Category: Oscar Profile

Oscar Profile #519: Anthony Veiller

Born June 23, 1903 in New York, New Yo0rk, Anthony Veiller was the son of Oscar nominated actress, Margaret Wycherly, and her husband, playwright Bayard Veiller.

Veiller was a journalist, publicist, and stage manager prior to moving to Hollywood in 1930. He married literary agent Laura Kerr in 1934 with whom he would have a daughter born in 1936. Under contract to RKO from 1934 through 1937 as both a writer and producer, his screenplays included those for Break of Hearts, Star of Midnight, The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, Swing Time (contributing writer only), A Woman Rebels, Winterset, and Stage Door, receiving an Oscar nomination for the latter along with Morrie Ryskind.

One of Veiller’s best screenplays for RKO was Gunga Din which was not produced until 1939. In the U.S. Army during World War II, he was a major in the film office where he worked with Frank Capra on four Why We Fight documentaries. He also collaborated with the British on two of their documentaries including 1944’s Tunisian Victory.

Back in Hollywood after the war, Veiller was divorced from Kerr in 1945, the year he wrote the screenplay for the widely panned Adventure. He rebounded with two major successes in 1946, Orson Welles’ The Stranger and Robert Siodmak’s The Killers, earning an Oscar nomination for the latter. That film also earned him an Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Picture which he shared with Siodamak and producer Mark Hellinger.

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Oscar Profile #518: Margaret Wycherly

Born October 16, 1881 in London, England to a Canadian doctor and his American wife, Margaret Lovett De Wolfe, known professionally as Margaret Wycherly, had a long and distinguished career on the Broadway stage, but is probably best remembered for two iconic film roles as the very different mothers of screen legends Gary Cooper and James Cagney.

Wycherly married Brooklyn born writer Bayard Veiller in 1901 when she was just 19 years old. Her son, Anthony Veiller, was born in 1903. The younger Veiller would become an even more successful writer than his father and earn two Oscar nominations to his mother’s one.

Wycherly made her Broadway debut as a producer of William Butler Yeats revivals in 1905. She quickly emerged as a major star headlining such hits as 1907’s The Primrose Path, 1908’s Candida, 1910’s The Blue Bird and 1912’s The Fight, which she made into a film in 1915. It would be her only film until 1929’s The Thirteenth Chair, the Broadway version of which she starred in in 1916. Both plays were written by Bayard Veiller whom she would divorce in 1922.

Between her first and second films, Wycherly appeared regularly on Broadway, starring in such plays as 1920’s Jane Clegg, 1922’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, 1923’s The Adding Machine, 1925’s The Devil to Pay, and 1928’s Strange Interlude. She returned to Broadway after filming The Thirteenth Chair to star in 1932’s Another Language and 1933’s Tobacco Road before making another film, 1934’s Midnight.

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Oscar Profile #517: Charles Walters

Born February 17, 1911 in Pasadena, California, Charles Walters graduated from Anaheim Union High School in 1930 and briefly attended USC-Los Angeles before embarking on a dancing career in 1931.

After joining the touring Fancho & Marcum review as a chorus boy and specialty dancer, Walters embarked on a correspondence with producer, dancer, and choreographer Leonard Stillman leading to his being cast in the Broadway bound Know and Behold alongside Tyrone Power, Eve Arden and Kay Thompson in 1933. The show never reached Broadway, but his next assignment for Stillman in New Faces of 1934 did. He and Imogene Coca received the best notices of the modest Broadway hit.

After his newfound success, Walters was kept busy on Broadway. He danced in 1935’s Parade and 1935’s Jubilee where he introduced “Begin the Beguine”.

He then appeared in 1937’s The Show Is On and Between the Devil, and 1938’s I Married an Angel , after which he became a choreographer with 1938’s Sing Out the News. It was back to acting in 1939’s Du Barry Was a Lady before settling back into choreography with 1941’s Let’s Face It and Banjo Eyes. Then it was off to Hollywood as dance director on four major 1943 MGM musicals, Presenting Lily Mars, Du Barry Was a Lady, Best Foot Forward and Girl Crazy.

