While the Oscars telecast omitted its customary comedian host, comedy infused much of the presenters’ repartee. Or, at least, attempts at comedy.
The award-presenting couples--many of them married or romantically linked--engaged in plenty of banter, some of it surprisingly personal.
When Goldie Hawn appeared on stage with Kurt Russell to deliver the best director award, she announced that they fit completely with the “couples” theme.
“We’re co-stars, we’re compadres, we’re companions and we’re a couple,” Hawn said.
Quipped Kurt Russell: “There’s only one thing we’re not: Married.”
“Is that a proposal?” Hawn asked coyly.
Russell hemmed and hawed on that one.
“Gee, you put me on the spot. I guess now is as good a time as any to talk about it,” he said to a beaming Hawn.
“But, they want us to speed things up. . . .”
Hawn managed to look genuinely miffed.
Melanie Griffith and her “best friend” Don Johnson were the first to present an award. Their repartee was reminiscent of Sonny and Cher or even Stiller and Meara.
Johnson said the supporting actress category was particularly appropriate. “I’ve supported a few actresses in my time,” he quipped.
Griffith quickly responded: “Yeah, and one or two have supported you!”
As Johnson tried to go on to the award presentation, Griffith pressed him for “more about the actresses you’ve supported.”
He told her she could read about it at the supermarket, where their romance is frequently chronicled in tabloids.
When Griffith, who is pregnant with Johnson’s child, appeared nervous presenting the best supporting actress award, Johnson told her: “Why don’t you just take a deep breath and pretend you’re in the Lamaze class or something?”
Parenthood was a popular topic among the presenting couples.
Bruce Willis showed home movies of his wife Demi Moore and their baby, highlighting the difference between his amateurish efforts and that of cinematographers nominated for Oscars.
Presenters Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss both began their set by saying “good-night” to their young children.
And Dustin Hoffman, best actor winner for “Rain Man,” thanked his father, who was recently disabled. But first, he thanked the other nominees for best actor, “even if they didn’t vote for me. I didn’t vote for you guys, either.”
Although warned by the producer not to take inordinate time to thank their families, most Oscar recipients ignored the prohibition. Children seemed to be more frequently cited than wives or agents.
Some of the duos seemed perfect for the quirky repartee:
Martin Short and Carrie Fisher poked fun at the emphasis placed on fashion at the awards show.
The pair emerged as co-presenters wearing the same outfit--a black sheath dress and a short sequined jacket.
Fumed Fisher: “Martin, I took you to the store, you saw me buy this dress, you knew I was going to wear it to the Academy Awards. You knew this was a special occasion. You knew I wanted to look particularly distinctive.”
Replied Short: “Carrie, you have hundreds of dresses. . . . I have only four.
“So what are you saying? You want me to go change?” Short asked Fisher. “All right, I’ll change. But the shoes stay.”
Vice President Dan Quayle was a popular target.
Robin Williams came out dressed as Mickey Mouse--or Vincent Van Mouse--and said: “Hi, I’m Dan Quayle.” He wore the outfit, he said, to raise “cartoon consciousness.”
Billy Crystal asked the audience: “Have you heard about the great sequel to the classic ‘Of Mice and Men’ starring George Bush and Dan Quayle? Tell me about the Contras, George.”
Then, there were the industry jokes.
As Sean Connery and Michael Caine presented the supporting actor award, out popped fellow Brit Roger Moore, who replaced Connery as James Bond, Agent 007. Moore emerged saying: “I’m Bond. James Bond.” Connery came back: “That’s David Puttnam,” referring to the former chairman of Columbia Pictures whose “Last Emperor” film swept the awards last year.