Final Bi-Coastal Oscars Has Something For Everyone!
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!
50 Glorious Years! Star Packed Show Features Many Film Greats!
SLAP! The sound of a baby crying. And so begins Oscar's Fiftieth Anniversary Show, a jam packed star-studded evening that closed the door on the Academy's first half century and laid the seeds for it's next half.
Debbie Reynolds kicks off with a song and dance number "Look How Far We've Come". The number climaxes with the arrival of past winners joining Debbie onstage. This is woefully mis-directed as groups of former winners come from all directions, this way and that, their names flashing briefly on screen. Furthermore, the director deprives the viewing audience of close-ups, hence the former winners seem MILES away. Still, what a stellar group they are (perhaps the IMDb will adjust their credit to add those who are omitted):
Leading off: Cliff Robertson, Cloris Leachman, and Patty Duke Astin. Followed by Louise Fletcher, Joel Grey, Anne Baxter (looking sensational!), and Frank Capra. At stage right: Ernest Borgnine, Donna Reed, and Mickey Rooney. Rushing down a stage left staircase: George Chakiris & Rita Moreno. Back to stage right: Burl Ives, Gale Sondergaard, and Master of Disaster Irwin Allen. From the top: Red Buttons, Eva Marie Saint, Marvin Hamlisch From the left: Tony Bill, Dorothy Malone, John Green At bottom: Haskell Wexler, Teresa Wright, Edward Anhalt As the winners appear, it is painfully obvious most participants have two left feet! From stage right: George Kennedy, Edith Head, Edmund O'Brien Above them: Conrad Hall, Beatrice Straight, Henry Mancini At bottom: George Cukor, Claire Trevor, John Avildsen Finally at top: John Williams, Joan Fontaine, Jack Albertson (The two men stop on a stair and Joan keeps going, almost going ass over tea kettle! Another reason why the 70th and 75th were better in having the winners sit and have their own 'moment'.)
The number ends with Bette Davis & Gregory Peck explaining the voting (remember that??)
After Bob Hope's schtick (this was Bob's last year as solo host), John Travolta commences the first scandal of the night—Best Supporting Actress. Without rehashing her speech, I can only say that Vanessa Redgrave WAS great in 'Julia' and certainly the best of the five nominees.
Mickey Mouse briefly crosses paths with C-3PO and R2D2 of 'Star Wars' before presenting an award with future 2 time winner Jodie Foster.
A Little Entertainment. Nominated songs were sung by such varied talents as Jane Powell, Gloria Loring,, and Aretha Franklin. A tribute to those who passed in 1977 was done by Sammy Davis Jr. & Marvin Hamlisch. However, the night's most heartwarming moment occurred when Debby Boone sang "You Light Up My Life". With father Pat beaming from the audience, Debby was accompanied by children 'associated' with the JOHN TRACY CLINIC for the DEAF who 'signed' the song with her. This was scandal 2 of the night!! The next morning it was revealed the children were NOT from the JOHN TRACY CLINIC and the "signing' was complete gibberish. Mercifully, the papers, too focused on Vanessa Redgrave,
did not pursue this embarrassment.
Bob Hope introduces former co-star Joan Fontaine. This is this classy lady's last Oscar appearance as a presenter to date (Come back, Joan!!). The Oscar goes to 'Star Wars' and a team of men rush to the stage. An overwhelmed Joan points to the Oscars and says "Everybody grab one". After each one speaks, the orchestra begins wrap up music only to be stopped by another making a speech (you suddenly realize why there are time constraints!). Joan, halfway offstage, rushes back to wait for the last to speak. When they finish, the men rush off and leave Joan in the dust! Alone, she follows them offstage.
Odd Couplings: Kirk Douglas & Raquel Welch, Greer Garson & Henry Winkler ('It is soo exciting to be here with The Fonz"), Eva Marie Saint & Jack Valenti (his first show since being shut out the year before).
Hope introduces Michael Caine and a luminous Maggie Smith. The latter looks terrific with her hair and gown almost matching her character in 'California Suite' which would win her a 2nd Oscar the next year. Maggie's beauty and attitude make one forget that a) the winner, Jason Robards was not there (Peter Firth was the only nominee in attendance) and b) the previous year's winner, Beatrice Straight who was in the house, was not asked to present.
Another high point: Natalie Wood presents the Costume Award and introduces an array of film greats who model the outfits. Cyd Charisse, Stockard Channing, Camilla Sparv, Pricilla Barnes, Michelle Lee, Susan George, Deborah Raffin, Karen Black and Eleanor Parker are the models.
