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Today in Movie History - March 26


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Only half-paying attention to the double feature of MGM chestnuts with Mary Astor in a maternal role, both of which have gotten a zillion and one prime time airings on TCM already, while I type this up. Getting very weary of Oscar-related entries. The last week of March was standard Oscar week for many years!


March 26, 1953 - The newest film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, UGETSU MONOGATARI (TALES OF THE PALE AND SILVERY MOON AFTER RAIN), is released today in Tokyo. Simultaneously violent and contemplative, the film embraces four typical Japanese genres: the historic tableaux, the elegiac poem, the tale of the supernatural and the Kabuki theater. It's the story of a poor potter, trying to make a living in a medieval village, who's lured away from his devoted wife by a mysterious woman, who turns out to be a ghost. He comes home repentant, but (Spoiler Alert!) find his wife is now too a ghost. The film is based on two ghost stories written in the 1700s, one by Akinari Veda and one by Guy de Maupassant. Mizoguchi's artistry is visually demonstrated in such shots as a boat emerging on a lake from the mist, hinting at the appearance of the supernatural, and the final sequence where the potter sees a vision of his wife where there was only emptiness before.


March 26, 1958 - At the 30th Annual Academy Awards, a small army of co-MC's share hosting duty: Rosalind Russell, James Stewart, Bob Hope, David Niven and Jack Lemmon. The most successful film at the ceremony is Columbia's THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAY, produced by Sam Spiegel, directed by David Lean and starring Alec Guiness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa. The film is an exemplar of the Spiegel production method: meticulous preparation of an ostensibly solemn subject, swathed in handsome production values. A tiny hint of radicalism is kept firmly under control by Lean's tidy (some critics say impersonal) direction. Eschewing stereotyped heroics and dramatically promoting the concept that "war is madness", BRIDGE wins seven Oscars: Best Picture of 1957, Best Director, Best Actor for Guiness as the tragic Colonel Nicholson, Best Color Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Best Actress Oscar goes to Joanne Woodward for her gripping performance in THE THREE FACES OF EVE from 20th Century Fox as a young woman afflicted with multiple personalities. Red Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki win Best Supporting Actor and Actress, respectively, for their work Warner Brothers' SAYONARA. That same film also managed to take the Best Color Art Direction award, while NIGHTS OF CABIRIA from Italy, co-written and directed by Frederico Fellini, is voted Best Foreign Language Film.


March 26, 1970 - For three days in August, 1969, a 600-acre farm in upstate New York was invaded by 500,000 people who flocked to the Woodstock Festival, a feast of music presented on an unprecedented scale. For all the people who didn't make it to Max Yasgur's farm, they now have the opportunity to get something of the flavor of this remarkable event, as WOODSTOCK, Michael Wadleigh's documentary account of this great gathering of the youth culture, premieres today in New York City. With a team of 12 cameramen using 16 mm film, Wadleigh shot 120 hours of film, which he has edited down to 184 minutes. There's arresting footage of the festival's once-in-a-lifetime lineup, which included Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, the Who, Crosby Stills & Nash, Arlo Guthrie, Santana, Country Joe & the Fish and Sly & the Family Stone, but Wadleigh also turns the camera's eye on the ragtag army encamped in the mud who came to watch, dance and dream the festival away while listening to classics like "Purple Haze".


March 26, 1990 - At 80 years and nine months, Jessica Tandy becomes the oldest person to ever win an acting Oscar when she receives the Best Actress award for her work in Warner Brothers' DRIVING MISS DAISY, outstripping George Burns, who was seven months younger when he won Best Supporting Actor for THE SUNSHINE BOYS in March, 1976. Bruce Beresford's tender film about the relationship between an elderly Jewish widow and her black chauffeur also carries off the awards for Best Picture of 1989 and Best Adapted Screenplay, while the film most considered to be its main competition, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY from Universal, wins Best Director for Oliver Stone and Best Film Editing. The Best Actor competition was considered by most to be a two-man race between actors playing characters with physical disabilities, and Daniel Day-Lewis, playing Irish writer Christy Brown who lacks muscular control over any part of his body except for the titular body part in Miramax's MY LEFT FOOT, beats out Tom Cruise, playing paraplegic Vietnam vet Ron Kovic on JULY. Stone, despite his personal win, will grouse about JULY not winning Best Picture, bringing backlash upon himself after telling reporters, "There was a concentrated right-wing media effort against this movie. Because it's political, it made a lot of people angry."


March 26, 2000 - There are no surprises at the 72nd Annual Academy Awards when Dreamworks' AMERICAN BEAUTY wins five Oscars, including Best Picture of 1999. Sam Mendes, a London-based theater director and first-time filmmaker, wins Best Director; Kevin Spacey is named Best Actor; Alan Ball secures the award for Best Original Screenplay; and Conrad Hall wins Best Cinematography. This was Hall's ninth nomination; he won once before for 1969's BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID. An eight-month pregnant Annette Bening was considered the frontrunner in the Best Actress race, but she's beaten out by Hilary Swank for her commanding performance in the edgy, low-budget BOYS DON'T CRY from Fox Searchlight. Swank played Teena Brandon, a real-life female transsexual who was (Spoiler Alert!) murdered by homophobes in small town Nebraska. Swank had been best known up to now for a role on "Beverly Hills 90210". Winning Best Supporting Actor for Miramax's THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, Michael Caine graciously takes a moment to praise each of the four other nominees in the category - Tom Cruise in MAGNOLIA (New Line), Michael Clarke Duncan in THE GREEN MILE (Warner Brothers), Jude Law in THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (Paramount) and Haley Joel Osment in THE SIXTH SENSE (Buena Vista). Angelina Jolie, the heavy favorite, wins Best Supporting Actress for GIRL, INTERRUPTED from Columbia. John Irving wins Best Adapted Screenplay, adapting his own novel for CIDER HOUSE RULES. Phil Collins is a first-time winner for Best Song, "You'll Be in My Heart" from Disney's TARZAN. TOPSY-TURVY, written and directed by Mike Leigh for USA Films, wins Best Costumes and Best Makeup. Prior to the ceremony, 55 Oscar statuettes were stolen. All but three were later found in Los Angeles by African-American salvage worker Willie Fulgate, who receives a $50,000 award from the Academy and is invited to the ceremony. A Los Angeles Times columnist quips, "That's the only way a brother's gonna get an Oscar in Hollywood".


March 26, 2004 - Miramax's THE STATION AGENT gets its London release today after having already won the Best Drama award at last year's Sundance festival, where Patricia Clarkson received rave notices for no less than three films - this one, directed by Tom McCarthy; Peter Hedges' Thanksgiving family comedy PIECES OF APRIL; and David Gordon Green's relationship drama ALL THE REAL GIRLS. Clarkson won a Special Jury prize for Best Dramatic Performance for her work in STATION AGENT at Sundance, then was named Best Supporting Actress for her work in the film by the National Board of Review. In the past two years, she has also impressed greatly for her work in Todd Haynes' FAR FROM HEAVEN and Lars Von Trier's uncompromising DOGVILLE. The actress' rise to stardom has been slow but steady - she made her film debut in 1987's THE UNTOUCHABLES and has appeared on television in "Six Feet Under" and "Frasier".

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