The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will present producer-director-screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at its Second Annual Governors Awards on November 13, 2010. It will be Coppola’s sixth tchotchke from the Academy: he has won three Oscars for screenwriting (Patton, The Godfather, and The Godfather, Part II) and Oscars for directing and producing The Godfather, Part II.
In total, Coppola has racked up 14 Academy Award nominations during his nearly 50-year-long career. He has been nominated five times for screenwriting, four times for directing, and five times for producing the Best Picture Academy Award nominee. Those five Best Picture nominees were American Graffitti, The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now and The Godfather, Part III.
Except for the last installment of the Godfather saga, all are considered a part of the American cinema canon. All richly deserved their Best Picture Oscar nominations.
The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award is the highest award that the Academy can bestow on a movie producer. Francis Ford Coppola has been involved in the making of 52 feature films as either producer, executive producer or associate producer since 1962.
The Thalberg Memorial Award was instituted in 1938 to honor the “Boy Genius” of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a great producer whose name appeared on only one motion picture (and that posthumously) as he did not believe in taking credit. Irving Thalberg initially oversaw the entire production schedule for M-G-M before suffering a heart attack, then was given his own production unit before his untimely death at the age of 37. He was married to Oscar-winner Norma Shearer, the “Queen of the M-G-M Lot.”
In an industry known for its supreme vulgarians, Thalberg was lauded for his good taste and excellent movie-making sense. He is widely credited with making M-G-M the premier studio during Hollywood’s Golden Age. He made his name at Universal, where he started as a teenager working as a secretary in the front office, before Louis B. Mayer brought him into his new studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Thalberg was such a legend in his own lifetime that he inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had served time as a screenwriter at Metro, to model the character of the movie producer Monroe Stahr in his final novel The Last Tycoon after him.
Of the films for which Francis Ford Coppola was nominated for an Oscar, Patton, American Graffiti, Apocalypse Now and the first two Godfathers are all classics. The original 1972 Godfather now vies with Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane for the title of greatest American movie ever made. (Some cineastes prefer The Godfather, Part II, while others see the first two Godfathers as separate parts of one whole. The Godfather, Part III is widely dismissed as a failure that was made for the wrong reasons: Paramount Studio’s desire to cash in on The Godfather franchise.)
Apocalypse Now also is ranked among the greatest American motion pictures. it and the first two Godfathers, along with Coppola’s minor masterpiece The Conversation, were all made in the 1970s, with principal photography of these classics completed in the six-year period of 1971-76.
After the 1979 release of Apocalypse Now, which nearly bankrupted Coppola and which many in the film industry predicted would be his folly and would ruin him (that role was left up to his next film, the spectacular flop musical One From the Heart), the writer-director-producer never again scaled the heights of artistic or commercial success. Apocalypse Now personally garnered Coppola three Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was nominated for another five Academy Awards, winning two (Vittorio Storaro for cinematography and Walter Murch and three of his assistants for sound).
The movie that beat Apocalypse Now for Best Picture, Kramer vs. Kramer, is now forgotten, as is Robert Benton, who beat Coppola out in the directing and adapted screenplay categories. Benton now is best remembered for his losing Oscar bid for the screenplay for Bonnie & Clyde, another American classic that was nearly directed by Jean Luc-Godard, who along with Coppola, character actor Eli Wallach and film historian-preservationist Kevin Brownlow will be the recipients of honorary Oscars at the 2nd Annual Governors Awards dinner.
The dinner will be held on November 13, at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center. Honorary Oscars including the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian and the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award once were handed out during the Oscar telecast, but it was felt that they made they telecast too long.
In the interests of a more profitable TV program, the first Governors Awards dinner was held last year. The result has been an increase in the number of recipients: in 2009, actress Lauren Bacall, producer-director Roger Corman, and cinematographer Gordon Willis received honorary Oscars while producer John Calley received
the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.
The dinner, which was semi-private, lasted three hours and 18 minutes. Press attendance was sparse compared to the Oscar ceremony, and the dinner was not televised. It hearkened back to an earlier Hollywood, the Hollywood of Irving Thalberg, before the Academy Awards ceremony became a media-drive event.
New York Times, “Coppola to Receive Thalberg Award”