The much-publicized snafu with the Best Picture award at last Sunday’s Oscars is grabbing headlines and inspiring groans from coast to coast. But it’s hardly the first time that this huge, complex ceremony has suffered a mix-up of those proportions. Let’s take a look back at some other notable gaffes from Oscars past:
1934: Presenter Irving S. Cobb, having somehow lost the envelope to the Best Adapted Screenplay category, simply points to winner Robert Riskin and says, “The award goes to the spooky-looking heeb in Row 8.” Riskin accepts the slight in stride, even though his Oscar plaque is later re-engraved to reflect the slur.
1947: Presenter Rex Harrison suffers no small amount of embarrassment when the hot stage lights melt his synthetic skin and expose his metal endoskeleton.
1961: The Academy books Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows to co-present the Best Original Song award, unaware that their families have been locked in a bitter blood feud for the past century and a half. Their gaffe is discovered barely in time to stop Meadows from eviscerating Allen with an olive fork from the craft services table.
1970: The stagehand in charge of timing the acceptance speeches passes out from hypoglycemia, allowing John Wayne (accepting his Oscar for True Grit) to turn his speech into a twenty-minute homophobic and conspiracy-theory-laden tirade.
1977: A scheduling snafu double-books two dance numbers, and the adrenaline-charged dancers refuse to yield the stage, performing both routines at once and resulting in 43 injuries.
1994: As Tommy Lee Jones walks up to accept his Best Supporting Actor Oscar, a spotlight, a sandbag, a section of acoustic ceiling tile, and an entire catwalk all break loose and fall in his path, each barely missing him. Jones looks heavenward and is heard to say “Nice fucking try,” while cackling madly.
2009: Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen, both extremely high, valiantly attempt to present the award for Best Sound Mixing before losing their thread and finally asking the audience, “Look – does anyone really care? Show of hands – who wants to skip this shit?” The audience unanimously agrees, including winners Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis.