Category: Oscar Profile

Oscar Profile #617: Darryl Hickman

Born July 28, 1931 in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, California, Darryl Hickman was the older son of Milton and Katherine Hickman. His father was an insurance salesman and mother a housewife. Hickman’s younger actor brother Dwayne was born in 1934. As of 1940 the family was living with their maternal grandfather, Louis Henry Ostertag, a US Navy seaman on Commodore Dewey’s flagship, the cruiser USS Olympia. He was awarded the Dewey Medal for his role in the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898.

Hickman was discovered by a dance-school director where he later performed, leading to a contract with Paramount. His first role was as Ronald Colman’s son in 1937’s The Prisoner of Zenda. He next played a child in Colman’s 1938 film, If I Were King. His first outstanding role was as Winfield Joad, the youngest son in the impoverished family in 1940’s The Grapes of Wrath. Later that year he appeared in Shirley Temple’s last film at 20th Century-Fox, Young People.

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Oscar Profile #616: William Holden Revisited

Born William Franklin Beedle, Jr. on April 17, 1918 in O’Fallon, Illinois, the future William Holden moved to Pasadena, California with his family when he was three. He was discovered by a Paramount film scout while appearing in a school play at Pasadena Junior College and given a contract by the studio. After two minor roles, he auditioned for and won the title part of the young man who must choose between the violin and boxing in 1939’s Golden Boy opposite screen legend Barbara Stanwyck. The film was a huge hit, as was 1940’s Our Town in which he starred opposite Martha Scott who received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

Married to actress Brenda Marshall in 1941, his contract was now co-owned by Columbia, obligating Holden to make films for both studios in which he was repeatedly cast as the affable boy next door.

After time out for World War II service, Holden was once again cast as the boy next door. That changed with his portrayal of the Hollywood gigolo in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, a role he was given after Montgomery Clift turned it down. In three other major films that year including Father Is a Bachelor; Union Station and Born Yesterday, Holden received his first Oscar nomination for Sunset Boulevard.

With his second nomination for 1953’s Stalag 17 became an Oscar winner and a major star after which he startred in a numer of popular films.

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Oscar Profile #425: Paul Newman Revisited

Born January 26, 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio to Theresa (née Fetsko) and Arthur Newman, who ran a profitable sporting goods store, Paul Newman would become a world-famous actor, director, professional racing car driver and humanitarian. He would receive numerous awards throughout his career including nine Oscar nominations and one win for acting, a nomination for producing, and two honorary awards. With twelve citations from the Academy, he is tied with Jack Nicholson with twelve acting nominations and three wins. They are second only to Laurence Olivier among actors with multiple citations. Olivier has thirteen including ten nominations for acting and one win, along with one for nomination directing and two honorary awards.

Newman, who caught the acting bug early, made his debut in a school play as the court jester in a production of Robin Hood at the age of 7.

After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II he completed his B.A. in Drama at Kenyon College in Gambler, Ohio in 1949. In minor TV roles from 1949, he made his Broadway debut in the original 1953 production of Picnic in the role Cliff Robertson would play on screen. Quickly picked up by Hollywood in 1954, Newman’s first big screen role was as the Greek sculptor in The Silver Chalice, one of a myriad of biblical films in fashion at the time. Although Newman loathed the film and his performance in it, it hardly hurt his career.

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Oscar Profile #614: Bing Crosby

The most popular entertainer of his time, Bing Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1903.

He was a rising star when he married his first wife, Dixie Lee in 1930. She was a well-known singer and actress while he was still struggling to make his name. After the success of his single “I Surrender Dear” in 1932, that name was made. On the radio from 1931, he performed in that medium at least once a week until 1962.

In films in minor roles from 1930, he had his first starring role in 1932’s The Big Broadcast and continued to play easygoing characters more or less resembling his radio persona, introducing many popular songs, most notably “White Christmas” from Holiday Inn, his recording of which sold more than 1,000,000 copies and won the Oscar for Best Song of 1942.

He stretched his acting muscles to play a parish priest in conflict with Barry Fitzgerald as his curmudgeonly superior in 1944’s Going My Way. That portrayal won him an Oscar and made him the number one box office star for the next five years. He reprised the role in the sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s, the following year and became the first actor to receive Oscar nominations for playing the same character in two different films.

In 1948, a poll named him the most popular man in the world over runners-up Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jackie Robinson, and Pope Pius XII. According to the Motion Picture Almanac, his combined films have sold more tickets than any other actor in movie history except Clark Gable and John Wayne.

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Oscar Profile #613: Christopher Nolan

Born July 30, 1970 in London, England, Christopher Nolan is the son of a British advertising executive and an American flight attendant and English teacher. He holds dual British and American citizenship as does his younger brother and sometimes collaborator, Jonathan.

