Archive for February, 2011
“As Time Goes By” is as synonymous with the 1942 classic movie “Casablanca” as any song ever was with a movie. It was originally written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld for the Broadway Musical Everybody’s Welcome, where it was sung by Francis Williams. After it was released, “As Time Goes By” was recorded by several artists in the early 30’s, including Ricky Valee. But it is mostly remembered as the song Sam (Dooley Wilson) sung in “Casablanca”, reaching almost legendary status through the years as the song Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) fell in love to. Even today, “As Time Goes By” is still as moving to many “Casablanca” fans as it was the first time they heard Dooley Wilson sing it.
AS TIME GOES BY
You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.
And when two lovers woo
They still say, “I love you.”
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by.
Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date.
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate.
Woman needs man
And man must have his mate
That no one can deny.
It’s still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.
Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by.
“As Time Goes By” was voted #2 on The American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Songs List.
“Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry. My heart is too full to tell you just how I feel, and may I say thank you and God bless you.” — Hattie McDaniel’s acceptance speech at the 12th Annual Academy Awards held on Feb 29, 1940.
In 1940, “Gone With The Wind” dominated the Oscars, winning eight Academy Awards, a record that stood for twenty years. The most significant and historic Oscar awarded that night was the one that was given to Hattie McDaniel for Best Supporting Actress for her role as “Mammy” in “Gone With The Wind”. In winning the award, McDaniel became the first African-American to ever win an Academy Award. She was also the first African-American, who wasn’t a servant, to ever attend an Academy Award Banquet. It would be twenty four years before another African-American would be awarded another Oscar.
Louella Parsons, an American gossip columnist, wrote about Oscar night of 1940: “Hattie McDaniel earned that gold Oscar, by her fine performance of “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind. If you had seen her face when she walked up to the platform and took the gold trophy, you would have had the choke in your voice that all of us had when Hattie, hair trimmed with gardenias, face alight, and dress up to the queen’s taste, accepted the honor in one of the finest speeches ever given on the Academy floor. She put her heart right into those words and expressed not only for herself, but for every member of her race, the gratitude she felt that she had been given recognition by the Academy. Fay Bainter, with voice trembling, introduced Hattie and spoke of the happiness she felt in bestowing upon the beaming actress Hollywood’s greatest honor. Her proudest possession is the red silk petticoat that David Selznick gave her when she finished Gone with the Wind”.
Gone With The Wind premiered on December 15, 1939 at the Loew’s Grand Theater on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia. As the date of the premiere approached, all the black actors from the film, including Hattie McDaniel, were barred from attending and excluded from being in the souvenir program. Gone With The Wind’s producer, David O. Selznick, had attempted to bring McDaniel, but MGM advised him not to because of Georgia’s segregationist laws, which would have prevented McDaniel from sitting in the theatre with her white peers and co-stars. Clark Gable angrily threatened to boycott the Atlanta premiere unless McDaniel was allowed to attend, but McDaniel convinced him to attend anyway. While the Jim Crow laws kept McDaniel from the Atlanta premiere, she did attend the Hollywood debut on December 28, 1939. This time her photo was featured in the program upon Selznick’s insistence, as it would be everywhere else except in the south.
Hattie McDaniel was already an accomplished radio and film actress when auditions began, but competition for the role of “Mammy” in Gone With The Wind was almost as fierce as the one for the part of Scarlet O’Hara. Eleanor Roosevelt herself even wrote to film producer David O. Selznik to ask him to consider her own maid Elizabeth McDuffie for the role. Clark Gable, who was already good friends with Hattie McDaniel, wanted McDaniel for the role of “Mammy”. When McDaniel showed up already dressed as a maid and nailed the audition, she was given the part.
As one last thought before Judah (Charlton Heston) leaves, the Shiek reminds him, “There is no law in the arena. Many are killed. I hope to see you again.”
Ben Hur, the 1959 MGM epic classic starring Charlton Heston, was the most expensive film ever made up to it’s time. At $15 million dollars and made on an epic, grande scale, the movie was a huge risk for MGM Studios and ultimately saved MGM from bankruptcy. The biggest scene from the film is the chariot race in the Circus Maximus (a replica of the one in Rome). It is also one of the most famous and thrilling scene sequences ever made in film history. The site of the race, the Circus Maximus in Jeruselam (Judea), was constructed on over 18 acres of backlot space at Cincecitta Studios outside of Rome, Italy. The filming of the sequence took five weeks and used 15 thousand extras.
The chariot race segment was directed by legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt. Charlton Heston’s stunt double was Joe Canutt, Yakima’s son. During one of the crashes, Judah Ben-Hur’s horses jump over a crashed chariot, Joe Canutt was thrown over the front of his chariot onto the tongue. He managed to stop from falling under the chariot and climbed back in and bring the chariot under control. The sequence looked so good that it was left in the movie with a close-up of Charlton Heston climbing into the chariot cut into the shot. Stuntman Nosher Powell, who also worked on the film, said in his biography that Yakima Canutt went pale as a ghost when the chariot crashed and his son Joe was thrown over the front of the chariot. The crash was not planned and everybody, including Yakima, thought Joe had just been killed.
The reports of a stuntman being killed during the filming is false. To give the scene more impact and realism, three lifelike dummies were placed at key points in the race to give the appearance of men being run over by chariots. The “Messala” (Stephen Boyd) that was run over, a Roman soldier in the center of the track who was hit by a chariot, and the driver of a crashed chariot who jumped out of the way, but was run over by another were all articulated and weighted dummies, who were made with moveable arm and leg joints, so when they were hit they would react like a human body would when being hit. Great dummy placement and expert editing made all the scenes look real, especially the one where the “Massala” was run over and got caught up in the horses hooves. In Charlton Heston’s autobiography, In The Arena, Heston specifically states no one was seriously injured during the filming of the scene.
The chariot race was shot without sound. This was all added in post production editing. When film director William Wyler saw the final cut of second director Andrew Marton and lead stuntman Yakima Canutt’s work on the chariot race, he remarked that is was “one of the greatest cinematic achievements” he’d ever seen.
The crew taught Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd how to drive their chariots. Heston and Boyd did almost all of their own chariot race scenes seen in the movie. One time, while during a shoot Charlton Heston snapped the reigns to start the race, but his horses didn’t move. Finally one of the crew yelled “Giddy-up” and the horses jumped forward into a run, throwing Heston out of the back of the chariot.
Kathryn Grayson, born Feb. 9, 1922, was and American actress and opera singer. She signed a contract with MGM in the early 1940’s and went to work making musicals. She sang and starred in some of MGM’s most remembered musicals made in that period. Among her best are; Thousands Cheer (1943) with Gene Kelly, Anchors Aweigh (1945) with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, Show Boat (1951) and Kiss Me Kate, both with Howard Keel. With the demise of the musical in the late 50’s, she went to work in theatre, appearing in the Broadway production of Camelot (1962-1964). Grayson then fullfilled a life long dream by appearing in several operas, including La boheme, Madame Butterfly, and La Traviata. She also appeared occasionally on television from the 1950’s on, with appearances in such shows as General Electric Theatre and Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansbury. Kathryn Grayson died in her sleep in her home in Los Angeles, California on Feb. 17, 2010 at the age of 88.