Cheated Out Of Their Final Bows: Hollywood Snubs Its Own At The Oscars, And Worse Than Ever

Oscars

Once, the excuse that routinely issued from the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences when a significant film actor was omitted from the annual “In Memoriam” segment at the Oscars—“There just wasn’t enough time!”-–seemed almost plausible. It was still a lousy and dishonest excuse, don’t get me wrong: in a broadcast that routinely approaches four hours and wastes time like it is money in Washington, we are supposed to believe that there aren’t three seconds to give a proper send-off to the likes of Harry Morgan (last year) or Farrah Fawcett (the previous one)? That excuse won’t fly at all now, however, as some diabolical deal with the behind the camera members, the warped priorities of the Oscar show’s Broadway musical nerd producers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, and the final decisions regarding who would be featured in the movie industry’s public goodbye being made by, apparently, throwing darts at a dartboard combined to produce the most extensive and egregious snubs within memory.

This is a television broadcast and tailored for the public audience, after all. The Academy gives its technical awards in a separate private ceremony: wouldn’t that be the  place to bid a respectful farewell to the seemingly endless list of deceased publicity agents, make-up artists,movie executives and key grips whose completely unrecognizable faces and names were paraded before us last night, often with out of context quotes that made no sense at all? Then, guaranteeing that the “we ran out of time!” alibi would be risible, the segment’s editors chose a non-actor for the prestigious final place on the death list, composer Marvin Hamlisch, as an excuse to drag Barbra Streisand into the proceedings. I appreciate Hamlisch’s achievements, but his movie credits were not so extensive as to justify the honor (we are basically talking about one Academy Award-winning song, “The Way We Were,” and his arrangements of Scott Joplin’s music in “The Sting”), and the award show’s misbegotten “theme” of movie music was not sufficient justification to place a non-actor in the position of highest honor.

Meanwhile, the following actors, all who made significant contributions to American film in their careers, were cheated out of their final bow, and we, the film-going audience, were cheated of our chance to remember them, and say goodbye. It was a disgrace.

Ethics Alarms isn’t the Academy, but here, like last year, is its salute to the faces and careers Oscar forgot:

Harry Carey, Jr. (1921-2012)

Harry Carey JR

One of the last surviving members of John Ford’s Western acting company, Carey’s long, long career ranged from the Mickey Mouse Club’s iconic series “Spin and Marty” to nearly a hundred TV roles and memorable moments in classic films like “The Searchers,” “Red River,” “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon” and more. When Robert Zemeckis sought  three recognizable Old West movie types to cast as a trio of “old timers” for “Back to the Future III”, Carey was one of them (the others: Pat Buttram and Dub Taylor). Carey was also the son of ace character actor Harry Carey Sr. (the helpful Vice President in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), who was John Wayne’s mentor and surrogate father, making Carey, Jr. Hollywood royalty. His omission last night was not just an insult to his memory, but to an entire generation.

Phyllis Diller (1917-2012)

NUP_137288_0002

Diller just can’t get her due, apparently. She was a true trailblazer in stand-up comedy, and one of the wittiest joke writers of all time, yet had to sit by and watch her inferiors get the Mark Twain Award honor she had deserved for decades because of popular culture’s short memory. Then she was ignored, again, last night. Diller was better known for her TV work than her film appearances—she didn’t appear at all in her best film, playing the voice of the queen ant in Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”—but she made plenty of movies, and like all of those listed here, deserved more respect from the Academy.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

vidal

Vidal’s acting credits were relatively few (he notably played the villainous Senator in Tim Robbins’ “Bob Roberts,”) but he was also an important screenwriter, adapting Tennessee Williams’ “Suddenly Last Summer” (with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift), his own “The Best Man,” and having a major hand in the dialogue in “Ben Hur.” Vidal’s reputation for being unsympathetic to Jews didn’t help him with the Hollywood crowd, and he made enemies for sport, but “In Memoriam” is supposed to be about film, not score-settling.

