AND, THE OSCAR GOES TO … BUT, DO YOU CARE? – Garry Armstrong

I’m part of the new “lost generation”.  I grew up loving movies when there were more stars in Hollywood than in heaven.

I plead guilty to reading fan mags about stars like Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper (Mom named me after “Coop”, her favorite star), Ingrid Bergman, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and many other Tinsel town legends.

I remember “Photoplay” pic layouts of Alan and Sue Carroll Ladd at home. Ladd, with his million-dollar smile, was mowing the lawn, playing with his dogs and hugging the kids, Alan “Laddie” Junior, Alana and David. It was so cool – “Shane” really had a home and family in swanky Beverly Hills.

There was the “Movietone” photo platter with William Holden — home at his ranch with horses and neighbors – smiling and eating hot dogs at their backyard barbecue. It looked so real. A day in the life of Hollywood superstars. I believed it all.

It was the naiveté of a pre-teen movie fan. Yes, I wanted to be a movie star when I grew up. I used to see  – every week –3 double features, cartoons and coming attractions at the local and first-run movie houses near my Jamaica, Queens home in the ’40s and early ’50s.

The Academy Awards were bigger than the World Series even though I was a  true Dodger Blue fan of  Brooklyn’s Boys of Summer.

I started watching the Oscars in black and white with Bob Hope hosting and still in his prime – complaining about being shut out from acting awards by Ronald Coleman, Cary Grant, and James Cagney. It was standard Hollywood humor we all knew, understood, and loved.

During those early 50’s telecasts of the Oscars, it was terrific when the cameras panned the audience to show Greer Garson, Gloria Swanson, Gene Kelly, Spencer Tracy and all the other luminous stars from the golden age of the silver screen.

Previous Oscar-winning movies

Fans used to mull, for weeks, who’d win the major awards. Would Cary Grant finally win after being overlooked for decades? Would newcomers like Paul Newman, Richard Burton, Richard Harris, and Steve McQueen get more attention than the “old guard.” Who was more exciting? Rock Hudson, Kirk Douglas or Clark Gable (Gable had passed away in ’61 but was still hugely popular).

There were the larger than life heroes like John Wayne who’d never received an Oscar despite half a century of stardom. How about Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck?  Were they still TOP stars?  There was the fascination with Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Sophia Loren, Kim Novak, Mamie Van Doren, and Diana Dors. What would they be wearing on Oscar night?  How much would they “reveal?” How much jewelry would Liz Taylor wear?  Could Burton stay sober?

One of my favorite Oscar moments came in the ’60s when Sidney Poitier became the first Black actor to win the coveted “Best Actor” award. Poitier opened the door for Denzel, Wil Smith and so many other minority performers previously relegated to grossly stereotypical roles.

2019 lead Oscar actresses

The Oscar show was must-see viewing for the stars as much as the films and performers vying for the industry’s top awards.  Hollywood pioneers like Cecil B. Demille, Adolph Zukor, Jack Warner, and Darryl Zanuck could still be seen and heard. I especially loved seeing legends from the silent film days like Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton and others who were there when the curtains first raised on “moving pictures”.

There were wonderful impromptu moments like David Niven almost being upstaged by a streaker. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas delighting us with a nifty song and dance number.

Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland — staples from their youth — were still vital and enjoyable to watch and hear.

Where have all the stars gone today (insert “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” melody here). I don’t know most of the folks who are stars unless I’ve seen them on “Facebook” ‘news’ items.

I don’t much about most of the movies up for awards. I know some are about superheroes, trendsetters in new diversity movies and a rash of “coming of age” flicks that draw blanks at this address.

I know about the industry controversies including Harvey Weinstein and the “Me Too” movement. Diversity for all those excluded since the first Oscars — nine decades ago during the prelude to the great depression. I know this year’s Oscar show will be minus a host.

Maybe that’ll be a plus?

The magic is gone — along with the stars who made the magic. The show is far too long with winners taking too long to thank everyone including their dog walker.

All that said, we’ll still watch. Until we doze off.

