Special Report By Monica Sullivan
For film buffs, the 70th Academy Awards ceremony was to die for: 73 Oscar winners on one stage, dating all the way back to Shirley Temple & Luise Rainer! Who'd a thunk it? Yet it doesn't take too much mental arithmetic to figure out that the guest list should have been nearly twice as long: At least 140 is my best estimate. No one expects Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando or George C. Scott to show up for these things: Scott never does & Hepburn & Brando last turned up in 1974 & 1955, respectively.. But what about the other recipients? Deanna Durbin called it a career half a century ago at age 26. Mickey Rooney filmed a recent "E.R." episode and Margaret O'Brien attended a North Hollywood collector's show, but neither made it to the Oscars.
Whatever became of juvenile actors Ivan Jandl and Jon Whiteley? Hayley Mills was last seen in "People" and "Interview" magazines while touring in "The King and I" and her father Sir John just turned ninety.. (Another Sir John-Gielgud-turns 94 in April, in the midst of a screen career dating back to 1924.) Sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia De Havilland may still be experiencing sibling rivalry and Loretta Young is available for telefeatures, but not the Oscars. Stars of the fifties who didn't make it (some still working) include Kim Hunter, Anthony Quinn, Frank Sinatra, Dorothy Malone, Sir Alec Guinness, Joanne Woodward (ditto husband Paul Newman), Miyoshi Umeki and Dame Wendy Hiller.
Moving into the sixties, Elizabeth Taylor stayed away, as did Sir Peter Ustinov, Sophia Loren, Patty Duke, Julie Andrews, Paul Scofield, Dame Maggie Smith and Goldie Hawn. Glenda Jackson retired from acting to pursue a political career while Jane Fonda retired to become Mrs. Ted Turner. Other missing seventies stars were Gene Hackman, Liza Minnelli, Eileen Heckart, Tatum O'Neal, Art Carney, Jason Robards, Beatrice Straight, Diane Keaton, Christopher Walken and, yes, even Sally Field and Meryl Streep.
As we move in to the eighties and nineties, the percentage rate of absentees actually seems to increase. Top actresses like Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Lange, Shirley MacLaine, Linda Hunt, Olympia Dukakis, Dianne Wiest and Jodie Foster were no-shows, although La Jodie, like Jane Wyman & Juliet Binoche, may have had a written excuse note. Neither F. Murray Abraham nor Mercedes Ruehl made it to the ceremony. William Hurt, Daniel Day-Lewis, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicolas Cage & Kevins Kline and Spacey were also otherwise engaged and unable to clear their calendars.
To win an Oscar means that you can be assured of at least one sentence in your obituary. If you're around to accept it, it's the one moment in your life that you can be assured of an audience of at least one billion. But it's no guarantee that you'll be consistently employed the rest of your life or that you won't be UNinvited to future Oscar shows (it's happened), or that you won't be stuck in an elevator all through the night of 100 stars (that's happened, too).
Any night that can reveal bitter jealousy (Madonna) and unrestrained egomania (James Cameron) in such gory detail does make a cozy night at home seem overwhelmingly tempting. Still to watch Luise Rainer (for whom the term 'Oscar jinx' was coined) sharing a laugh with Vanessa Redgrave (who was booed during her 1977 acceptance speech) was an unforgettable experience. If these two could relish such an unrepeatable night, who couldn't... and why?
© 1998 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 3/25/98
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