Alex Karras (1935-2012)

Alex-Karras-as-mongo

“Blazing Saddles” was far from his only major film (remember James Garner’s gay bodyguard in “Victor Victoria”?), but my God! How could the Academy leave out Mongo?

Ann Rutherford (1917-2012)

Ann Rutherford

Clearly, Hollywood’s reverence for its Golden Age is dead, and Ann Rutherford’s snub proves it. Playing Andy Hardy’s comely home town girlfriend Polly Benedict in thirteen movies, Scarlet O’Hara’s quiet sister Careen in “Gone With The Wind,” the Ghost of Christmas Past in the first MGM “A Christmas Carol,” in addition to other roles, Rutherford had a distinguished and memorable screen career, if not the mega-star one that was once predicted for her. ABC’s Red Carpet show pretended to honor Judy’s ruby slippers, but that rings hollow in the wake of the snubbing of Mickey’s, that is, Andy’s, “girl next door.”

Russell Means  (1939-2012)

russellmeans375

I don’t know who Russell Means alienated to get himself ignored by Oscar, but given the fact that the Academy usually will turn itself inside out to recognize the few minorities in its midst, it must have been someone with pull. Means, the Native American activist, was also an actor of integrity and presence who would only play characters that he felt were a credit to the legacy of his much-mistreated race. If he had done nothing on screen but deliver Chingachgook’s moving speech that ended Michael Mann’s wonderful “The Last of the Mohicans,” Russell Means would have earned the final bow he was robbed of last night.  Once again, Hollywood insulted the Indian.

Larry Hagman (1931-2012)

Larry Hagman

Was he left out because he was best known for his TV stardom? No, that doesn’t work…Jack Klugman (“Quincy,” “The Odd Couple”) made the cut. And his mother was musical star Mary Martin: one would think that alone would be enough to guarantee respect from the Broadway musical besotted telecast producers, but no. There really was no good reason for omitting Larry Hagman, who had roles in Oscar nominated films like “Superman,” “Primary Colors,” “Fail-Safe,” “Harry and Tonto,” and more, just the bad reason that the Academy doesn’t respect its own actors.

I bet J.R. would have known what to do with them…

R.G. Armstrong (1917-2012)

RG Armstrong

Unforgivable. There are 181 acting credits in Armstrong’s resume, and he epitomizes the hard-working Hollywood character actor—without a pretty face and whose name audiences can’t quite place—that the “In Memoriam” segment was supposed to reward with some final recognition. He was a member of director Sam Peckinpah’s acting company and was a favorite of director Warren Beatty’s as well (R.G. was “Prune Face” in “Dick Tracy”), appearing in films like “The Ballad of Cable Hogue,” “El Dorado,” “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” “Reds,” “Heaven Can Wait” and many more, while also popping up on TV dramas almost every week.

I’ll remember you, R.G., even if Oscar forgot,

William Windom ( 1923-2012)

Windom

 Windom was on TV so frequently that he didn’t have time for many movie roles, but when he did get on screen, he was a standout, as in his role as the racist prosecutor pitted against Gregory Peck in “To Kill A Mockingbird.” He acted with distinction, entertaining audiences in seven decades, yet Oscar didn’t feel he was worthy of three seconds and a photo.

Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

Face in the Crowd

No, Andy Griffith wasn’t a TV actor, he was an actor, period, a versatile and important one whose omission last night was perhaps the worst of the worst. He was the central character in “A Face in the Crowd,” a bona fide screen classic, and the star of “No Time For Sergeants,” a memorable comedy. Then came Mayberry and Matlock, but Andy still found time to use his equally formidable comic and dramatic talents in such films as “Waitress,” the Leslie Nielsen spoof “Spy Hard,” and “Hearts of the West.” I just don’t understand Oscar’s treatment of Andy Griffith.

