Monday, February 28, 2011

Jane Russell, 1921-2011

We here at the Monkey pause to note the passing of one our favorite actresses, Jane Russell. As my big brother noted an e-mail, "in 'the day,' she was hot, hot, hot."

She was indeed.

I am of an age that my first introduction to Jane Russell was during her stint as a foundation undergarment spokesperson "for us full-figured gals," as she put it. I was a little too young to understand what part of her figure she was referring to. Later I figured it out. Hubba hubba.

Probably her most famous role was her first, The Outlaw, in which she co-starred with a cantilevered bra designed by Howard Hughes and his team of aeronautical engineers. Truth be told, it's not a very good movie and she didn't wear the bra anyway. Filming was completed in 1941, but Hollywood's censors delayed its release until 1943, with a nationwide release not coming until 1946.

"They held up The Outlaw for five years," she said later. "And Howard Hughes had me doing publicity for it every day, five days a week for five years."

Russell didn't appear in another film until 1946.

If you want to see her in something good, I'd recommend the two movies she made with Robert Mitchum, His Kind Of Woman (1951) and Macao (1952), and what I think is the best performance of her career, as a nightclub singer trying to keep her gold-digging pal Marilyn Monroe out of trouble in Howard Hawks' musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

I know everybody remembers Marilyn Monroe's signature performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," but personally, give me Jane Russell.

March Madness At All Good Things

Voting begins this morning in the March Madness tournament over at All Good Things. 64 of the best actresses in movie history paired off in single-elimination competition. Today is the Silent/1930s Era bracket with some tough first round action—Jean Harlow versus Myrna Loy, Carole Lombard versus Ginger Rogers, and number one seed Greta Garbo against Norma Desmond herself, Gloria Swanson.

Get on over there and vote. It's fun, it's free and it lasts all month.

Today's Oscar Trivia #28

The Oscars are over for another year, but Turner Classic Movies' 31 Days Of Oscar marathon continues. So does the trivia.

The Lion Roars Before 1951, the Best Picture Academy Award was officially a competition among the studios, rather than individual producers. MGM was the studio with the most nominations (41). Among them was a nod to a gritty 1949 World War II drama starring Van Johnson. Name it.

Nomination In A Bottle? Doezens of times actors have been nominated for portraying alcoholics. Name the actor who took home a Best Actor Oscar for his harrowing performance in The Lost Weekend (1945).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #27

Real Women Like men, women who play real people are often nominated for an Academy Award in the leading category. Which actress was nominated for playing Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello (1960)?

Notable No-Shows Joan Crawford may or may not have actually been ill when she stayed home in bed on the night she won her only Oscar as Best Actress for a 1945 film. What was it?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #26

On Second Thought Sometimes remakes of classic films turn out fine, as in this redoing of a 1931 crime drama, first remade under the title Satan Met A Lady in 1936. Name the definitive, Oscar-nominated 1941 version starring Humphrey Bogart.

The Big Five Only three times in the history of the Academy Awards has a film won in each of the five major categories—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay. Name the 1934 comedy with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable that was the first to accomplish this.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Monkey's Nephew

We've all heard of the Monkey's uncle—surprised people have been claiming to be him since before I was born—but today it's the Monkey's nephew I'm interested in.

Which one, you might ask—at last count, Katie-Bar-The-Door and I have eight of them between us. But while each of them is "special" in his own way, it's the son of my older brother I have in mind. I've mentioned my older brother before in various contexts—traveling salesman, Auburn resident, Burns and Allen fan—and while these are all valid ways to define him, in the circles I run in the fact that my brother saw the Beatles play live on his 19th birthday makes him The Man, and even if I were to win the Pulitzer Prize for movie blogging, he's still going to be The Man.

That's him there on the left:

Distinguished, ain't he.

Anyway, he has two children. His daughter, Plain Chicken, has a blog of her own, devoted to cats and recipes (though as far as I know, no cats in recipes) (check it out). His son makes his living in the movie business, primarily as a grip or rigging electrician. He's worked on a variety of movies—Zombieland, We Are Marshall, several Tyler Perry comedies—as well as television (e.g. The Walking Dead and Good Eats).

How about that.

