An exciting time. The first time the Academy Awards were televised and shown live on 19th March 1953.
The National Broadcasting Company had paid $100,000 for the television and radio rights.
(A live broadcast to Europe was not possible . The BBC showed a recording of the ceremonies two days later.)
With Hollywood three hours behind New York, the show screened from 7.30pm to 9pm in Hollywood at the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard; and at 10.30pm in New York , from the NBC International Theatre.
It meant revenues in N.Y for films and Broadway shows weren’t too affected.
It also meant stars like Shirley Booth could be rushed from the Broadway theatre where she was appearing in time for the Best Actress nominations.
“Ticket holders,please follow the route above to the RKO Pantages theatre. You must arrive before 7pm……”
Bob Hope took charge, as he did many times in later years.. Bob was the perfect host and seemingly the only relaxed person on stage! He even took time to sing one of the Oscar nominated Best Songs – “Am I in Love” ( with Marilyn Maxwell)
Bob had first hosted the Oscars in 1940 when GONE WITH THE WIND won 8 Oscars. Bob said, “What a wonderful thing, this benefit for David Selznick!”
The stage display included a huge Oscar atop a cake surrounded by the Oscars to be awarded.
Co-hosts in New York, Conrad Nagel, Fredric March. Broadcasting from the NBC International Theater .
We didn’t see much of either of the New York hosts – Conrad Nagel had also co-presented back in 1930 and 1932.
Bob looks up at the screen showing Shirley Booth in New York.
Shirley Booth, Fredric March.
Fredric March presents Shirley Booth with her Best Actress Award for COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA.
(Despite the ballyhoo for the bi-coastal telecast, I counted about 15 minutes at the most from the New York theatre. )
I don’t know what other nominees, other than Shirley Booth, were actually in New York.
Cecil B. DeMille, Gloria Swanson, Bob Hope, Mary Pickford.
- A nice touch was to have Oscar presenters who were all previous winners, from Mary Pickford,Janet Gaynor, Anne Baxter, Ray Milland, Frank Capra,Greer Garson, Ginger Rogers, Luise Rainer, Ronald Colman, Joan Fontaine, Olivia De Havilland, Edmund Gwenn.
Gloria Grahame ( THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL)
One of Bob Hope’s jokes ( all of which he delivers so expertly). The TV cameras didn’t show the losing nominees in the audience:
“You’ll see great understanding, great sportsmanship, great acting!”
There were few shots of the audiences so I don’t know if nominees Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Julie Harris, Susan Hayward, Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas,Jose Ferrer , Jean Hagen, Jack Palance were there in person.
In 1953, there were separate Oscars for black and white and color cinematography, art direction and costumes.
Despite critic Bosley Crowther calling it, “a routine and pointless affair”, NBC drew an audience of over 30 million!
HIGH NOON had seven nominations but lost to “The Greatest Show on Earth” as Best Picture.
I love the comment by Thomas Doherty in the Hollywood Reporter article of March,2022. Having discussed the drama of HIGH NOON, he added:
“The Greatest Show on Earth” wasn’t much of a metaphor for anything except the grandiosity of the name above the title.” (Cecil B. DeMille).
One of Bob Hope’s ongoing jokes was the fact he had never won the Oscar. Early in the evening, he joked: ”There was a rumour last year that I might win an Oscar, but nobody paid attention so I stopped spreading it.”
He also said, “I like to be here just in case – you never can tell – one year there might be one left over!”
But this year he did get one – an Honorary Oscar for his contribution to the laughter of the world and his service to the motion picture industry.
He quipped, “I know this is a joke. You’ll take it back after a while!”
One thing that seems strange now was the fact that every winner rushed up to the stage, grabbed their Oscar and quickly said “Thank you” before rushing back off the stage.
Were they told just to say, ‘Thank you’, I wonder.
Only Shirley Booth in New York made a short speech, saying how grateful she was.
John Wayne collected two Oscars, one for John Ford (“The Quiet Man”) and one for Gary Cooper.
As I have previously written, Wayne joked that he’ d have to speak to his management team – ….”to find out why I didn’t get High Noon.”
Mary Pickford presented the Best Picture Oscar to Cecil B. DeMille for THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.
It was also a great touch to have shots of previous Oscar winners holding their awards –Loretta Young, Broderick Crawford, Claire Trevor, Jane Wyman, Edmund Gwenn.
I was very pleased to find the whole television presentation (including ads for RCA T.V.’s and radios) was available to watch on You Tube. Not great quality but a nice bonus and it enabled me to see Tex Ritter in person, singing “Do Not Forsake Me “.
It was a pleasure to see so many stars in their prime, just a shame it was too early for colour.
Bob Hope was the Oscars host on at least 9 occasions, the last being in 1978. His easy style and comedy delivery were excellent. Of course he had great writers for his routines, but,boy, could he deliver!
Apparently George Montgomery was the host in 1949, and Fred Astaire did the honours in 1951.
For all Oscar information, www.oscars.org