Answer Man: Classic film was nearly shut out at Oscars

News-DemocratApril 30, 2013 

Q. I recently watched "Anna and the King of Siam" with Rex Harrison, Irene Dunne and Linda Darnell. The death scene with Rex was so touching that I wondered if the movie won any awards? This is the version that I like best.

-- B.B., of O'Fallon

A. I regret to inform you that most of the cast and crew from your 1946 favorite weren't whistling a happy tune when the Oscar nominations came out in 1947.

In fact, they may have thought it was a real puzzlement when they found they had been shut out of the Big Six categories except for Gale Sondergaard's best supporting actress nomination as Lady Thiang. It would be Sondergaard's second and last Oscar nomination, but she could not repeat the supporting actress win she enjoyed for her film debut in "Anthony Adverse" in 1936.

Other than that, Rex Harrison's U.S. film debut picked up only two minor Oscars for art direction and cinematography and two other nominations for writing and music. In its defense, it was going up against the blockbuster "The Best Years of Our Lives," which eventually walked off with nine statues, including best picture, director, actor and supporting actor.

On the other hand, something wonderful did happen when Yul Brynner reprised his Tony-Award-winning Broadway role in "The King and I" for the 1956 film of the same name. Brynner claimed the Oscar while Deborah Kerr, director Walter Lang and the film itself were among the nominees.

So it remains the standard against which all future attempts will be measured. Obviously, Jodi Foster and Chow-Yun-Fat did not measure up in 1999's "Anna and the King," which had the late Roger Ebert saying, "Foster ... sees right through this material and out the other side, and doesn't believe in a bit of it." The flick earned only two technical nominations.

Of course, none of this matters in Thailand. All versions of the movie still are banned there because of what the Thai government calls historical inaccuracies. Even after script changes, they would not allow the latest version to be filmed there.

Q. Your recent answer on the difference between sofa and couch reminded me of another one: What's the distinction between stove and range?

-- C.P., of Belleville

A. Now here's a hot topic that has had wordsmiths cooking up various explanations for years. I'll leave you to choose between the two that seem to be still simmering:

Many would limit the definition of stove to the stovetop or any device with which you can cook only on its surface. They harken back to the days of the Franklin stove, in which you built a big fire inside. You could roast or fry on top but if you tried to bake bread or a cake inside, it would be incinerated. After they added a working oven, they began calling the combination a range. At least, those are the definitions you'll find in many dictionaries.

As I mentioned, not everyone agrees. Some say the two terms differ by the size of the stovetop. If you have the standard two big and two small burners, it's a stove. But when you have cooktops that are 4 or 5 feet wide with eight or 10 burners, it's a range. Perhaps it reminded someone of those flat, wide open spaces that cattle graze on in the West.

I hope one of those suits your taste.

Q. Can you please tell me how to write to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen about one of their marketing products that I can't find in stores anymore? I don't have Internet access.

-- V.K., of East St. Louis

A. Your best bet to reach the 26-year-old twin tycoons is probably through Dualstar, the company they created way back in 1993 after their initial success on "Full House."

Already in 2007, Forbes ranked them as the No. 11 richest women in entertainment with a combined net worth at $100 million and a business empire that boasts sales of more than $1 billion a year worldwide.

I'm not sure what you're after, so you might try the following addresses: 3760 Robertson Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232; 25422 Trabuco Road, Lake Forest, CA 92630-2797 and 1801 Century Park East, 12th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Good luck.

Today's trivia

What made actress Linda Darnell's death at age 41 sadly ironic?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: They call it the Sargasso Sea, but you can't get a tan on any of its beaches because it is thought to be the only sea that does not touch land. Named by Portuguese sailors in the 1400s, it is instead a 700-by-2,000-mile region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded by the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic, Canary and North Atlantic Equatorial currents. It is named after the Sargassam seaweed growing there.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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