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70 YEARS OF THE OSCAR - The official History of the Academy Awards by Robert Osborne. Coffee-table Format 384 pages Abbeville Press. $65 Amazon
Did you know that for the first seven years of the Academy Awards, beginning in 1927, that there were no Awards for music? Did you know that when the category was introduced, for the first four years the Awards were given to the heads of the studios' music departments? Thus, when Anthony Adverse won the award in 1936, the Oscar went to Leo Forbstein and not to the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold. It was not until 1938, that the Oscar was awarded to the composer. In that year, it was presented to Korngold for his music for The Adventures of Robin Hood. Also that year, in the scoring category (as opposed to Original Score) Alfred Newman won an Oscar for his work (with the help of Irving Berlin) on Alexander's Ragtime Band. It is interesting to note the large numbers of music nominations in those days.
In 1937, for instance, there were 14. In 1939, there were 13 for scoring and 13 for original scores. These numbers were maintained through to 1946 when the nominations were drastically reduced to 5 or 6 (in the previous year 1945 there had been 21 nominations in a combined Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy category). [Additionally throughout all those years, and into the future, there was also a category for Song.] Through these years one name stands out quite distinctly - that of Victor Young who was nominated many times. Film score researchers and reconstructionists take note. There may be gold to be mined in some of those scores. Another name that figures prominently is Herbert Stothart - a name too often forgotten now. [I suggest that you listen to the new The Lion's Roar, Classic M-G-M film scores 1935-1965 RHINO R275701 for an appreciation of his music].
These are some of the facts one gleans from reading this wonderful book which is a very, very comprehensive coverage of a fascinating subject. To stay with our primary interest for a while, it covers all the nominated and Award winning scores from One Night of Love (1934) to Titanic (1997). There are some surprises. Some of the greatest scores were never even nominated. David Raksin was not recognised for two wonderful scores: Laura and The Bad and the Beautiful. Miklós Rózsa's score for Lust for Life was overlooked, so too was Ennio Morricone's Once Upon a Time in America which was not even entered because of an oversight. Conversely one wonders how some scores won an Oscar, even a nomination e.g. Arnold's Bridge on the River Kwai (with that wretchedly boring Colonel Bogey march) and The Full Monte (a political sop if there was one!).
The opening spread is an extraordinary colour portrait of 70 Hollywood stars, seventy Oscar winners from Anne Bancroft to Teresa Wright and Ernest Borgnine to Denzel Washington.
The book traces the history of the Academy Awards in an introductory chapter devoted to the inception of the institution followed by seven chapters, one each devoted to each successive decade of its 70 years. Another chapter gives an in-depth description of all the Awards ceremonies - who hosted them and who produced and directed the Awards shows etc. A final section on the Academy Facts and Records is followed by a comprehensive index.
In each decade chapter, each year's Academy Awards are listed by category in very full detail. These sections are preceded by introductory pages on the highlights of the decade and the progress of the Academy which are further elaborated in the sections devoted to the specific years. Throughout are many, many quotations from winners about their experiences of winning their Awards. Some are funny, some are sad others are poignant - all are revealing. Each chapter also lists the Academy Presidents in that decade.
This book is absolutely indispensable to the serious film and film music enthusiast
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