Oscar in time of war

GOOD MORNING: Here is something for the Motion Picture Academy’s Oscar show team to think of — especially in light of Daily Variety‘s exclusive Page 1 story Thursday that revealed the White House is asking Hollywood to rally ’round the flag in a style reminiscent of the early days of World War II. At the 13th Academy Awards, on Feb. 27, 1941, President Roosevelt spoke from the White House, via the three national radio networks, to attendees of the awards at the Biltmore Bowl. He started, “I am happy to greet the motion picture industry of America whose representatives are gathered from far and near for the annual awards dinner of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. In these days of anxiety and world peril, our hearts and minds and all of our energies are directed toward one objective. That objective is the strengthening of our national defense. Every day we realize that more and more things in our life must be evaluated in just such proportion as they contribute to the national defense. The American motion picture as a national and an international force is a phenomenon of our own generation. Within living memory we have seen it born and grow up into full maturity. We have seen the American motion picture become foremost in the world. We have seen it reflect our civilization throughout the rest of the world — the aims and aspirations and ideals of a free people and of freedom. That is the real reason that some governments do not want our American films exhibited in their countries. Dictators — those who enforce the totalitarian form of government — think it a dangerous thing for their unfortunate people to know that in our democracy, officers of the government are the servants, never the masters, of the people.” He spoke for 15 minutes, thanking the industry for what it had already done and closed with, “For all this and for your splendid cooperation with all who are directing the expansion of our defense forces, I am glad to thank you. In the weeks and months that lie ahead, we in Washington know we shall have your continued aid and support” … At the following year’s Oscars, on Feb. 27, 1942, Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie got equal time as principal speaker. He, too, praised the industry and its representation of what America stands for and finale’d forcefully with: “I am tired of hearing of defense efforts and defense rallies and even defense bonds. We should begin to talk of conquering efforts and victory rallies and bombardment bonds. But more than that, we should begin to act in terms of striking, not blocking, for if the victories of totalitarianism have taught us anything, it is that those who win strike first. Let’s begin to strike. Let’s begin to win.”

THE OSCARS OF MARCH 24, 2002, will be directed for TV by Louis J. Horvitz as set by producer Laura Ziskin. This will be Horvitz’s sixth consecutive outing — from the Music Center to the Shrine and now to the Kodak Theater in Hollywood … But first, Horvitz directs the Emmys for producer Gary Smith at the newly set site of the Shubert Theater on Nov. 4 (with no N.Y. remote). And he is discussing the Emmy show via phone with Smith, as he’s currently at Madison Square Garden readying the VH1 Concert for NYC to air Saturday from 7 p.m. to ? After the Emmys, he segues to D.C. to rein the Kennedy Center Honors Dec. 2 and then back to L.A. for the People’s Choice Awards Jan. 13 … And here’s the blockbuster Saturday VH1 show lineup: Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Bon Jovi, GooGoo Dolls, Billy Joel, Elton John, the Who, James Taylor, Bono and the Edge of U2, Jay-Z, Eric Clapton, Backstreet Boys, Marc Anthony, Melissa Etheridge, Mick Jagger, John Mellencamp, Janet Jackson (by satellite), Macy Gray, Destiny’s Child, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, David Spade, Julia Stiles, John Cusack, Michael J. Fox, Hilary Swank, Adam Sandler, Salma Hayek, Mike Myers, Mark Wahlberg, Halle Berry, Denis Leary, Will Farrell, Jimmy Fallon, Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe and James Lipton, plus film clips by Edward Burns, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, Woody Allen — all finale’ing with the Garden’s floor filled with NY fire and police personnel on “Let It Be” — with Mayor Giuliani.

RAY STARK VISITED the Motion Picture & TV Country House & Hospital Thursday to view the magnificent just-completed Fran and Ray Stark Villas. He was accompanied by daughter Wendy … With the Emmys date now set, ATAS chairman-CEO Bryce Zabel can relax and enjoy daughter Lauren’s Bat Mitzvah, Saturday at Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills with party following at Universal Studios’ commissary … Good news for young fans of “Benji”: Joe Camp tells me the final choice will be made next week after he completes his cross-country search checking out the final “candidate” found in Gardena. He has four other candidates awaiting his choice in “foster homes” in Mississippi, Chicago and Phoenix. He hopes to start filming after Jan. 1 with “Benji Returns: The Promise of Christmas” for December 2002 … And the new “Madeline” book and video preem’d at Storyopolis in L.A. with “Becker’s” Shawnee Smith celeb reader. Also preemed was DIC Home Entertainment’s Easy Play for children to learn how to use their DVD players — as taught by “Inspector Gadget” … And talking books, Dennis Weaver signs his autobiog “All the World’s a Stage” at Brentano’s in Century City Wednesday. He recalls, in his full and varied career, toiling in Steven Spielberg’s first pic, “Duel,” and almost nixing working for Orson Welles … Preeming at the Savannah Film Fest, “Lost Junction” — with Neve Campbell touted for Oscardom. And also preeming, Barry Josephson’s live-action “The Tick” … The Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project holds its annual Comic’s Choice fundraiser Sunday at the Hollywood Improv with an all-star lineup.

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