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Entries in Spencer Tracy (19)

Tuesday
Nov132018

Top 10: Oscar's All Time Favorite Leading Men

by Nathaniel R

I was shocked to realize that De Niro, Hanks, Penn, and Pacino -- none of them made the top ten!

Okay okay. Since we did Supporting Men and Supporting Women during the summer, I figured we should complete the set. Who are Oscar's 10 favorite leading men? We'll work the ranking like so: Nominations count most, with wins acting like half a nomination to help determine rank. The tiebreaker is the spread of time of nominations which can denote either long term fandom on the Academy's part or shortlived enthusiasms. If there's still a tie at that point, other Oscar statistics (like if they were nominated for producing or supporting or whatnot) break the tie.

Only 20 men throughout film history have scored 5 or more nominations for Best Lead Actor and though this year's currently pulsing competition for Best Actor is chalk full of previous nominees, none of them are regulars to that degree. Here are the ten runners up followed by the all-time top ten list... 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec112017

The Furniture: Matte Paintings at the End of an Era

"The Furniture," by Daniel Walber, is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve done an informal retrospective series on the Best Production Design nominees of 1967. It isn’t an especially “New Hollywood” lineup, despite being the year of “Pictures at a Revolution.” Four of the nominees are lush period pieces, three of them lengthy musicals. They often feel like extravagantly-designed chaos, whirlwinds of sets and props that spin out of control. This is true of both the hilarious brawls of The Taming of the Shrew and the dated, stereotype-laden adventures of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Camelot, the winner, manages to split the difference between Old Hollywood excess and New Hollywood sexuality.

The final two films, both Best Picture nominees, are a bit less of a thrill. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Doctor Dolittle are, respectively, the most realistic and most fantastical of the five nominees. However, despite their differences, they both underline the inadequate end-point of old-school studio design.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug102016

Judy by the Numbers: "Judgment at Nuremberg"

Apologies, gentle Judy fans. While I intended to bring you the usual dose of morning Garland sunshine, I failed in meeting either the requirement for sunshine or the morning deadline. In this case, however, that’s probably for the best. Considering the subject of this film, it is probably better that you have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat before you sit down to watch it. This week, I’m breaking with tradition slightly. While Judy Garland does not sing any numbers in Judgment at Nuremberg, this is a performance and a movie that must be seen.

The Movie: Judgment at Nuremberg (UA, 1961)
The Writer: Abby Mann (screenplay)
The Cast: Maximilian Schell, Burt Lancaster, Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, directed by Stanley Kramer

The Story: When Stanley Kramer decided to adapt Abby Mann’s dramatization of the Nuremberg trials, Judy Garland was not his first choice for Irene Hoffman, the woman accused of miscegenation under Nazi law. However, after seeing Garland in concert, Kramer was impressed by her emotional range, and agreed to take a risk on the star who hadn’t made a film in over half a decade.

The risk paid off. Judy Garland’s performance, though only 18 minutes long, remains one of the most devastating of the film. While Irene is only one example of the many ways unjust laws persecuted and destroyed lives in Nazi Germany, Judy’s short performance elevates Irene from symbol to human being. Framed in closeup, Judy plays Irene’s grief in many keys: dignified mourning, frustrated confusion, disdain, defensiveness, fear, until it builds to a crescendo of anger and and injustice that almost renders her speechless.

This would be Judy’s only foray into “legitimate” drama (as opposed to the musicals and melodramas of her past), and it stands as a testament to her what might have been. Judy would receive her second and final Academy Award nomination for this performance (losing this time to Rita Moreno in West Side Story). But while Judy’s career in films was waning, her star was about to rise on a new medium: television.

Select Previous Highlights:  
“Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1938), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "For Me and My Gal" (1942), "The Trolley Song" (1944), "On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1946), "I Don't Care" (1949), "Get Happy" (1950), "The Man That Got Away" (1954)

Wednesday
Mar022016

The New Actor Hierarchy: Oscar's Most Beloved Male Stars


Leonardo DiCaprio is now an Oscar winner but where does he stand in history?

If you're feeling celebratory -- and we've all lived through his rise into cinematic legend so why shouldn't we? -- you really need to check out this cute video of Leo getting his Oscar engraved or this silliness of a party of bros celebrating his win like mad men (hey it's better than the bro-ness of the pussy posse reuniting) or the once mocking memes that have turned into odes to Leo Joy. Good funny stuff.

Even if you weren't enamored with The Revenant (*raises hand*) or find it downright suspect, his filmography is so loaded with memorable films that surely anyone can find one therein to direct all their feelings towards in this momentous week for the 41 year old superstar. I'm choosing to view the Oscar as a career achievement Oscar for specifically prompted by Gilbert Grape, Romeo + Juliet, and The Departed... love them all!) 

Last year when Julianne Moore won her long-awaited Oscar for Still Alice we quickly tabulated the All Time Oscar Actress Hierarchy; movement in the ranks at last!  Given that DiCaprio waited even longer for his eventual statue, nabbing his first nomination at the dewy age of 19 for What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), four years before Julianne Moore's first nomination, it seemed only right to do the same thing for the men in the wake of Leo's coronation. 

What follows is Oscar's 32 All Time Favorite Actors !
It's restricted to men with 5 or more nominations. Only the acting statistics are accounted for so George Clooney, for example, is not (yet) ranked. If you counted non-acting nominations, you'd also see DiCaprio jump a rank as he was nominated for producing Wolf of Wall Street two years ago and Brad Pitt would also factor in since he won Best Picture for 12 Years a Slave. Now that many major stars are involved in producing these types of extra nominations stats are likely to make Oscar lists of the future progressively murkier so we're opting not to include them for now. 

If you'd like to see how the ranks were determined (it's not as simple as basic addition or there would be many ties) that's at the bottom of the post.

OSCAR'S FOUR KINGS
And 28 other Royals 

after the jump 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb192016

Nine Lists. Nine Days Til Oscar ! 

Oscar is only 9 days away! So it's time for 9 lists with the magic number 9. NINE. NINE. NINE. NINE. NINE. NINE. NINE. NINE. NINE.

According to this website there are 9 Irish nominees this year? Kiss them!
I can only find six though. Maybe they meant all Room & Brooklyn noms (6) plus actors (2) plus short film (1)? 

Best Picture Ed Guiney, Room 
Best Actress Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Best Actor Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Best Director Lenny Abrahamson, Room  
Best Adapted Screenplay Emma Donoghue, Room
Best Live Action Short Benjamin Cleary, Stutterer 

The 9 best movies of all time that received exactly 9 nominations (in chronological order, *indicates Best Picture winner)
1941 Citizen Kane
1951 A Place in the Sun
1969 They Shoot Horses Don't They?
1979 All That Jazz
1979 Kramer vs Kramer *
1992 Howards End
2002 The Hours
2009 The Hurt Locker*
2013 12 Years a Slave*

more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug282015

Broken Lance's "Half Breed"

Robert Wagner keeps invading our Smackdown celebrations. In our 1952 revisit he appeared briefly as a shell shocked soldier for Susan Hayward to comfort with her crooning in With a Song in My Heart. He was almost impossible to look at from the pretty. And here he is again, distracting another Smackdown with his smolder in the western Broken Lance.

Perhaps we'd better go inside."

[Translation]: Jean Peters, you're about to tear your clothes off under the moonlight and devour me but I will chivalrously save your reputation... now that I've already won you with my lips. 

The rising 24 year-old actor was rumored to be carrying on behind the scenes with the then 47 year-old Barbara Stanwyck (who happens to co-star in Executive Suite, another of this month's Smackdown movies) but his most enduring romance was yet to begin. How many times do you think a then 16 year-old Natalie Wood, just one year away from her key transition film from child star to teen icon (Rebel Without a Cause) demanded to watch Broken Lance? Do you think her friends & handlers were all "enough with the Broken Lance, Nat!" According to Natalie herself, by 1954 her love would have already been six years strong though the actors had yet to meet.

"I was 10 and he was 18 when I first saw him walking down a hall at 20th Century Fox," she recalls. "I turned to my mother and said, 'I'm going to marry him.' "

She did.

Natalie married RJ (for the first time) in December 1957. She was just 19.

In Broken Lance, the then 24 year old actor (of German and Norwegian descent) plays our protagonist, the "half breed" son of Native American princess "Señora Devereaux" (played by Mexican actress Katy Jurado) and an Irish cattle rancher (played by Spencer Tracy of Irish descent) who is at odds with his half-brothers. R.J. is heavily bronzed for the role. For all the typical Old Hollywood clumsiness with racial identity and casting -- something that hasn't changed much in the subsequent 61 years (note: Rooney Mara as "Tiger Lily" in the forthcoming Pan) --  Broken Lance actually really sells the racial identity angst with something like humane progressive verve. Jean Peters, playing RJ's love interest Barbara, jokes that her man is more upset about being half Irish than half Indian in a clumsy date scene which results in both of them doing those cheery Old Holllywood fake chuckles as we dissolve out. Elsewhere, though, there's rich drama. Tracy's three sons from an earlier marriage, who serve as the plot's antagonists aren't always comfortable with their bi-racial home but neither are they painted as explicitly racist. Their "evil," if you will, arrives from a more complex mix of agendas and grudges against their father and you can see that the eldest actually respects his stepmom and youngest brother, even as he speaks out against them. In the films most sympathetically acted moment of strife, Tracy squares off with the Governor (E.G. Marshall), over their children's unexpected romance (pictured up top). The governor's discomfort with his daughter falling for his closest friend's bi-racial son-- a young man he otherwise likes quite a lot and has seen grow up, mind you -- clearly scars both men, tearing their decades long friendship apart. Prejudices hurt everyone, not just the target of the prejudice.

All in all Broken Lance is an engaging western with more ambitions than gunfights for a change of pace. And this is why we should always love the Oscars, people. Let others reflexively gripe about it and miss out. Awards history directs us to movies we might otherwise never see from before our time. And Oscar history, for all its imperfections and blindspots, can illuminate pop culture throughlines, introduce you to rich now underappreciated talents, and provide wonderful anecdotal bits and bobs from mainstream history, cinematic and otherwise.

I love doing the Smackdowns and I hope you do, too. If you wanted to vote on this round, I need your votes by this evening at the absolute latest. The 1954 Supporting Actress Smackdown arrives Sunday morning at 10:00 AM.