Why? It’s the stuff dreams are made of …

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

89 thoughts on “AND, THE OSCAR GOES TO … BUT, DO YOU CARE? – Garry Armstrong”

  1. There are still some great movies being made, but times have changed. The stars are now just normal folk doing a job and movies have so much competition that they never had before. Not sure if it is good (studios no longer “own” the stars) or bad (the dream of glamour is gone), but it does seem to have passed to a new era.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Out here, a lot of the movies WE want to see simply aren’t shown. The whole “shown in limited cinema houses” basically means unless you live in the suburbs or a city, you aren’t going to see it. We wait and eventually it shows up on Netflix — or I order a copy from Amazon, real or downloaded, depending on price. I miss owning my own music and movies. When the wifi goes down, it’s nice to pop a film in the DVD player and enjoy it anyway. And I like playing the music I want to hear — not as a mix on some Sirius station — but on its own DVD. A lot of changes have been made because it’s cheaper that way. It’s not demand — it’s someone in the boardroom deciding that we don’t care — except no one asked.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Amid our complaints — acknowledgement that we’re getting more movies about “our” folks (retirees/old people). It’s great to see Morgan Freeman, Judy Dench, Glen Close and other seniors working steadily.
        And, of course, there’s Meryl Streep.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We are lucky – my town, Wilton, has a little movie house for the “art” films and we are about 20 minute ride from a couple of huge meg-plexes that show just about everything. truthfully, I rarely go out. And I do still buy CDs on occasion, though usually I buy the mp3 downloads. And we still have hundreds of DVDs and BluRays – we just watched Pleasantville, one of my favorites, again last weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Trent, I agree. I know there are good movies, braving subjects usually ignored or related to minor status. They’re just not my cup of tea. I like to be entertained. I love the feeling of fulfillment when you watch films like “Inherit The Wind”, “To Kill A Mockingbird”, “The Best Years of Our Lives” and “Casablanca” – among the old chestnuts. The common thread – GREAT scripts.
      My brain tells me it’s a good thing the studio system era is gone — It had lots of bad stuff for all the stars and movies turned out. The hours, the suits, the directors, etc. The studios provided security, longevity and steady career buildup. But if you were an actress and were 40 — it was all downhill unless you were Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and other TOP stars — but even they had to fight the suits and sue for artistic freedom among other things.
      The good thing: The studios believed in quantity so there was always work for a performer. You just couldn’t complain about mediocrity or insist you play the same character without variety. Top stars like Davis, Bogart, DeHavilland, Lupino battled like crazy for good scripts. They were in court a lot.

      I’m almost done with a great book – A Hal Wallis bio. Wallis was one of the biggest producers in old Hollywood. He has wonderful anecdotes about behind the scenes stuff — not the tawdry gossip stuff — but stories about what it was like to WORK in old Hollywood. It’s a great read.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds like an interesting book. And I do understand the side of the studio system where they developed talent, finding the right roles to grow the actors, so ti wasn’t all bad. And it is still hard for any but the biggest name women to find good roles after 40, but much better than it was.

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    3. Trent, you make a great point about movies having so much competition. In the old days, movies were royalty over radio, newspapers and magazines. Television was still waiting for its cue and Broadway – was the other major competitor – considered superior to the “uncultured” denizens of Hollywood.
      Nowadays, you can get your jollies — immediately and at home. Social media is waiting and ready 24-7.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And Andy Warhol has been proven true – every day there are new Internet celebrities and influencers, who are totally forgotten 15 minutes later. There are people who know the names of the “influencers” more than they know movie star names…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw plenty of double features at the Music Box theater during the first half of the sixties. It is still there and shows oldies and “art house” movies. They have a screening room that seats perhaps 100. They now use that for foreign films and movies that would get little or no interest on the big screen. I am really glad they saved this little treasure from my youth.

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    1. I love those smaller theaters–found one when “Will You Be My Neighbor?” came out and I itched to see it. It was small, about half full, and tends to play more indie films and documentaries. It’s too far for me to go too often, but if I have to be downtown anyway for some event and I find a movie I really wanna watch, I’ll take the time and make plans to go see it.

      I think the fact that we’re such an oversaturated media with video, FB, and everything else competing with print and the entertainment channels is what’s led to the glitz and glamour fading away. Also, I’m a fan of watching documentaries about filmmaking, and it’s fun to hear about people you don’t normally hear about, like the writer or cinematographer talking about what’s been going on. We know more about how movies are made, we’ve peeked behind the curtain. It’s not so much “movie magic” now.

      I think some people have seen what I’ve suspected about Hollywood (and some screenwriter talked about on TCM sometime ago): the Academy Awards are just the night Hollywood puts its hair up and gets all fancy. The next day, most of the actors and behind-the-scenes’ers are back to work with coffee and donuts to make another movie or t.v. show or something.

