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SLAP! The sound of a baby crying. And so begins Oscar's Fiftieth
Anniversary Show, a jam packed star-studded evening that closed the
door on the Academy's first half century and laid the seeds for it's
Debbie Reynolds kicks off with a song and dance number "Look How Far We've Come". The number climaxes with the arrival of past winners joining Debbie onstage. This is woefully mis-directed as groups of former winners come from all directions, this way and that, their names flashing briefly on screen. Furthermore, the director deprives the viewing audience of close-ups, hence the former winners seem MILES away. Still, what a stellar group they are (perhaps the IMDb will adjust their credit to add those who are omitted):
Leading off: Cliff Robertson, Cloris Leachman, and Patty Duke Astin. Followed by Louise Fletcher, Joel Grey, Anne Baxter (looking sensational!), and Frank Capra. At stage right: Ernest Borgnine, Donna Reed, and Mickey Rooney. Rushing down a stage left staircase: George Chakiris & Rita Moreno. Back to stage right: Burl Ives, Gale Sondergaard, and Master of Disaster Irwin Allen. From the top: Red Buttons, Eva Marie Saint, Marvin Hamlisch From the left: Tony Bill, Dorothy Malone, John Green At bottom: Haskell Wexler, Teresa Wright, Edward Anhalt As the winners appear, it is painfully obvious most participants have two left feet! From stage right: George Kennedy, Edith Head, Edmund O'Brien Above them: Conrad Hall, Beatrice Straight, Henry Mancini At bottom: George Cukor, Claire Trevor, John Avildsen Finally at top: John Williams, Joan Fontaine, Jack Albertson (The two men stop on a stair and Joan keeps going, almost going ass over tea kettle! Another reason why the 70th and 75th were better in having the winners sit and have their own 'moment'.)
The number ends with Bette Davis & Gregory Peck explaining the voting (remember that??)
After Bob Hope's schtick (this was Bob's last year as solo host), John Travolta commences the first scandal of the nightBest Supporting Actress. Without rehashing her speech, I can only say that Vanessa Redgrave WAS great in 'Julia' and certainly the best of the five nominees.
Mickey Mouse briefly crosses paths with C-3PO and R2D2 of 'Star Wars' before presenting an award with future 2 time winner Jodie Foster.
A Little Entertainment. Nominated songs were sung by such varied talents as Jane Powell, Gloria Loring,, and Aretha Franklin. A tribute to those who passed in 1977 was done by Sammy Davis Jr. & Marvin Hamlisch. However, the night's most heartwarming moment occurred when Debby Boone sang "You Light Up My Life". With father Pat beaming from the audience, Debby was accompanied by children 'associated' with the JOHN TRACY CLINIC for the DEAF who 'signed' the song with her. This was scandal 2 of the night!! The next morning it was revealed the children were NOT from the JOHN TRACY CLINIC and the "signing' was complete gibberish. Mercifully, the papers, too focused on Vanessa Redgrave,
did not pursue this embarrassment.
Bob Hope introduces former co-star Joan Fontaine. This is this classy lady's last Oscar appearance as a presenter to date (Come back, Joan!!). The Oscar goes to 'Star Wars' and a team of men rush to the stage. An overwhelmed Joan points to the Oscars and says "Everybody grab one". After each one speaks, the orchestra begins wrap up music only to be stopped by another making a speech (you suddenly realize why there are time constraints!). Joan, halfway offstage, rushes back to wait for the last to speak. When they finish, the men rush off and leave Joan in the dust! Alone, she follows them offstage.
Odd Couplings: Kirk Douglas & Raquel Welch, Greer Garson & Henry Winkler ('It is soo exciting to be here with The Fonz"), Eva Marie Saint & Jack Valenti (his first show since being shut out the year before).
Hope introduces Michael Caine and a luminous Maggie Smith. The latter looks terrific with her hair and gown almost matching her character in 'California Suite' which would win her a 2nd Oscar the next year. Maggie's beauty and attitude make one forget that a) the winner, Jason Robards was not there (Peter Firth was the only nominee in attendance) and b) the previous year's winner, Beatrice Straight who was in the house, was not asked to present.
Another high point: Natalie Wood presents the Costume Award and introduces an array of film greats who model the outfits. Cyd Charisse, Stockard Channing, Camilla Sparv, Pricilla Barnes, Michelle Lee, Susan George, Deborah Raffin, Karen Black and Eleanor Parker are the models.
Bette Davis returns to give the Hersholt award to Charlton Heston while Olivia DeHavilland elicits titters when she honors Margaret Booth who "has run a lot of celluloid through her moviola."
Fred Astaire makes his final Oscar appearance to a standing ovation while Cicely Tyson (WHAT is that thing in her hair?) & King Vidor crown the absent Woody Allen Best Director.
The first Best Actress, Janet Gaynor, appears and recounts HER evening 50 years before. Sylvester Stallone appears (much more refined than the previous year!) to crown Best Actor. Let's dispel an urban legend. Contrary to popular belief, Richard Burton was not "out of his seat and moving toward the stage ". When Richard Dreyfuss' name was read. Rather, he smiled and applauded as most people do (exceptions. Sally Kirkland, Ellen Burstyn, Sylvia Miles).
The evening ends as it has many many times in the past 30 years (including the two years just past) with Jack Nicholson presenting Best Picture to Annie Hall. Finally, Bob Hope sends get well wishes to John Wayne, recently diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer.
High Points: Too many to mention. So Many Stars. Young and Old.
Low Points: Too few close-ups on the former winners and costume models.
Otherwise 10 out of 10
This was the Golden year of cinema. A tribute to all who contributed to the entertainment industry. It was also the first and last time that a tribute was made to the young juvenile actors who previously won an award. Peggy Ann Garner and Margaret O'Brien were part of a "Big Parade" of previous oscar winners.
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