Favorite film noir Oscar moments

I wasn’t terribly impressed with last night’s Oscar ceremony. Long and not very funny, for the most part. But, I enjoyed Richard Brody’s assessment in The New Yorker and present you with these golden moments from Oscars past.

Generally speaking, film-noir titles were not wildly popular with Academy voters. Certainly, a B picture stood little chance of being honored. Film noir movies with bigger budgets and brighter star power might have earned nominations but ultimately lost the Oscar. That said, one category in which film-noir talent held its own was writing.

The Academy recognized that fact in 2010 with its excellent Oscar Noir screening series, which celebrated film-noir classics from the 1940s, all of which were nominated in the writing categories. You can see clips from the series and learn more about the Oscars’ history at www.oscars.org. It’s a terrific resource. While there, I also found out about a quintessential 1940s woman who had a hand in shaping the ceremony as we know it today: Margaret Herrick. Read more about her here.

Joan Fontaine, sitting with David O. Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Hitchcock at the 1941 ceremony, starred in

Joan Fontaine, sitting with David O. Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Hitchcock at the 1941 ceremony, starred in “Rebecca,” though she lost the gold to Ginger Rogers. “Rebecca” won Best Picture and Best Cinematography. Fontaine claimed the Oscar the next year in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.” In the 1941 show, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a six-minute, direct-line radio address from the White House, honoring the work of Hollywood. This was the first time an American president had participated in an Academy Awards evening. Also, for the first time, the names of all the winners were kept secret until they were announced during the ceremony. Hitchcock received an honorary Oscar in 1968.

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Michael Curtiz on the set of "Casablanca," which snared the gold in 1944. The film was released in late 1942 and competed with titles from 1943.

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Michael Curtiz on the set of “Casablanca,” which snared the gold in 1944. The film was released in late 1942 and competed with titles from 1943.

Joan Crawford triumphed playing the title role in 1945's "Mildred Pierce." Director Michael Kurtiz accepted the award at the ceremony because Crawford was ill and confined to bed. Clearly, she perked up when she found out she won.

Joan Crawford triumphed playing the title role in 1945’s “Mildred Pierce.” Director Michael Kurtiz accepted the award at the ceremony because Crawford was ill and confined to bed. Clearly, she perked up when she found out she won.

Ray Milland holds his Best Actor Oscar. He won for his portrayal of an alcoholic writer in Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" from 1945. The film also won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay, a rare feat for such a noirish flick.

Ray Milland holds his Best Actor Oscar. He won for his portrayal of an alcoholic writer in Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” from 1945. The film also won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay, a rare feat for such a noirish flick.

"All the King's Men," a political noir from 1949, garnered Best Picture, Best Actor for Broderick Crawford and Best Supporting Actress for Mercedes McCambridge. The gold winners savor the moment with director Robert Rossen.

“All the King’s Men,” a political noir from 1949, garnered Best Picture, Best Actor for Broderick Crawford and Best Supporting Actress for Mercedes McCambridge. The gold winners savor the moment with director Robert Rossen.

Eva Marie Saint took home the Best Supporting Actress for  "On the Waterfront" from 1954. "On The Waterfront" also won Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration, (Richard Day), Black-and-White Cinematography (Boris Kaufman), Directing (Elia Kazan), Film Editing (Gene Milford), and Writing – Story and Screenplay (Budd Schulberg).

Eva Marie Saint took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for
“On the Waterfront” from 1954. “On The Waterfront” also won Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration, (Richard Day), Black-and-White Cinematography (Boris Kaufman), Directing (Elia Kazan), Film Editing (Gene Milford), and Writing – Story and Screenplay (Budd Schulberg).

Grace Kelly won the Best Actress gold for 1954's "Country Girl." I know, I know, it's not a noir but Kelly was one of Hitchcock's favorite blondes, she's shown with co-star William Holden (mmm) and I love the dress. Kelly quit acting in 1955 to marry Prince Rainier.

Grace Kelly won the Best Actress gold for 1954’s “Country Girl.” I know, I know, it’s not a noir but Kelly was one of Hitchcock’s favorite blondes, she’s shown with co-star William Holden (mmm) and I love the dress. Kelly quit acting in 1955 to marry Prince Rainier.