      Frankly, I stopped caring when the biggest focus was going to be on the freaking five or six hour fashion show before the event. I think that’s what’s diminished the stature of the Academy Awards the most (George C. Scott was right to call it a “meat parade,”, and that was back in the 1970s). I don’t give a damn what designer label someone’s wearing; it’s not their clothing and I couldn’t afford even one of those shoes they’re wearing anyway.

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      1. Red carpet interviewers always ask what designer someone is wearing. That gives the celebrity a chance to do a commercial for the stuff they borrowed or were given for the event. I think this is all agreed in advance. I don’t care either.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I always avoid the “red carpet” shows. They’re embarrassing. I have a friend – a retired entertainment reporter – who sez it ‘s just a dog and pony show. I can’t really dump on the “Red Carpet” hosts/hostesses. It’s a nice paying gig, you get to press flesh with the stars and you probably grimace internally when asking those dumb questions with a smile on your face.
          I remember covering the Boston (world?) premiere of “Frenzy”. I think I wore a tux (long time ago so I don’t remember). Alfred Hitchcock was lined up for an interview. I sailed through it because Hitch was punch drunk! (He still was funny and gave me some good answers)

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Chatty, I agree with you, 110 percent. I know most folks laugh at my obsession with old movies. I don’t care! I love those films. I REALIZE they didn’t reflect reality. That was their purpose! Obviously, I have a problem with how they stereo-typed minorities. But I’ve been reminded these films reflected their time in our world where such prejudices prevailed. I know how people like John Ford, Fred Zinnerman, William Wyler and others tried their best to INCLUDE minority performers – Hattie McDaniels, Bill Robinson, Lena Horne – but were pressured by their studios to not offend markets where prejudice reigned. So, that’s in part why we had the Stepin Fetchit and Benson Fong stereotypes. I usually jump past these scenes if watching a DVD. It’s still so damn aggravating and insulting.

        I also don’t care who wears what. I’d love to see them in casual wear at the awards. Get their awards and get off after saying “Thanks, everybody” (with a hook clearly in the background).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ditto on racial slurs or stereotypes. Amazing what you see when you haven’t seen it in a while. Great discussion fodder for youngsters and parents, though.
          About minority performers, I love the story of the Atlanta premiere for Gone With The Wind, and Hattie McDaniel wouldn’t be allowed to go because of segregation laws. When he heard, Clark Gable threatened to skip it in protest (she told him he oughta go anyway). Gable liked flaunting convention, it seemed, and it’s nice that they had a lifelong friendship even across racial lines.
          https://reelrundown.com/film-industry/Clark-Gable-Desegregates-Gone-With-The-Wind-Movie-Set
          But yeah, that’s one of the stand-outs; just sucks it took so long to spread. Then you throw in blackface and brownface and yellowface (shudder).
          P.S. I wonder why some idiots think those things are okay today and what message they’re deliberately sending today. But like Bill Maher said about all these things in our past films that couldn’t fly today, you can’t go back and criticize someone for “not being woke before woke was a thing.” Nobody can… movies are products of their times, even if they’re uncomfortable at times.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Garry, as you may know, I too, love those old movies and continue to watch them over and over again. While the Oscars is no big deal for me, I did appreciate that, FINALLY, the accomplishments of people of color and other ethnic groups are being recognized as legitimate contributors to the art.., not to mention, deserving of equal treatment, and consideration in the awards process.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ben, I agree with you. I was disappointed last night they didn’t have Sidney as a presenter. Wudda been a nice touch as he just turned 92. Sidney wudda brought the house down with women weeping and men pouting.

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    1. Becky, me too. “The Best Years of our Lives” is, again, our watch list. It’s the first film I ever saw – 1946. Yes, I was very young but it began the love affair with movies.
      I have the ’54 “A Star Is Born” to watch again tonight. The Garland-James Mason version. Judy’s “Born In A Trunk” number is, alone, worth the price of admission or reason to watch.
      We’re waitig for Lady Gaga’s “Star Is Born” to come to cable or affordable DVD purchaser.

      I wonder what happened to the streaker who tried to upstage David Niven?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s currently $17.95 on Amazon (Prime), probably less as a download. I still like having the actual disk. I know I’m old-fashioned, but when the cable is out, which despite their disclaimers it frequently is, I still have movies I can watch.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Juan, I remember. The Hal Wallis book I am reading mentions Page and “Summer and Smoke”. Audrey Hepburn was the original choice for the Page role. But Audrey insisted on wearing Gavenchy dresses and was bid adieu. Geraldine Page was appreciated by everyone on the shoot. I liked Page’s body of work a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Forgive me for that “Gavenchy” mis-spelling. I never could afford Givenchy. I was disssed for being a “Brooks Brothers” clothing guy. Long time passing….

