Category: Oscar Profile

Oscar Profile #479: Jonathan Pryce

Born June 1, 1947 in Carmel, Wales, John Price was the third child and only son of a former coal miner who ran a small general grocery shop with his wife. His primary education was in Wales, but the brilliant student entered college in Lancashire, England at the age of 16. While studying to become a teacher, he received a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) where he changed his name to Jonathan Pryce when joining British Equity because there was already an actor with the name of John Price.

Pryce began his acting career at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. He made his TV debut in a minor role in a 1972 episode of the British sci-fi series, Doomwatch. He made his film debut in 1976’s Voyage of the Damned in which he was billed fifteenth and is now the thirteenth actor in the film to have received an Oscar nomination after Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner Lee Grant, Wendy Hiller, Julie Harris, Max von Sydow, Orson Welles, James Mason, Katharine Ross, José Ferrer, Janet Suzman and Denholm Elliott.

A 1977 Tony award for Comedians, for a supporting role that he had previously played in London, and a 1980 Royal Court production of Hamlet for which he won an Olivier Award in the title role enhanced his career, but it was Terry Gilliam’s 1985 film, Brazil, in which he had the lead role, that made him a star on film.

The actor added to his awards trophies with his 1991 Tony for Miss Saigon in which he recreated his London portrayal of the engineer in a modernized version of Madame Butterfly. He received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for his supporting role in the 1993 TV movie, Barbarians at the Gate. Two years later he received numerous Best Actor nominations and awards for his performance in 1995’s Carrington.

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Oscar Profile #478: Ann Harding

Born August 7, 1902 at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, Dorothy Gatley, known professionally as Ann Harding, was the daughter of a prominent Army officer and his wife who spent her formative years traveling with her West Point educated father to wherever he was sent.

Having graduated from New Jersey’s East Orange High School, the future actress attended Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She adopted her stage name because of her father’s violent opposition to her profession.

Harding made her Broadway debut in 1921 in Like a King, alternating between Broadway and Pennsylvania theatre, marrying actor Harry Bannister in 1926, moving to Hollywood to pursue acting in movies at the dawn of the talkies. She made her film debut starring opposite Fredric March in 1929’s Paris Bound, followed by the same year’s Her Private Affair opposite Bannister and Condemned opposite Ronald Colman. Her fourth film, 1930’s Holiday, brought her first and only Oscar nomination at the 1930/31 awards. 1931’s East Lynne, in which she starred opposite Clive Brook, was an Oscar nominee for Best Picture the same year.

Harding’s 1932 Reno, Nevada divorce from Bannister made headlines. She claimed she still loved her husband, but according to court documents only through dissolution of their marriage could Bannister escape from being overshadowed by Harding’s rise to stardom.

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Oscar Profile #477: Peter Yates

Born July 24, 1929 in Hampshire, England, Peter Yates was the son of an army officer. He attended Charterhouse School as a boy, graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and worked for some years as an actor, director and stage manager. He directed plays in London and New York. He also spent two years as racing manager for drivers Stirling Moss and Peter Collins.

Yates started in the film industry doing odd jobs such as dubbing foreign films and editing documentaries, eventually becoming a leading assistant director.

He was an assistant director to Mark Robson on 1958’s The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Jack Cardiff on 1960’s Sons and Lovers, Tony Richardson on 1960’s The Entertainer and 1961’s A Taste of Honey, J. Lee Thompson on 1961’s The Guns of Navarone and José Quintero on 1961’s The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, among others. Through the influence of Richardson, he directed Albee’s An American Dream and The Death of Bessie Smith at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

Yates’ first film as director was 1963’s Summer Holiday starring Cliff Richards. After several years of directing episodes of TV’s The Saint starring Roger Moore and Secret Agent starring Patrick McGoohan, he moved to Hollywood where he got his big break with 1968’s Bullitt starring Steve McQueen for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Director. His next two films, 1969’s John and Mary starring Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow and 1971’s Murphy’s War starring Peter O’Toole were disappointments, but his following two, 1972’s The Hot Rock starring Robert Redford George Segal and 1973’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle starring Robert Mitchum were well received.

