Strange but true stories from Academy Awards past

Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:02pm EST
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By Anna Pickard

(Reuters) - The Academy Awards are usually tightly scripted events, but sometimes even Oscar gets a taste of the unexpected. Here are some of the curious moments when things veered off course on the red carpet.


A few Oscar winners have felt compelled to turn down their prizes over the years. The first was screenwriter Dudley Nichols, who refused his Best Screenwriter award for "The Informer" in 1936 because of conflicts between the Screen Writers Guild and the Academy. Marlon Brando famously sent a proxy to refuse his 1972 Best Actor Oscar for "The Godfather" on his behalf (and to deliver a 15-page speech on Hollywood's mistreatment of Native Americans while she was there).

The all-time greatest rejection, though, goes to George C. Scott, who denounced his Best Actor nomination for "Patton," calling the awards "offensive, barbarous and innately corrupt." Scott was quoted as calling the ceremonies "a two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons." When he won the award, he was 3,000 miles away at home, watching a hockey game on TV. Brilliantly, Scott's high moral tone was strangely absent when, two years later, he let it be known that if the Academy felt like nominating him for Best Director for "Rage," he wouldn't object. Unsurprisingly, they didn't much feel like it.

Ten years later, Scott was so keen on the idea of an offensively barbarous two-hour meat parade that he bought last-minute tickets for the 1982 ceremony, and would have gotten away without incident had he not been spotted by a columnist from Variety and heckled on the red carpet.


Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Academy Award, for her portrayal of Mammy in the 1939 film "Gone With The Wind" - as mentioned by George Clooney in his 2006 "Isn't Hollywood progressive?" Oscars speech. (here ) What he didn't mention was that, while the rest of the cast and crew of "Gone with the Wind" sat at a big table together, McDaniel and her companion were seated at a table for two in the back of the room, as the Ambassador Hotel was still segregated. And it was from all the way at the back of the room that she had to walk to accept her award with, one has to say, a very gracious speech under the circumstances. (here ) So, progressive, but not all that progressive, eh, George?

MINISKIRT BAN   Continued...

Oscar-winning actress Hattie McDaniel (center, bottom) sits at the very back of the room, away from her fellow "Gone with the Wind" stars, at the 1940 Academy Awards awards dinner in the Los Angeles's Ambassador Hotel in this handout photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of Margaret Herrick Library/AMPAS/Handout