Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 03/1/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
It's the eve of the 86th annual Academy Awards, and you movie fans know what that means.
It means, once again, you and your loved ones will park yourselves in the den in front of your big-screen TV to watch long-winded actors hand out golden statuettes to the year's top-rated films, none of which you have seen because, let's face it, you are far too busy driving the kids to hockey practice, taking the dog to the vet, updating your Twitter account, trying to find your eyeglasses, whitening your teeth and lying on the couch eating nacho chips to go to a movie theatre, where you'd be forced to cough up a month's mortgage payment for one extra-large tub of hot-buttered popcorn.
Still, even though you haven't seen the nominated films, there are a lot of great reasons to watch Sunday's Oscars broadcast, including: 1) To make snarky comments about the designer gowns your favourite stars are barely wearing on the red carpet; and 2) To see if you can stay awake while pompous windbags deliver acceptance speeches so long that, by the time they're finished, your kids, who were in kindergarten at the start of the show, are now old enough to receive college diplomas.
Also, you never know when something weird will happen. Since the first ceremony in 1929 -- which lasted 15 minutes -- there have been some odd Oscar moments, including our five favourites. And the winners are...
5. What Time Did You Say It Was?
You are going to have a hard time believing this, but in 1959, something happened at the Oscars that will likely never happen again -- the show ended early. Seriously, after the best picture award was doled out, broadcaster NBC discovered there was still 20 (bad word) minutes of airtime to fill. Which forced that year's host, the frequently reviled Jerry Lewis, to ad-lib like crazy, including a bizarre audience singalong of There's No Business Like Show Business. In Jerry's own words: "Twenty minutes of dead air is not something you want to be a part of. I proceeded to do shtick and bits and talk to the musicians in the pit... I went on until I ran out, then I called everyone onstage and had a dance contest. I had Clark Gable dancing with Ann Sheridan. I had Cagney dancing with Bogart, and we danced until we went off the air. And I took all the heat." As Time magazine's Richard Corliss put it: "Catastrophe would be one way to describe it. Another would be great live TV -- the spectacle of tuxedoed Hollywood pratfalling into humiliation, and handing the banana peel of blame to the one man who tried to keep the viewers entertained."
4. The Mystery of the Missing Oscar
You probably don't have a clue who Alice Brady was, even though the American actress featured in history's first Oscar kidnapping. Brady started her career in the silent era, moved into the talkies and worked until six months before her death from cancer in 1939. At the 1938 ceremony, Brady won the best supporting actress award for her portrayal of Mrs. Molly O'Leary -- the owner of the cow that started the great Chicago fire -- in the film In Old Chicago, but was too sick to attend the ceremony. According to news reports, when her name was announced, a stranger took to the stage, accepted the award on her behalf, then walked away, never to be seen again. The actress and the academy apparently didn't have a clue who the mystery man was and the award -- it was a plaque because statuettes were not awarded in the supporting categories until 1943 -- was never recovered. Brady died before a replacement was issued.
3. Who You Calling Old, Pardner?
A former heavyweight boxer, actor Jack Palance became a Hollywood legend playing scary bad guys and grizzled cowboys for half a century in films and on TV. But he truly soared to the pinnacle of fame at the 1992 Oscar ceremony when he won the best supporting actor award for playing crusty cowpoke Curly Washburn in the comedy City Slickers with co-star Billy Crystal. When he stepped onstage, the 6-4 actor looked at the pint-sized Crystal, that year's host, and quipped: "Billy Crystal, I crap bigger than him." Then, in the middle of a rambling speech about how producers were reluctant to cast old guys like him, the 72-year-old famously stepped to one side of the podium, dropped to the ground and, to wild applause, performed a series of one-armed pushups. For the rest of the night, it was a running gag for Crystal. "I told Jack before the ceremony, 'Decaf, Jack, decaf!' " the fast-thinking comic snorted.
2. That's an Offer I Can Refuse
It was arguably the most awkward moment in the gloriously awkward history of the Oscars. In 1973, Marlon Brando boycotted the ceremony and rejected the best actor award for his iconic portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather. He wanted to protest the ongoing siege at Wounded Knee, S.D., and the misrepresentation of American Indians by Hollywood. In his place, Brando sent an unknown native American activist and actor named Sacheen Littlefeather, dressed in buckskin clothing, to read a 15-page speech, but the producer threatened to have her arrested if she spoke for more than 60 seconds onstage. The confused audience gave her a mix of boos and applause, before she retreated backstage to read the full speech to the media. It's an incident that still sparks debate 41 years later, though Littlefeather has largely dropped out of the public eye.
1. The Oscar for Best Short Subject
Our favourite moment involves suave British actor David Niven, who in 1974 proved nothing could ruffle his feathers onstage. "And now to divulge the contents of this year's most important envelope is a very important contributor to world entertainment," Niven said as he prepared to introduce presenter Elizabeth Taylor. Which is when, without warning, a nude man (His name was Robert Opel and we called them "streakers" back in the day) jogged behind him flashing a peace sign, becoming the first person to appear fully naked at the Oscars. The audience roared but Niven was unflappable. After the briefest pause, he beamed and said: "Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen. But isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off his clothes and showing his shortcomings."
We are tempted to insert a punchline about Oscar Mayer here, but, like David Niven, we're just too classy for lowbrow cracks like that. Now shut up, because the show is about to start.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2014 0
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