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George Stevens Jr, Stunt Man Hal Needham: Honorary Oscar

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Honorary Oscar: George Stevens Jr.

George Stevens JrGeorge Stevens Jr. is the founding director of the American Film Institute. During his tenure, the AFI established the Center for Advanced Film Studies and various educational initiatives, and created the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 1977, Stevens co-founded the Kennedy Center Honors, which he has produced for the last 34 years.

George Stevens Jr, 80, has been nominated for one Academy Award: for the 1963 documentary short The Five Cities of June. Curiously, his well-received 1984 documentary feature about the career of his father, George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey, failed to be shortlisted.

George Stevens movies

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

George Stevens (1904-1975) won two Best Director Academy Awards, for the Montgomery Clift / Elizabeth Taylor socially conscious romantic drama A Place in the Sun (1951) and the socially conscious modern Western Giant (1956), starring Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean.

Among Stevens’ other directorial efforts are three Katharine Hepburn star vehicles (Alice Adams, Quality Street, Woman of the Year); the Cary Grant / Douglas Fairbanks Jr actioner Gunga Din; the Ginger Rogers / James Stewart comedy Vivacious Lady; the Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers musical Swing Time; and the family drama I Remember Mama, with Irene Dunne and Barbara Bel Geddes. Also, the Best Picture Oscar nominees The Talk of the Town, with Ronald Colman, Jean Arthur, and Cary Grant; The More the Merrier, with Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn; Shane, with Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, and Van Heflin; and The Diary of Anne Frank, with Millie Perkins, Richard Beymer, and Shelley Winters.

Stuntman Hal Needham

Veteran stunt performer Hal Needham, filmmaker and “arts advocate” George Stevens Jr., and documentarian D.A. Pennebaker will receive the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 2012 Honorary Award. This year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award will go to DreamWorks’ co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.

All four awards will be presented at the Governors Awards on Saturday, December 1, at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles.

Hal Needham movies

Among Hal Needham’s extensive list of stunt-work credits – more than 300 feature films – are a bunch of John Wayne Westerns (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, McLintock!, The War Wagon, The Undefeated, Chisum, Rio Lobo), plus Billy Wilder / James Stewart’s The Spirit of St. Louis; the all-star (Gregory Peck, Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, Richard Widmark, John Wayne, etc.) Western How the West Was Won; Blake Edwards’ big-budget comedy The Great Race, starring Natalie Wood, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis; Mel BrooksBlazing Saddles; Arthur Penn / Dustin Hoffman’s Little Big Man; Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, starring / Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston; and the Goldie Hawn / Chevy Chase comedy Foul Play.

Needham also directed a handful of action-oriented movies, frequently toplining Burt Reynolds: Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, Smokey and the Bandit II, The Cannonball Run, and Cannonball Run II. And he guided Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his earliest film roles, playing opposite Kirk Douglas and Ann-Margret in the comedy Western flop The Villain.

Also worth noting, in 1986 Needham was handed the Academy’s Scientific and Engineering Award “for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, which allows filmmakers greater versatility in shooting action sequences.”

Yakima Canutt: Only previous stunt coordinator to receive Honorary Oscar

Hal Needham, who turned 81 last March, is the second stunt coordinator to receive the Academy’s Honorary Award. Yakima Canutt, among whose credits are John Ford / John Wayne’s Stagecoach and William Wyler / Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur, was handed an Honorary Oscar at the 1967 Academy Awards ceremony. Ironically, the Academy has time and again refused to create an Oscar category for stunt workers.

D.A. Pennebaker

Honorary Oscar 2012 recipient D.A. Pennebaker, 87, has directed more than 20 documentary features, among them Don’t Look Back (featuring Bob Dylan), Monterey Pop, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Moon over Broadway, Kings of Pastry, and the 1993 effort The War Room, about Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, which earned Pennebaker and co-director Chris Hegedus an Oscar nomination and a National Board of Review Award.

Additionally, Pennebaker is seen as one of the founders of the cinéma vérité movement, beginning with his collaboration as editor / photographer on Robert Drew’s 1960 film Primary, which followed U.S. presidential contenders John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey during the 1960 Wisconsin primary.

D.A. Pennebaker is the first feature-film documentary filmmaker to receive an Honorary Oscar. Pete Smith was handed the award at the 1954 ceremony, but Smith’s humorous non-fiction films were one or two-reelers. Other directors who have made documentaries (e.g., Orson Welles, Robert Altman) have also taken home the Honorary Oscar, but their recognition was a direct result of their work on narrative features.

Previous Honorary Oscar recipients

The Honorary Award is given to an individual for “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”

Previous recipients of the Honorary Oscar include Robert Redford, Alec Guinness, Sidney Lumet, Gene Kelly, Edward G. Robinson, Ernest Lehman, Jack Cardiff, King Vidor, Jean Renoir, Akira Kurosawa, James Earl Jones, and Groucho Marx.

Women haven’t been very lucky in that regard: to date, only nine – eight of which actresses – have taken home the Honorary Oscar. They are: Greta Garbo (at the 1955 ceremony), Lillian Gish (1971), actress-producer Mary Pickford (1976), editor Margaret Booth (1978), Barbara Stanwyck (1982), Myrna Loy (1991), Sophia Loren (1991), Deborah Kerr (1994), and Lauren Bacall (2009).

Check out: “Honorary Oscars Bypass Women,” “Honorary Oscars and Women,” “Film Women Who Died Honorary Oscar-less.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg: Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

According to the Academy’s press release, DreamWorks’ co-founder and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, 62 next December and the recipient of this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, “has been instrumental in raising money for education, art and health-related causes, particularly those benefiting the motion picture industry.” The release adds that during Katzenberg’s two decades as chairman of the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, he helped to raise $200 million for the organization.

Additionally, Katzenberg serves on the boards of various other organizations, including the California Institute of the Arts, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Geffen Playhouse, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Jeffrey Katzenberg movies

Among Jeffrey Katzenberg’s credits in various producing capacities are The Prince of Egypt, Chicken Run, Shrek, Shrek 2, and Shark Tale. Katzenberg was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature contender Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002). Prior to DreamWorks, Katzenberg had worked at Disney, where in the early ’90s he had a nasty falling out with honcho Michael Eisner.

Previous Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award winners

The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award “is given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.” The award is named after actor and one-time Academy president Jean Hersholt.

Previous recipients of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award include Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Danny Kaye, Paul Newman, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Quincy Jones, Rosalind Russell, Sherry Lansing, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston, Oprah Winfrey, and Samuel Goldwyn.

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