            Liked by 1 person

        1. Juan, I believe Sophia Loren won for “Two Women”. It was an excellent year for “Best Actress” choices. Piper Laurie and Natalie Wood were at the top of their game. Hepburn’s Holly Golightly was a big fan favorite, me included. I still see and hear “Holly” , on the fire escape, singing “Moon River”. Gets me every time.

          Marilyn’s already identified the Wallis book. It’s really a terrific read. I’m up to the part where Wallis left WB for Paramount and is finding newbies like Lancaster, Douglas, Lizabeth Scott and Howard Duff. Kirk had to tone down his stage style for film but was widely admired for his skills as a newcomer. Wallis has some interesting thing things to say about Anna Magnani and Shirley MacLaine. I know have a vision of Magnani – in her prime – walking out of the surf (A la Ursula Andress). Wallis was “taken” by the vision of Anna. They were wooing her for “The Rose Tattoo”.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Juan, it’s “Summer and Smoke” and “Hondo”.
              I must confess I haven’t – after all these years – seen “Sweet Bird of Youth”. I need to rectify that. There are some well regarded flicks I have avoided for years. Probably my personal/subjective attitude. Case in point: I’ve only watched “Citizen Kane” fully – one time.
              Mea Culpa.

              Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m still bitter about the 1996 Oscars and the fact that Braveheart won so many awards, especially best picture. I admit, it’s a neat epic film, but Apollo 13 was so much better in every way (and still plays on TV quite a bit, which shows its longevity and fandom). The effects, the portrayal of a historical moment, the acting, and the sheer artistry of that film was amazing. My family was still bitter about Apollo 13 losing after so many nominations.
      Of course, I admit I’ve lived around “Space City” my whole life, so I might be a LITTLE biased. But when the effects are so good you have people who’ve worked at NASA wondering where you got what shot out of the archives, only to learn they’re computer generated but accurate…yeah, they put a lot of thought into that movie.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Juan, We were hoping Glen would win. She’s now in the “overlooked category. many nominations, no wins”. She’s in good company with Cary Grant and, for awhile, Paul Newman. There’s the list of “old reliables” who were frequently nominated, never chosen.. Then, there are those who got the “make up for ignoring you” award. Liz Taylor and John Wayne come to immediate mind. Hal Wallis was SURE Burton or O’Toole would win best Oscar in ’69. Duke Wayne finally got his Oscar for the fat, one-eyed aging lawman in “True Grit”. I think Duke’s finest work was “The Searchers” when he went off character to play the embittered, racist Ethan Edwards.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes. Newman was overlooked for so long, and for some of his best performances. And so were Burton and O’Toole. The list is longer and sometimes I think that, as it is the case with the Nobel Prize for Literature, some of the Academy Awards’ decisions are dictated by politics.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Juan, I agree. Imagine Cary Grant never getting an Oscar. These days, I don’t know who the stars are so it doesn’t matter. I wish they would include veterans like Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford, Robert DuVall, Al Pacino, etc as presenters. They’re links to the glory of old Hollywood.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Leslie, Facebook banned my first answer. Here’s take 2.
      I hated the Oscars’ length when I was working-especially “The Dawn Patrol” shift. I never got any sleep.
      Tonight, we’ll watch til we doze. I have a good book, Marilyn will be writing another blog and the dogs will be snoring.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We found they just lasted too long. We can find out who won in the morning. (It doesn’t matter so much anymore because we probably haven’t seen the movie and don’t know who they are.)

        Liked by 1 person

            1. Ben, your pal Duke is back to his “Clarabell” routine. He’s inning around with a mangy dog toy that makes “clown” noises. This is on YOU!

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    2. Leslie, they only went over by 20 minutes, I think. I’m shocked. Who needs a stinkin’ host? Was Glen Close the actress you recognized? She lost again. The long, long acceptance speeches again bogged down the show. They need a firmer director or use the hook.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Scribbles, ” Black Panther” was terrific. Lived up to all its hype. I haven’t seen enough to do predictions. “Panther” should get some love. I have a gut feeling “A Star Is Born” will get some awards. It’s a Hollywood staple.

