Jack Haley, Jr. hit upon a brilliant idea. The producer of the 1979 Oscars telecast devised a special medley of hit songs the Academy never nominated. Steve Lawrence and Sammy Davis, Jr. would perform it at the ceremony. The Academy’s Music Branch protested, but when Haley and host Johnny Carson threatened to walk they relented.
A smash hit, the audience applauded “Oscar’s Only Human” throughout and treated the performers to a prolonged ovation.
Oscar is only human, and he’s made some terrible mistakes over the years. From controversial wins to unfortunate slights to sins of showmanship, the Academy Awards have failed time and time again.
In honor of this Sunday’s broadcast, here are my personal picks for Oscar’s ten most egregious screw-ups:
In 1985 Whoopi Goldberg made a big splash. She earned a Grammy for her first comedy album as well as a Golden Globe and an Oscar nod for her film debut in The Color Purple. Five years later, her movie career had faltered, thanks to a series of flops.
But then came the perfect storm that was Ghost. With the makings of the quintessential chick flick — sexy stars in Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and a supernatural romantic subplot — Goldberg appears for comic relief as the medium used to communicate beyond the grave.
While a surprise box-office smash,critics didn’t take kindly to Ghost. Julie Salomon of the Wall Street Journal said the film wasn’t “awful enough to be a great trash movie, but it often comes close.” Yet when the Academy Award nominations came out, Ghost scored five, including one for Best Picture.
The big story at the Oscars that year was Kevin Costner’s revisionist Western Dances With Wolves, but Goldberg managed to walk home with the Best Supporting Actress trophy. Considering her competition that year — Lorraine Bracco, Annette Bening, Mary McDonnell, and Diane Ladd, all from dramatic films — it’s curious that Goldberg won for such a comic role.