6 Odd Moments in Oscar History
1. You Light Up My Mxpltk
In 1976, Best Actress winner Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) signed her acceptance speech to her Deaf parents. The Academy decided that her presentation was "cute," so during the 1977 ceremony, Debby Boone was scheduled to perform her Oscar-nominated song "You Light Up My Life" accompanied onstage by 11 young girls from the John Tracy Clinic for the Deaf who signed the lyrics as she sang. Eagle-eyed viewers, however, noted that each girl seemed to be signing a different song. It was later revealed that at the last minute a group of (non-Deaf) students from the nearby Torrence Elementary School had been recruited instead, and they had been signing gibberish.
2. Whoops, There It Is! (Where?)
During Oscar's 20th anniversary broadcast in 1947, future president Ronald Reagan was onstage narrating a montage of silent film clips that were projected behind him. As he earnestly intoned, "This picture embodies... the inspiration of our future," the audience burst into laughter. Reagan was unaware that, due to a technical glitch, the film was being shown upside down, backwards, and on the ceiling.
3. An Offer He Could Refuse
The 1973 Academy Awards will always be remembered for the controversy Marlon Brando caused when he refused his Best Actor award for The Godfather. He sent in his place a young Native American activist named Sacheen Littlefeather, who read a prepared speech about Hollywood's poor representation of the American Indian. It was later reported that Littlefeather was actually Maria Cruz, an actress of Mexican descent (she explains her heritage here).
4. Sour Grapes, Miss Mellie?
When Hattie McDaniel's name was announced as the Best Supporting Actress winner for the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind, co-star Olivia de Havilland (who'd been nominated for the same award) fled to the ladies room in tears. Irene Selznick, the wife of the film's producer, followed her and gave her a stern lecture on sportsmanship. A contrite Olivia emerged shortly afterward and graciously congratulated McDaniel, who'd already been slapped in the face (along with the other African-Americans who appeared in the film) by being left out of the film's world premiere at Loews Theatre in Atlanta.
5. I Coulda Been (and Was) a Contender!
Seventy-eight-year-old Sir Laurence Olivier received a standing ovation when he stepped up to the podium in 1984 to announce the Best Picture award. Unfortunately, he was so overcome with emotion that he forgot to list the nominees and instead simply opened the envelope and announced: "Amadeus!"
6. Don't Look, Ethel!
"Streaking" "“ running in public places buck naked "“ was all the rage in the early 1970s. So it wasn't a complete surprise when 33 year-old Robert Opal dashed across the stage in the altogether during the 1974 Oscars. Presenter David Niven calmly made a quip about the gentleman displaying his "shortcomings," and Henry Mancini launched the orchestra into a chorus of "Sunny Side Up." Instead of being arrested, Opal was ushered into the press room for an interview. All things considered, the consensus was that the whole bit had been scripted in advance. As for Robert Opal, he did the talk show circuit for a while, then opened a sex paraphernalia shop in San Francisco, where he was tragically murdered during a robbery in 1979.