I happen to be thinking about him because one his latest efforts opens today, the Farrelly Brothers' Hall Pass. Is it any good? I don't know. Roger Ebert gives it 2 1/2 stars, Entertainment Weekly predicts a number one spot at the box office. We'll see.

Anyway, it seemed to me that if I can write about the likes of Zeppo Marx, I can give my nephew a plug on opening weekend.

Postscript:Oh, I should also mention that the Monkey's nephew is quite a talented photographer. Check out his work here.

The Zeppo Chronicles

Born on February 25, 1901, Herbert Manfred Marx—better known as "Zeppo"—was the youngest of six brothers and along with Leonard, Adolph and Julius Henry—Chico, Harpo and Groucho to the rest of us—made up the greatest comedy team in movie history, the Marx Brothers.

Zeppo's father Sam was a tailor, but his mother Minnie had show business in her blood and she pushed her sons onto the stage at an early age. More than a decade junior to his older brothers, the Marx Brothers were already an established vaudeville act before Zeppo joined the group, and he might not have entered show business at all but for the fact that his brother Milton (a.k.a. "Gummo") joined the army during World War I.

Perhaps because he joined the act so late, Zeppo never really established a strong stage presence and mostly wound up playing the straight man to his brothers. He also sang and when the occasion demanded played the male half of a romantic subplot, but mostly writers didn't know what to do with him and he was shunted the far corners of the action. Nevertheless, Zeppo was around for the Marx Brothers' Broadway successes and their first five movies, made at Paramount Studios.

Zeppo's best roles were in the movies Monkey Business and Horse Feathers. For the former, the Brothers finally hit on the rather obvious idea of letting Zeppo handle the chores of wooing the obligatory girl in their musical comedy routines. I can't say he's great as he chases the girl (Ruth Hall), but he's better than either Oscar Shaw or Hal Thompson who performed the same thankless chores in The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, respectively.

In Horse Feathers, he played Groucho's son, a college student for twelve years and running, "a disgrace to our family name of Wagstaff," Groucho complains, "if such a thing is possible." Zeppo involves his dad in a plot to hire ringers for the big game against rival Darwin. He also sings and woos the "college widow," played by Thelma Todd.

I have heard tell that Zeppo was actually a very funny guy and that from time to time he successfully understudied for Groucho, but the fact that the Brothers let writers such as George S. Kaufman (The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers) stand Zeppo in the corner without protest leads me to believe that either he was never that integral to the act or that he was already tired of performing and was looking forward to the day when he could work behind the scenes.

Once again relegated to a nearly non- existent role in Duck Soup, Zeppo left the act in 1933 to become a theatrical agent. A mechanical whiz, Zeppo also invented a watch to monitor the pulse rate of cardiac patients and founded Marman Products Co., which designed and manufactured, among other things, the Marman Twin motorcycle, and the Marman clamp which held the atomic bomb inside the B-29 used on the U.S. raid on Nagasaki.

Zeppo played one last role with the Marx Brothers in 1938, this time behind the scenes when he negotiated a deal with RKO Pictures for his brothers' services in a movie version of the hit Broadway play Room Service. Zeppo secured $250,000 for the act, a nice payday, but the movie was not a success and afterwards Groucho said only that Zeppo should have asked for more money.

The last surviving Marx Brother, Zeppo died in 1979.

Today's Oscar Trivia #25

Sister Acts Only two sisters have both won Academy Awards as Best Actress. One is Olivia de Havilland, who is the other? (Hint: Her award came for the 1941 Suspicion.)

Rookies Of The Year Among those who received acting nominations in their film debuts was this smoldering new star, nominated as Best Actor for The Search (1948). Name him.

Five For Four Nine times a movie has had five nominations for acting awards. One such occasion came when Albert Finney, Hugh Griffith, Diane Cilento, Edith Evans and Joyce Redman were all nominated for the same classic 1963 comedy. Name it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #24

Most Honored Foreign Director Federico Fellini's movies have won the most Oscars (four) for Best Foreign Language Film. Name the landmark 1963 film starring Marcello Mastroianni that took the prize.

Awards By Association Alec Guinness' films have won more Oscars (35) in various categories than those of any other performer. What 1951 crime comedy starring Guinness and directed by Charles Crichton won for Best Story and Screenplay?

