There comes a moment (or three) in every Oscar telecast when the party becomes muted and solemn, when the lights dim and a sentimental song plays over a gauzy and brief montage of Academy members who made their final curtain calls in the past year.
The “In Memoriam” sequence, a regular feature of Oscar telecasts since 1994, presents a largely star-studded but arbitrary obituary roll call of Academy members – mainly actors and recognizable behind-the-scenes figures – now deceased.
The short, artful sequence is mostly a highlight reel and necessarily picks and chooses from a much larger roster of late Academy members (this year the obit list is said to approach some 500). No one knows who makes the cut (that’s decided by a highly secretive Academy committee) until the montage is aired.
This year, the most likely candidates come heavily from the Actors branch and include Ernest Borgnine, Harry Carey Jr., Conrad Bain, Charles Durning, Chad Everett, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Farentino, Ben Gazarra, Andy Griffith, Celeste Holm, Jack Klugman and William Windom.
Prolific composer Marvin Hamlisch is almost sure to make the reel, along with pop lyricist Hal David and composer Dory Previn.
Also, expect to see beloved writer and director Nora Ephron in the montage, screenwriter Frank Pierson (a former Academy president) and perhaps writer, raconteur and sometime actor Gore Vidal (grandson of former Oklahoma Sen. T.P. Gore).
From the Directors branch, the tragically departed Tony Scott will almost surely make the cut, along with Producers branch stalwart Richard D. Zanuck (son of the legendary Daryl Zanuck).
Sadly, many worthies will be left on the cutting-room floor, as a recent New York Times article revealed. Behind the scenes politicking for the place on the broadcast obit is very heated and leaves lots of bruised egos and hurt feelings in its wake, the Times article noted.
While those left off the broadcast montage most often come from the ranks of crafts persons – editors, designers, executives, PR folks and the like – there have in recent years been some notable slights of “name” figures, the Times story reveals. Omissions over recent years have included Corey Haim, Farrah Fawcett, Bea Arthur, Peter Graves, Eartha Kitt and Harry Morgan. Oh well, RIP anyway.
A complete list of Academy members who’ve died this past year is available (with some diligent searching) on the official website, Oscars.com.
- Dennis King