores ahead of a Lou Gehrig Home Run

Four Greats- Lou Gehrig, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth 1928

Babe Ruth pays his respects at Lou Gehrig’s funeral June 4, 1941