Most Directing Nominations Which filmmaker leads the pack with 12 nominations for Best Director? (Hint: He directed the 1959 Ben-Hur.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Comedy Stylings Of Segundo de Chomón

So what has the Monkey been up to recently, other than posting trivia questions straight out of TCM's Now Playing? Working on another of those mammoth essays, this one about early silent comedy, from its beginning around 1890 up to 1914. So far from the era I've watched one hundred sixty-eight comedy shorts and counting. Some are funny, but most of them, I can emphatically assure you, are not.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with any of that. Instead, this post harkens back to Part Two of my essay covering the films of 1906-1914, specifically the paragraph I wrote about Segundo de Chomón, a.k.a. "the Spanish Méliès." Chomón specialized in trick photography and surreal optical effects. Here's one, Le théâtre de Bob from 1906, that relies on stop-action animation and hand-tinted frames.

Just part of our continuing effort here at the Monkey to load you up with useless information ...

El teatro electrico de Bob
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Today's Oscar Trivia #23

Sound Bites As head of the Columbia sound department, John Livadary holds the record for consecutive nominations in the Best Sound category—13 times for 1934 to 1946 releases. One of his nominations came for the musical biopic A Song to Remember (1945), featuring the compositions of what famous composer?

Best Picture, But Not Most Academy Awards The winner of the best Best Picture Oscar usually wins more awards than any other film that year. But 14 times the Best Picture winner didn't at least tie for the most wins. What political drama named Best Picture of 1949 won three Academy Awards while competitor The Heiress won four?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #22

Two In One Seventeen times in Academy Award history the same film has produced two Best Actor or Best Actress nominations. Name the women nominated for the title roles in Thelma & Louise

Monday, February 21, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #21

Oscar Onlys Who is the only Oscar to win an Oscar? (Hint: He actually won two, one of them for the lyrics to the song "It Might As We Be Spring" in the 1945 musical State Fair.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #20

Nominated For Best Director, Not Best Picture While the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars are often closely tied, often at least one film is nominated in one category but not the other. What celebrated 1949 espionage thriller brought Carol Reed a nomination as Best Director while not scoring one as Best Picture?

From Stage To Screen Many times a performer has taken an acclaimed stage role and turned it into an Oscar nomination or win. For what 1964 film did Rex Harrison win a Best Actor Oscar to go along with his Tony for playing the same role on stage?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #19

The Most Supportive Actor Walter Brennan holds the record for most wins as Best Supporting Actor (three) and is tied for the most nominations (four). For what 1941 drama about a World War I hero did he receive his final nomination?

Clean Sweeps Five times in Academy history has a Best Picture winner won in every category in which it was nominated. Only three times has this happened when more than five nominations were at stake. One such instance was a 1958 Vincente Minnelli musical. Name it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #18

Oscar ♥ New York While Hollywood's on the other coast, it seems that New York is the setting for more Oscar-nominated films than any other city. What 1949 musical about sailors on the loose in the Big Apple won the award for Best Scoring?

The Most Writing Wins Four people share the record for writing Oscars, with three each. Three of the writers are Francis Ford Coppola, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett; who is the fourth? (Hint: He wrote the 1955 Marty.)

The Most Best Actor Nominations Jack Nicholson has the most acting nominations for a male (12), including both lead and supporting roles. But another actor holds the record for most Best Actor nominations (nine, winning twice). Name him.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #17

How To Earn An Oscar Nomination? It seems that playing a prostitute gives women a leg up on earning a nomination or an Oscar as Best Actress. Name the 1960 film that brought Elizabeth Taylor the award for playing a semi-professional call girl.

Auspicious Debuts Some directorial debuts have been nominated in the Best Director and Best Picture categories. Name the 1981 Best Picture winner from debuting (and Oscar-nominated) director Hugh Hudson.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Maxing Out On Max Linder

Aspiring Imp Girl Ginger Ingenue has requested more of French comedian Max Linder, and we here at the Monkey never turn down a reasonable request—or even an unreasonable one, within reason. Here he is in Le hasard et l'amour (Love Surprises) from 1913 with a plot I'm pretty sure the Three Stooges recycled in 1952 as Corny Casanovas.

