Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema feature is The Oscars, one of those bad ’60s movies we love to hate. Of course, I chose it as a tribute to tomorrow night’s “ceremonies.” It’s an appropriately cheesy pick, considering the garbage Hollywood churns out today. The NY Times’ Bosley Crowther moaned in his 1966 film review, “ANOTHER distressing example of Hollywood fouling its nest — professionally, socially, commercially and especially artistically….Obviously the community doesn’t need enemies so long as it has itself.” Heh.
Deliciously bad, populated with a veritable pantheon of B list actors. It’s a classic.
This is the story of a vicious, bitter, firstclass heel who rises to stardom on the blood of those close to him. Without a single redeeming quality, part played by Stephen Boyd is unsympathetic virtually from opening shots.
The Oscar (1966)
By BOSLEY CROWTHER
Published: March 5, 1966
ANOTHER distressing example of Hollywood fouling its nest — professionally, socially, commercially and especially artistically—is provided by a film called “The Oscar,” which opened at the Festival and Loew’s State yesterday. Obviously the community doesn’t need enemies so long as it has itself.
Not only is this screen translation of a novel by Richard Sale about a cheapskate Hollywood actor who tries to bludgeon his way to an Academy Award a piece of expensive claptrap, loaded with harrowing clichés, but it also is shamelessly endorsed by the presence of some of the great and near great of Hollywood.
No one less eminent than Bob Hope himself plays his long familiar role of master of ceremonies of the annual Academy Award show, at which this pseudobiography of a Hollywood heel begins. Blandly the dress-suited Robert steps forth on the Pathécolored screen and gives a flawlessly credible simulation of precisely what he has done before and what we will be seeing him do on television only a few weeks from now.
Merle Oberon is the actress who steps up to tear the envelope and read off the name of the winner of the best-actor award. And Frank Sinatra is the actor who jumps up at the end and — wait, that’s the manufactured climax it would be unfair to reveal.
The point is that these and other people in the goldfish community have willingly contributed their services to oblige Joseph E. Levine and Clarence Greene and Russell Rouse in producing this arrantly cheap, synthetic film, which dumps filth and casts aspersions upon the whole operation of Hollywood—a community that may not be perfect but is not so foul as hinted here. And it is their candid re-enactment of the ceremony of giving out Academy Awards that encloses this fictitious nonsense in a frame of quasireality.
Of course, anyone with half a notion of what Hollywood actually is will not be fooled by this narration (by the hero’s old companion and long-time friend) of the rags to riches fable of this selfish, unprincipled male star, which is accompanied by lurid illustrations of studio offices, Beverly Hills pads and overexaggerations of wicked goings-on.
Most people should know that smoker-spielers are not suddenly elevated to stars on the strength of a drama coach’s enthusiasm and an agent’s approving word. Most people should know that fading actors who are generally despised are not suddenly and spontaneously nominated for Academy Awards. Yet it is such things as these that the audience is asked to believe in this film, along with a vast assortment of cornball, hair-curling clichés.
“Why do I always try to destroy the people I love,” rasps the nutmeg-headed hero, played woodenly by Stephen Boyd.
“I don’t know why I keep expecting you to act like other men when you’re not,” shouts a distracted Eleanor Parker, who plays the drama coach. “How quickly we forget beginnings,” wails the synthetic miss, whom the hero synthetically marries and who is played synthetically by Elke Sommer.
“We take off the clown’s happy face and see tears underneath,” says Milton Berle, who plays the philosophical agent. “He’s just a big hunk of meat!” snarls Joseph Cotten as the head of a major studio. And “I just want to be happy; is that asking too much?” someone else says.
But the line that is frequently spoken by Tony Bennett in the role of the hero’s long-loyal companion who is betrayed in the end is the most profound one in the film. “Lie down with pigs,” says Mr. Bennett, with his eyes looking holes through Mr. Boyd, “and you get up smelling like garbage.”
They should learn that in Hollywood.
THE OSCAR, screenplay by Harlan Ellison, Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene, based on a novel by Richard Sale; directed by Mr. Rouse; produced by Mr. Greene. An Embassy Pictures release. At Loew’s State Theater, Broadway and 45th Street. Running time: 119 mins.
Frank Fane . . . . . Stephen Boyd
Kay Bergdahl . . . . . Elke Sommer
Kappy Kapstetter . . . . . Milton Berle
Sophie Cantaro . . . . . Eleanor Parker
Kenneth H. Regan . . . . . Joseph Cotten
Laurel Scott . . . . . Jill St. John
Hymie Kelly . . . . . Tony Bennett
Trina Yale . . . . . Edie Adams
Barney Yale . . . . . Ernest Borgnine
Grobard . . . . . Ed Begley
Orrin C. Quentin . . . . . Walter Brennan
Sheriff . . . . . Broderick Crawford
Network executive . . . . . James Dunn
Edith Head . . . . . Herself
Hedda Hopper . . . . . Herself
Steve Marks . . . . . Peter Lawford