Bette Davis returns to give the Hersholt award to Charlton Heston while Olivia DeHavilland elicits titters when she honors Margaret Booth who "has run a lot of celluloid through her moviola."
Fred Astaire makes his final Oscar appearance to a standing ovation while Cicely Tyson (WHAT is that thing in her hair?) & King Vidor crown the absent Woody Allen Best Director.
The first Best Actress, Janet Gaynor, appears and recounts HER evening 50 years before. Sylvester Stallone appears (much more refined than the previous year!) to crown Best Actor. Let's dispel an urban legend. Contrary to popular belief, Richard Burton was not "out of his seat and moving toward the stage ". When Richard Dreyfuss' name was read. Rather, he smiled and applauded as most people do (exceptions. Sally Kirkland, Ellen Burstyn, Sylvia Miles).
The evening ends as it has many many times in the past 30 years (including the two years just past) with Jack Nicholson presenting Best Picture to Annie Hall. Finally, Bob Hope sends get well wishes to John Wayne, recently diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer.
High Points: Too many to mention. So Many Stars. Young and Old.
Low Points: Too few close-ups on the former winners and costume models.
Streamlined show was produced by William Friedkin who insisted on only black or white clothes and NO audience reaction shots. He failed on both! Co-host Ellen Burstyn, so incensed by her former director's edict, wore a men's tuxedo in protest. Furthermore, there are shots of Mickey Rooney, Olivia DeHavilland, Brenda Vaccaro, and even Pat McCormack (!?!?!) sprinkled throughout the show.
Presenters are solo. This gets rid of the needless scripted banter between presenters. The previous year reached an all-time low in banter with embarrassing moments between Goldie Hawn & George Segal and Roddy MCDowell & Brenda Vaccaro. The presenters are a bizarre array of "New Hollywood" (Tamara Dobson, Marty Feldman, Marthe Keller) and older vets no longer involved in film (Pearl Bailey, Red Skelton) all of them making their sole Oscar appearance.
I must admit that when I saw this show on its initial broadcast, I thought Skelton was hysterical. Watching it now 30 years later, I am pained by the extraordinary length given to his routine.
Perhaps, Red's comedy was designed to counterbalance the bitter animosity Lillian Hellman spewed before the documentary awards. Having known Lily as a friend, I can say she had every right to say what she did. And she said it perfectly!! When she says "maybe you have no regrets when you survive", the camera cuts to dear friend and nominee Lee Grant, a black list survivor herself.
The other drama surrounded the Best Actor award. The Academy, still reeling from the Scott/Brando fiascoes, did not want proxies to accept. This meant Mrs. Peter Finch. There are some who believe that the Academy was fearful of allowing Mrs. Finch, a woman of color, accept for her husband. Whatever. Paddy Chayevsky called Elthea Finch from her seat (in the back of the house!) and she gave a most moving speech for her husband (who deserved the award 5 years earlier for Sunday BLOODY Sunday).
High Points: 1) Sylvester Stallone in his overnight stardom. Whether bantering with Muhammad Ali or sitting like a slob awaiting an award, he is amazing. Of course by the following year he had "gone Hollywood" and all of this character was long gone.
2) Barbra Streisand in her only Oscar performance. She performs a lackluster EVERGREEN and wins her second Oscar.
3) A totally surprised Beatrice Straight winning for NETWORK. A few points are taken away by her giving a speech that was longer than her role in the film!!!
4) A totally surprised Faye Dunaway (what the hell was she wearing???) who thanked the "boys in the back room"
Low Points: 1) Lee Grant was a nominee who won the previous year. Why didn't she present an award?
2)What was Cicely Tyson's tie to Pandro S. Berman? They never did anything together. What about Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire??
5) Jeanne Moreau was a GREAT choice for Best Director. BUT as Friedkin's then wife it only adds to the feeling of impropriety.
Following a great 50th Anniversary show, the 51st Academy Awards continued the tradition of star power that lit the previous year.
Johnny Carson marks his first run as host and immediately makes the proceedings his own. Musical numbers were stellar: Barry Manilow, Debby Boone, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis & Jane Olivor, and the sensational Donna Summer sang the nominated songs (the first time all 5 were sung by the original artist). Another musical number, the controversial "Oscars's Only Human", lasted almost twelve minutes and featured Steve Lawrence and Sammy Davis Jr. lamenting the great film songs that were "not even nominated". At the time this number probably seemed tired and old hat but watching it recently, I felt a nostalgia for that kind of entertainment which hardly exists anymore.
