Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

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Entries in Old Hollywood (129)


Interview: Jamie Bell on falling in love with Annette Bening and his "Billy Elliot" reunion

by Nathaniel R

Jamie Bell has been famous since he was 14 years old. His debut film Billy Elliott (2000) about a young boy who discovers a passion for dancing that puts him at odds with his blue-collar community, became a global sensation. The charming film earned over $100 million (on a $5 million budget), received 3 Oscar nominations multiple BAFTAs, and eventually spawned a similarly popular stage musical which took yet more prizes.

The film also earned its young star the BAFTA for Best Actor in February of 2001. And, seventeen years later, here we are again. Jamie Bell is BAFTA nominated for Best Actor for his latest movie Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool. The romantic drama, now in limited release, is about the last days of Oscar winner Gloria Grahame's (Annette Bening) life and the young unknown actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) she falls in love with, and whose life she essentially takes over moving into his parents home (where they're both mothered by Julie Walter). 

I had the opportunity to speak with Jamie Bell a few times this season at events which was a gift since the actor is so charming and his talent somehow still undervalued 17 years later. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool should change that as his best performance yet. Our interview is after the jump..

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Doc Corner: 'Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story'

More often than not, biographic documentaries can feel staid in the way they so relentlessly follow a basic Point A to Point B narrative. It is understandable, really. After all, one must suppose that if somebody is interesting enough to have a documentary made about them, then they must be interesting enough to sustain 90 minutes without the need for their story to be gussied up with stylistic bells and tricky whistles.

Still, watching as many of these sort of films as I do, it can grow tiresome and can take me out of whatever spell the filmmaker hopes to cast.

And then there is a movie like Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. This is a film that it would be easy to pigeonhole before the opening scene has even begun - and it’s true that Alexandra Dean’s film adheres to a very traditional birth-to-death narrative. But what makes the film so interesting beyond its subject is the way it turns what could be perceived as just standard bio-doc delivery into a unique advantage.

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Feud 1.08: You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends? - Season Finale

In the season one finale, Joan goes to the dentist, Bette gets roasted, and the show answers the question “If you could have any four people over for dinner, dead or alive…?”

by Jorge Molina

Last night, after seven weeks of behind-the-scenes introspections, gargantuan character work, and many, many hats, Feud reached its conclusion. And if it accomplished anything, it was making clear that, underneath the two legends the world knows as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, there were two broken women with an eternal strive for outside validation, left empty once the cameras stopped rolling.

The finale presents the last years in the careers of Joan (Jessica Lange) and Bette (Susan Sarandon). But mostly Joan. Because she seemed to have been the most natural recipient of all the themes Ryan Murphy and company wanted to make evident: ageism, mysogny, merciless sacrifice for Hollywood, estrangement, ingratitude, and, mostly, pain...

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Feud: Bette and Joan. "The Other Woman"

Previously on episode 1

On the second episode, Bette and Joan fight for the affections of Robert Aldrich, Hedda Hopper has a feud of her own, and Kiernan Shipka goes full Sally Draper. Here's Jorge Molina...

Your autograph please Ms Crawford

For both of his latest anthologies, Ryan Murphy has tried to focus every episode on a different aspect of the overall theme of the series in question. With People vs. OJ, we got racism and sexism-centric episodes. On Feud it seems we'll be exploring different sides of the destructive Hollywood machinery. This week that's how women in the industry are pitted against each other for monetary and publicity gain.

The second episode also gives us an excuse to call Stanley Tucci "Big Daddy." Not that we needed one...

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Posterized: Happy Olivia de Havilland Centennial !

Photo shot last week in Paris, via People magazineHappy 100th birthday Olivia de Havilland! She's our oldest living Oscar winner  and oldest living bonafide movie star (Kirk Douglas, also still with us, is five months younger) and her list of classics is long. She may not have gotten along with her movie star sister Joan Fontaine -- their contentious relationship stretches back to childhood (it didn't start when they were Oscar-nominated against each other and Joan won) wherein she supposedly made a will at nine years old stating:

I bequeath all my beauty to my younger sister Joan, since she has none"

 ...but that infamous feud aside she was beloved by many. The list includes legends like Erroll Flynn (8 pictures together) and Bette Davis (several pictures and a friend) and actors everywhere owe her for the freedom she wrangled in the 'de Havilland decision' in the 1940s which Tim discussed in his write-up of The Heiress. I hope she feels the love in France today where she lives. She recently told Vanity Fair that she plans to live to be 110.

We still have two more pieces coming up on individual performances (why cut the bday festivities short?) but let's look at the whole filmography in poster form after the jumpHow many have you seen? 

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Olivia @ 100: The Heiress

We're counting down to Olivia de Havilland's historic 100th birthday (July 1st!). Team Experience will be looking at highlights and curiosities from her career. Here's Tim...