The RKO Pantages Theatre hosted many Oscar ceremonies. The 31st Academy Awards ceremony, held on April 6, 1959, ended 20 minutes early, after producer Jerry Wald cut numbers from the show to make sure it ran on time. Host Jerry Lewis was left to fill up the time.

The RKO Pantages Theatre hosted many Oscar ceremonies. The 31st Academy Awards ceremony, held on April 6, 1959, ended 20 minutes early, after producer Jerry Wald cut numbers from the show to make sure it ran on time. Host Jerry Lewis was left to fill up the time.

Billy Wilder juggles Oscars snared by his dark comedy "The Apartment," which won Best Picture, Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Trauner and Edward G. Boyle), Directing (Billy Wilder), Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), and Writing – Story and Screenplay written directly for the screen (Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond).

Billy Wilder juggles Oscars snared by his dark comedy “The Apartment,” which won Best Picture, Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Trauner and Edward G. Boyle), Directing (Billy Wilder), Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), and Writing – Story and Screenplay written directly for the screen (Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond).

Eight-time Costume Design winner Edith Head was costume supervisor for the 40th (1967) Academy Awards and offered her fashion tips in the letter above. Also seen above are presenter Leslie Caron and Best Director winner Mike Nichols.

Eight-time Costume Design winner Edith Head was costume supervisor for the 40th (1967) Academy Awards and offered her fashion tips in the letter above. Also seen above are presenter Leslie Caron and Best Director winner Mike Nichols.

"The French Connection," a neo-noir from1972, won Best Picture. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Directing (William Friedkin), Film Editing (Jerry Greenberg), and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Ernest Tidyman).

“The French Connection,” a neo-noir from 1971, won Best Picture. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Directing (William Friedkin), Film Editing (Jerry Greenberg), and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Ernest Tidyman).

"The Godfather" (1972) cast members: Maron Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino and xx. The classic family-crime saga won Best Picture. The movie also won Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola). “The Godfather Part II" (1974) became the first sequel to win the award for Best Picture. Part Two claimed five more Oscars including the directing prize for Coppola.

“The Godfather” (1972) cast members: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, and John Cazale. The classic family-crime saga won Best Picture. The movie also won Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola). “The Godfather Part II” (1974) became the first sequel to win the award for Best Picture. Part Two also claimed five more Oscars including the directing prize for Coppola.

Robert Towne, Jack Nicholson and producer Robert Evans at the 1975 Oscars ceremony. Towne took home the Oscar for writing "Chinatown," perhaps the best neo-noir script ever written.

Robert Towne, Jack Nicholson and producer Robert Evans at the 1975 Oscars. Towne took home the Oscar for writing “Chinatown,” perhaps the best neo-noir script ever written.

Robert DeNiro gives accepts his Best Actor Oscar for "Raging Bull" (1980) directed by Martin Scorsese, who grew up on classic noir and became a neo-noir master. The oft-subbed Scorsese finally won the directing gold for 2007's "The Departed."

Robert DeNiro accepts his Best Actor Oscar for “Raging Bull” (1980) directed by Martin Scorsese, who grew up on classic noir and became a neo-noir master. The oft-snubbed Scorsese finally won the directing gold for 2006’s “The Departed.” This was DeNiro’s second Oscar, having garnered Best Supporting Actor for “The Godfather Part II.”

During his fourth decade in the movies, Jack Palance won Supporting Actor for his role as Curly in "City Slickers" (1991). His famous one-handed pushups onstage became a running joke with host Billy Crystal throughout the show. Our favorite Palance film-noir part: "Sudden Fear" (1952, David Miller) in which he co-starred with Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame.

During his fourth decade in the movies, Jack Palance won Supporting Actor for his role as Curly in “City Slickers” (1991). His famous one-handed pushups onstage became a running joke with host Billy Crystal throughout the show. Our favorite Palance film-noir part: “Sudden Fear” (1952, David Miller) in which he co-starred with Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame.

Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary won the Oscar for writing "Pulp Fiction" (1994). It earned six other noms.

Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary won the Oscar for writing “Pulp Fiction” (1994). It earned six other noms.

