As the 80th Academy Awards rolls around--finally!-- I thought I'd look back at the 29th Oscars for the year 1956. From the pit, Johnny Green conducts a medley of film themes. Academy President George Seaton appears announces the show's theme, a celebration of 50 Years of the Movies. Seaton then intros Jerry Lewis, the host from Hollywood. In his second and final year as host (or as they are referred Master of Ceremonies), Lewis proves just the ticket for a show which temporarily lost Bob Hope when Chrysler gave sponsorship to Oldsmobile. Jerry introduces lovely Celeste Holm who is hosting from NBC theater in NY. This is the last time the Oscars would be a totally bi-coastal show.
Nominees Mercedes McCambridge & Robert Stack appear rather stiff ("Mr. Stack", "Miss McCambridge") in presenting the technical and Documentary Awards. The winner, in NY, was Jacques Cousteau who was a No-Show. Back in LA, Jerry introduces Gogi Grant who performs "Que Sera, Sera"
Nominee Mickey Rooney appears to present Short Subjects which leads to the inevitable titters. He muses over his own Mickey McGuire shorts and how wealthy he'd be if there were residuals.
Nominee Patty McCormack appears and engages in banter with Jerry. She's 10; he's 31! McCormack is the youngest presenter up until that time.
Celeste Holm brings out Nancy Kelly in NY to present Best Supporting Actor. The surprise winner, in Hollywood, is Anthony Quinn. Jerry enters the audience with a bullhorn for some tired slapstick before the business at hand resumes.
Later, Liz Taylor appears to dispense of the Costume Design Awards. One of the awards is accepted by Rita Moreno who says a few words a full 5 years before HER Oscar!
Kirk Douglas, on film from Munich, presents the editing Award while a hilarious Hermoine Gingold accepts an award for the writers of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. "They cannot be here for a variety of reasons. All of them spicy."
After presenting a Special Effects Award to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, Jerry approaches presenter Dorothy Dandridge about a 'crisis'. And Dorothy agrees to perform the nominated "Julie" in lieu of the absent Doris Day. Dorothy's performance is masterful. It is the first time a musical number is performed by an African-American female on the Oscars. She was an amazing talent!!
Jack Lemmon gives the Supporting Actress to Dorothy Malone who goes on at length causing Jack to show her his watch!! Over the years some have speculated that Ms. Malone may have had a few too many drinks. Watching it now, I can safely say that is not true.
Marge and Gower Champion do a little routine with Marge doing her usual "You're sooo strong" to Gower. Tommy Sands (Remember him??) sings the final song, "Friendly Persuasion" before the Award is given to Livingston & Evans.
To a round of applause, Anna Magnani appears and divulges Yul Brynner as the winner. "This better not be a mistake because I won't give it back for the world" The excited Yul announces.
A subdued Ernest Borgnine appears and crowns an absent Ingrid Bergman Best Actress. Cary Grant climbs up and accepts on her behalf. This was the last year all 6 major awards went to six different films. It would not be repeated until the 78th Awards in 2005.
Finally Janet Gaynor arrives to crown 80 DAYS and Mike Todd the Best Film on 1956.
High points: Exuberant Winners. Fast-paced show.
Low points: Too many Oldsmobile commercials!! The show almost seemed like filler for the ads!
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