Today's Oscar Trivia #16

You know, one of the advantages of running all this Turner Classic Movies Oscar trivia every day is that it disguises the fact that I've only written about three substantive posts this month (okay, four, but who's counting). I'm going to miss it when TCM's 31 Days of Oscar marathon ends on March 3.

On the other hand, the daily posts tend to bury the long-form essays I do write. Like yesterday's essay, The Silent Oscars: 1906-1914, Part Three. I encourage you to check it out if only to see Asta Nielsen's hundred year old version of freak dancing. To quote Ralph Kramden, "Humina humina humina."

Now, on to today's trivia, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies, the classiest network on television:

Oscar Firsts What Italian actress became the first person to win an acting Oscar for a performance in a language other than English? (Hint: The film was released in the U.S. in 1961.)

It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated The man most nominated as Best Actor (Peter O'Toole), received the first of his eight nominations for Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Who directed the film?

Note: I think TCM meant that Peter O'Toole was the most nominated for Best Actor without winning. Here, by the way, are the films he was nominated for and the actor he lost to:

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) — Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird)

Becket (1964) — Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady)

The Lion in Winter (1968) — Cliff Robertson (Charly)

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) — John Wayne (True Grit)

The Ruling Class (1972) — Marlon Brando (The Godfather)

The Stunt Man (1980) — Robert De Niro (Raging Bull)

My Favorite Year (1982) — Ben Kingsley (Gandhi)

Venus (2006) — Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)

Even though I personally think Lawrence of Arabia is O'Toole's best performance, I'd bet 1968 is the one the Academy wishes it could do over. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Silent Oscars: 1906-1914—Part Three

[To read part one of this essay, click here. To read part two, click here.]

The First Film Stars
● The first international movie star was Max Linder, a French comedian not just in the style of Charlie Chaplin but the guy Chaplin was often imitating early in his career, a fact Chaplin himself freely acknowledged. Born to a family of vintners in the Bordeaux region of France, Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle joined a troupe of actors touring France. In Paris, he discovered motion pictures and signed with Pathé in 1905, changing his name at the same time. He made over two hundred movies in his career, most as the recurring character "Max," an upper class roué who is a bit baffled by practical matters.

Linder wrote and directed his own films and in the years before World War I, he was the biggest star in Europe.

Unlike most of the comics of this era, Linder largely eschewed the slapstick style of Mack Sennett's Keystone comedies in favor of gesture and reaction; and as film historian David Thomson points out, "there was little of the sentimentality that American comedians resorted to." In this short Max reprend sa liberté (a.k.a. Troubles of a Grasswidower) (1912), you can see shades of Chaplin, the Three Stooges and Lucille Ball:

Max reprend sa liberté (1912)
Uploaded by Tomsutpen. - Check out other Film & TV videos.

His career came to a virtual end during World War I after he was injured by mustard gas while serving as a dispatch driver in the French army. He never fully recovered and although he later made films at Chaplin's United Artists, he never again regained his audience. In 1925, he and his wife killed themselves as part of a suicide pact.

● Internationally, the best known actress was Asta Nielsen. Though born in Denmark, Nielsen made most of her films in Germany where she was known simply as "Die Asta" (The Asta). Film critic Lotte Eisner called her acting "intensely modern" and the "ideal" of European intellectuals in the 1910s and 1920s. It was also, for its time, intensely erotic, and thanks to the heavy hand of American censors, largely unknown on this side of the Atlantic.

Nevertheless, her "exceptionally unmannered" style of acting (David Thomson) influenced the generation of performers who followed her. Her best known films now are Afgrunden (a.k.a. The Woman Always Pays), Hamlet and Joyless Street, in which she co-starred with a young Swedish actress making one of her first films.

"The woman who taught me everything I know," Greta Garbo said later, "was Asta Nielsen."

Nielsen's version of Hamlet, produced by a film company she formed specifically for that purpose, is unusual in that not only does she play the title role, but she plays Hamlet as a woman disguised as a man. She abandoned movies with the advent of sound and returned to the stage in 1927. She died in 1972 at the age of 90.

● In America, actors—and everybody else, for that matter—toiled in virtual anonymity for most of this era. Growing up in an age when a film's closing titles last seven minutes and even the caterer gets a credit, film fans now may find it hard to believe that a hundred years ago nobody got a credit—not the director, not the producer, and certainly not the actors—just the name of the studio and the film's title, that was it. As crazy as that sounds now, the studios believed that by keeping the cast and crew anonymous, they would remain interchangeable and underpaid.