In fact, I don’t understand any of these omissions, and I may have missed a few. An industry is supposed to take care of its own, and Oscar night is Hollywood’s opportunity to give the talents who used their careers to make movies fun and exciting the salutes they deserve. This year, devoting time to a Michelle Obama PR ploy was deemed more important than recognizing Andy Griffith, Polly Benedict, and Mongo one last time.

It was unforgivable, that’s all.

43 thoughts on “Cheated Out Of Their Final Bows: Hollywood Snubs Its Own At The Oscars, And Worse Than Ever

  1. Thanks. I was thinking that 2012 was a fortunate year for famous actors, since so few of them seem to have passed. All of them memorable. Harry Carey Jr hurts though since he was a stock character in John Wayne’s greatest movies.

    And that Marvin Hamlisch bit must have pleased the 1000 people old enough to remember and still awake to watch it.

  2. A little trivia…In The Searchers, John Wayne paid tribute to Harry Carey Sr. in the final scene, reaching across and clutching his right arm in the manner of the late Mr. Carey.

  3. I have no problem with them mentioning all the grips and behind the scene people, I actually like that they do, they just need to include everyone they can and stop doing musical numbers. Who they hell needs to hear the theme to Skyfall sung??? Or see the cast of Le Miz butcher an already horrible song live.

      • The thing is that if they did it right they wouldn’t have to leave out anyone. If I was running the damn thing I would just show a picture of them with a title of what they did and the years they lived and that’s it. Plus cut all the musical numbers and comedy bits . Plus get an MC who isnt an idiot like the buffoon they had on last night.

    • I’d much rather watch relevant musical numbers than endure the endless inane jokes, which is a generous label given to much of banter.

  4. I was kind of surprised when they didn’t keep rolling pictures as Barbara sang. They obviously had more time with her singing, they could have flashed some more pictures. But alas, I’m not privy to the process and how it’s created. I’m just glad Michael Clarke Duncan wasn’t forgotten.

  5. Yeah, they plainly had more time for the memorium. I realized Mr. Hagman right away, I like some of the musical numbers, and the rendition of “Goldfinger” reminded me of when the best songs were big songs with good melodies. Fewer skits would be better. They shouldn’t feel obliged to do something for every one of nine nominees. Expanding the field didn’t make it a better one.

    • They would have had time to spare if they hadn’t allowed the Administration to turn the climax of the Oscars into a stealth tactic to build good will against the arrival or the sequester. Is there no aspect of culture that the Obama’s don’t think they have a right to butt into? I guess we can count on one of them showing up at the “Dancing With The Stars” finale, the “Survivor” final episode, and when they hand out the Heisman. Everything is a publicity op. Big Brother is Stalking You!

      • Eh, Reagan did an an Oscar bit, as did Laura Bush. Michelle is are hardly the first FLOTUS to do such a thing. Such fluffy light PR moves are a first lady’s bread and butter.

        Plus I don’t see how Michelle took up any more time than any other presenter. The last presenter of the night usually gives some small speech about the movies before the envelope reveal. They needed to cut out that horrble sexist song in the beginning, or most of the host’s “jokes”. That would have saved an enourmous amount of time.

        • You really are shameless. First, the fact that other First Families may have horned in wouldn’t make it right, but in fact, the two examples you cite are misleading, and just prove you read Media Matters, for which you should be ashamed. Laura Bush was included in a taped feature along with many other public figure about “what movies mean to me.” Ronald Reagan had a legitimate connection, and a long standing one, to the Academy, the industry, and the Oscars—it made perfect sense, his first year as President, to ask him to introduce the telecast. Even he didn’t presume to horn in to the ceremonies themselves. There is no comparison. And since Michelle had no business opening an envelope, anything she said would have been too long.

