Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2003 / 4 Shevat, 5763

Greg Crosby

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Award season | A new year signals the start of award season in Hollywood. Someone once said the movie industry is like high school with money. It's all about being in with the right cliques. If that's the case, then entertainment awards time is like when it's time to choose up teams in school. That's when you find out quick who the really popular kids are. And you sure don't want to be the one that nobody chooses -- the one that's still standing there after the others have taken their sides. So we enter another season of show biz popularity contests.

The granddaddy of all entertainment awards ceremonies is, of course, the motion picture Academy Awards. In addition to the routine Oscar categories the Academy generally comes up with a few special awards, usually given for lifetime achievement or humanitarian endeavors. Although I realize the die has been cast for this year already, I would like to offer up my own personal wish list for special award consideration to a few special performers who should be recognized.

I am a firm believer in honoring those who are still alive and kicking and able to appreciate getting an award from the industry in which they have devoted their working lives. In past articles I have suggested Academy recognition for Sylvia Sidney, Robert Young, Claire Trevor, Hedy Lamarr, and Ann Sothern, to name a few, but unfortunately these wonderful actors have recently passed away -- unable to appreciate any accolades which might be bestowed upon them.

It's still not too late for some others, however, and I begin my list with those talented de Havilland sisters, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. Each having won Oscars in the past, Olivia for "To Each His Own" in 1946 and "The Heiress" in 1949, and Joan for her performance in Alfred Hitchcock's "Suspicion" in 1941. In addition, both ladies have received the New York Film Critics Award and have been nominated numerous times by the Academy for other screen roles.

Although each has been awarded for specific films, I believe each is deserving of a Lifetime Achievement Award at this stage of their lives. Olivia and Joan are famous for -- how shall I put this? -- not always seeing eye to eye. So I don't know if it could be done, but if it could, what an historic moment it would be when the curtain goes up and out walks these two legends hand in hand across the stage to accept their awards. Wow!

Richard Widmark should be recognized by the Academy for the fine work he's done in a wide range of roles. He was nominated for an Oscar only once, in 1947, for his supporting performance in "Kiss of Death" (You might remember him as the psychopathic killer with the crazy laugh who throws the old lady down the stairs). He soon graduated from villains to leading men and went on to star in everything from westerns to film noir. Widmark's acting career spanned seven decades and included such films as "Night and the City," "No Way Out," "Road House," "Panic in the Streets," "Pickup on South Street," "Warlock," "The Alamo," "Judgment at Nuremberg," "How the West Was Won," "Cheyenne Autumn," and "Murder on the Orient Express." He was last seen in "True Colors" in 1991. Richard Widmark is one of Hollywood's most durable stars.

Speaking of durable stars, Mickey Rooney is a guy who, in my opinion, has been taken for granted lately. It seems Rooney has always been around and maybe that's why it's easy to underestimate the breadth of talent of this fine performer. He made his first stage appearance at the age of 15 months and he's been acting ever since. The Andy Hardy pictures he made for MGM remain the most popular movie series of all time. For years he was America's most popular movie star - more popular than Clark Gable. In 1938 he received a special Academy Award he shared with Deanna Durbin.

A comedy performer who could out-mug the best mugger, Rooney soon proved to be as fine a dramatic actor as any on the MGM lot. Just take a look at "Boy's Town," The Human Comedy," "National Velvet," and "The Bold and the Brave" if you need any proof. And who could forget his wonderful song and dance stuff with Judy Garland. He received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for his work in "The Black Stallion" in 1979 and won an Emmy for his portrayal of a retarded old man in the made for TV movie, "Bill." I think a Lifetime Achievement Award for Mickey Rooney from the Motion Picture Academy is long overdue.

And then there's my sweetheart, Doris Day. Long underestimated and laughed at for her goody-goody light-comedy romantic pictures she did with Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, and James Garner, Miss Day's work holds up better now and ever before! Singing, dancing, drama, light comedy, you name it and Doris did it beautifully. She was always a class act in every picture she appeared in. And what a line up of pictures they were. Consider: "The West Point Story." "On Moonlight Bay," April in Paris," "Calamity Jane," "Love Me or Leave Me," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "The Pajama Game," "Teacher's Pet," "Pillow Talk," Please Don't Eat The Daisies," Midnight Lace," "That Touch of Mink," "Jumbo," and so many others.

The day Doris moved up north to live the quiet life with her puppies, America's movie goers lost a talent that has not been replaced since. We miss you Doris. So, I say it's high time Doris Day gets a little recognition in this town. A special Oscar would be a nice start, I think. But, if the Academy decides not to honor her, for whatever reason, I bet I know what Doris might say -- "Que Sera Sera." I, on the other hand, would say, "Phooey!"

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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