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Oscar Profile #516: Rob Reiner

Born March 6, 1947, Robert Norman Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York to Estelle and Carl Reiner, the renown comedian, actor, writer, producer, director. It was only a matter of time before Rob will follow his father into show business.

The younger Reiner began his acting career in TV’s Manhunt in 1961. He continued appearing on TV throughout the 1960s. He was memorable on the big screen in 1970’s Where’s Poppa? and 1971’s Summertree.

In the fall of 1971, Reiner became one of the four stars of the groundbreaking TV series, All in the Family. He played Mike “Meathead” Stivic, the son-in-law of the bigoted Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, and Archie’s wife, Edith, played by Jean Stapleton. Sally Struthers played their daughter and Rob’s wife, Gloria. The show won numerous awards through 1978, including acting Emmys for all four stars, of which Reiner won two.

Although he had long been active in writing and directing for TV, Reiner’s first such efforts for the big screen were for 1984’s This Is Spinal Tap in which he also played a role. The following year’s The Sure Thing won critical huzzahs but no awards recognition.

It was for 1986’s Stand by Me for which he received his first nomination from the Directors Guild of America. That film also earned him a Golden Globe nomination, but Oscar was still not in sight.

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Oscar Profile #515: John Hurt

Born January 2, 1940 in Derbyshire, England, John (Vincent) Hurt was the son of a Church of England clergyman and his wife. Determined to become an actor, he withstood the taunts of his preparatory school headmaster who told him that although he may be good in school plays, he didn’t have what it takes to have a major career.

Although he made his film debut in a small role in 1962’s Young and Willing, his early roles were mostly on TV. Married to actress Annette Robertson in 1962, they were divorced in 1964. He came to prominence as Richard Rich in his memorable support of Paul Scofield the 1966 Oscar winner, A Man for All Seasons. Nominated for a BAFTA for his supporting turn 1971’s Ten Rillington Place, he won for the 1975 TV movie, The Naked Civil Servant in which he played Quentin Crisp. He was also notable in the 1976 TV mini-series, I, Claudius in which he played the title role.

Hurt earned a second BAFTA award for his supporting role in 1978’s Midnight Express for which he received his first Oscar nomination. The classic 1979 sci-fi horror film, Alien earned him a fourth BAFTA nomination, and 1980’s The Elephant Man a third BAFTA on his fifth nomination as well as his second Oscar nomination in the title role.

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Oscar Profile #514: Oscars and Nuns

To quote Wikipedia:

“A nun is a member of a religious community of women, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery. Communities of nuns exist in numerous religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, and Taoism.

Within Christianity, women religious, known as nuns or religious sisters, are found in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions among others. Though the terms are often used interchangeably, nuns historically take solemn vows and live a life of prayer and contemplation in a monastery or convent, while sisters take simple vows and live an active vocation of prayer and charitable works in areas such as education and healthcare.”

Nuns and sisters, usually Roman Catholic nuns, have been prominent screen regulars at least as far back as Lillian Gish in 1923’s silent classic, The White Sister, and Helen Hayes in the 1933 talkie remake. It wasn’t until 1943’s The Song of Bernadette, though, that actresses playing nuns were nominated for Oscars. That film earned postulant Jennifer Jones an Oscar for her portrayal of the nineteenth century saint, and Gladys Cooper a nomination as the doubting nun who is her adversary for much of the film.

Ingrid Bergman followed her New York Film Critics award for The Bells of St. Mary’s with her third successive nomination for playing Sister Benedict, a charismatic school principal, opposite Bing Crosby’s easygoing priest in Leo McCarey’s superior sequel to his 1944 Oscar-winner, Going My Way, in which there were no nuns.

Deborah Kerr won a much-deserved New York Film Critics award for her Sister Clodagh, the leader of a group of Anglican nuns on assignment in the Himalayas, in 1947’s Black Narcissus, but failed to receive an Oscar nomination for her portrayal. Flora Robson and Kathleen Byron, the most prominent members of her group, also failed to receive nominations.

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Oscar Profile #513: Jude Law

Born December 29, 1972 in London, England, (David) Jude Law was born the son of Margaret and Peter Law, schoolteachers, his father later becoming the youngest headmaster in London. The future star made his acting debut with the National Youth Music Theatre in 1987 at the age of 14 and his TV debut the following year. He made his film debut in 1994’s Shopping opposite future wife Sadie Frost.

