1940: SEALED AND DELIVERED
Prior to 1940, newspapers had spoilt Oscar winners’ names, since the details had been released early and the first editions arrived before the telecast commenced. The Academy decided to start keeping the winners’ details a tight secret, calling in accounting firms to tot up the votes behind closed doors and sealing the names in envelopes.
1947: HAROLD RUSSELL’S SURPRISE DOUBLE
World War Two veteran Harold Russell had provided one of the most moving performances in William Wyler’s The Best Years Of Our Lives. Despite losing both his hands in the conflict and possessing no formal acting training, he’d scored a nomination as Best Actor. The Academy never thought he’d win and decided to award him an honorary gong "for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." He won the Best Actor award too.
1976: LOUISE FLETCHER SIGNS
Winning Best Actress for her supremely spiky turn as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Louise Fletcher proved she had a much bigger heart than her character by signing part of her acceptance speech so her deaf parents could see her thank them.
1977: ALI AND SLY SPAR
As a surprise for presenter and Rocky star Sylvester Stallone, Oscar producers asked Muhammad Ali to stride on stage, proclaiming, "I'm the real Apollo Creed!" The pair jokingly sparred before Stallone proclaimed, “Although I might not win anything tonight, I will still remember this night forever to be standing next to a 100% legend.” Rocky would win several Oscars that night, including Best Picture.
1979: DUSTIN’S EXPLANATION
Prior to winning Best Actor for Kramer Vs Kramer, Dustin Hoffman had been openly critical of the “garish and embarrassing evening”, and even found himself rebuked by no less than Frank Sinatra at the 1975 event. So when he agreed to attend and ended up taking the stage in ’79, Hoffman provided a great guide for future rebels, making a speech explaining his previous criticisms, praising his fellow nominees and celebrating the community of actors. A class act all the way.
1991: PALANCE AND THE PUSH-UPS
Jack Palance scored a Best Supporting Actor award for his turn in City Slickers. Arriving on stage to collect his statuette, he joked with co-star (and Oscar night presenter) Billy Crystal before demonstrating his prowess with a set of one-handed push-ups.
1995: CHRISTOPHER REEVE APPEARS ON STAGE
Reeve had recently been confined to a wheelchair following a horrific spinal chord injury from falling off a horse. Few expected him to make it, but the curtains opened and the audience got to its feet to applaud him as he introduced a clip segment dealing with social issues.
1998: HAPPY 70TH, OSCARS
As part of the celebration for the 70th ceremony, 70 past Actor and Actress winners were invited on stage for a reunion. The likes of Shirley Temple, Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston rubbed shoulders with their peers as a clip reel showing all the Best Picture winners also played.
2002: MICHAEL MOORE INVITES HIS FELLOW WINNERS UP
When Michael Moore scooped the Best Documentary for Bowling For Columbine, everyone expected an incendiary speech. Which Moore duly provided, raging against action in Iraq (“We are against this war, Mr. Bush! Shame on you, Mr. Bush! Shame on you!”) But while his rhetoric garnered both cheers and boos, everyone appreciated him calling his fellow Documentary winners on to the stage to share the limelight with him.
2007: MARTIN SCORSESE WINS HIS FIRST OSCAR
Talk about a long time coming and beyond well deserved: Martin Marcantonio Luciano Scorsese has been nominated frequently in years past, for efforts such as Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Gangs Of New York. But it was The Departed that finally saw him triumphant, snatching Best Picture and Best Director – and having it presented by good mates Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas to boot. You can still hear the standing ovation echoing around the Kodak Theatre.
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