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85 Years of the Oscar

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For years a hardback dust-jacketed copy of Inside Oscar®: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards, complete with a picture of Marlon Brando and Bob Hope wresting over an Oscar, has occupied a space on whatever bookshelf I own. The thick volume written by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona was a 1986 edition and as such stops with the awards ceremony in March of 1985 for films released in 1984. It was a good night for Amadeus, and Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” beat out songs from Footloose and Ghostbusters.

There’s a new sheriff in town. The just published 85 Years of the Oscar® - The Official History of the Academy Awards® by Robert Osborn fills in a lot of gaps and fits nicely amongst other Hollywood books on the coveted shelf. This particular official series has been published for the last 25 years, starting with 60 Years of the Oscar®.

Sure, one can go online and find out award info on the Academy website or other sites but there’s a tactile pleasure to turning page after page of nomination statistics and pictures from what are now classic films. There are a pair of appendixes, one with a list of each ceremony’s location (The Blossom Room at the Roosevelt Hotel and the Fiesta Room at the Ambassador Hotel are popular early locales when the event was a banquet.), the other a list of factoids such as most noms or consecutive wins or most wins.

Walt Disney has 26 awards and Hedda Hopper has 8 for Costume Design. Only four women have ever been nominated for Best Director, and only Kathryn Bigelow has won. There are two families that are three-generation winners, the Coppolas and the Hustons. The only two brothers both nominated are River and Joaquin Phoenix. The information isn’t limited to the pursuit of trivia, there’s also analysis on how the war affected the show in 1941. But you’d have to be a true historian to know that the 1981 ceremony was cancelled for one day (from March 30 to March 31) because President Reagan had been shot earlier that afternoon.

Personally I wish that the Governor’s Awards were still part of the regular broadcast (they’re now held in November). And I wouldn’t mind if the show itself lasted four hours, after all you never heard anybody complain when the Super Bowl lasts that long. 85 Years of the Oscar is published by Abbeville Press.

- Michael Bergeron

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