The 86th Academy Awards are coming up in March, and this ceremony will mark the 20th time they’ve done an In Memoriam montage as a regular segment on the telecast. There had been previous salutes to departed film personalities, from Sammy Davis Jr. and Marvin Hamlisch’s 1978 performance of a song called “Come Light The Candles” to a 1981 performance of “Hooray For Hollywood” by Lucie Arnaz that started out with lyrics paying tribute to talents like Mae West and Alfred Hitchcock, but the In Memoriam as a regular segment didn’t start until the 66th Academy Awards, which was the first ceremony I watched as a young movie buff.
As set to Michael Gore’s theme from “Terms Of Endearment”, tribute was paid to deceased talents from Don Ameche to Brandon Lee. Over the years, as more talents have passed on, the In Memoriam has varied in size, but there’s always controversy over who gets included and who gets left out. Many of those names that have been excluded were TV performers who had only a few film roles, so their exclusion could be understandable, but if you think winning an Academy Award or two will guarantee you a mention in the In Memoriam, think again. There have been many Oscar winners who have died without the Academy mentioning them in their In Memoriam, so as the In Memoriam turns 20, I would like to salute 10 Oscar winners the Academy neglected. There are more examples than that, and I encourage you to give examples I may have forgotten in the comments section. It would be nice if this made its’ way to AMPAS headquarters.
1.) Emile Ardolino
This choreographer and director was well-known for some of the most successful musicals of the 80s and 90s. He directed “Dirty Dancing”, which won the Best Original Song Oscar for “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life”, and “Sister Act”, which was a staple on many VCRs throughout the 90s. Ardolino took home an Oscar in 1984 for the Best Documentary Feature winner “He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin'”, a documentary about dance legend Jacque D’Amboise and his work with young dancers. Ardolino died of AIDS compilcations in 1993, and knowing how many people in the entertainment industry were wearing the red ribbons at the time, you would think they would’ve acknowledged his passing in 1994. They didn’t. Ardolino should’ve been mentioned on the basis of an Oscar-winning documentary, although in a rare occurence, it had won an Emmy as well. Perhaps that’s why he was excluded.
2.) Lisa Blount
Lisa Blount was an actress who was well-known to 80s filmgoers from her role as Lynette Pomeroy in “An Officer And A Gentleman”, as well as for her roles in a slew of 80s genre pictures including “Dead & Buried”, “What Waits Below” and “Prince Of Darkness”. Her Oscar didn’t come in an acting capacity, though…Instead, it was as the producer of the 2002 winner for Best Live Action Short “The Accountant”. She wasn’t the only acting talent to win an Oscar for the short…Her husband Ray McKinnon directed it and another producer was McKinnon’s frequent collaborator Walton Goggins. All 3 won Oscars for the short, and between them, they had done dozens of movies. Blount unfortunately died of a blood sickness in 2010, and I watched the Oscars in 2011, expecting her to be included. Between winning an Oscar for Best Live Action Short and starring in an Oscar-winning movie, I thought her spot was a sure thing. It wasn’t, and very few people noticed.
I know that live action shorts are rarely seen in theaters. Instead, you’re given 15 minutes of commercials and 15 minutes of trailers. I hope to see “The Accountant” someday, because maybe if live action shorts can be played before features, the people who win Oscars for them might get more credit when they pass on.
3.) Ralph Burns
For this next credit, we take things in a musical direction. Ralph Burns was a composer who had a very distinctive sound to his music. It was big, brash and brassy, a sound that could be heard in 80s movie favorites like “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “The Muppets Take Manhattan”. His 2 Oscars were for 70s movies, though. He won for adapting the music to the movies “Cabaret” and “All That Jazz”, both of which took home several Oscars apiece. Burns died in 2001 of complications from a stroke and pneumonia. You would think that winning 2 Oscars would be a guarantee of inclusion in the In Memoriam. In this case, it wasn’t. I’m still wondering why Burns wasn’t included in the 2002 In Memoriam. Maybe it was because the music he won Oscars for was adapted and not original, but the word “adapted” was in the award name, so it seems like the Academy was forgetting its’ past again.
4.) John Chambers
It’s common knowledge that the first Oscar for Best Make-Up was given out in 1982. It took more than half-a-century of Oscar ceremonies to get to that point, but along the way, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences did occasionally give out Honorary Awards for make-up. One of those winners was John Chambers, who took home an Oscar in 1969 for his work on “Planet Of The Apes”.
Although made in 1968, the make-up from that movie still holds up remarkably well. Chambers knew what he was doing…His work with make-up and prosthetics enhanced other genre projects of the 60s, from movies like “The List Of Adrian Messenger” to TV shows like “Star Trek”. Chambers died of complications from diabetes in 2001, and like the above-mentioned Ralph Burns, was not included in the 2002 In Memoriam. Despite this, though, he was acknowledged in an Oscar-winning project, as John Goodman played Chambers in “Argo”, which won 3 Oscars last year. It’s not what I would’ve expected, but it’s still something.
5.) Jimmy Griffin and 6.) Fred Karlin
I put these 2 together because they both helped to write an Oscar-winning song. That song was “For All We Know” from the 1970 comedy-drama “Lovers And Other Strangers”. It was made famous by The Carpenters, but due to the Oscars in the early 70s wanting film-related names instead of the musicians who performed them, the song was instead sung by Petula Clark, who was a singer, but also had several acting roles to her credit. “For All We Know” was a nice soft-rock ballad, as one could tell from the fact that Mr. Griffin was a member of Bread and Karlin’s work had rock influences, among other genres.
