Advertisement

Classic Hollywood: How the L.A. Times changed Oscar history

Classic Hollywood: How the L.A. Times changed Oscar history
The audience appears stunned upon learning "La La Land" was mistakenly named the best picture winner. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

If we could get in our Oscars time machine and go back to 1940, could we have prevented this year's best picture snafu at the Academy Awards? You never know.

Welcome to this month's edition of the Classic Hollywood newsletter. I'm Scott Sandell, and we've seen a week of hand-wringing and finger-pointing over the botched envelope handoff that marred "Moonlight's" moment to fully bask in the Oscars glow.

Advertisement

Though most of the coverage has focused on the PwC accountants, you could go back all the way to 1940 to pin the blame on … the Los Angeles Times.

Back then, the Academy Awards gave The Times a list of the winners in advance of the ceremonies. Unfortunately, in the 8:45 p.m. edition of the night of the awards ceremony, the paper published the results along with a big photo spread.

The top of the Los Angeles Times spoiler Oscars spread of 1940.
The top of the Los Angeles Times spoiler Oscars spread of 1940.

As the Oscars website says, this happened "much to the Academy's dismay" and made the results "readily available to guests arriving for the event." Oops.

The next year, the academy instituted its now-famous secret envelope system.

All things considered, it has worked pretty well over the decades, but the mistake that thrust Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway into the pantheon of awkward Oscar moments was not the first envelope misadventure.

In 1964, Sammy Davis Jr. was handed the wrong envelope for a music award. Before the winner could reach the stage, he admitted the mistake and showed his quick wit: "Wait until the NAACP hears about this!"

WELL-PRESERVED

The UCLA Festival of Preservation is one of Times film critic Kenneth Turan's favorite events. The 2017 edition gets going Friday and will play out over the next month.

As Turan writes: "Set up to celebrate and showcase the splendid restorations by UCLA's world-class Film & Television Archive, the biennial event offers an unparalleled deep dive into the seldom-explored sea that is American film history, alternating between extreme rarities seen nowhere else and new prints of beloved movie classics.

Wynne Gibson, J. Carrol Naish and Preston Foster star in "Sleepers East" (1934), directed by Kenneth MacKenna.
Wynne Gibson, J. Carrol Naish and Preston Foster star in "Sleepers East" (1934), directed by Kenneth MacKenna. (UCLA Film & Television Archive)

"The festival's 20 multi-film programs, which will play at the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood until March 27, cover a remarkable range in time and taste. And they come from a variety of studios, running the gamut from majors like Fox and Paramount to minors like Tiffany, Eagle-Lion, Marathon and even World Wide, usually more celebrated for its risqué logo than its films."

MORE ABOUT EVE

Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

Advertisement

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1950 film "All About Eve" is returning to the big screen at 2 and 7 p.m. on March 5 and 8 as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics Series presented by Fathom Events.

Anne Baxter, from left, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and George Sanders star in "All About Eve."
Anne Baxter, from left, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and George Sanders star in "All About Eve." (20th Century Fox)

As Turan writes, " 'Eve' is not only the ultimate backstage story, a delicious portrait of connivance and complicity in the world of the theater, it also showcases the kind of witty, sophisticated dialogue that was Mankiewicz's trademark."

AROUND TOWN

Check out French filmmaker Olivier Assayas in person this weekend at Cinefamily as he presents some of his music films and shorts as well as the work of some of his favorite filmmakers: Guy Debord and Bo Widerberg. It starts a monthlong Assayas program.

The Egyptian Theatre begins a Terrence Malick series with "The Thin Red Line" on March 9, while at the Aero, the American Cinematheque is observing "Hitchcock Appreciation Day" on March 12 with a double bill of "Dial M for Murder" and "Shadow of a Doubt."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

— The Times' Mary McNamara remembers the late Bill Paxton as an actor's actor who had the rare ability to move seamlessly through time.

Judge Joseph Wapner, who presided over "The People's Court," died at age 97. Did you know when he was in high school he briefly dated future star Lana Turner?

— The eight-episode series "Feud: Bette and Joan" delves into the deliciously combustible rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Olivia Harrison reflected on the music and a book marking what would have been the "quiet Beatle's" 74th birthday.

For more vintage Hollywood, go to the Classic Hollywood Los Angeles Times Facebook page.

Advertisement
Advertisement