The 19th Academy Awards Ceremony in 1947
Veronica Lake star of "The Blue Dahlia"
Academy Awards Ceremony Background
Glitz and glamour accompany every Academy Awards Ceremony and make it one of the most popular events of the year both inside and outside of Hollywood. Is 1947 special? It's a year close to my heart. Why you might ask? It was the year I was born.
In 1947 we were still a nation recovering from a great War. Hollywood has always been on top of it's game and knew what the public was interested in. In true Hollywood tradition, movies of 1946, which is the year for which the 1947 Awards are given, reflected the lives people were living and what their experiences were. Soldiers were returning home and learning to fit into a society they had sorely missed. Jobs, housing, emotional adjustments were all part of their lives and Hollywood showed that in it's movies. Of course not every movie was related to the War, everyone needed to start to put the War years behind them and what better entertainment than the movies? This year provided a mix of both.
The Academy Awards were held in the Shrine Auditorium and were hosted by Jack Benny.
The end of one war but the beginning of another. The Cold War began more or less officially, in 1947. While War Treaties were still being signed, the Truman Doctrine was presented by President Truman. This was the United States promise to support Greece and Turkey in an effort to keep Communism from spreading through these two countries. The Truman Doctrine was used as the basis for our fight against Communism. No troops or invasions, but promises of money and support.
But, back to Hollywood. Hollywood wasn't unscathed by the threat of Communism. The entertainment black list began in 1946 but the true scare and scandal started in 1947 when the House Committee on Un-American Activities began summoning actors, directors and others in the entertainment industry for questioning. It was a dark time in Hollywood and many innocents were accused and forced out of their jobs and lost employment. Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan believed that this was not an idle threat while others, like Humphrey Bogart and John Huston, part of a group known as "The Hollywood Ten" fought against the government targeting Hollywood. Due to their 'defiance' of government investigations they served jail sentences. Burt Lancaster said he believe many "movie moguls" participated and cooperated out of fear.
There were blacklisted writers who lost their jobs. In order to continue working, and of course maintain an income, many of them wrote under other names. It wasn't until 1960 that the blacklist came to an end. It reminds me of the Salem witch hunts. Guilty or not, you could be accused and blacklisted. You could be placed on the blacklist just for not cooperating with the House Committee. It is said only ten percent of those 'convicted' were able to return to their careers.
Yet, while this continued so did Hollywood and that brings us to the 1947 Academy Awards.
The Best Years of Our Lives
This movie won seven Academy Awards; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. It hit home with so many as it showed what so many soldiers faced when they returned home and had to re-adjust to their normal lives. There were soldiers of different ages, soldiers with disabilities, soldiers with problems trying to fit in, to name but a few of the circumstances. This movie shows how some of them faced the changes they came home to.
Three soldiers returning home, meet on a plane. A decorated Army Air Force Captain played by Dana Andrews, Homer, a young man who lost both of his hands when his aircraft carrier sunk, played by Harold Russell, and a platoon sergeant played by Frederic March. Although Fred is a decorated war hero, he can't find a job and winds up returning to his old job as a soda jerk. His wife is not the loving and understanding type and winds up cheating on him with another ex-serviceman. Al, on the other hand returns to his very nice home and very nice wife, played by Myrna Loy and two children. One of his children, his daughter Peggy, finds Fred very appealing and vows to break up his marriage.
Meanwhile, Homer's girlfriend is willing to overlook his two prosthetic arms and marry him but he's afraid it won't work. He tries to dissuade her by showing her how difficult her life would be but he finds she truly loves him and they go ahead with the wedding.
This was a film all soldiers coming home could relate to. It was about real people and real problems. If you haven't seen it you should move it to the top of your list.
Harold Russell lost his hands while he was an Army instructor in North Carolina. A defective fuse detonated an explosive he was handling.
Best Years of Our Lives
It's a Wonderful Life - George and Clarence
George: Look, who are you?
Clarence: I told you, George. I'm your guardian angel.
George: Yeah, yeah, I know. You told me that. What else are you? What...are you a hypnotist?
Clarence: No, of course not.
George: Well, then, why am I seeing all these strange things?
Clarence: Don't you understand, George? It's because you were not born.
George: Then if I wasn't born, who am I?
Clarence: You're nobody. You have no identity.
George: What do you mean, no identity? My name's George Bailey.
Clarence: There is no George Bailey. You have no papers, no cards, no driver's license, no 4-F card, no insurance policy...They're not there, either.
Clarence: Zuzu's petals. You've been given a great gift, George. A chance to see what the world would be like without you.
It's a Wonderful Life
Though it was nominated for five Academy Awards, it was out ranked by "The Best Years of Our Lives". However, that didn't stop this film from becoming an American Christmas Classic watched every year by millions. The story of an average American who never really got to do what he wanted to do in life because he was busy helping others. When his drunk uncle loses the money of his loan company he contemplates suicide. An angel steps in and shows him what life would have been like if he'd never been born. It isn't a pretty picture. James Stewart is superb and totally lovable in this warm-hearted tale.
You know you've heard of Bedford Falls...while it was only a lot at RKO, its a Christmas town to everyone else. What about Clarence Odbody? He's the angel trying to get his wings by helping George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). Oh, and Zuzu, George Bailey's youngest daughter. Zuzu and her rose petals, not to mention one of the most famous lines in Christmas movie history, "Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."
Those of you who are Sesame Street lovers may also have noticed Bert the cop and Ernie the cab driver. Contrary to rumor it is just coincidence that the muppets have the name Bert and Ernie.
If you don't watch this movie any other time, watch it at Christmas.
It's a Wonderful Life
Other Academy Award Winners
Olivia de Haviland
To Each His Own
Best Supporting Actress
Muriel and Sydney Box
Best Original Screenplay
The Seventh Veil
Vacation From Marriage
Best Musical Score
The Jolson Story
Gibbons and Groesse
Best Art Direction, Color
Arthur C. Miller
Best Art Direction, Black and White
Anna and the King of Siam
Best Visual Effects
Academy Award Nominations for 1947
It isn't just the winners we celebrate but the nominees as well. So many great films are nominated and may be more famous or interesting to us than the ones that win. For example, the great Hitchcock film starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, "Notorious". A movie about Nazi spies and trust. Also, "Notorious" was noted for the longest kiss, between Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. Hitchcock accomplished it by having the lovers pull apart for three seconds then resume their kiss!
There's also the psychological thriller, "The Spiral Staircase" about a serial killer murdering young women. It seems next on his list is a young woman who is unable to speak and is caring for a wealthy bedridden woman, starring Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, and Ethel Barrymore.
No year is complete without a western and this year's was "Duel in the Sun" starring Lillian Gish, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton and Gregory Peck. If you've seen this movie, the ending stays with you a while but I won't give it away.
"To Each His Own", "Rode to Utopia", "The Blue Dahlia", and more. Each film has it's own special characteristics whether it be the good acting, a great story, or just an all around entertaining movie. Academy Award winner or a nominee all of these movies are certainly worth watching at least once.
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