Where would the Oscars be without European literature?

written by Beth on February 25, 2013 in Content and News with 3 comments

Last night saw the ever glamorous Academy Awards, or Oscars, take place in Hollywood. This year – the awards’ 85th -  saw many nominations for two films derived from  great works of European literature: Les Misérables and Anna Karenina.

'Les Miserables', Victor Hugo, French National Library (Public Domain)

‘Les Miserables’, Victor Hugo, French National Library (Public Domain)

Les Misérables, which was up for ‘Best Picture’, is based of course on French novelist Victor Hugo’s work. You can read his original handwritten text in Europeana. Anne Hathaway won the ‘Best Actress in a Supporting Role’ award for her portrayal of Fantine, and the film picked up other gongs for ‘Makeup and Hair Styling’ and ‘Sound Mixing’. The film and its team also received nominations in the categories of ‘Best Actor’, ‘Costume Design’, ‘Production Design’, and ‘Music – original song’ for ‘Suddenly’ – a song not in the original musical version by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.

The film Anna Karenina, based on Leo Tolstoy’s great work,  won the ‘Costume Design’ category and was also nominated for ‘Cinematography’, ‘Music – original score’, and ‘Production Design’.

European film, Amour, won the ‘Best Foreign Film’ Oscar and was also nominated  for  the prestigious award of ‘Best Picture’, losing out in the end to Argo, a film about the 1980 Iranian hostage crisis. Star of Amour, Emmanuelle Riva was nominated for ‘Best Actress’, and director Michael Haneke was up for the ‘Directing’ category. The film was also up for the ‘Writing – original screenplay’ category.

At 85-years-old, Emmanuelle Riva is the oldest actress ever to be nominated for a ‘Best Actress’ Academy Award. There are just over 100 items relating to Emmanuelle Riva on Europeana, including stunning photographs, and stills from Adua e le compagne and Hiroshima Mon Amour (for which she was BAFTA nominated in 1960).

Claudette Colbert won the Academy Award for 'Best Actress' in It Happened One Night (1934). 'Artiste de cinéma Claudette Colbert, dans sa piscine à Hollywood : [photographie de presse] / Acmé', French National LIbrary, public domain

Claudette Colbert won the Academy Award for ‘Best Actress’ in It Happened One Night (1934). ‘Artiste de cinéma Claudette Colbert, dans sa piscine à Hollywood : [photographie de presse] / Acmé’, French National LIbrary, public domain

The Oscars were launched in 1929 but there was no foreign language category until 1947. The first award for Best Foreign Film went to Italian film Sciuscià (Shoe shine), directed by Vittorio De Sica. You can watch footage of De Sica receiving the award in an edition of Italian newsreel, La Settimana Incom. The second year saw the award go to French film Monsieur Vincent, directed by Maurice Cloche.  Europeana’s collection includes photographs of the film’s actorsMarcel Valée, Maurice Lagrenée, Pierre Fresnay, André Dumas, and Jean Carmet, in role.

Photo of Ernest Borgnine receiving academy award for Marty from Grace Kelly. A Certain Cinema, public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.

Photo of Ernest Borgnine receiving academy award for Marty from Grace Kelly. A Certain Cinema, public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.

Whilst it’s unlikely that any of us will ever get to hold an Oscar in our hands, like Ernest Borgnine and Grace Kelly in this photo, we can get pretty close – on Europeana, you can explore a 3D representation of the Oscar statue. Now, all you need to do is start practising that acceptance speech…