Category: Oscar Profile

Oscr Profile #626: Edmund Gwenn

Born September 26, 1877 in London, England, Edmund John Kellaway was the eldest son of a British civil servant who expected his son to follow in his footsteps. However, young Kellaway had a mind of his own and was determined to become an actor against his father’s wishes. Changing his name to Edmund Gwenn, he made his stage debut at 18 in 1895. He made his first appearance in London’s West End in 1899. In 1901, he married actress Minnie Terry (1882-1964), a member of the third generation of the famed Terry family of actors. Ellen Terry was her aunt, John Gielgud her nephew.

Gwenn’s younger brother Arthur (1881-1949), whose stage name was Arthur Chesney, had a longer lasting career on the London stage than he did. Chesney was at one time married to Estelle Winwood (1883-1984). His cousin Cecil Kellaway (1890-1973), like Gwenn, would become a two-time Oscar nominee.

Allegedly, Gween and Terry were only married for a few days, if not a few hours, but did not divorce until 1916. In the meantime, they were frequently paired together on stage.

Gwenn made his film debut in 1916 in The Real Thing at Last but didn’t become a regular contributor to film until the 1930s when he appeared in such films as The Skin Game, Waltzes from Vienna, and The Bishop Misbehaves. On Broadway in 1935’s Laburnum Grove, he was summoned to Hollywood to play Katharine Hepburn’s father in Sylvia Scarlet and with rare exception, stayed there for the rest of his life.

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Oscar Profile #625: Burl Ives

Born June 14, 1909 in Hunt City, Illinois, Burl Ives was one of seven siblings born tp a farming family. A prolific singer all his life, Ives first sang in public for a soldiers’ reunion when he was age 4. In high school, he learned the banjo and played fullback, intending to become a football coach when he enrolled at Eastern Illinois State Teacher’s College in 1927. He dropped out in 1930 and wandered, hitching rides, doing odd jobs, street singing.

On Broadway in 1938’s The Boys from Syracuse, by 1940 he had his own radio show on CBS calling it Wayfaring Stranger after one of his famous ballads. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, he was baack on Broadway in uniform in Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army later that year. He married his first wife, Hellen Peck Ehrlich, in 1945 with whom he had a son. He would make his film debut in a supporting role in 1946’s Smoky.

In another supporting role in 1948’s Green Grass of Wyoming, in 1949 he was top billed over Beulah Bondi and Bobby Driscoll in So Dear to My Heart for which “Lavender Blue”, the song he introduced in the film, was nominated for an Oscar.

Blacklisted in 1950, he returned to Broadway as Cap’n Andy in the 1954 revival of Show Boat before creating his most famous stage role as Big Daddy in 1955’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He was back on screen in 1955’s East of Eden and 1956’s The Power and the Prize.

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Oscar Profile #624: Terry Moore

Born January 7, 1929 in Glendale, California, Helen Luella Koford grew up in a Mormon family. She worked as a child model before making her film debut in 1940. Either unbilled or billed under various names during her first eight years in films, her early appearances were in such films as The Howards of Virginia, My Gal Sal, Gaslight (playing Ingrid Bergman’s character as a child), Since You Went Away, The Clock, and Summer Holiday.

The actress changed her name to Terry Moore in 1948, signing a long-term contract with Columbia. Her first film for Columbia was The Return of October opposite Glenn Ford. Her next film was on loan-out to RKO for the lead in 1949’sMighty Joe Young. That was followed by a loan-out to George Pal Productions for The Great Rupert in support of Jimmy Durante.

Moore claimed after the death of Howard Hughes, her one-time boss at RKO, in 1976 that were married at sea in 1949 and never divorced even though she subsequently married and divorced three other men, not caring if that made her a bigamist or not. She had two children with the third, Stuart Cramer.

Back at Columbia, Moore appeared opposite Mickey Rooney in He’s a Cockeyed Wonder, Victor Mature in Gambling House, Edmond O’Brien in Two of a Kind, Frankie Laine in Sunny Side of the Street, and Robert Cummings in The Barefoot Mailman. On loan-out to Paramount, she co-starred with Burt Lancaster and Shirley Booth in 1952’s Come Back, Little Sheba for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She then signed a long-term contract with 20th Century-Fox.

