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No-shows beset Griffith Awards

An epidemic of no-shows by winners plagued the 75th annual D.W. Griffith Awards, which instead emphasized a nostalgic point-of-view Monday at Equitable Auditorium.

As career achievement awardwinner Shirley Temple Black (most recently serving as U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia for the Bush administration) quipped: “Only the person who isn’t working could come. I’ve been between films for 44 years.”

The former child star was introduced by Roddy McDowall, who delivered a thoughtful speech decrying the public’s stereotype that child actors never segued into successful adult careers.

Entertaining event was co-hosted by the husband and wife team of Jane Powell and Dick Moore, latter a former child star who appeared with greats ranging from Temple (in “Miss Annie Rooney”) to Marlene Dietrich (in “Blonde Venus”).

Big winners of the evening were the Sony Pictures Classics team of Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcie Bloom, who picked up best picture (“Howards End”) and foreign film (“Indochine”) awards for their less than one-year-old distribution company.

“Howards End” director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant sent a videotape of their acceptances for best pic and director from India, where Merchant is directing his first fiction feature “In Custody.”

Best actress for “Howards End,” Emma Thompson, was ill and couldn’t come, with frequent winner Jessica Tandy accepting on her behalf.

Last year the National Board of Review had a much better talent turnout for the Griffiths, led by Warren Beatty (with Annette Bening) to pick up his best actor kudos. This year’s actor nod went to Jack Lemmon for “Glengarry Glen Ross, ” following his prior Griffith career achievement accolade. Matthew Broderick accepted in Lemmon’s absence.

Funniest routine of the night was delivered impromptu by Tony Randall, introduced as a “close friend of Jack Nicholson,” to accept Nicholson’s supporting actor prize for “A Few Good Men.”

Randall satirized the pinch-hitting process, noting how he had only met Nicholson once 12 years ago but that the actor had taken him aside at that time and instructed him passionately on how to accept an award for him in the future.

Completing the acting winners’ blackout, Judy Davis (supporting actress winner for “Husbands and Wives”) sent a letter of acceptance, while stage actress Lea Salonga (of “Miss Saigon”) was Robin Williams’ designated hitter, accepting a special award for his interpretation of the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin.”

Perhaps most disappointing, given the mounting hype in recent months, was the absence of Jaye Davidson, singled out by the National Board of Review for “a special award for an auspicious film debut” in “The Crying Game.”

Pic’s producer Stephen Woolley accepted for Davidson, who had never acted before the film.

On hand to personally take home their Griffith citations were Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger for best docu “Brother’s Keeper”; Ric Burns for TV miniseries “The Donner Party”; and Julian Schlossberg of Castle Hill Prods., accepting on behalf of Beatrice Welles-Smith for the recovery of her father Orson Welles’ film “Othello.”

Among the mainly Broadway stage talent recruited as presenters and accepters were Alec McCowen, Geraldine Fitzgerald, John Neville, Peter Riegert, Lee Grant, Mandy Patinkin, Eddie Bracken and Jerry Orbach.

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