You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Moments That Changed the Course of Oscar

When people talk about memorable Oscar moments, they usually mention the streaker, Sacheen Littlefeather, Sally Field, or Cuba Gooding Jr. But there is another gauge for Academy Awards events: significant moments that helped shape the awards DNA that we see today. Many of these moments occurred off-camera, but their effect is long-lasting.

Darryl F. Zanuck
The first ceremony was held May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, three months after winners had been announced. Like high-school graduates getting diplomas, winners silently went to the stage, accepted the trophy, then sat down; honorable mentions did the same, receiving certificates. Warner Bros. was given an award for “The Jazz Singer,” the only talkie honored. Accepting the trophy, Zanuck did something radical: He said a few words of praise for the WB team. And thus the acceptance speech was born.

The ceremony was first broadcast March 19, 1953, on NBC. The Variety review the next day noted the “remarkable self-control” of audience members who didn’t wave at the camera. Host Bob Hope quoted Jack Warner’s description of a television as “the piece of furniture that stares back at you.” The audience was 34 million, according to Time magazine, and the telecast brought the show to viewers in ways that radio and newsreel clips could only hint at. The TV deal became crucial to AMPAS scheduling and its economy.

There was a tie
Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tied for lead actress for their 1968 films “The Lion in Winter” and “Funny Girl.” In Oscar history, there have been six ties, and this was the third; it drove home the fact that the voting tallies on Oscars can be very close. The late Hollywood publicist Julian Myers said he filled out his 1968 ballot and planned to hand-deliver it on the last day of voting. But he got stuck in traffic and missed the deadline. Myers winked, “I voted for one of those two women, and I will never tell anybody who. But if I had delivered the ballot on time, only one of them would have won.” The ties and Myers anecdote are reminders that every vote counts, an idea that boosts the adrenaline and the fear level of every awards strategist.

In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that VCRs were acceptable for home use. The studios had fought them, saying home-taping was a violation of copyright. But studios eventually realized they could make money off the new invention. And around 1988, a few indies realized that screener cassettes were a cheaper and more effective way of getting their movies seen by voters. The major studios soon copied the indies, and the following year, voters were flooded with cassettes (and eventually DVDs). The unspoken irony is that film-industry workers now see most of the awards contenders without setting foot in a movie house.

A little reality check
Martin Scorsese’s “Shutter Island” was scheduled for November 2009, but Paramount announced the movie would be pushed to February 2010. Oscar pundits flooded the internet with speculation that the movie must be a clunker. But Par’s Brad Grey shrugged that the economic crisis had caused the studio to rethink its release schedule, and the new date worked better. It turned out to be a smart decision: The film was a popular and critical success, and earned nearly $300 million worldwide. It was a reminder to Oscar pundits that awards are not always the first consideration: The bottom line will always be the bottom line.

More Film

  • Gkids Takes Salvador Simó’s ‘Buñuel in

    Gkids Acquires ‘Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Gkids, the U.S. distributor of ten Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations including this year’s “The Breadwinner,” has acquired North American rights to Spaniard Salvador Simó’s “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles.” Gkids will release the film theatrically next year. The animated feature is sold worldwide by Spain’s Latido Films; the all-rights [...]

  • Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to

    Film Review: 'Mary Poppins Returns'

    Nostalgia is a quaint word, one that summons visions of things that are toasty, comfy, wholesome, reassuring — all qualities, as it happens, that we associate with the 1964 Walt Disney nanny-from-heaven musical “Mary Poppins.” Yet nostalgia can also be a magical thing. It’s the great time machine of human emotion, with the power to [...]

  • O_163_wem_1360_comp_v003_01,1159 2 – L-R: Gwilym Lee

    SAG Award Nominations: Biggest Snubs and Surprises

    At the SAG Awards nominations Wednesday morning, “A Star Is Born” led the film pack with four nods and while that wasn’t a surprise, there were plenty of snubs and surprises that caught us off guard. On the television side, a plethora of co-stars are competing against each other, as both male and female actors [...]

  • DF-04714_R2 - Jennifer Lawrence stars as

    20th Century Fox Takes Final Bow at CineAsia

    If it is possible to feel sympathy for the demise of a competitor, such feelings were on display Wednesday evening at the CineAsia distributors and exhibitors’ convention in Hong Kong. 20th Century Fox made what was expected to be its final product presentation at the event as an independent studio. The mega-acquisition of Fox by [...]

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    SAG Nominations Scorecard: Netflix Leads the Pack

    Netflix led the way among all networks and studios with this year’s SAG nominations, garnering 15 nods thanks to programming like “GLOW,” “Ozark,” “Grace and Frankie” and “The Kominsky Method.” “Ozark” was among the select group of titles to snare four nominations, along with “A Star Is Born” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” On the [...]

  • SAG Nominations: 'A Star Is Born,'

    'A Star Is Born,' 'Mrs. Maisel,' 'Ozark' Lead SAG Awards Nominations

    Musical drama “A Star Is Born” led the way with four SAG feature film nominations, while “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “Ozark” each scored a quartet of TV nominations. “BlacKkKlansman” and “The Favourite” both took a trio of film nominations, followed by “Barry,” “GLOW,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and “The Kominsky Method,” each scoring three TV [...]

  • Marvelous Ms Maisel

    SAG Award Nominations: Complete List

    Nominations for the 25th annual SAG Awards were announced on Wednesday. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” led film nominations with four nods, including best actor for Cooper, best actress for Gaga, best ensemble, and best supporting actor for Sam Elliot. “BlacKkKlansman” and “The Favourite” followed close behind, both taking home a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content