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Oscar Profile #623: Marisa Pavan

Born June 19, 1932 in Sardinia, Italy, Maria Luisa Pierangeli and her fraternal twin sister, Anna Maria Pierangeli would both become stars in the 1950s.

Anna became an actress first, discovered by Vittorio De Sica for 1950’s Tomorrow Is Too Late for which she won an Italian Syndicate of Journalists award for Best Newcomer, after which the family moved to Hollywood where both girls would emerge as popular players in the 1950s, Anna (now called Pier Angeli) with 1951’s Teresa and Maria (now called Marisa Pavan) with 1952’s What Price Glory?. Pavan was the name of a Jewish officer the family had kept hidden from the Nazis in Rome during World War II.

Angeli would have a high-profile romance with James Dean while he was making East of Eden and she was making The Silver Chalice but later that year she would marry singer Vic Damone with whom she would have a son before divorcing in 1958. She would remain popular with such films as Somebody Up There Likes Me, Merry Andrew, and Battle of the Bulge, marry again in 1962, have a second child, divorce in 1965, and die of a barbiturate overdose in 1971 at 39.

Pavan had major supporting roles in 1954’s Down Three Dark Streets and Drum Beat but it took her portrayal of Anna Magnani’s daughter in 1955’s The Rose Tattoo for her to attract critical attention, earning an Oscar nomination for her performance.

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Oscar Profile #622: Irwin Shaw

Born February 27, 1913 in the Borough of the Bronx in New York, New York, Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff and his younger brother, David, were the sons of Russian-Jewish immigrants who changed their last name to Shaw when they entered college. He wrote several scripts for radio dramas in the 1930s, writing his first screenplay in 1935 when he was just 21 years old.

A prolific writer of short stories, novels, and plays as well as screenplays and teleplays for decades, his works are still being adapted for television predominantly in Europe.

Shaw’s first screenplay was for 1936’s The Big Gamble. He married actress-producer Marian Edwards in 1939. They had one child and would divorce in 1967 but they would remarry fifteen years later in 1982.

Shaw’s second screenplay was for 1941’s Out of the Fog based on his play of the same name. His third was for 1942’s The Talk of the Town for which he and co-writer Sidney Buchman were nominated for an Oscar for their screenplay.

After writing the screenplay for 1942’s The Commandos Strike at Dawn, Shaw was approached by William Wyler to join his film unit but unable to be commissioned as an officer, he joined the Regular Army. Sometime later, the Army, noting his background, sent him to work in the George Stevens film unit where he participated in Stevens’ war footage.

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Oscar Profile #621: Franz Planer

Born March 29, 1894, Franz Planer was born into a wealthy family in Karlsbad, Austria-Hungary, now part of the Czech Republic.

The Planer family was very influential, owning large tracts of farmland, businesses, libraries, and shops, including several properties in and around Vienna, some of which were stolen by several low-ranking officers for their own families’ use in the mid to late 1930s using falsely issued papers and threats.

Planer worked as a portrait painter in Vienna in 1910, filming his first newsreels in Paris in 1919. In 1920, he became the chief cameraman for Emelka, the Munich based German studio that would later become Bavaria Studios. During the 1920s and early 1930s he acquired a reputation for style, having worked as cinematographer for such renown directors as F.W. Murnau and William Thiele.

Anticipating the Anschluss, the forcible annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany under Hitler, Planer left Austria in 1937. He joined the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and worked under contract at Columbia from 1938-45, going to Universal in 1947-48 and returning to Columbia in 1949, turning independent in 1950, eventually making more than 160 films.

Planer’s first film for Columbia was George Cukor’s 1938 classic, Holiday, but it was his first film for Universal, Max Ophul’s 1948 classic, Letter from an Unknown Woman that made critics as well as audiences sit up and take notice of his exquisite cinematography. In 1949 he had major successes for both Universal with Criss Cross, and Columbia with Champion, for which he received his first Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, winning the Globe.

