Tag Archives: all about eve

What Happened at the 23rd Academy Awards?

As the Academy Awards are broadcast from Hollywood, Gloria Swanson anxiously awaits the announcement of Best Actress.

By Lara Gabrielle Fowler

On a whim yesterday, I removed my trusty VHS of Sunset Boulevard from its spot in my movie library (organized alphabetically, by year) and put it in for an  impromptu viewing. Sunset Boulevard is one of those movies with everything–flawless plot, perfect script, skillful directing, and tour-de-force acting by Gloria Swanson, whose portrayal of fictional fallen screen star Norma Desmond, whose life has unraveled to the point of insanity, is one for the ages. As a friend of mine puts it, “Gloria Swanson tore her heart out and bled that role.”

Rightly, she was remembered in the Best Actress Oscar nominations for 1950, along with Bette Davis (All About Eve), Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday), Anne Baxter (All About Eve), and Eleanor Parker (Caged).

All About Eve is similar to Sunset Boulevard in many ways. Both were directed by writer-directors (Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s script for All About Eve is a phenomenal triumph, and Billy Wilder’s script with Charles Brackett for Sunset Boulevard is famous for being the pair’s last collaboration) and both deal brutally with the issues of stardom as one ages. The main characters are stubborn and vulnerable larger-than-life personalities. We are led to realize the unfairness in life that has been dealt to them–where Norma Desmond’s fragile mental state leads those close to her (namely her strangely devoted butler Max) to treat her with kid gloves, no one takes Margo’s guff and it is assumed that she can take care of herself–when in reality she is in desperate need of protection.

Hollywood loved its own. It was going to be either Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson, no one else had much of a chance.

But when the announcement was read, there was an upset.

So what happened?

I think the nomination of two actresses portraying similarly themed characters, both giving the performance of their respective careers, was too much for that year. The votes were split down the for Davis and Swanson, relegating each of them to the minority allowing Judy Holliday to win with the “outlier” votes. Essentially, 1950 was so good, it backfired.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think Judy Holliday was brilliant in Born Yesterday. It remains one of my favorite movies of 1950, and Judy Holliday was what made it. Check out this wonderful scene of her playing cards, and the subtle expressions and physical movements that drive the scene. I apologize for the poor quality, but it’s very much worth watching.

Had this been any other year, I would have applauded Holliday’s win, but it was an inappropriate result for a category that included Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard and Bette Davis in All About Eve.

I would like to pose the question to you, readers–what are your opinions on the 23rd Academy Awards? Who do you think should have won? What do you think happened? Leave a comment in the comments section and let’s discuss it!

I look forward to reading your comments!

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Celeste Holm (1917-2012)

Yesterday, right in the middle of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I found out that Celeste Holm passed away. Unable to break away from festival coverage, I haven’t had a chance to address her passing until now, but news of her death is already circulating through the classic film world and her loss is being intensely felt.

A follower on twitter messaged me yesterday with a direct question: “What do you plan as a tribute to Celeste Holm?” The follower didn’t ask “Do you plan a tribute?” or “Have you thought of a tribute?” The question was asked in such a way that it was a given that I was going to make a tribute to her in some form or another. I think that really says a lot about Celeste Holm. She had an impact on classic film that I think too often goes unnoticed or unappreciated, but to classic film fans, she was one of the greats and provided an incredibly important backbone of so many of our great movies.

Here are some of Celeste Holm’s most celebrated films:

Though never by any means a lead actress, she was nonetheless a star, in a similar way t0 the stardom of Thelma Ritter–no matter how small her part was, she was always noticeable, and never expendable in a film. She always helped to carry the story.

Celeste Holm’s later life was marked with problems. In 2004 she married a man named Frank Basile, 48 years her junior, much to the chagrin of her sons who viewed Basile as a golddigger. Basile cut Celeste, now suffering from dementia, off from all contact with her sons, and I don’t know if she saw them at all before she died. My guess is that she did not. Celeste Holm deserved so much better from her later years, and it’s tragic that this not only happened to her, but it’s the story of the lives of many senior citizens now–I know she isn’t the only one this has happened to.

I celebrate her life here with a series of photos. Thanks for reading.