Nolan began making short films with his father’s Super 8 camera when he was 7. His primary influences were 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars.

After obtaining his degree in English literature in 1993, Nolan worked as script reader, camera operator and director of corporate videos and industrial films. He married his college sweetheart, Emma Thomas, in 1997 with whom he has four children. Emma has been a producer on all his films.

Nolan’s first film was 1998’s Following. His second was 2000’s Memento which was nominated for 2 Oscars, one for its screenplay cowritten by Nolan and his brother Jonathan.

Next up was Insomnia, Nolan’s remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name with a cast led by Oscar winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank. He followed that with 2005’s Batman Begins, the first film in his Dark Knight trilogy starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman. It was nominated for an Oscar for its cinematography.

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Oscar Profile #612: Gina Lollobrigida

Born July 4, 1927, Gina Lollobrigida is an Italian actress, photojournalist, and politician who is running for the Italian Senate in next month’s elections at the age of 95.

Lollobrigida made her film debut in minor roles in 1946. Coming in third in 1947’s Miss Italy contest, she gained national exposure. In 1949 she married Miko Skofic, a Slovenian physician. They had a son born in 1957. Given a contract at RKO by Howard Hughes in 1950, she refused to move to Hollywood, prompting him to hold onto the contract even after he sold RKO in 1955, forbidding her to make a film in the U.S. through 1959.

In 1952, she starred opposite Gerard Philippe in the French-made Fan Fan the Tulip. She received her first awards recognition with the 1953 Italian film, Bread, Love and Dreams for which she was nominated for a BAFTA as Best Foreign Actress the following year. Although not allowed to make films in the U.S., she did, however, film John Huston’s 1953 film, Beat the Devil co-starring Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones in English in Italy and Carol Reed’s 1956 film, Trapeze in English in Paris opposite Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. The internationally successful French made 1956 version of The Hunchback in Notre Dame provided her with top billing over Anthony Quinn in the title role.

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Oscar Profile #611: Bruce Dern

Born June 4, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois into a prominent American family, Bruce Dern’s mother was the niece of poet Archibald MacLeish and his father was the son of former Utah Governor and sitting Secretary of War under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George Dern. His godfather was future Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson.

A lifelong avid runner and track star in high school, Dern tried out for the Olympic Trials in 1956. Studying at the Actors Studio under Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg, he made his Broadway debut in 1958 in Sweet Bird of Youth in support of Paul Newman and Geraldine Page. He made his film debut in 1960 in Wild River in support of Montgomery Clift and Lee Remick, gaining prominence as Bette Davis’ murdered lover in 1964’s Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Married to Marie Dawn Pierce in 1957, they divorced in 1959. Dern married actress Diane Ladd in 1960, the mother of his daughter, actress Laura Dern. He and Dern were divorced in 1969, the year he married third wife Andrea Beckett with whom he has been married ever since.

Dern’s career took off in a big way with his strong supporting roles as a marathon runner in 1969’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and as the cattle thief who kills John Wayne in 1970’s The Cowboys. In 1972, he costarred with Jack Nicholson in The King of Marvin Gardens and in 1974 he co-starred with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe. In 1975 he starred in the hit comedy, Smile, and in 1976 he was one of four stars of Alfred Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot.

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Oscar Profile #610: Jeremy Irons

Born September 19, 1948 on the Isle of Wight, England to an accountant and his wife, Jeremy Irons is an award-winning British actor. He trained at the Bristol Old Vic where he made his professional stage debut in 1969.

By 1971, Irons firmly established his stage career as John the Baptist opposite David Essex as Jesus in the long-running musical Godspell at the Roundhouse and Wyndham’s Theatre. He made his TV debut in 1971 in an episode of The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes and has seldom been away from the medium since. Briefly married and divorced in 1969, he married Sinead Cusack of the Cusack acting dynasty in 1978. Their sons Samuel (born 1978) and Max (born 1985) have both acted in his films.

Irons made his film debut in 1980 in Nijinsky. His award-winnign performance in TV’s Brideshead Revisited in 1981 established his international reputation. He had his big screen breakout role that same year opposite Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

The actor made his Broadway debut opposite Glenn Close in 1984’s The Real Thing for which he won a Tony.

