Tag Archives: the godfather

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

In case you haven’t heard, the Academy Award nominations were announced this morning with The King’s Speech leading the nods with 12.

While looking over the nominees in the category of Best Actor, I noticed something interesting.

Should Jeff Bridges win for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, a role that won the Oscar for John Wayne in 1969, it would be the first time in history the same role would produce two Best Actor winners. (The role of Vito Corleone did win Oscars for two men, Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro, but only Brando’s award was for Best Actor. De Niro’s came in the Best Supporting Actor category.)

Interestingly, two men were denied accomplishing this same feat by Wayne’s win in 1969. That year, Peter O’Toole was nominated for playing Arthur Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, a role that won Robert Donat the Oscar in 1939. Richard Burton was nominated for his portrayal of Henry VIII that same year, which had previously won the statuette for Charles Laughton in 1933.

A win would also make Bridges only the third man (along with Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks) to win the award in consecutive years, following his Oscar winning performance in Crazy Heart last year.

Of course, the other nominees this year – Javier Bardem, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth, and James Franco – will be hoping to create some history of their own. None perhaps more than Firth, who was also nominated last year for A Single Man, but lost to Bridges.

The award in the category goes to the best screen actor of the year, not the best person of the year.

This proved lucky for Emil Jannings, the first man to win the award in 1928. The heavily-accented Jannings failed to make the transition to talkies and returned to his native Germany where he became a major supporter of Hitler and the Nazis. When the Allies entered Germany, Jannings reportedly carried his Oscar everywhere to curry favor with the invading troops.

Another interesting piece of Oscar trivia is that Robert Downey, Jr. is the only man to be nominated in the Best Actor category for playing a man who was once nominated for a Best Actor Oscar himself. This happened in 1992’s Chaplin, when Downey was honored for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin, who was nominated for a Best Actor award in 1940 for The Great Dictator. (We will be showing Chaplin as the kick-off to ChaplinFest on Friday, February 4 in Newhall.)

Should Bridges win for True Grit, it may help to remove some of the stigma attached to John Wayne’s Oscar, which was thought by many  to have been awarded to honor Wayne’s entire body of work, rather than his actual performance in the film.

The Completion of the Conquest

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land and they took it.” – Anonymous Native American – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown

120 years ago today, the final sad chapter in the government- and pulpit-sanctioned greed-justifying saga known as “Manifest Destiny” was written near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota.

It was on this date in 1890 that 150 (some reports say 300) Lakota Sioux men, women, and children were massacred by the U.S. 7th Cavalry in the final slaughter of the Plains Indian Wars.

The Lakota, who had seen their nomadic lifestyle decimated in armed conflicts with white settlers and the U.S. Army, had been forced onto reservations by the U.S. government and left beholden to corrupt and inefficient Indian Agents who failed to provide adequately for the tribes.

At this time an Indian holy man named Wovoka claimed he saw a vision that Jesus Christ would return as a Native American and bring back all the murdered Indians and buffalo while banishing whites from Indian lands. This, he preached, would only come about if Indians everywhere performed a “Ghost Dance.”

Ghost Dancing spread throughout the Plains, and after an attempt to stop the “messiah craze” led to the death of Chief Sitting Bull, a group of Indians left their reservation to find protection with Chief Red Cloud at the Pine Ridge Reservation.

The group was intercepted by the 7th Cavalry and led to the banks of Wounded Knee Creek to camp. When the army tried to disarm the Indians, a shot rang out, and they responded by opening fire from their Hotchkiss guns from the hills overlooking the encampment. When the shooting stopped, hundreds of Indians were dead, along with 31 soldiers, most of whom were cut down by friendly fire.

Eighty years after the massacre, historian Dee Brown’s best-selling book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee brought fame to the incident. The book has never gone out of print in the 40 years since it was first published, having sold over 4 million copies.

In 1973, a 71-day standoff at Wounded Knee between the FBI and activists from the American Indian Movement (AIM) became the talk of Hollywood. In the midst of the conflict, actor Marlon Brando, who supported AIM, refused to accept his Oscar for The Godfather at the 45th Academy Awards presentation because of the “poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry.” His refusal was delivered by a Native American woman dressed in Apache clothing.

Today, the Pine Ridge Reservation is still one of the most miserable places on the continent. Its 28,000 residents are plagued with 85% unemployment, four times the national average for youth suicides, and one of the shortest life expectancies for any group in the Western Hemisphere.