Frances McDormand hold her Best Actress Oscar for her work in 1996's "Fargo." Writer/director team Joel and Ethan Coen won for Best Original Screenplay. They went on to win writing and directing Oscars for 2007's "No Country for Old Men."

Frances McDormand hold her Best Actress Oscar for her work in 1996’s “Fargo.” Writer/director team Joel and Ethan Coen won for Best Original Screenplay. They went on to win writing and directing Oscars for the 2007 neo noir “No Country for Old Men.”

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Oscar nominations are announced!

Oscar statuetteDirectors Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams, actor Chris Pine and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards® today (Jan. 15).  For the first time, nominees in all 24 categories were announced live.

Academy members from each of the 17 branches vote to determine the nominees in their respective categories.  In the Animated Feature Film and Foreign Language Film categories, nominees are selected by a vote of multi-branch screening committees.  All voting members are eligible to select the Best Picture nominees.

The 87th Academy Awards ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. (EST)/4 p.m. (PST) Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the show will be broadcast live on ABC and televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.

See the full list here.

 

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Edgar G. Ulmer films to screen at the Academy

Detour poster 214A double-bill of “Detour” and “The Strange Woman” on Friday, Nov. 6, will launch the Academy’s Edgar G. Ulmer screening series. A production designer and director, Ulmer worked in many genres and, as the “King of Poverty Row” in Hollywood, was underrated in his lifetime. We, of course, adore his film noir titles.

The six-film series is running in conjunction with the ongoing exhibition Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma). The films will be shown at Lacma’s Bing Theater.

 

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Hollywood Costume comes to the Wilshire May Co. building

 Tippi Hedren’s pale green dress from “The Birds,” shot by Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.


Tippi Hedren’s pale green dress from “The Birds,” shot by Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Starting on Oct. 2, you can stroll through history in style at the Hollywood Costume exhibition, which is housed in the Wilshire May Company building (at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles), the future location of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and sponsored by Swarovski, this show explores costume design as an essential tool of cinematic storytelling. (The show runs through March 2, 2015.)

The designer Adrian at work.

The designer Adrian at work.

Summing it up perfectly was a quotation inside the show from Adrian, a legendary Golden Age designer and creator of “The Wizard of Oz” ruby slippers, which are on display. Said Adrian: “Few people in an audience watching a great screen production realize the importance of any gown worn by the feminine star. They may notice that it’s attractive, that they would like to have it copied, that it is becoming.

“The fact that it was definitely planned to mirror a definite mood, to be as much a part of the play as the lines or the scenery seldom occurs to them. But that most assuredly is true.”

More than 150 iconic costumes curated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis will be on display – including Marlene Dietrich’s costumes from “Morocco” (1930) and Marilyn Monroe’s infamous white dress from “The Seven Year Itch” (1955) as well as Jared Leto’s costume from “Dallas Buyers Club and several entries from “American Hustle and “The Great Gatsby” (all 2013).

Film noir makes a showing (there’d be trouble otherwise!) with Kim Novak’s emerald-green dress from “Vertigo” and Tippi Hedren’s pale green dress from “The Birds,” not to mention examples from “Mildred Pierce,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “L.A. Confidential,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Basic Instinct” and “No Country for Old Men.” The work of legendary Edith Head is well represented.

Curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis

Curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis

In conjunction with the Hollywood Costume exhibition, the Academy will present screenings, starting Saturday with a terrific double feature: the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men and “The Big Lebowski.” Several of the featured costume designers will appear in person to introduce their films.

Designer and curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis originally approached the Academy several years ago with the idea for the show. The Academy passed on Hollywood Costume, so Landis took it to London’s V&A, which snapped it up.

Now the Academy apparently feels the time is right for the show. Commenting on the irony of London having the show first, Landis said, at the press preview Monday: “You can’t be a prophet in your own land.”

Most assuredly.

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With thanks and sadness, let’s raise a glass to Kate

I think of my spiritual ancestors as Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Grahame, Lauren Bacall, Joan Bennett and Bette Davis. Their hard-won independence, their juicy scandals and their irrepressible willful streaks on and off screen laid the groundwork for all of us femmes fatales to call the shots, own our dramas and embrace the concept of high maintenance. Put simply: to be a bitch.

Kate's, at the corner of Wilshire and Doheny, opened in 1987.