And the strategy worked for a while. The only problem was, audiences weren't stupid; they knew who they liked and even if they didn't know the names, they knew the faces and clamored for more movies by, for example, "the Vitagraph Girl." And even though exhibitors couldn't advertise actors by name—they didn't know them either—they could, say, put a cardboard cutout of Charlie Chaplin's readily identifiable Tramp character in front of the box office whenever one of his films was playing.

The first American actress known by name (other than those already known from another medium) was Florence Lawrence. Known for years as "the Biograph Girl," Lawrence signed with the rival Independent Moving Pictures Company—"IMP" for short. In March 1910, to promote the new "IMP Girl," studio founder Carl Laemmle concocted a publicity stunt, first planting stories that Lawrence had been killed in a streetcar accident in New York, then buying up advertising refuting the story. "We nail a lie!" the ad boasted. Lawrence made a personal appearance in St. Louis to prove she was alive and well and within days, she was a household name.

To counter the publicity, Vitagraph began promoting its own star, Florence Turner, by name as well. The star system was born.

Sadly, Lawrence was badly burned in a studio fire in 1915 and her star quickly faded. Five years later, her husband died and two subsequent marriage failed. In 1938, reduced to bit parts at $75 a film and suffering from myelofibrosis, Lawrence committed suicide.

In terms of stardom, Lawrence's counterpart, Florence Turner, fared little better. She moved to London in 1913 and formed her own production company, which produced some thirty short films, but her career went into eclipse during the war and she returned to America to work mostly in bit parts at MGM. She died a virtual unknown in 1946.

● Although credited as the first American movie stars, Lawrence and Turner were soon eclipsed by "Little Mary"—better known now as Mary Pickford. Pickford was born Gladys Marie Smith in Toronto and began acting on the stage at the age of seven. Hoping to become a Broadway actress, Smith moved to New York and changed her name to Mary Pickford, and while she did land a few parts, by 1909 she was desperate for work and auditioned for a role in a D.W. Griffith film, Pippa Passes. Although she didn't get the part, Griffith offered her a contract at $10 a day with a guarantee of $40 a week —double the going rate. She made fifty-one movies that year alone.

Although like everyone else she remained anonymous on screen, audiences were immediately taken with her and theater owners began to bill her as "The Girl with the Golden Curls." By 1912, she abandoned the stage altogether. In 1914, by that time working for Adolph Zukor at Lasky's Famous Players (later Paramount), Pickford's name for the first time appeared above the title of a film, Hearts Adrift. Her next film, Tess of the Storm Country, was one of the most popular of the year and made Pickford an international star. (The film is preserved in the National Film Registry.)

Pickford later co-founded United Artists with husband Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, and won an Oscar for her performance in the 1929 film Coquette. At her zenith, Pickford's power and popularity was greater than that of any actress before or since. I'll be writing about her again. In the meantime, you can read a bit more about her here.

● Once Mary Pickford left Biograph, D.W. Griffith found his ideal leading lady in Lillian Gish. Born in Ohio in 1893, Gish's father abandoned the family when Lillian was still a child. Her mother took up acting to support herself and Gish and her younger sister, Dorothy, joined acting troupes early, including a stint with Sarah Bernhardt in New York. Eventually, Mary Pickford introduced the Gish sisters to D.W. Griffith and they made their film debut in the short drama An Unseen Enemy in 1912.

Gish quickly established herself as one of the finest actresses in film and made forty-five movies before her starring role in 1915's The Birth of a Nation. In Griffith's 1913 melodrama The Mothering Heart—about a wife abandoned to raise her child alone—she displayed a gift for conveying pain, particularly of the long-suffering variety, and thereafter her best work, such as Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East, mined that vein. Gish fit Griffith's notion of the ideal Victorian maiden, and she largely played that role on screen and off for the rest of her life, even after parting company with Griffith in 1921.

I've previously written about Lillian Gish here.

Dorothy Gish was five years Lillian's junior and was as different from her older sister as two people who nevertheless remained close could be. Whereas Lillian was a serious-minded tragedian, Dorothy was a flirtatious cut-up so adept at comedy that Paramount Pictures once offered her a million dollars to make a series of comedy features. "At my age," she said, turning down the offer, "all that money would ruin my character."

