With the Academy Awards just a month away, it’s the perfect time to look at fun facts, trivia and tidbits for both this year and historically.
John Williams, who just turned 91, reaped his 53rd Oscar nomination for scoring Steven Spielberg’s movie memoir “The Fabelmans.” Three of his five Oscar wins are for Spielberg films. His first Oscar nomination was for Best Music (score of music, adaptation, or treatment) for 1967’s “Valley of the Dolls” and his first win was for Best Music (scoring adaptation and original song score) for 1971’s “Fiddler on the Roof.” And what was the first film he scored? The long-forgotten 1958 AIP release 1958 “Daddy-O.”
In terms of nominations, Williams is second only to Walt Disney. During his 40-plus year film career, he received 26 Oscar — 22 of those were competitive — and a staggering 59 bids. At the 5th Oscars, he won an honorary Oscar for creating Mickey Mouse, while winning the Academy Award for best short subject (cartoons) for “Flowers and Trees,” the first commercially released to be released in three-strip Technicolor. He won five competitive Oscars at the 25th Academy Awards for best short subject (live action) for “Water Birds”; best documentary (feature) for ‘The Living Desert”; best documentary (short subject) for “The Alaskan Eskimo”; best short subject (cartoon) for “Toot, Whistle Plunk and Boom’; and best short subject (two-reel) for “Beat Country.” And he won posthumously the Oscar for best short subject (cartoon) at the 48th Oscars for “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.”
All in the family: Jamie Lee Curtis earns her first Oscar nomination for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in the supporting actress category. Her father Tony Curtis received an Oscar nomination 64 years ago for “The Defiant Ones” and her mother Janet Leigh received a supporting actress nod for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 “Psycho” as Marion Crane who makes a big mistake when she takes a shower at the Bates Motel.
Laurence Olivier was the first actor to direct himself to an Oscar for 1948’s “Hamlet.” But he wasn’t the first to direct himself to an Oscar nomination. A decade earlier, Leslie Howard earned a best actor nomination for “Pygmalion,” which he co-directed with Anthony Asquith.
Charlie Chaplin earned two honorary Oscars during his long career. He received one at the first Academy Awards in 1929 for “acting, writing, directing and producing ‘The Circus ‘ (1928) and at the 1972 ceremony for the “incalculable effect he had making motion pictures the art form of the century.” He finally earned a competitive Oscar the following year with Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell for best original dramatic score for “Limelight.” The film was released briefly released in the U.S. in 1952. But because Chaplin, whose was politically liberal, became a target of the communist witch hunt, “Limelight” was basically banned for 20 years and didn’t open in L.A. until 1972, finally qualifying for Oscar consideration. Rasch and Russell both received their Oscars posthumously. Russell had died in 1954; Rasch died in 1964.
Many popular singers have won Oscars including Bing Crosby (“Going My Way”), Frank Sinatra (“From Here to Eternity”) and Barbra Streisand (Best Actress for “Funny Girl,” Best Original Song with Paul Williams for “Evergreen”), but did you know three opera legends also received Oscar nominations?
Baritone Lawrence Tibbett performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York 600 times between 1923 to 1950. And in the early 1930s, he starred in a handful of films. He earned a best actor nomination for his first film, 1930’s “The Rogue Song” which also starred Laurel & Hardy and shot in two-strip Technicolor. It is now considered a “lost” film though segments have been found over the years and the complete soundtrack exists. His last film was 1936’s “Under Your Spell,” directed by Otto Preminger that was released as the second feature in double bills.
Tibbett also starred with opera star Grace Moore in 1930s’s New Moon.” Moore had started her career in the 1920s in musical comedies before studying opera in France. She made her Met debut in 1928. She hit it big in movies in 1934 earning a best actress nomination for “One Night of Love,” losing to Claudette Colbert for “It Happened One Night of Love.” Her final film was 1939’ “Louise.”
And Polish coloratura Miliza Korjus made one film for MGM earning a supporting actress nomination playing an opera singer in 1938’s “The Great Waltz.
The Norwegian documentary “Kon-Tiki” chronicling the country’s famed explorer and author Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 expedition won the Oscar for best documentary feature at the 24th Academy Awards. Oddly, its competition wasn’t a “typical” documentary, in fact it was a film noir “I Was a Communist for the FBI,” which was based on Saturday Evening Post articles penned by Matt Cvetic (Frank Lovejoy), a Pittsburgh steel worker who spent nine years as an infiltrator at local Communist cell. The film, subsequent book and radio series starring Dana Andrews, were released at the height of the McCarthy era. The New York Times labeled “horrendous” adding “this heated item bears comparison to the hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee-which incidentally it extols.”
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