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Oscar Profile #476: Sophia Loren

Born September 20, 1934 in Rome, Italy, Sophia Scicolone and her younger sister, Maria, were raised by their maternal grandmother in the slums of Pozzuoli, their construction engineer father having refused to divorce his wife and marry the girls’ piano teacher mother.

Encouraged to enter a beauty contest at 14, the young would-be actress was discovered by producer Carlo Ponti who became her mentor and started putting her in films in small roles at the age of 16 where she was alternately billed as Sophia Lazzaro and Scicolone. In 1953, Ponti changed her name to Sophia Loren to broaden her appeal. Loren and Ponti were married by proxy in Mexico in 1957 with lawyers standing in for them as Ponti was not legally divorced from his first wife. The marriage was annulled in 1962 to avoid bigamy charges in Italy. They were remarried in France in 1966 after Ponti obtained a divorce there. They had two sons, Carlo Jr., born in 1968, and Edoardo, born in 1973.

International stardom came for Loren in 1957 with the release of three Hollywood films, Boy on a Dolphin opposite Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb, The Pride and the Passion opposite Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra, and Legend of the Lost opposite John Wayne and Rossano Brazzi. In 1958, she starred opposite Anthony Perkins and Burl Ives in Desire Under the Elms, William Holden and Trevor Howard in The Key, Cary Grant in Houseboat and Anthony Quinn in The Black Orchid.

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Oscar Profile #475: Christmas Movies Updated

With lame cable TV channels now cornering the market on Christmas movies, it’s again worth examining what a treasure occasional big screen movies have been. It’s nice to remember that there once was a time when not every Christmas movie was filmed in Canada in the summer with fake snow and was about the same thing – a young man or woman, usually a woman, returning to his or her roots in small town America after having become a success in the big town, usually New York or Chicago, and finding someone or something in that town that makes him or her wonder why they ever left. None of these films would be considered worthy candidates for Oscars, even if they were released theatrically and therefore considered eligible. It’s worth considering, though, that once upon a time there were Christmas movies that were considered Oscar worthy.

While no film with Christmas as its main theme has ever won a Best Picture Oscar, one film in which the holiday is prominently featured did win the big prize. That was 1960’s bittersweet comedy, The Apartment, which takes place primarily from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Jack Kruschen were nominated for their performances and the film won five of the ten it was nominated for including Best Picture, Director (Billy Wilder) and Original Screenplay (Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond).

Last year’s winner, Green Book, does feature a climax built around getting homefor Christmas, but is not specifically built around the holiday.

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Oscar Profile #474: Edward Lachman

Born March 31, 1948 in Morristown, New Jersey, Edward (Ed) Lachman is the son of Rosabel and Edward Lachman, a movie theatre distributer and owner. He attended Harvard University and studied in France at the University of Tours before pursuing a BFA in painting at Ohio University.

Mentored in cinematography by such masters as Robby Muller (Paris, Texas), Sven Nykvist (Fanny & Alexander) and Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), he learned how to sculp low light from Muller, study natural light from Nykvist and manufacture chiaroscuro light from Storaro.

Lachman’s first screen credit was as associate producer for the 1970 short, Shut Up…I’m Crying. His second was as assistant cameraman on the 1972 documentary, America First. His first credit as a cinematographer was on 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush.

For the next decade, Lachman was the credited cinematographer on a number of documentaries and short subjects, but also worked as an assistant cinematographer and cameraman on such major films as Stroszek, An American Friend, King of the Gypsies, Last Embrace, They All Laughed and Insignificance.

Lachman’s notable works as a cinematographer from the mid-1980s through the end of the 20th Century included Desperately Seeking Susan, Less Than Zero, Mississippi Masala, Light Sleeper, Selena, The Limey and The Virgin Suicides. He achieved even greater fame with 2000’s Erin Brockovich.

Working with director Todd Haynes for the first time on 2002’s Far from Heaven, Lachman received numerous awards include one from the New York Film Critics as well as his first Oscar nomination. In 2006, he was the cinematographer on Robert Altman’s last film, A Prairie Home Companion. In 2007, he reunited with Haynes for I’m Not There. He then worked as cinematographer for Todd Solondz on 2009’s Life During Wartime and Ron Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman on 2010’s Howl.

