Every year, I take a day off from my paying job to watch the Academy Awards. As an inveterate film buff, I love watching the show every year, even if I haven’t seen most of the nominees. It’s always entertaining to see stars of the past and present unite to celebrate film, a medium we all love. There are always some disappointments every year, though. For some, it’s over who won and lost. For me, it comes with the In Memoriam, and this year saw a surprise omission that literally made me drop my jaw. That omission from the In Memoriam was Dorothy Malone, who actually won Best Supporting Actress for the 1956 Douglas Sirk drama Written On The Wind.
Dorothy Malone won her Oscar for playing Marylee Hadley, the partying-crazed daughter of a wealthy Texas oil family who ends up running the family company after tragic family events befall her sibling and their respective love interests. The scenes where Marylee does the mambo stand out as representing how carefree, yet careless, she is. They say that you should dance like no one’s watching, but Malone’s work shows that perhaps you should be watching others while dancing yourself.
Dorothy Malone’s performance impressed Oscar voters so much that she would end up winning Best Supporting Actress the following year. Her career may have been troubled after this, but at least she had an Oscar. For years, I thought that winning an Oscar for acting meant you were guaranteed to be included in the In Memoriam when you passed away. I’ve written two articles about Oscar winners who were excluded from the In Memoriam, but they won in categories other than acting. I never thought the day would come when an actor who won an Oscar for acting was excluded from the In Memoriam.
Take a look at the preceding video, and who do you see highlighted? You see Jerry Lewis, who hosted the 29th Academy Awards and won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2009, introducing Jack Lemmon, who would eventually become a two-time Oscar winner, who would present Dorothy Malone with her Oscar. Lemmon was included in the 2002 Oscars In Memoriam as the first name, while Lewis, who died last year, was the last name listed in this year’s Oscars In Memoriam. Where does that leave Dorothy Malone? On the Oscars website, lumped in with all the other names that the Oscars didn’t think deserved to be acknowledged on TV.
I purchased Written On The Wind several years ago after having read about in a Movieline book from the mid-90s called Bad Movies We Love, but I thought it was a wonderful movie. Dorothy Malone impressed me in the movie, so this begs the question: Why was she excluded from the In Memoriam? I don’t know. Some have hypothesized that she died this year, and wasn’t able to be edited into the In Memoriam in time. I disagree with that. Dorothy Malone died four days before this year’s nominees were announced, and they had more than a month to include her in the In Memoriam. What’s worse is that there were talents who died after her, like composer Johann Johannsson and filmmaker Idrissa Ouedraogo, who made it into the In Memoriam this year.
Why am I so upset about this? I’m upset because I feel that all Oscar winners are equal. I’ve had the great pleasure of interviewing several Oscar winners during the course of my time writing for Pop Geeks, and it’s always an honor to speak to them, as it is to do all my interviews. The Oscars don’t think that all those who win the prize are equal, though, and I wonder why. I asked Chuck Workman about the exclusion of Martin Richards, Best Picture winner for Chicago, from the In Memoriam when I interviewed him last year, and he said, “…It’s just something as silly as “he was a Broadway producer and he didn’t really do that much on the movie”, or whatever they said, and the fact that he accepted the Oscar, and they didn’t show him, shows they don’t even give much credit to their own award. Obviously, if someone wins the Oscar, they should be in there, but they’re constantly fighting to do that, and now they use a lot of the slots for diversity, not that it’s the wrong thing, but that does use up a lot of space.”.
I would never tell the Academy to stop their focus on diversity, but at the same time, I never thought the day would come when an Oscar winner in an acting category was excluded from the In Memoriam. That distresses me. What does that mean for future In Memoriams? What if they decide that Allison Janney, who took home Best Supporting Actress this year for I, Tonya, isn’t worthy of inclusion in the In Memoriam when she passes away? I know her loved ones and her fans would have a fit if she weren’t included. I wonder why more people aren’t upset about Dorothy Malone’s exclusion, though. Ms. Malone deserved one final tribute from the Oscars, and I can only hope they’ll include her next year. The chances of that are slim, but Ms. Malone’s talent was large, and her work in Written On The Wind will continue to stand among fans of wild cinema.
May Dorothy Malone rest in peace, and may this be an anomaly for the Oscars.