Star power was at its zenith with the return of Kim Novak to the Oscars for the first time in 13 years. Dean Martin, Audrey Hepburn, and Geraldine Page all made rare Oscar appearances. No shows were Robert DeNiro and Ingrid Bergman (battling a recurrence of cancer). Laurence Olivier made only his second Oscar appearance (he also received his record breaking, at that time, 10th nomination). Olivier was given an honorary Oscar by Cary Grant and blew the audience away with a rather bizarre oration.
Maggie Smith was a surprise and welcome winner for her turn as an Oscar losing actress. Present at the awards (she was not for her previous win), she was genuinely shocked and dedicated it to co-star Michael Caine (WHY hasn't anyone cast them together since????). Maureen Stapleton had been the odds on favorite and ironically she and Maggie presented an award earlier in the evening. Maggie's award was presented by George Burns and Brooke Sheilds who provided some amusing moments. George showed what a classy guy he really was.
Embarrassing moments included: Francis Ford Coppola constantly scratching an itch under his beard. Shirley MacLaine's tribute to her "little brother" and an off the wall comment about his...libido.
Of course the most dramatic moment was the appearance of John Wayne. Gaunt, Wayne stole the show by ambling down to the stage and presenting Best Picture. There was a prolonged ovation and everyone from Jane Fonda to Warren Beatty and Gregory Peck to Rip Torn stood. Two months later the Duke was gone.
Ironically another presenter that evening passed away a few weeks later BEFORE the Duke. Jack Haley (Tin Man) presented with Ray Bolger (Scarecrow) and they provided a few jokes regarding Haley's son who was directing the show.
Of note: This year marked Olivier and Ingrid Bergman's last nominations and Meryl Streep's first.
Diane Keaton, the previous year's Best Actress, refused Jack Haley Jr.'s repeated pleas to present the Best Actor Oscar. Apparently, Haley was very angry as Keaton spent the whole night in plain view with current boyfriend Warren Beatty. At any rate, pairing Ginger Rogers and Diana Ross was a total inspiration!!
This was a great start to the second half of Oscar's first century and will be getting repeated viewings in the future.
Just watched this again. Hard to believe it's almost 20 years!!! Where does the time go? This was the first show in many years to be held at the Shrine Auditorium.
This was the year Cher finally got her Oscar. Everyone cheered (except Sally Kirkland-- the look on her face at that moment is priceless!) Co-star Olympia Dukakis ended her speech with a rousing call to her cousin Michael, then running for the Democratic Presidential Nomination.
Old favorites surfaced as nominees: Vincent Gardinia, Ann Sothern, Sean Connery, etc. Hollywood legends Olivia DeHavilland, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman all made appearances. Liza Minnelli and Dudley Moore reunited to present an award. And Faye Dunaway made a quiet return to the Oscars for the first time since her victory in Network 11 years earlier.
Trivia Note: This was the last year "And the Winner is..." was used at the opening of an envelope.
Best Moments: The montage of past Oscar footage introduced by Charlton Heston. What a joy to go through frame by frame and pick out many of those nominees often forgotten on Oscar night (Beah Richards, Lee Strasberg, Jack Wild, Burgess Meredith, Debra Winger). It was by far the best montage I've ever seen on the show.
Bernardo Bertolucci's excited victory. Calling Hollywood "the big nipple", was hysterical coming from the man who gave us Last Tango in Paris and The Conformist.
Worst Moment: Eddie Murphy's diatribe which revealed a chip on his shoulder which was still there 19 years later (perhaps why he lost to Alan Arkin). Ironically, this year marked the first Nomination for both Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, who would later win three Oscars between them.
All in all one of the best Oscar shows. I give it a 9 of 10 for one reason. For the part of the show that never happened.
The producers had rounded up at least one cast member from every Best Picture winner for 60 years (thus in the audience one saw Celeste Holm, Joan Fontaine, Rod Steiger, Mercedes McCambridge, Ann Miller, etc.).
Shortly before air time Anita Page (still going strong at nearly 100!!) was overcome with exhaustion and rushed to Good Samaritan hospital. As the surviving star of Broadway Melody, she would have left a void in the presentation so the segment was scrapped at the last minute. I'm certain that would have been a great Oscar moment!!
So-so show! Much redeemed by Old Time Glamour & Star Power.
Michael Caine and Paul Newman were no-shows, Dianne Wiest & Marlee Matlin were touching but they won everything also so their Oscar moment was anti-climatic.