Law made his Broadway debut in 1995’s Indiscretions opposite Kathleen Turner for which he earned a Tony nomination. He married Frost, with whom he would have three children in 1997, the same year he gave memorable on-screen performances in Bent, Wilde (as Alfred Douglas), Gattaca, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In 1998, he had starring roles in Music from Another Room and Final Cut and in 1999, he starred in eXistenZ and gave an acclaimed supporting performance in The Talented Mr. Ripley for which he received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.

In 2000, the actor was in Enemy at the Gates, in 2001, A.I. Artificial Intelligence (earning a second Golden Globe nomination), in 2002, Road to Perdition, and in 2003, Cold Mountain for which he received a third Golden Globe nomination and a second Oscar nomination. He would be divorced from Frost that same year.

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Oscar Profile #512: Peter Ustinov

Born April 16, 1921 in London, England, Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov was the son of a Russian father and German mother. His father was a British spy and his mother a painter and ballet designer. He was educated at Westminster College in London where he excelled at acting, making his stage debut in Surrey in 1938 and his London debut the following year. Having dropped the “von” from his name, Ustinov made his film debut in 1940’s Hullo Fame! , the year he married Isolde Denham, Angela Lansbury’s half-sister.

Ustinov was a private in the British Army during World War II. He served as batman (valet) to fellow actor David Niven, a Lieutenant Colonel while writing the screenplay for 1944’s The Way Ahead. The two became lifelong friends.

The prolific actor-writer-director was divorced from Denham, with whom he had one child, in 1950. He achieved international fame with Oscar nominated performance in 1951’s Quo Vadis. He married second wife, actress Suzanne Clothier, with whom he would have three children, in 1954. That same year he excelled in high profile roles in The Egyptian and Beau Brummel, followed by equally high profile roles in the following year’s We’re No Angels and Lola Montes.

The 1960s were very good to Ustinov. He began the decade with high profile roles in The Sundowners and Spartacus, winning an Oscar for the latter. He wrote, directed, and starred in 1961’s Romanoff and Juliet and 1962’s Billy Budd, directing Terence Stamp to an Oscar nomination for the latter. He would receive a second Oscar for his performance in 1964’s Topkapi and a fourth nomination for co-writing the screenplay for 1968’s Hot Millions in which he starred opposite Maggie Smith.

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Oscar Profile #511: Whoopi Goldberg

Born November 13, 1955 in New York, New York, Caryn Elaine Johnson, known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, is the daughter of Robert James Johnson Jr., a Baptist clergyman, and Emma Johnson, née Harris, a nurse, and teacher. A high school dropout, she relocated to Southern California in the mid-1970s before moving to Berkeley, outside of San Francisco.

Holding down a series of jobs while trying to get her comedy and acting careers off the ground, Goldman married first husband Alvin Martin in 1973 with whom she had her only child. They were divorced in 1979.

In various one-woman shows, she appeared on Broadway in 1984 in Whoopi Goldberg for which she won several awards. Although she had been part of an ensemble in 1982’s Citizen, her film career really began with her Oscar nominated performance in 1985’s The Color Purple. Briefly married to Dutch documentary filmmaker David Claessen from 1986-1988, she appeared in such films as Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Burglar, Fatal Beauty, and Clara’s Heart during the marriage.

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Oscar Profile #510: Terence Stamp

Born July 22, 1938 in London, England, Terence Stamp was the eldest of five children of Ethel and Thomas Stamp, a tugboat stoker. With his father away for long periods of time with the Merchant Navy, he was raised mostly by his mother, grandmother, and aunts. His family endured heavy bombing during the World War II Blitz, forcing them to move from the canal area of London to higher ground. He worked for several advertising agencies before winning a scholarship to the Webber Academy of Dramatic Art in the mid-1950s.

