I graduated high school and went off to college in 1970, so the 1971 Oscars were the first in a long line of broadcasts I probably didn’t see. I may have found a dorm lounge to watch it on, but all I know is I continued to watch the films and the results, if not the shows themselves. Syracuse University had an excellent film program that ran Tuesday and Thursday (?) or all three days, and I got to see many of the current films and many classics during my undergraduate years.
But I didn’t actually own a television of my own again until 1982 or 1983, so the actual show was remote to me, if the competition and the politics weren’t. Richard Burton’s first nomination for Best Actor was for a film released the year I was born, a religious film released the year I was baptised, THE ROBE (his first nomination had been the year earlier, for Best Supporting Actor, in MY COUSIN RACHEL) .
The Robe (1952)
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolff? (1966)
Anne of a Thousand Days (1969)
– and that includes nominations over three consecutive years, and all before the decade of the 60s was over.
Equus was his final nomination, but he lost out to Richard Dreyfus, for GOODBYE GIRL. There is no justice; it’s just a contest, after all, and people vote more often than not for whom they want to win (thus the repetitive occurrence of sentimental favorites, as often happened over the years, particularly as the Academy membership outaged the audience increasingly over the years).
For decades, I believed that Burton was nominated posthumously for his final performance in Nineteen Eighty-Four – but now, the internet (well, wikipedia) says I’ve got it wrong, and Burton was never nominated for his final performance; his seventh nomination was his original for Supporting Actor, not for Best Actor in his final outing.
And I’d carried my umbrage proudly all this time – 7 nominations, 3 in a row, and never an award for being one of the best screen actors of his generation. This is an outrage. I wanted to so badly to get up on that stage and wag my finger:
I would like to thank the Academy for the honor of being up on this stage, but first I have to ask, “What were you thinking?” Richard Burton was nominated yet never seen fit to stand up on this stage and say, “Thank you”? Why? Because you didn’t like him? Because he DRANK? Or because he was better than you?
Thankfully, that fallaciously based fantasy never came true; I never got the chance to chastise the academy for their snub. But I was very gratified, when I read Richard Burton’s Diaries (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13594027-the-richard-burton-diaries); I hadn’t needed to fantasize about doing it, it turns out Marlon Brando did it for me – yes, that Marlon Brando, he of Sasheen Littlefeather – went before a European award ceremony on Burton’s behalf when Richard couldn’t attend, and blasted the American Academy of Arts and Sciences for their persistent snub of this truly talented actor.
I hadn’t stood up and cheered, that time, but it brought a satisfied smile to my face.
Take that, Academy.