          • I think this is where personal feelings overtake rationality. You cannot logically blame Michelle Obama for taking up time that would have gone to the in memoriam portion, when that time would have just gone to another presenter anyway. You may not like the fact that she was a presenter, but it is hard, if not impossible, to make the case that Michelle was somehow taking up precious time. Even if it was Michelle Rodriguez rather than Michelle Obama slated to present the final award, the protocols appear much the same year after ear. Michelle Obama was undoubtably a huge “get” for the producers of the show, who search for a big name to present awards, and I’m sure they were very happy to have her.

            • Baloney again. I would object to any President of First Lady, ever, doing this. Just because a legitimate and defensible break with tradition for logical reasons—the first professional movie actor elected as President– creates the possibility of a slippery slope does not justify exploiting that slope.

              • I’m trying to understand your objections. At first I thought it was because you felt that Michelle Obama was taking up time that could be better spent elsewhere. But now it appears that you feel that it is somehow unseemly that she was asked to read the winneroff the envelope for Best Picture? Given the number of political pictures up for awards this year (at least three, Lincoln, ZD30, and Argo), it seemed like a nice little nod to that. But seeing how closely they guard the Oscar results, it is very unlikely that Michelle knew what the results would be beforehand.

                • 1. Since the appearance was completely unnecessary, gratuitous, inappropriate and manipulative, yes, honoring departed actors was a more responsible use of time.
                  2. AND it was an offensive, partisan use of the broadcast by the Obamas, the white House, and the Academy. Both this piece, and this one, both written after I raised the issue here, are on point.

                  • I’ve already addressed #1, so #2, after reading both of the pieces linked, they both just seemed to be a re-hash of the emotional argument, “I just don’t like Michelle Obama.” Michelle was already dressed for the Governor’s Ball, and took a few minutes out to announce the winner. She gave a little speech about the movies, and read a name off an envelope. I don’t see the partisan nature of it, especially as i’ve noted before, two top Republicans have also been asked, and participated in the ceremonies, one from the very last administration. As FLOTUS, Michelle is expected to participate in fluffy events such as these, so I’m having a hard time seeing the source of such pearl clutching.

                    • Then you’re not paying attention. It was a political stunt that a Democratic constituency full of Obama donors allowed to pollute the proceedings. I explained why the two “precedents” you cited are bogus and do not apply. The non-political programming should not be turned into partisan message-sending. It’s creepy, it’s obtrusive, and it’s wrong, and how one feels about the individuals should have nothing to do with it.

  6. I agree with all of this because I worked with Harry Carey, Jr. and he was in so many films I can’t imagine how they would leave out someone like this. At least, one of my good friends finally got his due, Hal Needham. He was one of the great stuntmen of all time, but he looked like he might be ill. I hope hot. I’m so happy that you guys chose to pay tribute to all these great people.

  7. Just for the record:

    Ann Rutherford did play Polly Benedict, but she was Andy’s girlfriend, not his sister, in the “Andy Hardy” series. His older sister, Marion, was played by Cecelia Parker. Andy had an even older, married sister (I think her name was “Joan”), in the first movie, but there was no younger sister in the Hardy family.

    Also, the role of “Careen O’Hara,” as played by Ann Rutherford in “Gone With the Wind” was not that of Scarlett’s spoiled sister (Suellen, played by Evelyn Keyes), but of her sweet-natured baby sister. In the book, Carreen joins a convent after her beloved beaux, Brent Tarleton (one of Scarlett’s rejects) is killed in the War.

  8. Just a reminder: Reagan was president of the Actor’s Guild before he was the POTUS. Laura Bush was part of a montage, not a single performer such as a presenter.

    • Distinctions without much difference. FLOTUSes participate in entertainment events, sometimes even the Oscars. It probably isn’t propaganda, any more than Michelle Obama’s “evolution of mom dance” video was propaganda. Undoubtably it was to create good will for the administration, but that is basically the unofficial job description of the First Lady. She gave a little speech, had an envelope handed to her, and read the name off the envelope. I don’t understand the level of vitrol around some places of the internet about this.

