Ladies and gentlemen, the red carpet has been rolled out and it's time to step into your finest frocks and don your tuxedos because this Sunday, 26th February, sees the 89th Academy Awards - better known as the Oscars. Yes, this is the time of year when the stars come out to shine at their brightest, although, dare I say it, not necessarily their best! Somewhere over that glorious Technicolor rainbow, accompanied by the roar of the MGM lion and the 20th-Century Fox fanfare, the leading performers are preparing themselves for Hollywood's greatest night of the year. Once the cameras start rolling they will be polished and preened to perfection, posing like a parade of peacocks as they pause for the greedily snapping photographers and the headline-hungry reporters lining the red carpet. I love the way the stars have perfected that dazzling, megawatt smile that remains firmly in place even when the precious statuette doesn't come into their beautifully manicured grasp. But just take note of how enthusiastically they applaud the victorious nominee. Is this a method of positively channelling their despair? In 1965, when the Oscars were first televised in colour, Bob Hope memorably quipped: "For the first time, you can actually see the losers turn green."
Even though I love the cinema and have seen a few of this year's nominated films, I have to admit that it is the films of yesteryear that offer me the greatest enjoyment. Back then film-making was much simpler and its main focus was on entertaining audiences rather than making money. There were "epic" films, but, thankfully, not "blockbusters" driven by entertainment corporations. At the heart of each film was, to quote Mark Twain, "a good story well told" and the silver screen was blissfully free of the high-tech, eye shattering special effects that we see today. There is a lot to be said for simplicity - it offers a far deeper and more direct message, and a sensitive, meaningful approach will remain with the audience long after the final frame.
The spring Evergreen (published on 1st March, click here to subscribe) contains a fascinating story about British director David Lean's film Oliver Twist (1948). It is a wonderful insight into life behind the cameras and reveals what it was like working with stars including Alec Guinness, Robert Newton, Kay Walsh, and child actors John Howard Davies, in the title role, and Anthony Newley as the Artful Dodger.
David Lean, who also gave us such marvellous pictures as Brief Encounter (1945), Great Expectations (1946) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), was nominated seven times at the Oscars for Best Director, and won twice for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
The British film industry - and entertainment in general - is the subject of another article in the spring issue, which looks at a worthwhile scheme run by an organisation called the British Entertainment History Project. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary and was established to record the memories of all those who have worked in film, radio, television and theatre - whether in the spotlight, or behind the scenes. The project's work continues apace and it welcomes new contributions for its archive - read the article to find out more.
With the cameras rolling on a film theme, now is an ideal opportunity to preview forthcoming features and our summer issue, which is published on 7th June, will include an article about the Hollywood star Ava Gardner. In particular it will look at her years in Britain, from 1968 until 1990, and the places that were special to her.
Before the credits roll on this blog, apparently, the Academy Award statuette earned its name from the Academy librarian, and later executive director, Margaret Herrick, who is said to have commented that it looked just like her Uncle Oscar!