Olivia de Havilland is more than a living link to the Golden Age of Hollywood, more than a gorgeous movie star, more than a two-time Oscar winner. She's one of the most significant figures in the history of the American film industry: the woman who broke the back of the studio contract system when she successfully sued Warner Bros. for career independence in 1943. As Hollywood's first independent movie star since the silent era, de Havilland was suddenly in a position to make all of her own creative decisions, leading to a string of challenging dramatic roles that didn't simply trade on her good looks and holy innocent persona.

Both of de Havilland's Oscar wins came about thanks to this period of chasing her own projects, and the second of these performances, in 1949's The Heiress, is a particularly fine example of the movie star as Serious Actress. Based on a play adapted from a Henry James novel, The Heiress tells a straightforward enough melodrama: in 1840s New York, a woman with an annual income of $10,000 from her mother's will and another $30,000 to come when her father passes. A painfully shy, relatively homely women crawling up in years, she falls for the first man who pays her any attention, and he of course turns out to be a craven gold-digger. When her father threatens her with disinheritance the cad leaves, giving her plenty of years to grow good and bitter.

What enlivens this material is, in large part, the exemplary casting of the four main characters: de Havilland as the naïve heiress, Ralph Richardson as her father, Montgomery Clift as her shiftless lover, and Miriam Hopkins as her spinster aunt, unhelpfully projecting her own romantic visions onto the young lady. That's a lot of acting power, and having such great scene partners helped to raise de Havilland's own game, allowing her to have more complicated, and much darker, reactions that most of what she'd been able to achieve in the years prior to that.

She's great at playing a wallflower, in the second film in two years (following The Snake Pit) where she de-glammed herself for Art and Oscars. De Havilland can only look so ugly, even with the hair and make-up department raising her hairline almost to the top of her head, but the actress sells herself as a plain, awkward frump by constantly shrinking herself inwards, hunching down, delivering all of her lines a little bit too quietly and with nervous pauses. But she's even better in the last third of the movie, when she's playing the cold fury of a scorned romantic: there's a deep revulsion burned into her eyes and voice, giving the material its necessarily outraged finale. Without her fury, The Heiress is a handsome soap opera; with her, it becomes a dark tragedy.

For a performer who'll always forever be linked with the fairytale saint Melanie from Gone with the Wind, the haggard look on de Havilland's face and the raw pain in her voice are uniquely shocking and potent. It's as self-effacing as any star turn in the 1940s, and it's an achievement that could only come about in the brave new era of self-directed acting careers that de Havilland herself helped to create.

Previously: The Dark Mirror (1946), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and It's Love I'm After (1937)


Olivia @ 100: The Adventures of Robin Hood

We're counting down to Olivia de Havilland's historic 100th birthday (July 1st!). Team Experience will be looking at highlights and curiosities from her career. Here's Dancin Dan...

Has Olivia de Havilland ever looked more beautiful than in 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood? Surely her apple-cheeked, wide-eyed beauty was never set off better than in the fabulous succession of head scarves she wore as Maid Marian

And the costumes themselves are just gorgeous, too. Why modern-day Renaissance Faires aren't full to bursting with ladies busting out Olivia-as-Marian cosplay, I'll never know. Except for the fact that maybe Milo Anderson's costumes are too uniquely fabulous to ever be copied well. (Sadly, there were no Oscars for costumes until the late 1940s else he might have won for this)

More beauty after the jump...

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Judy by the Numbers: "The Joint Is Really Jumpin' in Carnegie Hall"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Judy Garland was wrapping production on one movie and starting production on another when she filmed a cameo for the WWII wartime musical, Thousands Cheer. Despite the fact that Garland was one of MGM's biggest stars, this cameo with José Iturbi was the first Technicolor movie she had made since The Wizard of Oz four years previous. The films between Oz and Thousands Cheer, though large in spirit, were small in budget due to Great Depression constraints. However, the onset of World War II brought about an audience boom - everyone was going to the movies to catch a newsreel and escape the fears of the war. As a result, budgets were about to skyrocket as MGM began to give Judy Garland big and colorful sets, costumes, and scenery to match her big and colorful voice.

The Movie: Thousands Cheer (1943)
The Songwriters: Roger Edens, Ralph Blane, and Hugh Martin
The Players: Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, Jon Boles, directed by George Sidney

The Story: The man playing both jazz and classical music as Judy swings is (as previously mentioned) José Iturbi, a Spanish conductor and pianist. Surprisingly for a classical musician, Iturbi also started an improbably successful parallel career as a character actor in MGM movies of the 1940s. While composers and musicians would show up periodically in films to "class it up" (or "brass it up," depending on whether it was Bob Crosby or Oscar Levant), none was quite so prolific onscreen as Iturbi. From 1943 to 1949, Iturbi appeared in about a picture a year, with small but noticeable parts. After all, it's hard to find a pianist with enough personality to pleasantly play for a put out Judy Garland.

Select Previous Highlights:  "Dear Mr Gable" (1937), “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1938), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (1941), "For Me and My Gal" (1942)