Karlin died in 2004 and Griffin died in 2005, both of them because of cancer. They died within a year of each other, and that period of time was in between the 76th and 77th Academy Awards. Neither was included in the In Memoriam at the 77th Academy Awards, and I’m trying to figure out why. Maybe the Academy forgot that the song was an Oscar winner. When one watches the Oscar telecast every year, they’ll hear pieces of songs that had previously won Oscars, from “Over The Rainbow” to “Chim-Chim-Cheree” to “Flashdance (What A Feeling)”. All of them are still well-known, whether it’s through frequent covers, Disney fandom or 80s nostalgia, respectively. Some other songs slip through the cracks, and I think that was the reason why Griffin and Karlin weren’t included in the In Memoriam when they died.
7.) Irwin Kostal
Another musical talent that the Oscars neglected to mention when he died was Irwin Kostal, seen to the left in this picture, who passed away from a heart attack in 1994. His 2 Oscars came for music scoring, first for “West Side Story” in 1962 (an honor shared with Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green and Sid Ramin) and then in 1966 for “The Sound Of Music”. While these movies already had well-established songs, they were enhanced by Kostal’s work. When that camera goes flying over the hill at the beginning of “The Sound Of Music”, leading to Julie Andrews’ Maria joyously singing the title song, Kostal’s orchestrations helped give Rodgers & Hammerstein’s music the sound that made its’ way into the hearts of millions of moviegoers. Kostal died in 1994, and I think the exclusion of Kostal from the In Memoriam is due to the same reason Ralph Burns was excluded 7 years later…The music was adapted. I still think it had to mean something. As big as musicals were on stage, they were even more so on-screen and they needed that extra kick, so I think they were deserving.
8.) Josie MacAvin
Going from the aural to the visual, we go to 1986, when the movie “Out Of Africa” won 7 Oscars. One of those Oscars was for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. A look at that movie will show you why it deserved that honor. Opulent estates in both Europe and Africa seem like they come out of a book, and Josie MacAvin helped make them look that way. Because of that, she won an Oscar (shared with Stephen B. Grimes). MacAvin died in January of 2005, but like Griffin and Karlin, she wasn’t included in the 77th Academy Awards In Memoriam. Considering all the Oscars that “Out Of Africa” took home, as well as the fact that other Oscar winners for the movie like John Barry (who won Best Original Score) and Peter Handford (who was one of the Best Sound winners) were included in In Memoriams when they died, I think MacAvin should’ve been included.
Speaking of John Barry and “Out Of Africa”, his theme to that movie was heard during the In Memoriam at the 85th Oscars, which leads me to my next person, and when you find out what he won an Oscar for, you’ll be as surprised by his exlusion as I was,
9.) Martin Richards
At the 85th Oscars, many references were made to the 10th anniversary of “Chicago” winning Best Picture. This was because that movie’s executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were producing the Oscars. Catherine Zeta-Jones reprised “All That Jazz” and Zeta-Jones, along with Richard Gere, Renee Zellwegger and Queen Latifah, “Chicago” stars all of them, presented the Best Original Song Oscar. Despite all this, Martin Richards, the man who actually took home the Best Picture Oscar for “Chicago”, was not included in the “In Memoriam”, despite the fact that he died of cancer in November of 2012.
The worst part about this is hardly anybody made notice of Richards’ exclusion. Instead, there was controversy over the exclusion of people like Andy Griffith and Alex Karras. As much as I admire their talents, I can understand why they were excluded from the In Memoriam, but you would think that winning a Best Picture Oscar would be a guarantee of a mention in the In Memoriam. I heard rumors that Zadan and Meron thought they should’ve gotten the Oscar for “Chicago” instead of Richards, and they excluded him out of spite. If true, that’s both shady and shitty, but that rumor was read in the New York Post, so take it with a shaker of salt.
10.) Peter Stone
To wrap up this article, I turn to the late screenwriter Peter Stone. In the 1960s, Stone was one of the most active screenwriters for Universal Pictures, writing 7 screenplays, ranging from the classic thriller “Charade” to the infamous screen adaptation of the musical “Sweet Charity”, which caused one critic to ask “How can you make a G-rated movie about a prostitute”. Stone Oscar’s came in 1964 for helping to write the screenplay to the Cary Grant romantic comedy “Father Goose”.
Stone would not only win an Oscar, but over the course of his career, he also won an Emmy and 3 Tonys. Despite this, Stone was not only neglected by the Oscars after he died, but there are also no records of him being mentioned in the In Memoriam at the Emmys. He was mentioned at the Tonys, though, but I’d say that’s because of the 3 Tonys he won. Truthfully, 2003 was not a good year for screenwriters to be remembered in the Oscars In Memoriam for 2004. Both Philip Yordan (who won the Best Writing, Motion Picture Story Oscar for the Spencer Tracy western “Broken Lance”) and William Kelley (who was one of the Best Original Screenplay winners for “Witness”) both died in 2003, and neither got mentioned in the Oscars In Memoriam the following year.
In summation, I find myself thinking of a saying from the book “Animal Farm”. That saying is “All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others”. It appears to be like that with Oscar winners as well. It seems that the only Oscar winners guaranteed to be mention in the In Memoriams when they die are the actors and directors. Writing an Oscar-winning song, creating an Oscar-winning screenplay or even winning the Best Picture Oscar is no guarantee that you’ll be remembered by the Oscars when you die, and I think that’s a damn shame. If only Blount, Chambers or Richards were accorded the same outrage over their exclusions that Farrah Fawcett, Corey Haim and Andy Griffith were over their exclusions.