      • Baloney. That’s pure spin, and if you don’t know, that’s sad. Those are material differences, the difference between throwing out the first ball in a game, and pinch-running during the game.

        • Well in your example, one is ceremonial, and the other affects the outcome of the game. In this case, reading a name off an envelope does not affect the ceremony in either direction…unless you are saying she lied, and Argo, did not in fact win? Though I think if she would have changed the results, she would have pulled for Zero Dark Thirty instead.

            • I think once the telecast starts at 8:30 or whenever, you are participating *in* the Oscars. Those actors/celebrities in the pre-taped bits, those singers and dancers, and those presenters, are all in the Oscar show. All require some prep work with the producers, writers, and techies to get things done right and just so. I think it is straining to find a difference at this point.

      • She’s popular, and she’s happily married to a popular President.

        For one reason or another this is mortally offensive to some people.

        Really, there’s no more to it than that.

        • You wish.

          Creepy. Creepy, creepy, creepy. This is creeping Big Brotherism, and an attempt to use Madison Avenue manipulation as Obama tries to win the PR war over Congress, when both the President and Congress are, in fact, equally accountable for the idiotic sequester situation. And that IS what this about. What does being happily married have to do with the price of beans? Is it really your contention that our elected leaders should be ubiquitous, and that there should be no respite anywhere from political theater? I live in Washington. I get politics around the clock. When I tune in to the Oscars, I don’t want to see Michelle, Harry Reid, John Boehner, George Will, or anyone else not related to entertainment and films, and a POTUS with any shame and sense of appropriate limits would understand and expect that. Does the concept that everything isn’t about the Obama’s even register on them, or you? Why should Jack Nicholson have to be upstaged by the First Lady?

          If they weren’t brainwashed already and enlisted into the concept that the culture is in perpetual warfare, Democrats would find this just as offensive as I do. Which speaks volumes.

  9. Anyone who believes that the FLOTUS speech wasn’t pre-recorded has the burden of proof, in my opinion. I’d wager that the producers had her read all 9 nominees as though they had won and played the appropriate clip at the appropriate time. I bet Michelle Obama was in her PJ’s watching the Oscars live, not knowing who had actually won best picture.

  10. Wait, Squash in Victor Victoria and Mongo in Blazing Saddles were the same guy? My mind is blown. I absolutely adored both those characters, and never recognized that it was the same actor.

  11. Thanks, Jack! I’m not a huge movie buff, but I do love the “Golden Age”. That’s when more than just a pretty face was required to star in films. It took actual acting skills and training. I never watch awards shows. The nauseating self-congratulations, ostentatious display of privilege and wealth, obvious nepotism and popularly contest of celebrity awards shows sickens me. I’ve boycotted the Oscars, since Gwyneth,(I can’t act, but get to be in movies because my father was a director) Paltrow won Best Actress for “Shakespeare in Love”. There is NO WAY her performance outshone Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth”. NO FRIGGIN WAY! I was appalled! Also, I saw online where Michelle Obama read the nominees/winner for Best Picture. I was like, “WHY is she involved in the Oscars”!?

    • Gwyneth can act, it may be a range of A-C, but she can act. Are you sure youre not thinking of Cameron Diaz? Now she cant act a bit, not a lick.

  12. I’m in agreement with your thoughts on the Michelle Obama addition to the Oscars. The show is supposed to be in honor of movies and those who contribute to them. I thought having the “Ted” cast of the bear and Mark Wahlberg was also unwelcome, but obviously for different reasons; they had no place being there but for the fact that MacFarlane was the creator of the movie. I would have preferred to see additional individuals added to the “In Memory of” section. It bothers me that people are consistently left out and wonder if it’s simple laziness (trying to come up with a list in the weeks before the Oscars), instead of an approach which would keep a running list throughout the year, to make sure film contributors aren’t left out.

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