Just to get in the mood for that awards show that’s coming up (or as George Sanders called them in All About Eve, “those awards presented annually by that… film society”) I decided to look at some Academy Awards show clips. My rigorous standard for including them here? They had to be a) On the internet and… well, that’s about it. My standards are high.
1. Here’s one of the most famous/infamous good-bad Oscar-show musical numbers: at the 1957 awards, an Oscar-winning song from several years earlier was performed by one of Hollywood’s biggest young stars, Rock Hudson, and one of its most famous semi-retirees, Mae West. The weirdness of the combination made the number an instant cult hit; it was a camp classic even before the term “camp” was mainstreamed.
2. My favourite kiss-off speech is Alfred Hitchcock winning the Irving Thalberg Memorial award at the 1967 Oscars. Hitchcock had never won an Oscar and was apparently not impressed with being given an award that is for producing, rather than directing (so it’s not even an honourary Oscar for his directing achievements). So he nonplussed everybody by keeping his speech to exactly five words.
3. For some reason I really love this promo for the 1987 Oscars. Why? Because the network managed to make it seem exactly like a promo for one of their drama shows. The tone of the announcer, the way the clips are chosen or edited — it’s like the Oscars are a gritty action drama. Which would make them more fun.
4. To represent controversial political moments and star self-congratulation, here’s the Vanessa Redgrave speech at the 1977 Oscars. This clip also includes the almost-as-famous reply by Paddy Chayefsky. For Chayefsky to say that he doesn’t believe in using a show to advance your personal views is sort of… well, let’s just say that if Redgrave is self-congratulatory then Chayefsky isn’t very self-aware. But let that pass.
5. Another great kiss-off moment: Ingrid Bergman wins a Best Supporting Actress award that nobody, including her, thinks she deserved (for a not-particularly-good role in Murder On the Orient Express). So she uses her speech to give a shout-out to Valentina Cortese from the movie Day For Night (she played an Italian movie actress who forgets her lines, partly because she is having personal problems and partly because Italians aren’t used to recording dialogue live on the set) who, in her opinion, should have won the award.
6. Brooke Shields and Louis Malle (for whom she was working at the time) as one of the more awkward presenter teams of their era:
7. At the 1954 show, Dean Martin sings that year’s eventual winner, “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Unfortunately they didn’t let Jerry Lewis interrupt Dean the way he usually did when he tried to sing a ballad; instead Jerry is limited to a short introduction before Dean starts to sing.
8. And finally, The Streaker, because no Oscar moment will ever, er, measure up.