Stamp befriended fellow actor Michael Caine during a touring production of The Long and the Short and the Tall, and invited him to share a house with him in London. Their circle of friends included fellow rising star Peter O’Toole. Both Stamp and O’Toole became major stars in the 1962 films, Billy Budd and Lawrence of Arabia, Stamp for the former, O’Toole for the latter. Both were nominated for Oscars for their performances. Caine later received his first Oscar nomination for Alfie, a role Stamp turned down, recommending his then still roommate for the role.

The actor had a second high-profile role in 1965’s The Collector for which he won the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. He followed that with 1967’s Poor Cow and Far from the Madding Crowd.

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Oscar Profile #509: Janet Leigh

Born July 6, 1927 in Merced, California, Jeannette Morrison (screen name Janet Leigh) was an only child. Raised in poverty during the Great Depression in Stockton, California where her family relocated shortly after her birth, she sang in the choir of her local Presbyterian church.

Leigh excelled in academics and graduated from high school at 16. She married eighteen-year-old John Kenneth Carlisle in Reno, Nevada, on August 1, 1942. The marriage was annulled four months later. She enrolled at the College of the Pacific, majoring in music and psychology. While there, she met Stanley Reames, a U.S. Navy sailor taking nearby courses. Leigh and Reames married on October 5, 1945, when she was 18. The marriage ended in divorce in 1949.

In early 1946, former actress Norma Shearer was vacationing at the ski resort in the Sierra Nevadas where Leigh’s father then worked. Discovering Leigh’s picture in a photo album in the hotel lobby, she was struck by Leigh’s smile and asked to borrow it, sending it to agent Lew Wasserman who engineered a screen test for her at MGM. The rest, as they say, is history.

Leigh made her screen debut as the female lead in 1947’s The Romance of Rosey Ridge, quickly followed by a major role in 1947’s If Winter Comes. Subsequent films included Act of Violence, Little Women, The Red Danube, That Forsyte Woman, and Holiday Affair, all released in 1949. She also filmed Jet Pilot opposite John Wayne in December of that year, but the film was not released until 1957.

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Oscar Profile #508: Wes Anderson

Born May 1, 1969 in Houston, Texas, Wes(ley) Wales Anderson was the middle of three children of archeologist turned real estate agent Ann (née Burroughs) and Melver Leonard Anderson, who worked in advertising. Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs was his great-grandfather. His grandfather was Burroughs’ illustrator. It’s no wonder the young Anderson began writing plays and making 8-mm films as a child.

The future Oscar-nominated writer-director worked part-time as a theatre projectionist while attending the University of Texas at Austin, where he met future collaborator Owen Wilson. He graduated in 1990 with a degree in philosophy. His first film was 1996’s Bottle Rocket, based on a short film of the same name he had made with Luke and Owen Wilson. His second film was 1998’s Rushmore starring Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. Murray, Schwartzman, and Schwartzman’s cousin Roman Coppola, would along with the Wilson brothers, continue to be collaborators throughout his career.

Anderson and Wilson collaborated on the screenplay for his third film, 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums for which they received an Oscar nomination. It would be the first of seven to date for Anderson, the first and only for Wilson. The cast included Bill Murray and both Wilson brothers, but it was Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston who received the brunt of the film’s notices, leading to a Golden Globe win for Hackman as Best Actor – Comedy or Musical.

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Oscar Profile #507: Steven Soderbergh

Born January 14, 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia, Steven (Andrew) Soderbergh was the second of six children of Mary Ann and Peter Soderbergh, a college professor and later dean of the College of Education at Louisiana State University. He became interested in filmmaking as a teenager and made experimental 8mm and 16mm films from the age of 15.

Soderbergh moved to Hollywood after graduating high school in the early 1980s. His first job was as a game show composer and cue card holder, after which he found work as a freelance film editor. He directed the concert video 9012Live for the rock band Yes in 1985, for which he received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Music Video, Long Form.

In 1989, at the age of 26, Soderbergh wrote and directed Sex, Lies, and Videotape which he submitted to the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d’Or for Best Film. Released later that year in the U.S., it earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Also, in 1989, he married actress Betsy Brantley with whom he would have a daughter in 1990. They would divorce in 1994.

