Rod Steiger won best actor in 1968 for the racial drama In the Heat of the Night and thanked his co-star, Poitier, for giving him the “knowledge and understanding of prejudice.” The ceremony was held just days after the assassination of Rev. No winner said the words “civil rights” until George Clooney in 2006, as he accepted a supporting actor Oscar for Syriana. Vanessa Redgrave’s fiery 1978 acceptance speech was the first time a winner said “fascism” or “anti-Semitism.”
Political or social comments were often safely connected to the movie. Their time is up.”
Winners avoided making news before Brando, even if the time was right and the audience never bigger. When Sidney Poitier became the first black to win best actor, for Lilies of the Field in 1964, he spoke of the “long journey” that brought him to the stage, but otherwise made no comment on his milestone. But Brando’s speech really broke the mould.”
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Upending a decades-long tradition of tears, nervous humour, thank-yous and general good will, he sent actress Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to the 1973 ceremony to protest Hollywood’s treatment of the Indigenous population. “There had been some controversy, like when George C. Women’s rights. Bush and the war in Iraq, after accepting the Oscar for best documentary feature for the film Bowling for Columbine during the 75th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles. But their time is up. The filmmaker ascended the stage to a standing ovation, but the mood soon shifted as he attacked George W. She was rebutted the same night: Paddy Chayevsky, giving the award for best screenplay, declared that he was “sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own propaganda.”
Producer Bert Schneider and director Peter Davis, collaborators on the 1974 Oscar-winning Vietnam War documentary Hearts and Minds, both condemned the war by name (they were the first winners to do so), welcomed North Vietnam’s impending victory and even read a telegram from the Viet Cong. Choose choice. When Jane Fonda, the most politicized of actresses, won for Klute in 1972, her speech was brief and uneventful. Deluge of social, political statements
In the years since, winners have brought up everything from climate change (Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant, 2016) to abortion (John Irving, screenplay winner in 2000), to equal pay for women (Patricia Arquette, best supporting actress winner in 2015 for Boyhood). ACT UP. (Kevork Djansezian/Associated Press)
In 2003, Michael Moore received a mixed response after his documentary on guns, Bowling for Columbine, won for best documentary. Gay rights. Whoopi Goldberg, host of the 1994 show, hurried out a list of causes during her opening monologue.
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“Save the whales. Peace in Bosnia. (Associated Press)
Political movements from anti-communism to civil rights were mostly ignored in their time. “I would just like to thank you very much.”
Jane Fonda gave a brief and uneventful speech at the 44th Annual Academy Award Ceremony. Bush as a “fictitious president” and charged him with sending soldiers to Iraq for “fictitious reasons.” The boos were loud enough for host Steve Martin to joke that, “Right now, the Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo.”
Sometimes, the academy tries to head off any statements before they’re made. More gun control. Celeste Holm, who won best supporting actress in 1948 for Gentleman’s Agreement, referred indirectly to the film’s message of religious tolerance. “Vietnam” was not spoken until the ceremony held on April 8, 1975, just weeks before North Vietnamese troops overran Saigon. Should any of this year’s Oscars winners Sunday use the occasion to promote a political cause, you can thank — or blame — Marlon Brando.
Brando’s role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather remains a signature performance in movie history. Martin Luther King Jr., whose name was never cited by Oscar winners in his lifetime, and Steiger ended by invoking a civil rights anthem: “And we shall overcome.”
Discomfort at political speeches
Hollywood is liberal-land, but the academy often squirms at political speeches. More AIDS research,” she said, before throwing in jokes about Sinatra, Lorena Bobbitt and earthquakes. Free the Chinese dissidents. Winners at January’s Golden Globes cited the treatment of women included Laura Dern and Reese Witherspoon, who thanked “everyone who broke their silence this year.”
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Honorary Globe winner Oprah Winfrey, in a speech that had some encouraging her to run for president, noted “women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. Their time is up. “Speeches for a long time were relatively quiet in part because of the control of the studio system,” says James Piazza, who with Gail Kinn wrote The Academy Awards: The Complete History of Oscar, published in 2002. “There’s a great deal to say, but I’m not going to say it tonight,” she stated. But his response to winning an Academy Award was truly groundbreaking. Human rights. © The Associated Press, 2018 An enraged Bob Hope, an Oscar presenter and longtime Republican, prepared a statement and gave it to Frank Sinatra, who was to introduce the screenplay award: “The academy is saying, ‘We are not responsible for any political references made on the program, and we are sorry they had to take place this evening.”‘
Michael Moore spoke out against President George W. Men’s rights. Feed the homeless. Redgrave was greeted with boos when she assailed “Zionist hoodlums” while accepting the Oscar for Julia, a response to criticism from far-right Jews for narrating a documentary about the Palestinians. According to the movie academy’s database of Oscar speeches, the term “McCarthyism” was not used until 2014, when Harry Belafonte mentioned it upon receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Save the spotted owl. Health care reform. Scott refused his Oscar for Patton (which came out in 1970). The audience laughed and cheered. (John Shearer/Invision/Associated Press)
Producers for this year’s Oscars show have said they want to emphasize the movies themselves, but between the #MeToo movement and Hollywood’s general disdain for President Donald Trump, political or social statements appear likely at the ceremony. Gregory Peck, who won for best actor in 1963 as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, said nothing about the film’s racial theme even though he frequently spoke about it in interviews.