Lachman was director of cinematography on all five episodes of Todd Haynes’ epic 2011 miniseries, Mildred Pierce, receiving and Emmy nomination for his work on the last episode.

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Oscar Profile #473: Celia Johnson

Born December 18, 1908, Celia “Betty” Johnson was the second child of John Robert and Ethel Collins, who made her first public appearance at the age of 8 in a charity performance of King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid to raise funds for returning World War I soldiers.

The young actress attended St. Paul’s Girl School from 1919-1926 during which she performed in several school productions. She later spent time in Paris studying with Pierre Fresnay and the Comédie Francaise.

Johnson made her stage debut in a 1928 production of Major Barbara and went to London the following year to replace Angela Baddeley in A Hundred Years Old. In 1930 she appeared in Cynara with Gerald DuMaurier and Gladys Cooper and the following year made her first trip to the U.S. where she played Ophelia opposite Raymond Massey in a Broadway production of Hamlet.

The actress returned to London in 1933 where she starred in a two-year run of The Wind and the Rain. In 1939, she married journalist Peter Fleming, the older brother of James Bond author Eric Fleming, giving birth to the first of her three children in 1940. Her career flourished with her starring roles in Pride and Prejudice and Rebecca on the London stage, but she had to curtail her stage work during the remainder of World War II during which time she lived with her widowed sister and sister-in-law helping to care for their combined seven children while being heavily involved in charity work.

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Oscar Profile #472: Thanksgiving Revisited

If this seems familiar, it’s because it’s basically a reprint of last year’s Thanksgiving article.

Holidays have been celebrated in films since their inception. There have been films about virtually all of them. 1942’s Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire is in fact a celebration of all of the U.S. holidays.

We have had films that celebrate those we honor on their birthdays – George Washington (1942’s George Washington Slept Here with Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan) and Abraham Lincoln (1940’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois with Raymond Massey and Ruth Gordon) in the days when those two presidents’ birthdays were separate holidays and more recently, Martin Luther King (2014’s Selma with David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo). Who hasn’t spent at least one 4th of July watching 1942’s Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney and Joan Leslie and/or 1972’s 1776 with William Daniels and Ken Howard?

We’ve had films about Passover (1956’s The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner), films about Easter, both secular (1948’s Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire) and religious (1961’s King of Kings with Jeffrey Hunter and Robert Ryan), films about Election Day (1958’s The Last Hurrah with Spencer Tracy and Pat O’Brien), films about Halloween (1978’s Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance) and films for Memorial Day (1962’s The Longest Day with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum) and Veteran’s Day (2017’s Last Flag Standing with Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne).

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Oscar Profile #471: Richard Widmark

Born December 26, 1914 in Sunrise Township, Minnesota, growing up mostly in Illinois but moving frequently due to his father’s job as a traveling salesman. He attended Lake Forest College where he originally studied law but switched to acting after starring a school production of Counsellor-at-Law which he taught after graduating with a degree in speech in 1936.

Widmark made his radio debut in 1938 in Aunt Jenny’s Real-Life Stories and continued as a radio actor well into the 1940s. He married screenwriter Jean Hazelwood in 1942, a marriage that lasted 55 years until her death in 1997. He made his Broadway debut in 1943’s Kiss and Tell and appeared in four more Broadway plays through 1946.

Making his screen debut as a sociopathic killer in 1947’s Kiss of Death, Widmark was an immediate sensation, stealing the film from star Victor Mature, earning a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer – Male and an Oscar nomination for his performance.

After further villainous roles in The Street with No Name, Road House and Yellow Sky, Widmark was finally given a heroic lead role in 1949’s Down to the Sea in Ships. Now a major star, the actor had major successes with such 1950s films as Night and the City, Panic in the Streets, No Way Out (as another loathsome character), Halls of Montezuma, Don’t Bother to Knock, Pickup on South Street, Hell and High Water, Garden of Evil, Broken Lance, Time Limit, The Law and Jake Wade, Tunnel of Love and Warlock.

