The war in Ukraine has dominated the news circles and elicited statements of solidarity from members of the film and television industry in the run-up to the Oscars. Over the years, politics and the Academy Awards went hand in hand, and war was often part of the background, from World War II – when actual statues were made of plaster due to a lack of minerals – to Vietnam, a turbulent period that on various occasions extended to broadcasting.
However, three events stand out in particular during the television era: the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981, and the start of the Iraq War in 2003.
In the first two cases, the awards were postponed briefly, and there was discussion about doing so in 2003. (The Oscars were postponed again due to the floods in 1938.)
A look back at each of these events, and their impact on the ceremony.
1968: Assassination of the King
Since there was no way they could get there in time, the academy postponed the ceremony from April 8 to April 10 and canceled the governors ball. The organization’s then-president, Gregory Peck, began television broadcasts honoring King.
1981: Reagan murdered
Reagan was actually scheduled to open the ceremony with a segment taped at the White House on the global reach of the Oscars and movies. Many in attendance were especially shaken by the awards, having known Reagan since he was an actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild.
“The adage ‘the show should go on’ seems to be relatively unimportant,” Carson said in the telecast opening, noting that the president was in ‘excellent condition’ and that the producers were using his taped introduction,’ which they did.
“A movie lasts forever,” Reagan said, echoing the theme of the show that year, adding to laughter, “I’ve lived in some forever movies.”
2003: Invasion of Iraq
The Times described the days leading up to the awards ceremony as “one of the strangest and most stressful weeks in the history of the Oscars.” The show went on, but the red carpet was decimated with makeshift stands for fans to watch the stars arrive.
Additional controversy occurred during the show when Michael Moore accepted the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for “Bowling for Columbine.” Moore denounced the war, calling President George W. Bush a “fictitious president” and saying, “Shame on you, Mr. Bush,” drawing boos from the audience and pushing the director off the stage.
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