With recipients like Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, Angelina Jolie, and legendary Italian costume designer Piero Tosi, this November 16th Governors Awards promises to be the starriest of all four held to date. One new Governor who had received the briefing book on those being considered told me last week that the list ran from big stars to names they had never heard of. Looks like the Academy’s Board of Governors decided to go with the “big names”. But as Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs just told me, “it’s a wide range of talent from many different aspects of filmmaking”.
Jolie’s Hersholt award is richly deserved. Some might be surprised to see her getting this honor at such a young age, and at 38 she is the youngest recipient of this award and the youngest recipient of a Governors Award since their inception. Her tireless globetrotting humanitarian efforts are a remarkable example for other actors of her generation and it’s nice the Academy decided to recognize them.
On the other end of the age scale, Lansbury, who turns 88 in October, is so long overdue for an Oscar, this recognition is very satisfying. She always turns up on every list of those iconic names without Oscar recognition who deserve an Honorary award such as Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds and so on. This should please the fans and it certainly is well-deserved. Now maybe the Emmys will take notice too and give her one of those as well (she’s been nominated — and lost — an incredible 18 times). Lansbury hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate over half a century ago and her first two of three nominations came very early in her career in 1944 (Gaslight) and 1945 (The Picture Of Dorian Gray). Incredibly that first nom is one year shy of 70 years ago! Wow. This award also corrects one of the most frustrating oversights in Academy history. Lansbury was perfection as Laurence Harvey’s mother in Manchurian Candidate and she was tipped to win Supporting Actress in the ’62 race, but surprisingly (and also deservedly – let’s be fair) it went to 16-year-old Patty Duke for The Miracle Worker. I love Duke but this was really Lansbury’s Oscar. It is one of the greatest portraits of pure evil ever put on celluloid. She also deserves this just for pulling off the feat of playing Elvis Presley’s mother in Blue Hawaii (1961) even though she was only 10 years older than Elvis. Even more impressively she was only 3 years older than Harvey when she played his mother. Although her movie triumphs – and nominations – came mostly for indelible supporting roles it was really on TV in Murder She Wrote and Broadway, where she won five Tonys, that she became a mega-star. It’s great the Academy is recognizing her film work.
As for Martin, I don’t think he was on anyone’s radar in terms of this award and it’s nice the Academy, which almost regularly does not give comedy or comedians the rich rewards they deserve, has chosen to change that dynamic in giving the three-time Oscar host and comic genius this recognition. Boone Isaacs points out this is also for his work as a writer, not just performing. On top of the AFI giving their Life Achievement Award to Mel Brooks in June, this Oscar continues a good roll for comics in movies. Many, including me, thought he richly deserved a nomination for All Of Me (1984) and he even won a New York Film Critics Award for the role, but as usual the Academy passed on the laughs in favor of heavier fare (Amadeus’ F.Murray Abraham won that year).
As for the least-known Honorary award recipient (at least in terms of public profile), Piero Tosi is one of the giants, a costume designer I always assumed had an Oscar. At 86 years old he does now. And when you look at the list including The Leopard, Rocco And His Brothers, La Cage Aux Folles and the stunning Death In Venice you realize the level of extraordinary work. It’s also nice to see the Academy has recognized this field with an Honorary Award. Costume design winners for the Oscar are often just for so-called “costume movies” and there’s so much more that goes into it, as Tosi has proven his entire career.
The Academy’s Governors Awards allow up to four recipients each year and this year they hit the max. Of course there are so many others who are deserving but this is a good group. I don’t think you will hear too many complaints, even if the selection of the guy who rose to movie fame playing The Jerk may surprise people, considering other very deserving names were once again overlooked. I’m still upset Glenn Ford or Richard Widmark never received one in their lifetime. But it is comedy’s turn in the spotlight and Martin seems right. Boone Isaacs wouldn’t comment on others being considered or how unanimous the vote was for these awards but said it promises to be another great and rewarding evening. She produced the Governors Awards last year but hasn’t announced who will take on the job this year.
Incidentally the Academy’s Board Of Governors voted on these awards early Tuesday evening and we were expecting an announcement that night. Since then the Academy has kept us on pins and needles saying they couldn’t locate one of the recipients. Isaacs took the blame for the delay. “I did not want any announcement until I personally communicated with each person and a couple of them were traveling,” she said. Now she has spoken to each and they are obviously thrilled.