Soderbergh’s second film, 1991’s Kafka, was a notorious flop. His third and fourth films, 1993’s King of the Hill and 1995’s The Underneath, were well received by the critics but not by the public. It would take 1998’s Out of Sight and 1999’s The Limey to bring him back into the spotlight and 1990’s Erin Brockovich and Traffic to bring him back into awards contention. With those two films, he became the first director since Michael Curtiz in 1938 to be nominated for Best Director Oscars for two films in the same year, winning for Traffic.

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Oscar Profile #506: Richard Attenborough

Born August 29, 1923 in Cambridge, England, Richard (Samuel) Attenborough was the son of May (née Clegg), a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council and Frederick Levi Attenborough, don at Emmanuel College and author of a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law. The family later moved to Leicester where his father was appointed principal of the University. The future actor and director received his education at Wyggeston School for Boys and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).

Attenborough made his film debut in an uncredited role in 1942’s In Which We Serve. Alternating between stage, screen, and radio, he married actress Sheila Sim in 1945 with whom he would have three children. Outstanding among his early screen performances were those in 1946’s A Matter of Life and Death, 1948’s Brighton Rock, and 1951’s The Magic Box. In 1952, he and Sim appeared on stage together in the original cast of Agatha Christie’s long-running play, The Mousetrap.

The actor’s reputation continued to grow with roles in such films as 1958’s Dunkirk, 1959’s I’m Alright Jack, 1960’s The Angry Silence and The League of Gentlemen, 1962’s Only Two Can Play, and 1963’s box-office sensation, The Great Escape.

Attenborough won the BAFTA for Best British actor for his performances in two 1964 films, Guns at Batasi and Séance on a Wet Afternoon. He then won back-to-back Golden Globes for his supporting roles in 1966’s The Sand Pebbles and 1967’s Doctor Dolittle. He received his first BAFTA nomination as Best Director for his directorial debut with 1969’s Oh! What a Lovely War.

Continuing as an actor in such films as 1971’s 10 Rillington Place, 1975’s Conduct Unbecoming, and 1979’s The Human Factor, Attenborough also directed three major films during the decade , 1972’s Young Winston, 1977’s A Bridge Too Far (his second BAFTA nod for direction) and 1978’s Magic. He was made a Knight of the British Empire in 1976.

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Oscar Profile #505: Peter Finch

Born September 28, 1916 in London, England, Peter Finch was the subject of a custody battle between his mother and her husband who was not his actual father. His “father” won, and the child was kept from his mother who later married Finch’s actual father. He never met his mother until he was 33, and his real father until he was 45. He was brought up by relatives of his “father” in France, India and eventually Australia.

After graduating from North Sydney Intermediate High School in 1929, Finch went to work as a copy boy for the Sydney Sun. Gravitating toward acting, he made his stage debut in 1933 in a play called Caprice. He made his film debut two years later as Prince Charming in the short, The Magic Shoes. Alternating between the Australian stage and films, he joined the Australian Army in 1941 and remained a soldier to the end of World War II in 1945. He married ballerina Tamara Tchinarova in 1943 with whom he would have one child.

Encouraged by Laurence Olivier on a tour of Australia in 1946, Finch moved to England in 1948, leaving Australia permanently behind. Success on the British stage and in British films was immediate. By 1950, he was appearing in films made buy U.S., as well as British, companies. Among them were The Miniver Story, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, Gilbert and Sullivan, The Heart of the Matter, Elephant Walk and The Detective. He received the first of his eventual seven BAFTA nominations and his first of five wins for 1956’s A Town Like Alice. He received his second nomination for 1957’s Windom’s Way.

Finch was divorced by Tchinarova in 1959 when she learned of his affairs with Vivien Leigh, Kay Kendall and others. Later that year he married actress Yolande Turner with whom he would have two children. The couple would divorce in 1965. During this period the actor was nominated for his third BAFTA for 1959’s The Nun’s Story, won the Best Actor award at the Moscow Film Festival for 1960’s The Trials of Oscar Wilde for he won his second BAFTA, and 1961’s No Love for Johnnie for which he won his third. He also starred in such films as The Sins of Rachel Cade, I Thanks a Fool, In the Cool of the Day, The Pumpkin Eater, Girl with Green Eyes and The Flight of the Phoenix.

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