Although Dorothy actually made more movies during these early years than her older sister, she didn't really achieve a breakthrough until 1918 in Griffith's war picture, Hearts of the World, in which she played a small comedic part in an otherwise grim drama. After that she specialized in comedic roles. Still, her best performance was as a blind foundling threatened by the turmoil of the French Revolution in Griffith's last commercial success, Orphans of the Storm (1921).

After watching her sister in a rare leading role, Lillian exclaimed, "Why, Dorothy is good; she's almost as good as I am!"

Dorothy continued to work throughout the silent era, then returned to the stage when talkies came in. With the exception of a handful of television appearances in the 1950s, she remained on the stage for the rest of her life.

More about the Gish sisters when I hit the early 1920s.

[To continue to Part Four, click here.]

Today's Oscar Trivia #15

French Kisses France is the country with the most nominations (36) for Best Foreign Language Film. What 1980 French drama, directed by François Truffaut and starring Catherine Deneuve, received a nod in that category?

The Most Writing Nominations Who has received the most nominations (14) for his writing? (Hint: One nomination came for the 1990 fantasy Alice.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #14

From Turner Classic Movie's Now Showing magazine:

Oscar Falls In Love Among the romantic Best Picture winners shown in honor of Valentine's Day is the 1940 screen version of a Philip Barry play starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Name it.

All In The Family Sometimes members of the same family collaborate on a film and are rewarded with nominations. What writer-director was nominated for best Adapted Screenplay of 1982 while guiding his wife to a Best Actress nomination as the star of his musical-comedy?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #13

They Shoot, He Scores Alfred Newman has been nominated for his film scores an amazing 45 times, tying him with John Williams for the most by any composer. For what 1947 Betty Grable vehicle did Newman win an Oscar for Best Scoring of a Motion Picture?

It Takes Two Very rarely has the same film win two different writing awards. Name the 1947 Christmas classic starring Edmund Gwenn that won for Best Original Story and Best Screenplay.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

... Which Suggests Another Poll

The latest Oscar trivia question from Turner Classic Movies (read it here) inspired me to start another poll. Of the top five songs in movie history, as chosen in 2004 by the American Film Institute, which is your favorite?

The AFI's Top Five, in reverse order:

5. "White Christmas"—Holiday Inn (1942)

4. "Moon River"—Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

3. "Singin' In The Rain"—Singin' In The Rain (1952)

2. "As Time Goes By"—Casablanca (1942)

1. "Over The Rainbow"—The Wizard of Oz (1939)

I often tell you that there are no wrong answers, but in this case there really are no wrong answers.

Today's Oscar Trivia #12

The Best Of The Best Most people consider 1939 to be Hollywood's Golden Year. Of the 10 films nominated as Best Picture that year, which was a musical fantasy starring Judy Garland?

Gee whiz, can TCM make 'em any tougher? In case you need a hint:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Tom And Tina

Almost missed it. Today is Thomas Edison's 164th birthday.

To read a bit about his not inconsiderable place in film history, click here.

Also, it's Tina Louise's birthday today. She's not 164. Which begs the question, Ginger or Mary Ann? I know the fashionable answer is Mary Ann, but I've always been a Ginger man, myself.

Today's Oscar Trivia #11

Any Regrets? Many times in film history, actors and actresses have turned down parts that went on to earn the eventual taker an Oscar nomination. Doris Day famously turned down a role in which 1967 satire that brought a nomination to Anne Bancroft?

Brother and Sister Acts Who are the only brother and sister to each win an acting Oscar? (Hint: His was for the 1931 A Free Soul, hers for the 1944 None But The Lonely Heart.)

You can check out TCM's entire "31 Days of Oscar" schedule here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #10

Sweet Music Sammy Cahn holds the record for most nominations as a songwriter (26), with four wins in the Best Song category. "It's Magic," nominated as Best Song for its lyrics by Cahn and music by Jule Styne, was sung by Doris Day in what 1948 shipboard musical?