I agree the highlight was a prickly Bette Davis putting a befuddled Robert Wise in his place. It was Bette's final Oscar appearance. The introductions to the greats by showing clips of their great films and then having them walk out was wonderful. Anthony Quinn, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory Peck, Olivia DeHavilland, and a very jittery Jennifer Jones making her first Oscar appearance as a presenter in decades (it would also be her last as a presenter, though she had appeared twice with the past winners on the 70th & 75th).
Another great moment: Co-host Goldie Hawn's surprise reaction when old friend Lee Grant takes the stage to receive an award for Best Documentary Feature.
Two most memorable moments: Kirk Douglas showing his fighting spirit in accepting his award after a major stroke (and he's STILL going strong more than 10 years later!!!)
Another moment I'll never forget was the award for Best Documentary "Anne Frank Remembered". The winner gestured toward an older woman who accompanied him to the podium. "This is a real hero", he said. It was Miep Gies who had risked her life in WWII hiding the Frank family in an Amsterdam attic. It was a powerful moment. (As of this writing Ms. Gies is approaching her 99th year!)
Rated one notch under the 1952 awards, this is a great show. Whereas 1952 used former Oscar Winners, 1954 used current nominees as presenters. Among the memorable moments: a very pregnant winner Eva Marie Saint "I may have the baby right here.", Dean Martin crooning "Three Coins in the Fountain", a very happy Edmund O' Brien, a nervous and proud Dorothy Dandridge- the first female African-American to present an Oscar, Grace Kelly, Marlon Brando and Bob Hope banter, Dimitri Tiomkin thanking the classical masters, etc. There is so much in this show. Bette Davis appears in skull-cap to give Brando the Award and Rosemary Clooney gives "The Man That Got Away" a turn you'll never forget.
A previous post mentions the fact that the presenters only announced the winners' names. A check of history reveals that sponsors were beginning to be concerned with the length of the show (it ran appox. 90 mins. that year!!!!!) so they ran a superimposed list of the nominees during the opening of the show. This led them to omit the nominees later and get right to the envelope.
All the winners were present except for the winner of the Honorary Award, who at 49 was the youngest ever to receive that Award. It was accepted by the great stage actress Nancy Kelly who said, "In a year where there can be more than one Kelly, there can only be one Garbo" Enough said!
Just got a DVD of this show. It is terrific! This was the first Oscar TV broadcast and it is easy to see the things they kept doing. Star pairings abound. Jimmy Stewart & Joan Fontaine, Ray Milland & Jane Wyman. Glamorous solo star turns like Ginger Rogers and Luise Rainer. All the nominated songs are performed (charming Celeste Holm steals the show with "Thumbelina").
The acceptances are minuscule if non-existent. Gloria Grahame slowly walks to the stage and whispers a barely audible "Thank you" before drifting off. Gary Cooper and Anthony Quinn were not present (coincidently, they were both filming the same movie in Mexico. A western called "Blowing Wind"!?!?!?!) Coop's was accepted by John Wayne while Quinn's was accepted by Mrs. Anthony Quinn (Katharine DeMille) whose father would be the night's biggest winner for THE GREATEST SHOW on EARTH. He received the Thalberg Award as well as Best Picture. The latter was given in the first (and one of a very few) TV appearance of Academy founder Mary Pickford. This paved the way for the award to be given out in the future by the biggest star in Hollywood (Steve McQueen, Eddie Murphy) or a film icon (Elizabeth Taylor, Jack Nicholson).
Best speech of the night goes to a heartfelt Shirley Booth in NY who almost falls flat on her face on the way to the stage!
But of all my favorite moments, none was better on this 25th anniversary than the film of former winners posing with their Oscars. This would not be repeated the same way until the 70th & 75th (and hopefully the 80th!!). Broderick Crawford, Paul Muni. Anne Baxter, Olivia DeHavilland, Edgar Bergen, Joan Crawford, Jane Darwell, Bobby Driscoll, Teresa Wright, the list goes on. It truly was a glorious evening and set the high standard that too few subsequent years have been able to match.
I agree with the previous post. This was the ET or Insider of the 60's. These are rare 'backstage' moments of Hollywood. I never knew AMC was broadcasting these in the late 90's until one night I tuned into an episode at the 1966 Academy Awards. Thank goodness I had the VCR handy! It is one of my favorite tapes. Someone should get the rights and run it again. Perhaps add the old David Wolper show "Hollywood and the Stars" too. These are treasures of Hollwood history and should be seen and preserved. It's also too bad that AMC moved from being a great TV station honoring 'classic' films to just another commercial wasteland of a cable station! It is mourned. Long live TCM!