Peter Finch had been encouraged by director Sidney Lumet to campaign for Oscar for Best Actor for _Network (1976)_ and had decided to join him on Good Morning America (1975). They met in the Beverly Hills Hotel on the morning of January 14, 1977, where suddenly Finch clutched his chest and died of a heart attack. Three months later, he became the first actor to win the Best Actor award posthumously. See more »
Streamlined show was produced by William Friedkin who insisted on only black or white clothes and NO audience reaction shots. He failed on both! Co-host Ellen Burstyn, so incensed by her former director's edict, wore a men's tuxedo in protest. Furthermore, there are shots of Mickey Rooney, Olivia DeHavilland, Brenda Vaccaro, and even Pat McCormack (!?!?!) sprinkled throughout the show.
Presenters are solo. This gets rid of the needless scripted banter between presenters. The previous year reached an all-time low in banter with embarrassing moments between Goldie Hawn & George Segal and Roddy MCDowell & Brenda Vaccaro. The presenters are a bizarre array of "New Hollywood" (Tamara Dobson, Marty Feldman, Marthe Keller) and older vets no longer involved in film (Pearl Bailey, Red Skelton) all of them making their sole Oscar appearance.
I must admit that when I saw this show on its initial broadcast, I thought Skelton was hysterical. Watching it now 30 years later, I am pained by the extraordinary length given to his routine.
Perhaps, Red's comedy was designed to counterbalance the bitter animosity Lillian Hellman spewed before the documentary awards. Having known Lily as a friend, I can say she had every right to say what she did. And she said it perfectly!! When she says "maybe you have no regrets when you survive", the camera cuts to dear friend and nominee Lee Grant, a black list survivor herself.
The other drama surrounded the Best Actor award. The Academy, still reeling from the Scott/Brando fiascoes, did not want proxies to accept. This meant Mrs. Peter Finch. There are some who believe that the Academy was fearful of allowing Mrs. Finch, a woman of color, accept for her husband. Whatever. Paddy Chayevsky called Elthea Finch from her seat (in the back of the house!) and she gave a most moving speech for her husband (who deserved the award 5 years earlier for Sunday BLOODY Sunday).
High Points: 1) Sylvester Stallone in his overnight stardom. Whether bantering with Muhammad Ali or sitting like a slob awaiting an award, he is amazing. Of course by the following year he had "gone Hollywood" and all of this character was long gone.
2) Barbra Streisand in her only Oscar performance. She performs a lackluster EVERGREEN and wins her second Oscar.
3) A totally surprised Beatrice Straight winning for NETWORK. A few points are taken away by her giving a speech that was longer than her role in the film!!!
4) A totally surprised Faye Dunaway (what the hell was she wearing???) who thanked the "boys in the back room"
Low Points: 1) Lee Grant was a nominee who won the previous year. Why didn't she present an award?
2)What was Cicely Tyson's tie to Pandro S. Berman? They never did anything together. What about Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire??
5) Jeanne Moreau was a GREAT choice for Best Director. BUT as Friedkin's then wife it only adds to the feeling of impropriety.
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