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- April 09, 2001
- Vol. 55
- No. 14
Accepting the Award...
Some Winners Chose to Stay Away from the Big Night. So Oscar Came to Them
WHAT: Best Actress, 1962, Two Women
WHERE: Her apartment in Rome
As an Italian actress in an Italian-language film, Sophia Loren was shocked to be in the running for Two Women. "I thought, If they do give it to me, I'm going to faint among the audience," recalls Loren, 66. "So it's better to faint at home." Two weeks later Joseph E. Levine, the film's executive producer, arrived at Loren's door with her statuette. The actress wore a favorite purple-and-yellow Dior dress for the presentation, which was witnessed by friends, family and the local press. "We had champagne and a wonderful lunch, and we toasted America," she says. Now the Oscar is displayed in the hallway of the Geneva home Loren shares with her husband of 43 years, the film's producer, Carlo Ponti, 87. Al-2 though she received a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1991, Loren's first Academy Award "is in the center of g everything," she says. "The chandelier s light hits it so it's always shining. Of I course I dust it every day."
WHAT: Best Actress, 1946, Mildred Pierce
WHERE: Her L.A. bedroom
One of Hollywood's most formidable icons suffered an acute case of the jitters before the ceremony and refused to go. The stakes were high: Joan Crawford's star had been falling before she landed the Mildred Pierce role, and she was terrified of losing. So the 41-year-old actress, complaining of a fever, retreated to her bed and sought solace in a steady supply of cocktails. ("I fortified myself, probably a little too much," she later confessed.) But when her name was announced on the radio broadcast of the Awards, her on-call hairdresser and makeup man dolled her up for the press waiting outside her Brentwood mansion. The film's director, Michael Curtiz, accepted the Oscar at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, explaining, "Miss Crawford is very, very ill." But by the time he arrived at Crawford's bedside with her Oscar later that evening, the star had made a miraculous recovery, receiving well-wishers while dressed in a coffee-colored negligee. "My tears speak for me," she said. "This is the greatest moment of my life."
WHAT: Best Actress, 1963, The Miracle Worker
WHERE: Her New York City apartment
Midway through a Broadway run of Mother Courage, Anne Bancroft wouldn't think of standing up her audience to attend the Oscars. After making a few lackluster movies in the 1950s, she had returned to the stage to earn her acting stripes with two hits: Two for the Seesaw and The Miracle Worker. Hollywood passed her over for the movie version of Seesaw but took a chance on her for the role of Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, in The Miracle Worker. Knowing that Bancroft, then 31, wouldn't be attending the Oscars, veteran actress Joan Crawford offered to accept the award in her stead. (It was not until 1975 that presenters began accepting for absent winners to speed up the show.) Taking the stage, Crawford read Bancroft's note thanking the film's creators. Bancroft, who was watching the show on TV with then fiancé Mel Brooks, wept with joy as she took congratulatory calls from family and friends. A month later, Crawford presented her with the statuette after a performance of Mother Courage. When Bancroft was asked by a reporter if she deserved to win, she replied: "Well, if that means I was better than anyone else, the answer is yes!"
WHAT: Best Actress, 1971, Women in Love
WHERE: London's Dorchester hotel
Too busy shooting Mary, Queen of Scots in England to attend the Oscars, Glenda Jackson got the good news in a 5:45 a.m. wake-up call from pal Bette Davis in L.A. "She just screamed at me, 'You've won! You've won!' " recalls Jackson, 64. "I think I said, Thank you very much,' and went back to bed. It was rather sad." Jackson got her moment of glory a month later when Hal B. Wallis, producer of Mary, presented her with the Oscar at a London luncheon. A typo on the statuette's plaque titled the film Woman in Love, she explains, but "that's how it was given to me and that's how it still is." Jackson won a second Best Actress Oscar in 1974 for A Touch of Class. She didn't attend that ceremony either—although she did make it the following year to be a presenter. A member of the British Parliament since 1992, Jackson keeps her first Oscar in a box of awards at her South London home. "The second, one of my nephews asked if he could borrow it to show at school," she says. "And I believe it's still there."
WHAT: Special Award, 1947, Henry V
WHERE: The set of Hamlet, near London
Although he received nine Best Actor nominations in his lifetime, Laurence Olivier turned up for just two of those ceremonies—in 1940 and 1979. When he scored his first statuette—an honorary award for producing, directing and acting in Henry V—the 39-year-old Brit chose Hamlet over Oscar. "If you were making a film in England, you wouldn't think of stopping it to fly to L.A.," says Olivier biographer Anthony Holden, "especially on a postwar budget." Instead, the Oscar made its way to England, where Ray Milland (the previous year's Best Actor winner) presented it to a costumed Olivier on the Hamlet set. Two years later Hamlet became the first non-American film to win Best Picture, and Olivier nabbed his first (and only) Best Actor Oscar. He remains the only actor to have directed himself in an Oscar-winning performance.
WHAT: Best Supporting Actress, 1952, A Streetcar Named Desire
WHERE: Her New York City apartment
The Academy Award ceremonies weren't televised until 1953, so when Kim Hunter was nominated for her performance as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, she opted not to make the trip to L.A. "It seemed a lot just for radio," says Hunter, 78, who also chose not to attend an Oscar party with other New York City-based movie folk. "I didn't want to be the focus of attention, whether I won or lost." Instead she and her husband, actor Bob Emmett (who died last year), played pinochle and listened to the festivities on the radio. Hunter says the phone calls from friends and knocks on the door from the press began immediately, and "after that we would have people yelling 'Stella!' at our window." Her Oscar eventually came in the mail. "There's still a trace of gold in it," she says, "but it doesn't look like it did when it first arrived."
WHAT: Best Actress, 1952, A Streetcar Named Desire
WHERE: New York City's Ziegfeld Theatre
Fresh offstage and still in full makeup, Vivien Leigh, 38, learned of her second Oscar via radio in the chorus dressing room of Antony and Cleopatra, the Broadway play in which she was starring opposite her then husband, Laurence Olivier. Things had been different when she won her first Best Actress Oscar for 1939's Gone with the Wind. "I was at the Awards dinner in Hollywood myself, with everyone very tense and excited," she told reporters. The 1952 win, she said, "was a quieter kind of excitement." When Leigh's name was announced for her performance as Blanche DuBois, Olivier gave her a chaste kiss.
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