      The “In Memoriam” segment should remind us of Names and faces we used to love when movies were still great entertainment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ksbeth, I watch an old movie just before falling asleep. Lots of Betty Davis, Miriam Hopkins and George Brent. I’ve watched “Now, Voyager” umpteen times. It’s like hanging out with old friends.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. the best thing about the oscars is TCM’s “31 days of oscar”, so many great winning movies that don’t show up on t.v. very much anymore (unless it’s like 3 a.m. or something, or a very recent oscar winner.) And thanks to DVR, I can now record “Now Voyager” and other films I’ve been itching to see and watch them at a better time. (yay).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Chatty, I’m a TCM devotee. My two favorite TCM things — “31 Days of Oscar” and “Summer Under The Stars”. Also their Film Noir evenings/ Eddie Muller, the noir guy, is wonderful. Really knows his genre.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, you name-dropper, you! … and I knew every name you dropped! 😀 … The visual entertainment industry has exploded, into arenas unheard of when Oscar first strutted his stuff, and unfortunately he hasn’t quite kept up with the times. Point in question that ridiculous ‘most popular’ debacle a little while ago.

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    1. Widdershins, I’m a notorious name dropper. I can’t help myself. I believe the best part (personal) of my career was meeting the old Hollywood legends. I’m not down playing the importance of Heads of State, Royalty, Gangsters, Sports Stars, etc and the big events. But, at heart – I’m a movie fan boy.
      Did I tell you about me and Sophia Loren? She was in Boston plugging her perfume line. The competing Boston TV stations “sprayed” the ‘event’ at Filene’s Dept. store. It wasn’t a legit news story. I cajoled the assignment editor into getting a cameraman and waited out the othe crews shooting B-roll of Sophia Loren. Then, I introduced myself and Sophia was delighted. She gave me a light, airy interview and hugged me as cutaways were shot. Just before the wrap, Sophia said, “Gracie, My Darling Garry” and gave me a big kiss — duly recorded on film. Oh, golly, I was mesmerized. A week later, I received a perfumed letter from Rome. A thank you note from Sophia Loren which ended with “Gracie, my Darling Garry” with a kiss planted on the letter. I was bowled over. Alas, I was typically absent-minded and lost the letter.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Funny how the little things, sometimes mean more. Both you, and especially Ms. Loren, seemed to appreciated your less than cold, business-like approach. Bet none of the other interviewers got perfumed cards signed with “my Darling XXXXX.” She remembered you and I’m sure you’ll never forget her.

        I’ll never forget my encounter with Carly Simon, where she admitted how much she liked the name “Ben.” Next thing, and without consulting me, she goes and marries James Taylor and names her first born.., you guessed it, “Ben”

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Most of the “stars” today I have no clue about. They pop up in a movie or two, but they don’t stand out like the greats of yesteryear, mind you, how can they when there isn’t a roll to really sink your teeth into these days?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. if it’s the one I’m thinking about, he’s a major guitarist for tons of groups in his career (most famous for being part of Rage Against the Machine) and has a masterclass on the electric guitar (which I’ll be happy to participate in after a year or so of playing–too new to get it yet.)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Covert, I’m reminded of an Oscars telecast a few years ago. They cutaway to the audience. Mickey Rooney was sitting, way in the back, wearing an overcoat. Kind of sad.

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    1. Covert, I believe the difference is that the stars of yesterday were just that.., stars. John Wayne was always John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart always Boggie and Katherine Hepburn etc., etc. Today they are “method actors”, chameleons, so to speak, popping up in vastly different roles, bordering on unrecognizable. “I know the face, but what’s his name” is the phrase I often hear when viewing movies with a friend

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  5. Garry, my sister Naomi is a lot like you, she loves the old movies and the old stars and often watches them on YouTube or on DVD. I have no idea what movies are nominated this year and have very little idea who is in them. I have seen some good movies in recent years but I prefer good storytelling to lots of special effects and no real plot. There was a lot wrong with the old studio system in Hollywood but somehow the Hollywood of today does not seem as magical.
    One recent film I did like a lot was “Lion” from 2016. I had seen Dev Patel in a few things already and liked his work. Of course, I am a little biased because the film was based on a book written by a young man from Hobart so there was a Tasmanian connection but I would have liked it even if there had not been. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3741834/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tas, I believe we saw “Lion” and enjoyed it.

      Time for me to get off. I’ve burned lots of daylight responding to comments. Obviously, we have lots of movie mavens out there. Makes my day!

      Liked by 1 person

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