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Oscar Profile #609: Peter Bogdanovich

Born July 30, 1939 in Kingston, New York, the son of a pianist and painter and his wife, Peter Bogdanovich grew up loving movies. From the age of 12 in 1952, he kept a record of every film he saw on index cards complete with reviews and continued to do so until 1970. He saw up to 400 films a year. After graduating from New York’s Collegiate school in 1957, he studied acting at the Stella Adler Conservatory.
In the early 1960s, Bogdanovich was a film programmer at the Museum of Modern Art where he programmed influential retrospectives and wrote monographs for the films of Orson Welles, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, and Allan Dwan. Before becoming a director himself, he wrote for Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, and Cahiers du Cinéma as a film critic. He married future film producer and designer Polly Platt in 1962. They moved to Hollywood in 1966 where Bogdanovich went to work for producer-director Roger Corman. Their daughters Antonia and Sashy were born in 1967 and 1970, respectively.

After working for Corman on 1966’s The Wild Angels and 1968’s Targets, he made his own sensational directorial debut with 1971’s The Last Picture Show for which he was heralded as one of the great new directors. He and Platt were divorced during the making of the film. He then entered into an eight-year relationship with Cybill Shepherd, a former model who made her acting debut in the film. Bogdanovich’s professional relationship with Platt, however, continued through his next two highly acclaimed films, 1972’s What’s Up, Doc? and Paper Moon after which she had a highly successful career on her own.

Bogdanovich’s next three films, 1974’s Daisy Miller, 1975’s At Long Last Love, and 1976’s Nickelodeon were critical and commercial failures. 1979’s Saint Jack, however, brought him renewed critical attention. His next film, 1981’s The All Laughed featured a supporting performance by Dorothy Stratton a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair during the making of the film. She was murdered by her ex-husband shortly after completing the film. He married her sister Louise in 1988 when she was 20 and he was 49. They divorced in 2001.

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Oscar Profile #608: Benedict Cumberbatch

Born July 19, 1976 in London, England, Benedict Cumberbatch is the son of actors Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton (born Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch). He is a grandson of submarine commander Henry Carlton Cumberbatch who fought in both World Wars and a great-grandson of diplomat Henry Arnold Cumberbatch, Queen Victoria’s Council General in Turkey and Lebanon.

Cumberbatch began acting while attending prestigious Harrow on an arts scholarship, taking a year off to teach English at a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling, India. An acclaimed star of stage, screen, and TV, it was his BAFTA nominated portrayal of Stephen Hawking in the 2004 TV film, Hawking, that first brought him worldwide attention. His first significant screen role was in 2006’s Amazing Grace for which he was nominated for a breakthrough award from the London Critics Circle.

A firm believer in the adage that there is no such thing as a small part for an actor, Cumberbatch has alternated between starring and supporting roles ever since. In supporting roles in 2007’s Atonement and 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl, he achieved his greatest success to date as a modern Sherlock Holmes in the 2010 TV series Sherlock which completed four seasons over an eight-year period, ending in 2017. In-between, he had had major supporting roles in two 2011 Oscar-nominated films, The War Horse and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the 2012 Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave and 2013 film August: Osage County for which both Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were nominated for Oscars.

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Oscar Profile #607: Ernest Borgnine

Born January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut, Ermes Effron Borgnino, known professionally as Ernest Borgnine, was the son of Italian immigrants. His parents separated when he was two years old, and he spent the next four and a half years liiving in Italy with his mother. His parents then reconciled, moving to New Haven, Connecticut where his younger sister was born in 1924.

A sports kid, Borgnine did not grow up with an interest in acting. He joined the U.S. Navy upon graduation from high school in 1935. He left the Navy in 1945 with no idea what he would do with the rest of life. It was his mother who suggested acting which he then studied in Connecticut and Virginia where he made his stage debut in a production of State of the Union. That was followed by a stint as the gentleman caller in The Glass Menagerie. He made his Broadway debut in 1947 as one of the nurses in Harvey. He married first wife Rhoda Kemins in 1949 with whom he had a daughter.

Borgnine made his film debut in 1951’s The Whistle at Eaton Falls. Two years later he made a major impression as the sadistic Sergeant “Fatso” Judson in From Here to Eternity, followed by more memorable villain roles in such films as Johnny Guitar, Vera Cruz, and Bad Day at Black Rock. His change of pace role as the sensitive, warmhearted butcher in 1955’s Marty won him a Best Actor Oscar.

The actor rounded out the decade alternating between villains and sensitive, caring individuals in such varied films as Jubal, The Catered Affair, Three Brave Men, The Vikings, The Badlanders, and Torpedo Run.

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Oscar Profile #606: Lee J. Cobb

Born December 8, 1911 in Bronx, New York, Lee J. Cobb (born Leo Jacoby) was interested in acting from an early age. He ran away from home at 16, joining the Harmonica Rascals with whom he made a short subject in Hollywood in 1929 before returning to New York where he studied accounting at New York University while working as a radio salesman. Still interested in show business, he then returned to Hollywood where he studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Cobb made his Broadway debut in a short-lived 1935 revival of Crime and Punishment but it was in old age makeup as John Garfield’s father in the 1937 production of Golden Boy that made him a name to be reckoned with. He reprised the role in the 1939 film version with William Holden in the title role.

