The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is still reeling from the most famous Oscar flub in history last Sunday, when “La La Land” was mistakenly named best picture instead of real winner “Moonlight.”
Talk of the mistake has filled headlines all week, with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers issuing several statements, ultimately taking “full responsibility” for the blunder. It said in a statement that PwC managing partner Brian Cullinan “mistakenly handed the back-up envelope for Actress in a Leading Role instead of the envelope for Best Picture to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.”
Once the error occurred, the statement said, “protocols for correcting it were not followed through quickly enough by Mr. Cullinan or his partner,” referring to PwC’s Martha Ruiz.
And finally, PwC added: “For the past 83 years, the Academy has entrusted PwC with the integrity of the awards process during the ceremony, and last night we failed the Academy.”
I just felt so bad for the “La La Land” crew (and was outraged that the film didn’t win best picture). It’s all a very unfortunate situation, and all this attention should diminish with time. But it will never be forgotten.
Just like some other Oscar blunders from the past. Here’s a look:
▪ Wrong picture in the “In Memoriam” tribute. This was the other flub from Sunday night, when the “In Memoriam” segment that pays homage to film industry members who have died in the previous year included Australian costume designer Janet Patterson. But the image that was shown with her name was not Patterson, but producer Jan Chapman. Whoops.
Chapman issued a statement to Variety: “I was devastated by the use of my image in place of my great friend and long-time collaborator Janet Patterson. … Janet was a great beauty and four-time Oscar nominee and it is very disappointing that the error was not picked up. I am alive and well and an active producer.”
▪ Sammy Davis Jr. announces wrong winner. Yes, it happened previously, in 1964, when Davis was presenting the award for best music score – adaptation or treatment. Davis opened the envelope and announced the winner as John Addison for “Tom Jones” – who wasn’t even among the nominees. Murmuring could be heard among the audience as the camera panned over and back to Davis. Looking slightly confused, he quipped. “Um, they gave me the wrong envelope. Wait until the NAACP hears about this.” The crowd roared with laughter and applause.
He then announced the real winner – Andre Previn for “Irma La Douce.”
▪ John Travolta mispronounces Idina Menzel’s name. He was announcing the next best song nominee and introducing Menzel, who was to sing her famous “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” He said in the intro, “Please welcome the wickedly talented, one and only, Adele Dazeem.” Menzel took to the stage while everyone scratched their heads, but she remained unfazed by the blunder and delivered a beautiful performance. Travolta later publicly apologized.
▪ The wrong Frank heads to the podium. In 1933, Will Rogers was presenting the award for best director and after opening the envelope said, “Come on up and get it, Frank.” But there were two Franks nominated that year. Assuming he was the winner, Frank Capra stood up and headed to the stage – but the real winner was Frank Lloyd. Um, AWK-ward.
▪ Oscar shows some skin. In 1974, host David Niven was introducing the best picture presenter, Elizabeth Taylor, and was really laying the praise on thick, saying “The award for the best picture is never lightly given. And now to divulge the contents of this year’s most important envelope is a very important contributor to world entertainment.”
And then a long-haired naked man streaked across the stage behind him holding his left hand up in a “peace” sign. The audience erupted in screams, gasps and laughter.
Looking baffled, Niven famously responded, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen. But isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”
The man would later be revealed as Robert Opel, a photographer and gay rights activist.