The Most Decorated Decorator When it comes to Art and Set Decoration, nobody comes close to Cedric Gibbons, with 39 nominations and 11 wins. One of his Oscars came for what musical starring Gene Kelly that also won as Best Picture of 1951?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Poll Results: Show Up For The Pictures, Stay For The Jibber Jabber

The results are in on the latest Monkey survey, "What first brought you to the Mythical Monkey?" Not surprisingly, the majority of you said you first arrived here either while searching for a photo (22) or by way of a link from another blog (also 22). We here at the Monkey do tend to overstuff our posts with pictures. But what would you rather look at, Louise Brooks or a long gray block of impenetrable text? That's what I thought.

Among the other answers, five of you admitted to being a friend or family member, and six of you claimed brain damage—the latter of which strikes me as either way too many or not nearly enough. Three arrived here while searching for info or a movie-specific review, one got here by way of a review on the Internet Movie Database, and four chose "other."

The one vote for "an interest in alternate Oscars" was cast by yours truly. Although I think many readers find the whole "alternate Oscar" concept, first championed by Danny Peary in his book of the same name, confusing or frankly irritating, the truth is, I wouldn't have started this blog at all except for my own obsession with "who should have won," and what little forward momentum this blog has comes strictly from my own desire to get to the next award. So I think for the time being, I'll stick with the current format even if I do wind up tweaking it a bit.

Amazingly, no one picked "word of mouth." I would have thought sitting around in a bar talking about movie blogs would rank higher, especially when "Lets go back to my place and read the Monkey together" is a proven pick-up line. (Proven in the same sense that many things on the internet are proven, which is to say I made it up.)

Which reminds me of a true story from my law school days. At the end of one especially grueling semester, I held a film festival in my apartment—twenty-four consecutive hours of wholesome movie goodness, beginning at 11 in the morning and ending sometime after breakfast the following day. It turned into a bit of an event with something like fifty people showing up and camping out, including one woman I had never met who turned down a friend of mine for a date because she was "going to some guy's film festival."

There's a moral in there some place. I just don't know what it is.

Today's Oscar Trivia #9

The Write Stuff Billy Wilder is tied with three other writers for the record for most writing Oscars (three wins, in three different writing categories). For what 1941 comedy starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck did Billy Wilder share a nomination with Thomas Monroe for Best Original Story?

Memorable Oscar Moments In one of the more embarrassing Oscar moments, presented Lloyd Bacon called out "Come and get it, Frank!" in announcing Frank Lloyd as the winner of the award as Best Director of 1933—and fellow nominee Frank Capra leapt to his feet to head toward the stage. The film for which Lloyd won, shown in its TCM premiere, is a historical drama based on a Noel Coward stage hit. Name it.

Remember, you can check out TCM's entire "31 Days of Oscar" schedule here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #8

The Most Nominations ... Without Winning Alex North holds the record for most Best Score nominations without winning. What 1969 biblical drama featured one of his nominated scores?

Winners in Both Leading and Supporting Roles Six actors and five actresses have won Oscars in both the leading and supporting categories. Denzel Washington, named Best Actor for Training Day (2001), also won a Supporting Actor award for what 1989 historical drama starring Matthew Broderick?

Alien Invasions While the Best Director Oscar has only gone to English-language films, several times directors have been nominated for making films in a different language. Constantin Costa-Gavras was nominated as Best Director of 1969 for which French-language political thriller?

By the way, I have a quibble with the way TCM has worded the first question—while the film has religious overtones, I don't believe it can be called a "biblical" drama, which implies that the story is adapted from the Bible or is otherwise a period costume piece. It's neither.

And remember, you can check out TCM's entire "31 Days of Oscar" schedule here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Today's Oscar Trivia #7

All Or Nothing Almost always, films nominated as Best Picture are also nominated in other categories. Even so, a few films received a nomination in the top category and no other. Among them is what 1934 historical drama starring George Arliss, Loretta Young and Boris Karloff?

Picture Perfect Leon Shamroy is tied for both the total number of nominations for Best Cinematography (18, tied with Charles B. Lang, Jr.) and wins in the category (four, tied with Joseph Ruttenberg). What 1942 swashbuckler starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara was among his wins?

Playing Out The String In the history of the Academy Awards, only two women have been nominated as Best Actress five years in a row. Bette Davis is one, who is the other?

And remember, you can check out TCM's entire "31 Days of Oscar" schedule here.