CBC Digital Archives

The Oscar goes far north of the border

It's Hollywood's biggest night. The Academy Awards are the most important awards in the entertainment industry and one of the biggest TV events in the world. The stars strut down the red carpet in their finest in anticipation of seeing who'll take home the coveted golden statuette — the Oscar. Since the awards were first handed out in 1929, Canada has enjoyed an impressive track record. CBC Archives pays tribute to a handful of Canadians whose Oscar recognition reverberated back home.

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Oscar fever has hit the 1,000 residents of Watson Lake, Yukon. It may lack the big stars of that other Hollywood ceremony but there are plenty of colourful characters being honoured at the 19th annual Watson Lake Academy Awards. For example, the 1992 winner of the Best Actor award is being recognized for forgetting to turn his car engine off before boarding a plane, leaving it to run out of gas. A performance that definitely deserves an award, says organizer Archie Lang. Despite the teasing tone, the annual event is all in good fun, Lang tells CBC's Peter Gzowski. 
• Watson Lake is located 460 kilometres southeast of Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon.
• With an estimated one billion people watching the Academy Awards worldwide, some have chosen that ceremony to make some lasting impressions. Perhaps the most bizarre was when during the 1973 ceremony a streaker, Robert Opal, ran across the stage and flashed a peace sign. David Niven, who was on stage at the time, made light of the situation by commenting on Opal's "shortcomings."

• When Will Rogers opened the Best Picture envelope in 1934, it led to a lot of confusion and humiliation for director Frank Capra. When Rogers announced "Come on up and get it, Frank!" Frank Capra leapt up thinking he'd won it for Lady For A Day. By the time he got to the stage, he realized the winner was Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade. A sheepish Capra returned to his seat, with what was described as the reddest face in the awards' history.

• In 1971, actor George C. Scott became the first actor to refuse an Oscar. He declined his Best Actor award saying the awards were "demeaning" and the ceremony was nothing more than "a two-hour meat parade." When his name was announced, Scott was apparently at home watching a hockey game.
• In 1972, Marlon Brando turned down his Best Actor Oscar for his performance in The Godfather. He was protesting Hollywood's discrimination against Native Americans. Brando sent a woman called Sacheen Littlefeather to decline the award on his behalf.

• In 1935, writer Dudley Nichols became the first person to refuse his Academy Award, for The Informer, because the Writers Guild was striking at the time.
• During the 1982 ceremony, Zbigniew Rybczynski, who had just won for Best Animated Short, was refused re-entry by an over-zealous guard after stepping out for a cigarette. An angry Rybczynski was arrested and thrown in jail after he attacked the security guard.

• After winning the Best Actress award in 1978, Vanessa Redgrave made a controversial speech supporting Palestinian rights.
• In 2003, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore caused controversy when he criticized President George W. Bush for the war in Iraq. Moore, who had won an Oscar for his anti-gun film Bowling for Columbine, berated Bush saying, "we are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you."
Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: Nov. 23, 1992
Guest(s): Archie Lang
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 7:43

Last updated: April 2, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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