Happy New Year Oscar Watchers! To give you a break from my prattling, here are few intelligent voices to shed light on the state of the Oscar race. The participants are:
Damien Bona, Inside Oscar
Pete Howell, The Toronto Star
Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today
Kris Tapley, In Contention
Pete Hammond, Notes on a Season, LA Times
Steve Pond, The Odds at Thewrap.com
Nathaniel Rogers, The Film Experience
Erik Childress, The Oscar Eye
Craig Kennedy, Living in Cinema
1) Katharine Hepburn won Best Actress a record four times. She never once showed up at the Oscars to accept the award. But her multiple wins prove that, back then, if they thought you deserved it you won. Why do actors have to show up at awards and walk the line now? Why do they have to do so much publicity in order to win? Is it that there is more competition or that they don’t build stars the way they used to?
Bona: Katharine Hepburn could get away with it when she won Oscars number 2, 3 and 4, because she was already legendary for her independence, and her non-conformism was part of her appeal.¬† When the movie neophyte didn‚Äôt show up when she won for Morning Glory in 1934 (1932-33 Awards), however, she was roundly criticized by Hollywood and the press, especially since she didn‚Äôt send a telegraph to the Academy acknowledging the honor.
During the studio system days, it was implicit that nominees would attend, and the top brass was not pleased when their contractees did not comply. (All that free publicity!) Luise Rainer balked at going the night she won for The Great Ziegfeld because she was weary from a drive back down from San Francisco, but MGM publicists showed up at her house, gussied her up and dragged her to the Biltmore. When Paramount executives got wind that Bing Crosby had no intention of attending in 1944, they sent out minions to search his favorite haunts, finding him playing golf. He poo-pooed the thought of showing up at Grauman‚Äôs Chinese, and it was only when his mother called and insisted he attend that he reluctantly agreed. And he picked up a Best Actor Oscar. In the 1950s, when a good number of Hollywood movies were being filmed around the world, it was understood that some nominees wouldn‚Äôt be able to get to the ceremony so no-shows were not uncommon. Proxy acceptors used to be allowed (most infamously, Joan Crawford accepting for a stuck-on-Broadway Anne Bancroft, who beat Crawford‚Äôs What Ever Happened To Baby Jane co-star, Bette Davis), but Sacheen Littlefeather‚Äôs acceptance for Marlon Brando put an end to that practice. Numerous nominees didn‚Äôt show up in the late 1960s and 70s, a period when, to many people, the Academy Awards seemed hopelessly out-of-step with modern times. Old Hollywood did not look kindly upon such absences, which included at various times Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson, Peter O‚ÄôToole, and, of course, Woody Allen. On the other hand, Jack Nicholson always showed up ‚Äì- even when he epitomized New Hollywood cool — and if he wasn‚Äôt a nominee, he still showed up as a presenter.
The Oscars started to regain their luster in the late 70s and the 80s, largely, I‚Äôve always thought, because many of the people now in contention for Oscars, were of the generation who grew up watching the Academy Awards on TV. The Oscar, therefore, had a mythical quality to these nominees, and it was again cool to be there. But not so cool that Paul Newman didn‚Äôt stay away when he won Best Actor in 1986.