Kate’s, at the corner of Wilshire and Doheny, opened in 1987.

That said, there are many other vixens, vamps and troublemakers who, though far less famous, are equally inspirational. One of these role models by extension, as it were, was Kate Mantilini, the namesake of a terrific Beverly Hills restaurant that is closing its doors on June 14, after 27 years in business.

Owner Marilyn Lewis says a recent rent increase prompted her decision.

Kate Mantilini was a feisty woman of the 1940s and the mistress of Marilyn Lewis’ uncle. (Marilyn and her late husband Harry Lewis were also the founders of the enormously popular Hamburger Hamlet chain. Harry died last June; he was 93.)

Says Marilyn Lewis: “My mother wouldn’t let me speak to her, nobody would allow us to mention her name, but she was a very strong woman and I wanted to name my restaurant after her.”

Actors, writers and execs gathered at the famous Beverly Hills restaurant.

Actors, writers and industry execs gathered at the famous Beverly Hills restaurant.

Of Irish and Italian descent, the unconventional Kate reportedly liked to do things her way and one of the things she really liked to do was to run businesses. The restaurant’s boxing mural is a nod to the fact that Kate worked in the male-dominated field of fight promotion.

The first time I went to the famous spot was for a late-night supper after seeing a Murnau double-bill at Lacma’s Bing Theater. I was visiting from Chicago and my friend Mickey Cottrell, a veteran film publicist and top-notch performer, suggested to the little group that had gathered that we nosh there. “Let’s head to Kate’s,” he said, as if Kate were a friend who had missed the movie but invited us to her place afterward.

Kate’s hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1987. Outside, by night, a blazing red neon sign pierces the inky blackness of Wilshire Boulevard. The building sits on the northwest corner of Wilshire and Doheny. Kate’s is walking distance from the Academy; the Weinstein Company is across the street.

Michael Mann shot a scene of "Heat" here.

Michael Mann shot a scene of “Heat” here.

Inside, the long, narrow room pulses with talk and laughter; fleet servers fly by, their crisp white aprons flash against the muted gray and cream walls. Glasses, plates and silverware clink and chime.

“I’m definitely moving here,” I thought to myself as we walked in that night, now long-ago. “This is so much cooler than Chicago.”

Mickey had a regular booth he liked; he suggested I order the sand dabs. Delightful. Our party was delightful too. Boisterous, funny, quick to argue fine points about films.

The kind and generous writer/producer/filmmaker Myron Meisel picked up the tab. Critic Michael Wilmington pointed out that the character actor Wallace Shawn was sitting in another booth.

Kate’s has always been popular with industry folk; celebs like Billy Wilder and Mel Brooks were regulars. Writers too, such as Susan Orlean and Tere Tereba, stopped by. Michael Mann, a master of filming Los Angeles by night, chose Kate’s for the scene in “Heat” (1995) when Al Pacino and Robert De Niro talk about their lives as cop and criminal.

Heat posterHarry Lewis was in the entertainment business before he and his wife became restaurateurs. As a contract player with Warner Bros. in the ’40s; Harry had a part in the film-noir classics “Key Largo” starring Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson as well as in “Gun Crazy” with John Dall and Peggy Cummins.

My friends and I may have been the last ones out that night and I’ve been back many times since. (I moved to Los Angeles in November of 2007.) I celebrated birthdays there, met girlfriends for drinks, marked triumphs big and small, stopped by for a slice of lemon ice-box pie and a cup of coffee after seeing a film at the Wilshire screening room.

It’s tough to think that after next Saturday I won’t be able to go to Kate’s anymore. I was a fan of the food (in particular the Cannes Film Festival salad and the split-pea soup) and the building and the vibe. By vibe I mean a sort of magic that’s absent from lots of trendy new restaurants.

Dessert is a must! Shown: the candy bar ice cream pie.

Dessert is a must! Shown: the candy bar ice cream pie.

You felt when you went to Kate’s that you were truly “in” – you might rub shoulders with Hollywood power brokers – but more importantly you were in for really good food and a really good time. Every time you went.

The Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission is considering the property for landmark status to protect the building in the event that new owners decide to remodel. The land parcel (9101, 9107 and 9111 Wilshire Blvd.) features the work of architects Pereira and Luckman, Maxwell Starkman and Thom Mayne.