The actor married Yiddish theatre actress Helen Beverley in 1940 with whom he would have two children including actress Julie Cobb. The early 1940s were a busy time for him alternating between such Broadway productions as 1941’s Clash by Night and 1943’s Winged Victory and such films as 1941’s Men of Boys Town, 1943’s The Moon Is Down and The Song of Bernadette, and the 1944 film version of Winged Victory.

The late 1940s proved a prolific period in Cobb’s career as he had major roles in such films as 1946’s Anna and the King of Siam, 1947’s Boomerang! and Captain from Castile, 1948’s Call Northside 777, The Miracle of the Bells, The Luck of the Irish and The Dark Past, and 1949’s Thieves’ Highway. Also in 1949, he starred in Broadway’s Death of a Salesman giving a performance still considered one of the greatest in Broadway history.

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Oscar Profile #605: Robert Wise

Born September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Indiana, Robert Wise was the youngest of three sons of a meatpacker and his wife. An avid moviegoer, he came into the film business through an odd job at RKO Radio Pictures when he was 19.

Initially a protégé to a sound effects editor, he worked in that capacity on such classic films as The Gay Divorcée, Top Hat, and The Informer. He became an assistant film editor on 1939’s The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and a full editor on the same year’s Bachelor Mother. He followed that with Fifth Avenue Girl, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, My Favorite Wife, Dance, Girl, Dance, Citizen Kane, The Devil and Daniel Webster, and The Magnificent Ambersons.

Filling in for Orson Welles to direct additional scenes on 1942’s The Magnificent Ambersons led to Wise’s promotion to director on RKO’s 1944 classic horror film, The Curse of the Cat People. His work as a director continued with one success after another including such high points as 1945’s The Body Snatcher, 1948’s Blood on the Moon and 1949’s The Set-Up.

At Warner Bros. in 1950, he directed Three Secrets. Moving over to 20th Century-Fox for 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still and The House on Telegraph Hill, he was back at Warner Bros. for 1953’s So Big. He directed 1954’s Executive Suite for which he received his first Directors Guild of America nomination, 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes Me for which he received his second DGA nomination, and 1957’s Until They Sail for MGM.

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Oscar Profile #604: Oscar’s Tenth Decade (2018-2021)

Peter Farrelly’s Green Book won Best Picture of 2018 over Best Director Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, kicking off the decade. Among the other six nominees were Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. Not nominated were such films as Damien Chazelle’s First Man and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed.

2019’s Best Picture award went for the first time to a foreign language film, Best Director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite which also took home the award for Best Foreign Language Film. Among the nine nominees were Sam Mendes’ 1917 and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman but not Fernando Meirelles’ The Two Popes or Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse.

Oscar’s 2020 Best Picture and Director Oscars went to Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland in an eight-film race over such films as Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari and Darius Marder’s Sound of Metal. Among the films not nominated were Regina King’s One Night in Miami… and Kevin Macdonald’s The Mauritanian during the Covid-19 pandemic in which the eligibility period was extended through February 2021.

For 2021’s shortened ten-month eligibility period, Oscar gave its Best Picture award to Sian Heder’s crowd-pleasing CODA while giving its Best Director award to Jane Campion’s vastly superior The The Power of the Dog. Included among the ten nominees were Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast and Ryusuki Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car. Among those not nominated were Fran Kranz’s Mass and Rebecca Hall’s Passing.

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Oscar Profile #603: Oscar’s Ninth Decade (2008-2017)

Best Director Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture of 2008 as Oscar ended its 65-year tradition of five nominees in the category. It won over David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, Gus Van Sant’s Milk, and Stephen Daldry’s The Reader. Not nominated were such films as John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.

For the first time since 1944, 2009’s Oscar’s Best Picture slate extended beyond five films. Despite ten nominees, the race was considered to be between just two films, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker which won Best Picture and director over her former husband James Cameron’s Avatar. The extended list of nominees included Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterdsand Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air but not Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon or Jim Sheridan’s Brothers.

Oscar’s 2010 Best Picture and Director Oscars went to Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech in a close race with David Fincher’s The Social Network. Included among the ten nominees were David O. Russell’s The Fighter and Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right but not Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go or Matt Reeves’ Let Me In.

For 2011, Oscar gave its Best picture and Director awards to Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist over Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Included among the nine nominees were Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Clear but not Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation or Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men.

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