In 2009, producers inspired by show revamp

Jan. 10, 1969

GOOD MORNING: Preparations for the “totally new concept” in Academy Awards shows get under way this weekend as Gower Champion tells Gregory Peck and board members plans for the gala April 14 doings at the Music Center setting. Five m.c.’s will hopefully handle the show — and Hope, Bob that is, is not among the proposed list. Matter of fact, some of Gower’s creative team will have worked on previus Oscar shows. He, so far, has inked Hank Mancini to musick and Timmy Trittipo of TV’s “Hollywood Palace” to design the set. The Pavilion stage will boast five huge screens on which still pix, motion pictures, colors, etc. will be projected. The choreography will depend on nominated tunes… As planned, an “Al Jolson runway” will extend into the orchestra blanked out in a horizontal aisle followed by rows for nominees who will be able to make a fast skip up the runway to the stage… 2009 Update: Laurence Mark and Bill Condon, producer and exec producer of the 81st Oscars, Feb. 22, are heavily into meetings and awaiting the Academy’s announcement of nominees Thursday. When I read the above excerpt of my 40-year-old column about that year’s show to the two of them they both happily exclaimed, “That’s absolutely the show that inspired us” It was the first old Oscars tape they asked the Academy to show them. “It was one of my first significant showbiz inspirations,” Condon said. “He (Champion) gave it (the Oscars) elegance.” — “And he brought it in under two hours,” added Mark. “We are trying very hard to streamline the show” — knowing full well categories cannot be slighted. Champion had told me, “I went for a show.” Dick Dunlap who directed, said of Champion, “He’s genius.” In case you forgot, “Oliver” was the longshot musical which won for best picture and Carol Reed, as its director (Any similarities upcoming?) And, longshots Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tied for actress while, besieged actor Cliff Robertson won for actor. The Awards 40 years ago had the benefit of superstar, well-known presenters to sparkle the show: they included: Frank Sinatra, Ingrid Bergman, Diahann Carroll, Jane Fonda, Burt Lancaster, Walter Matthau, Sidney Poitier, Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis (he subbed for Mumps-stricken Warren Beatty). You can’t blame Mark and Condon for being inspired by the 1969 Oscars and concerned about the star power to be revealed by the nominees announcement — and those names omitted as well. As a parting upbeat note Mark and Condon said of their unique plans for the 81st Oscars: “We promise you a bit of reconfiguration of the (Kodak) theater.” That, too, will be a welcome change!

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