Modern Culture17 Oct 2008 12:43 pm
The Academy Awards, popularly known as “The Oscars”, are awards of merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers. Unlike the universally reviled Grammy Awards for “excellence” in music, both film critics and the public alike have a love/hate relationship with the Oscars, simultaneously trashing Hollywood’s yearly orgy of self-congratulations while breathlessly wagering bets on the likely winners. It should then come as little surprise that only two actors in Academy Award history have ever declined the highly coveted statuette: George C. Scott for his role as General George S. Patton, Jr. in Patton (1970) and Marlon Brando for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972).
Prior to his rejection of his Best Actor Oscar for Patton, George C. Scott quietly turned down two Academy Award nominations for best supporting actor, first for his role as a wily prosecutor opposite Jimmy Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), and then for his role in The Hustler (1961) opposite Paul Newman. When Scott won the Academy Award for Best Actor in Patton, widely considered one of the greatest performances in cinematic history, Scott sent the Academy a telegram, politely declining the award. It stated in part, “[I] mean no offense to the Academy. I simply do not wish to be involved.” However, Scott was less tactful with his criticism elsewhere, declaring the awards, “[a] goddamned meat parade… I don’t want any part of it.”
Never one to be outdone, Brando declined his Oscar for Best Actor for The Godfather by sending Native American Rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather (a/k/a Maria Cruz) as his surrogate to explain his reasons for boycotting the ceremony, which were based on his opposition to the depiction of Native Americans in cinema. Decked out in full Apache regalia, the former “Miss American Vampire” (1970) was prepared to read Brando’s fifteen-page prepared speech, but was thwarted by a producer she met backstage, who threatened to have her physically removed from the stage and arrested if she spoke for more than 45 seconds. Littlefeather thus improvised her statements on stage, and then read the full text of the speech to the press afterward. To this day, no one knows for sure what happened to Brando’s Oscar statuette…
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