Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards

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Simon & Schuster, 1993 - Performing Arts - 672 pages
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Simple hype? Is that really all there is behind the Oscar? Just a lot of propaganda, a frenzied ritual of self-promotion, a debasement of character and culture - and for what? A shiny statuette of a naked and featureless little man? Well, yes, maybe "hype" is a major part of the whole affair, but "simple"...? Not by a long shot. Every year, on the last Monday in March, the reigning royalty of the movie business dress up in their finest feathers - sometimes literally - to attend the ceremony sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. At that ceremony, years of struggle and study and sacrifice and hard work - capped by weeks of intense campaigning, awesome in-fighting, blatant self-aggrandizement, and shameless displays of naked desire - are rewarded. The Academy Awards! As Anthony Holden explains at the start of Behind the Oscar, his fascinating and devilish look at this perennial affair, "However rich and famous movie stars may become, however admired and envied by audiences and colleagues alike, their cup will not actually run over until their name emerges from one of (the) envelopes, and they can sob their way through an Oscar acceptance speech. (The) winners will bask in the glow of apparent immortality - the highest honor even Hollywood can confer - as well a boosting their fantastical fees. For those already in possession of most that this world can offer, it is a consummation devoutly to be wished - and a wish they will go to any lengths to consummate". Historically, the Academy Awards, first presented in 1927, were an offshoot of an effort by the then-powerful Hollywood studios to defeat the unions that threatened to cut into their considerable profits. Atfirst the Awards were self-congratulatory, back-slapping affairs, dinner parties at which actors and actresses who had kept their noses clean and whose movies had made money were rewarded for their work. Quickly, however, these annual rites assumed a life of their own, growing over the years to the self-congratulatory, back-slapping colossus that today fascinates millions and millions of people the world over. Behind the Oscar is the story of these awards and how they grew, and, in a way, it's the story of Hollywood itself. Spanning the entire history of the Awards (including the 1991 Academy Awards) and reviewing the famous winners and losers (e.g., Katharine Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin), and the not-so-famous people (Luise Rainer, winner of back-to-back Oscars for Best Actress) whose lives have been touched by Oscar magic, Anthony Holden cleverly guides the reader through the ins and outs, the complex, confounding machinations that make up Oscar's history. Complete with a multitude of award lists, dozens of photos, and enough behind-the-scenes gossip to satisfy even the most jaded, Behind the Oscar is the best written, most enlightening, and easily the most entertaining look ever at Hollywood at its best and worst. To paraphrase Sally Field upon winning her second Oscar: "You'll like it, you'll really like it!"

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BEHIND THE OSCAR: The Secret History of the Academy Awards

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Although Holden (Big Deal, 1990, etc.) in his subtitle promises some lip-smacking gossip, few readers will be shocked, while most will find consuming this overrich table of Oscar-lore like trying to ... Read full review

Behind the Oscar: the secret history of the Academy Awards

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The Oscar, show business's most coveted prize, has destroyed countless forests, as journalists, publicists, and anyone else with access to a printing press has tried to "explain'' what those homely ... Read full review


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About the author (1993)

Anthony Holden is an award-winning journalist and biographer who has published more than thirty books, including lives of Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky, and Laurence Olivier. He is also the author of three autobiographical books about poker, as well as translations of opera and ancient Greek plays and poetry.

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