Yesterday I responded to a post on another blog that discussed the self congratulatory aspect of the Oscars. While I agree with the writer that the awards system is pretty darn unrelenting and all about image rather than substance, it also made me think about how much I love the movies and what Oscar night meant to me at one time.
I grew up in Los Angeles. My father had offices on Hollywood & Vine. The movie business was integral to the city and it was fun. I read the Los Angeles Times every day from the time I can remember reading at all. I usually read the sports section for baseball and another section for the gossip columns. Why? I wanted to know what was going on. Mind you, this was way before all the celeb mags like People, etc. Hedda Hopper and. later, Joyce Haber were the featured columnists. My mother loved the gossip columns and so did I.
Watching old movies on our black and white television with my mother, I heard stories about old stars like Clark Gable & Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, Gary Cooper and so on. Mother had moved to Hollywood in the early nineteen Thirties to live with her mother. My grandmother was a buyer for Bullocks Wilshire, the store to the stars. Grandmother worked in the designer department with famous costume designers and couturiers like Adrian. She had great stories! I was fascinated by all of it.
As a youngster, my father took us to many first run theatrical debuts in downtown Hollywood and West LA. We would dress up to attend Grauman's Chinese, the Egyptian, Pantages, Cathay Circle; all of them beautiful old theatres from the twenties & thirties. I saw "The King and I", "My Fair Lady", "Gone With the Wind" in its re-release. "The Music Man", "Sleeping Beauty", everything age appropriate. Going to the movies downtown was special. Dad saw to that.
My parents always watched the Academy Awards. It was an event. My father loved Bob Hope, well, we all did. My mother wanted to know who would win. Me too.
As a teenager, the movies were my most consistent form of entertainment. Everybody went to the movies on a regular basis and we tried to see everything so when the awards season came around we could all weigh in. Other award events were pretty much non-existent. Only the Oscars were televised so it had a great deal more panache than it does today. I also think it was a more serious event. There was no red carpet, no Wolfgang Puck, no endless speculation about designer clothes and who would wear what. That has overshadowed what I think was once the serious business of choosing the best of the best.
I could be wrong. Perhaps it was always window dressing. But I loved it. I miss it. And I still watch.