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Oscar Profile #470: Haley Joel Osment

Born April 10, 1988 in Los Angeles, California, Haley Joel Osment is the son of teacher Theresa and actor Eugene Osment. He was signed with a talent agent at the age of four. At an audition, he was asked to describe the biggest thing he had ever seen; his description of an IMAX theater screen led to his winning a part in a Pizza Hut TV commercial from which his career took off.
Osment’s first on-screen appearance was in the 1994 TV movie, Lies of the Heart: The Story of Laurie Kellogg followed by his big screen portrayal of Tom Hanks’ son in Forrest Gump for which he received world-wide notice. After several minor roles, he had regular roles in the TV series Thunder Alley (1994-1995), The Jeff Foxworthy Show (1995-1997) and Murphy Brown (1997-1998). His performance as the boy who could see dead people in the 1998 megahit The Sixth Sense co-starring Bruce Willis and Toni Collette made him one of the most popular child actors of his day earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Cast in numerous films following his Oscar nomination, he was seen in major roles in numerous other films including 2000’s Pay It Forward with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt for which he won a Blockbuster award, 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence with Jude Law and Frances O’Connor for which he won a Saturn award, 2001’s Edges of the Lord with Willem Dafoe and Liam Hess and 2003’s Secondhand Lions with Michael Caine and Robert Duvall for which he won a Critics’ Choice award.

Osment provided voiceovers for numerous videos including Chip in 1997’s Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, Zephyr in 2002’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame II for which he was nominated for a Young Artists award and Mowgli in 2003’s The Jungle Book 2 for which he was again nominated for a Young Artists award.

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Oscar Profile #469: James Cromwell

Born January 27, 1940 in Los Angeles, CA and raised in Manhattan, New York, James Cromwell is the son of actress Kay Johnson (Madam Satan) and actor-director John Cromwell (Since You Went Away). His parents divorced in 1946 the year the senior Cromwell married actress Ruth Nelson (Wilson).

The younger Cromwell studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon and like his parents and stepmother, went into the theatre appearing in everything from Shakespeare to experimental plays. He made his TV debut in 1974 in an episode of The Rockford Files and that same year appeared in three episodes of All in the Family as Archie Bunker’s friend, Stretch Cunningham. He made his feature film debut in 1976’s Murder by Death, the year he married first wife Anne Ulvestad with whom he had three children before divorcing in 1986. That same year he married Julie Cobb, the actress daughter of actor Lee J. Cobb.

A familiar face on both TV shows and films, Cromwell become a name player with his Oscar nominated performance in 1995’s Babe. Subsequent films of the 1990s included The People vs, Larry Flynt, L.A. Confidential for which he was nominated for a SAG award as member of the ensemble, Babe: Pig in the City, The General’s Daughter, Snow Falling on Cedars and The Green Mile for which he was once again nominated for a SAG award as a member of the ensemble.

Cromwell continued to alternate between TV and film and played his first famous person in the 1999 TV movie RKO 281 in which he received an Emmy nomination as William Randolph Hearst in the film about the making of Citizen Kane. He later played Lynden Johnson in the 2002 TV movie RFK. Still later, he later played England’s Prince Philip on the big screen in 2007’s The Queen and the following year played George H.W. Bush in W.

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Oscar Profile #468: Dorothy Malone

Born January 29, 1924 in Chicago, Illinois, Mary Dorothy Maloney was one of five children born to an AT&T auditor and his wife. When she was six months old, the family moved to Dallas, Texas where she grew up, her two older sisters dying of complications from polio.

Intent on becoming a nurse, Maloney minored in drama at Southern Methodist University where she was discovered by a talent agent and signed by RKO at 18 as Dorothy Maloney. The attractive brunette made her film debut in an unbilled part in 1943’s Gildersleeve on Broadway and appeared in a number of minor roles until RKO dropped her contract in 1945. Migrating to Warner Bros. as Dorothy Malone, she began to be noticed in such films as Night and Day and The Big Sleep. Despite her minor success at Warner’s, the studio dropped her in 1949.