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Oscar Profile #620: Angela Lansbury Revisited

Born October 16, 1925, the daughter of actress Moyna MacGill and socialist politician, Edgar Lansbury, whose father was 1930s Labor Party leader, George Lansbury, aspiring actress Angela Lansbury was greatly influenced by the careers of Hollywood stars Deana Durbin and Irene Dunne. After her father’s death, she, along with twin brothers Edgar and Bruce were evacuated to Montreal on the last boatload to leave England during the blitz. From there they went to New York and eventually to Hollywood where she worked in a department store while her mother became part of the British émigré establishment. There she met the casting director of Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray who put her in both for which she would earn Oscar nominations in 1944 and 1945.

Briefly married to actor Richard Cromwell, she excelled in other films of the mid-1940s including
National Velvet, The Harvey Girls, State of the Union and Samson and Delilah. She married second husband Peter Shaw in 1949 with whom she would have three children.

The actress continued to play strong character roles in major films, with an occasional lead in a B film through the 1950s and early 1960s. Her best roles during this period were as Orson Welles’ mistress in The Long, Hot Summer, Robert Preston’s mistress in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Warren Beatty and Brandon de Wilde’s mother in All Fall Down and of course,, Laurence Harvey’s mother in The Manchurian Candidate, for which she received her third Oscar nomination.

She won good notices for her Broadway roles in A Taste of Honey and Anyone Can Whistle, before becoming a Broadway legend with Jerry Herman’s Mame for which she won the first of five Tonys in 1966. She would win again in 1969 for Dear World, in 1975 for the revival of Gypsy, in 1979 for Sweeney Todd and in 2009 for the revival of Blithe Spirit.

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Oscar Profile #619: Don Murray Revisited

Born July 31, 1929 in Hollywood, California, Don Murray was the son of Broradway dance director and stage manager, Dennis Murray and his wife Ethel, a former Ziegfeld Follies dancer,

Raised in the New York City suburbs, Murray graduated from East Rockaway High School in 1947 and then studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Soon after graduating in 1951, he made his Broadway debut as the sailor in The Rose Tattoo. He made his film debut in 1956’s Bus Stop opposite Marilyn Monroe, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He married his young co-star from that film, Hope Lange, that same year. Lange would receive an Oscar nomination of her own the following year for Peyton Place.

Eminently successful right off the bat, Murray had the starring roles in two highly successful 1957 films, The Bachelor Party for which Carolyn Jones received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress and A Hatful of Rain for which Anthony Franciosa, third billed behind Eva Marie Sant and Murray received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He was then seen in 1958’s From Hell to Texas opposite Diane Varsi, 1959’s These Thousand Hills co-starring Richard Egan, Lee Remick, Patricia Owens and Stuart Whitman, and the same year’s Shake Hands with the Devil co-starring James Cagney, Dana Wynter and Glynis Johns.

Murray was divorced from Lange, with whom he had two children, in 1961. He married second wife Bettie Johnson in 1962, with whom he would eventually have three children. Lange would marry her second husband, producer-director Alan J. Pakula in 1963.

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Oscar Profile #618: James Whitmore

Born October 1, 1921 in White Plains, New York to a park commission official and his wife, James Whitmore went to Choate school in Waterford, Connecticut on a football scholarship and then Yale University where he turned to acting after suffering a knee injury. He joined the U.S. Marines at the outbreak of World War II.

After the war, Whitmore studied at the American Theatre Wing and the Actors Studio. It was around this time that he met his first wife, Nancy Mygatt, with whom he would have three children including TV director, James Whitmore Jr. He made his Broadway debut in Command Decision in 1947, for which he won a Tony.

MGM bought the film rights to Command Decision but gave his role to Van Johnson in the 1948 film version. He was third billed behind Glenn Ford and Nina Foch in his first film, 1949’s The Undercover Man. His second film was the same year’s Battleground in which Van Johnson was top-billed, and Whitmore ninth, but it was Whitmore who earned the film’s best reviews in the Oscar nominated film. He won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance.

Major roles followed for the actor in The Asphalt Jungle, The Next Voice You Hear, Mrs. O’Malley and Mister Malone, Angels in the Outfield, The Red Badge of Courage, Above and Beyond, Kiss Me Kate, All the Brothers Were Valient, Them! , Battle Cry, The McConnell Story, Oklahoma! , The Eddy Duchin Story, and Crime in the Streets.

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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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