I hope that happens. But in the meantime, I’m going to raise a glass to Kate – who liked a good fight – and to the strong women she inspired – who doubtless have healthy appetites and never skip dessert.

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Eva Marie Saint to appear at 60th anniversary screening of ‘On the Waterfront’

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint both won Oscars for their work.

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint both won Oscars for their work.

Think of “On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan) and, most times, Marlon Brando springs to mind, with his famous line: “I coulda been a contender.”

But don’t forget that behind the great Brando was a great blonde: Eva Marie Saint, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work. Her award was one eight wins for the film: Picture, Director, Editing, Actor, Writing (Story and Screenplay), B&W Art Direction/Set Decoration, B&W Cinematography.

With its expressionistic black and white visuals, and its story of crime in the lower depths of New York City, “On the Waterfront” more than qualifies as film noir.

On Friday, June 6, the Academy and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) is presenting a special screening in honor of the film’s 60th birthday at the museum’s Bing Theater. Eva Marie Saint will make an appearance. We at FNB are looking forward to hearing about her memories of making the flick.

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‘Stanley Kubrick’ opens today at LACMA

Director Stanley Kubrick sits in the interior of the space ship Discovery from “2001.” © Warner Bros. Entertainment

Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s storytelling sometimes leaves me cold, but I’ve always admired his arresting images and balletic camera. I think his best movies are his classic noir and neo-noir titles – “Killer’s Kiss,” “The Killing,” “Lolita,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “The Shining.”

Born in New York in 1928, Kubrick began as a photographer. He had his first photograph published in Look magazine when he was 16 (he was paid $25). Later, as a Look staffer, he shot on city streets, often swathes of nighttime blackness pierced by patches of light. His desire for precision and painstaking quest for technical innovation started early and stayed with him for the next 55 years.

The range and richness of his art are explored in the first U.S. retrospective of his work, co-presented by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Railroad station, Chicago 1949. Stanley Kubrick photo for Look magazine/Library of Congress

The exhibition highlights Kubrick’s bond with film noir, noting: “In the title of his first feature film, ‘Fear and Desire’ (1953), Kubrick declared two themes that he would return to throughout his career. The atmosphere of film noir – its claustrophobia, paranoia and hopelessness – creates a worldview made more tangible through style: low-key lighting, high-contrast and silhouetted images, the blackest shadows. These characteristics of noir, together with the camera movements that would soon be identified with the director, were coherently articulated in Kubrick’s three early features.”

And later: “What Kubrick began with ‘Lolita’ (1962) – disrupting the conventions of film noir – he accomplished completely with “Dr. Strangelove” (1964). Kubrick made the decision to treat the story as nightmare comedy.”

Kubrick’s films, including “Paths of Glory,” “Spartacus,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Barry Lyndon,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” among others, are represented through archival material, annotated scripts, photography, costumes, cameras and equipment, set models, original promotional materials and props.

Sue Lyon stars in “Lolita,” based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov.

In one of several letters rebuking Kubrick over the making of “Lolita,” the Bible Presbyterian Church of Tampa, Fla., decries that the movie “is based upon sex appeal. And that appeal is quite degenerate in its nature.”

There are also sections on Kubrick’s special effects and an alternate beginning to “2001” as well as displays about projects that Kubrick never completed (“Napoleon” and “The Aryan Papers”).

Kubrick died in 1999 in England, at the age of 70. He garnered 13 Academy Award nominations and “2001” (1968) won the Best Effects Oscar.

The exhibition, which runs through June 30, 2013, will be accompanied by a film retrospective at LACMA’s Bing Theater beginning this month.

From “The Shining” (1980): The daughters of Grady (Lisa and Louise Burns). © Warner Bros. Entertainment

To kick off the film retrospective, on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the Academy will present an evening of clips and tributes to honor Kubrick, hosted by actor Malcolm McDowell. The event will also launch the Academy’s Kubrick exhibition, which will be open to the public through February 2013.

As for the LACMA/Academy collaboration: “It is a taste of things to come when we open the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in the historic Wilshire May Company building on the LACMA campus,” said Dawn Hudson, Academy CEO.

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