Working as insurance secretary back home in Dallas, Malone on a business trip to New York, decided to stay and return to acting by studying with the American Theatre Wing and finding occasional roles on television. Back on screen as a brunette, her career took a turn for the better when she turned platinum blonde to play Doris Day’s sister in 1954’s Young at Heart, followed by a sensational turn in 1955’s Battle Cry in which she was once again brunette. She went blonde again for 1956’s Written on the Wind which won her the 1957 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, an award she dedicated to a brother who had recently died from a lightning strike while golfing in Dallas.

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Oscar Profile #467: Olympia Dukakis

Born June 20, 1931 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Olympia Dukakis is the daughter of Greek immigrants. She is a first cousin of 1988 Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis (born 1933).

Dukakis majored in physical therapy at Boston University, graduating with a BA. She practiced as a therapist during the polio epidemic, later returning to Boston University where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree.

Primarily known as a theatre actress and director prior to exploding into the international consciousness with her Oscar-winning performance in 1987’s Moonstruck, Dukakis has had a long career in television as well theatre and film, having made her TV debut in 1951 in Search for Tomorrow. She gave strong performances in 1962 episodes of The Nurses and Dr. Kildare, the same year she married her husband, actor Louis Zorich with whom she had three children and to whom she would remain married until his death in 2018.

Dukakis made her Broadway debut as understudy to three other actresses in 1962’s The Aspern Papers. The following year she won an Obie for her performance in Off-Broadway’s A Man’s a Man.

Among the actress’s early film appearances were those in 1964’s Lilith, 1969’s John and Mary, 1970’s Made for Each Other, 1972’s Sisters, 1974’s Death Wish, 1979’s Rich Kids and 1980’s The Idolmaker. After winning her Oscar, Dukakis appeared in a minor role in 1988’s Working Girl after which all her roles were major ones.

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Oscar Profile #466: Robert Forster

Born July 13, 1941 in Rochester, New York, Robert Forster was the son of an animal trainer for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, wo later became an executive for a banking supply company, and his wife. His parents divorced in 1949.

Forster first became interested in acting while performing in school plays in his local high school. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Rochester University in 1964. He made his Broadway debut opposite Arlene Francis in 1965’s Mrs. Dally Has a Lover and his film debut in John Huston’s 1967 film, Reflections in a Golden Eye with Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, in-between which he married first wife June with whom he would have three daughters. He also had a son born from a previous relationship in 1965.

After major supporting roles in Robert Mulligan’s 1968 film, The Stalking Moon with Gregory Peck and Eva Marie Saint and George Cukor’s 1969 film, Justine with Anouk Aimée and Dirk Bogarde, he was given the starring role in Haskell Wexler’s 1969 film, Medium Cool opposite Verna Bloom.

With starring roles in two 1970 films, Pieces of Dreams opposite Lauren Hutton and Cover Me Babe opposite Sondra Locke, Forster seemed to have a lucrative scree career ahead of him, but neither film was a major success and he next found himself playing the title role in the 1971-73 TV detective series, Banyon with Joan Blondell and Richard Jaeckel in principal support. In 1974, he had the title role in a second TV series, Nakia and from 1975-77 he was prominently featured in the Police Story anthology series.

Having been divorced from his first wife in 1975, Forster married second wife Zivia in 1978 from whom he would become divorced in 1980.

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Oscar Profile #465: Alexander Knox

Born January 16, 1907 in Ontario, Canada to a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Alexander Knox was educated at the University of Western Ontario where he studied English literature and also dabbled in acting, his first stage role being in the title role of a university production of Hamlet. Upon graduation in 1929, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he worked as a journalist for the Boston Post while simultaneously pursuing a career in acting. After the stock market crash, he returned to Ontario where he worked as a journalist for the London Advertiser. A year later he moved to London, England where he met producer Tyrone Guthrie who put him on the stage at the Old Vic where he appeared in plays with his contemporaries, Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier.

Knox made his film debut in an uncredited role in 1931’s The Ringer. Subsequent British films included the classics, Rembrandt and The Four Feathers in which he had minor roles. Returning to the States, he made his Broadway debut as Friar Lawrence in Olivier’s 1940 production of Romeo and Juliet in support of Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Later that year, he starred opposite Jessica Tandy in A.J. Cronin’s Jupiter Laughs.

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