Ethics Alarms has been cataloguing the infuriating omissions from the Oscar “In Memoriam” segment for several years. Why does it matter? Well, curtain calls are important to me, as are the lives of major film artists generally. I believe that the final bows of those screen artists who perished during the year have been earned with blood, sweat, tears, crippling anxieties and addictions, and their families and fans want to see that last acknowledgment from the industry they toiled for. Once the fleeting clip of a dead actress, actor or other movie figure is over, each recedes slowly in the culture’s memory to eventual oblivion, which is the real death for the once-famous.
There is no good reason they shouldn’t get that final moment. The inexplicable omissions, and there are several every year, are not oversights. They are deliberate. The Academy knows who died, and a complete list is on its website. The whole segment takes only a few minutes. Last night’s version, like the rest of the streamlined broadcast, was less leisurely than usual, but adding in the fallen few left out would have made no difference to the whole comparable to the insults and cruelty it would have avoided.
Here were 2019’s most upsetting “In Memoriam” snubs:
How hard would it have been to include a quick clip from “Singin’ in the Rain,” the all-time classic he directed with Gene Kelly, perhaps the most entertaining movie of all? Donen, who received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar, also directed “Charade,” “Damn Yankees,” and many other important films, including “Two For The Road,” a clip of which was shown to mark the passing of Albert Finney, who was, quite properly, accorded the honor of the last bow in this “In Memoriam.”
The excuse given for Donen’s snub was that he died last Tuesday. There was time to add him; of course there was. The producers just didn’t care enough to make the effort.
This one was especially cruel. If you know anything about the way Clint Eastwood treated Locke, his long-time live-in girlfriend and his frequent co-star, you are probably not quite as big a fan of Clint as you might be otherwise. Locke was very good when she had decent material to work with. Her film debut in 1968’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter got her nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and she starred in many films, the most successful with Eastwood. From October 1975 until April 1989, Locke she lived with actor. Locke had two abortions in that period, then had a tubal ligation, stating in her autobiography that her decision to have the procedures was due to Eastwood’s insistence that their art and lifestyle wouldn’t allow parenthood. Eastwood, meanwhile, secretly fathered another woman’s two children during the last three years of their relationship.
Eastwood ended the virtual marriage with Locke when he changed the locks on their Bel-Air home. Locke filed a palimony suit, and after a year-long legal battle, the parties reached a settlement in which Eastwood set up a film development/directing deal for Locke at Warner Bros. in exchange for her dropping the action. (Clint also got married, after refusing to marry Locke during all of those years together.) Locke sued Eastwood for fraud in 1995, alleging that the deal with Warner was a sham. The studio had rejected all of the 30 or more projects she proposed and never used her as a director. She also claimed that Eastwood had, in essence, blacklisted her. Eastwood settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Locke brought a separate action against Warner Bros. for conspiring with Eastwood, and this also was settled.
I got the horrible feeling that Locke’s snub was somehow a continuation of the industry’s mistreatment of Locke, who barely worked again after Clint dumped her.
Surely playing a famous and iconic character three times should be worth something. Troyer was Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films, but he was also a hard-working little person, one of the small actors who make so many special characters possible on screen. Did you know that he played the Squid Baby in “Men in Black?” Like most sufferers of dwarfism, Troyer died young, but he had a productive career, and attention should have been paid.
How in the world can Oscar justify not noting the passing of the producer of the original “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,”and “American Graffitti”?
Miller is exactly the kind of actor the “In Memoriam” segment is most crucial for: a prolific character actor whose face was familiar from dozens of roles in movies and TV but who almost nobody could name. He had 181 credits, including both “Gremlins” films and “Terminator” (he’s about to be killed by Arnold in the photo above.)
Another inexplicable omission, Mahoney was one of the very best character actors extant long before he got the role he was most identified with, “Frasier’s” ex-cop father (and Jack Russell Terrier lover.) Mahoney palyed the manager of the Black Sox in “Eight Men Out,” Olympia Dukakis’s illicit gentleman friend in “Moonstruck,” plus substantial roles in “Tin Men,” “The American President,’ and other major films.
By far the worst omission, however, was…
The Academy’s excuse would be that she’s Broadway royalty but was a mere Hollywood visitor. Nevertheless, Channing was nominated for an Academy Award for her one major film, Thoroughly Modern Millie. That, combined with the fact that she is one of musical comedy’s all-time greatest stars as well as one of the most memorable personalities in American show business history (and was robbed of another screen triumph when Gene Kelly foolishly cast a too-young Barbra Streisand to star in “Hello Dolly!”) should have at least earned her a few seconds of respect on the Oscars.
UPDATE: I left out the great R. Lee Ermey (Pointer: Inquiring Mind)…
R. Lee Ermey
This snub is suspicious. Ermey was a major niche player in films, the ultimate drill sergeant. A former Marine sergeant, he nailed down that role in Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” and was praised by all critics. He played similar characters several times, most amusingly as the voice of the head toy GI in all three”Toy Story” films. He was more than a one trick pony, though, effective as, for example, the racist mayor in “Mississippi Burning.” His voice was so immediately recognizable that he supplied the voices of sergeants in animated features and videogames.
Ermey claimed that his career in films essentially ended once he expressed politically conservative views in an interview. Political animus is the only reason I can think of for snubbing him at the Oscars. He was also missed in most of the film web sites that flagged the “In Memoriam” snubs.