FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Raining on the Red Carpet

by CLANCY SIGAL

“Big ‘stupido’…running up to get an Oscar dying with excitement only to crawl back dying with shame (because a different director wins).  Those crummy Academy voters; to hell with their lousy awards.   If ever they did vote me one, I would never, never, NEVER show up to accept it.”

— Frank Capra who later changed his mind to accept all three of his Best Director Oscars.

Like a billion other people around the world on Sunday we’ll gather around a TV set to watch the Oscars otherwise known as the Awards Ceremony of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  It’s our town’s Superbowl.  Rah rah.  The fun is hardly ever in the deeply dumb show but us fans grouching over who cheated our favorites.  And – for shallow minds like mine – cattily bitching about the women’s fashions, when I channel my inner Joan Rivers, meow.

As everyone knows except for the people watching, the Motion Picture Academy was founded as a union-busting front for a company union.  It was the brain child of MGM’s Louis B. Mayer, a devout Republican, as a way of heading off Hollywood workers’ wage and contract demands.  The Academy, after the Wall Street ’29 crash, fully backed Mayer and his fellow studio bosses’ across-the-board 50% wage cuts for employees while still paying themselves huge bonuses.

The Academy’s history is bloody, battered and bestrewn with labor struggles, corrupt practices, bribery, extortion, Mafia-style hit jobs and failed last-ditch efforts by its executives to break the fledgling actors, writers and other guilds.  (In current negotiations my own  writers union, WGA, is facing $60 million in rollbacks from the producers with their institutional memory of fighting unions even when they’re rolling in profits.)

From the start the Academy and studios’ deal was to buy labor peace by installing a then-wholly-crooked bunch, IATSE, the union of stagehands, motion picture technicans and allied crafts, and pay off its gangster leaders (usually $50 to 100,000 annually per studio), to intimidate, beat up and sometimes kill militants.

Joe Schenck, co-head of 20th Century Fox, actually went to prison for cooperating with this extortion plot.  IATSE was run by two organized crime gunsels, Willie Bioff and George Brown, who in exchange for lesser sentences turned on their studio paymasters.  You can betray your union members but not crime bosses in collusion with the studio heads: Bioff in witness protection was assasinated by a bomb.

cher-oscars-headdress2

The next boss of IATSE was Roy Brewer, no crook but responsible in large part for enforcing the anti-communist blacklist and silencing liberal activists.  At the time Hollywood was ruled by a system of informers managed by Brewer, and a star-struck House UnAmerican cop named Wheeler, and a Beverly Hills lawyer collecting large fees for “clearing” soiled industry workers.

The whole blacklist thing had its roots in labor strikes led by an honest  breakaway union from IATSE.   Antisemitism in this heavily Jewish industry played a critical role in the blacklist.  HUAC focused on actors and writers with “Jewish” backgrounds.  All through the 1950s the professional guilds, including mine, cooperated with the blacklist.   Formerly liberal Ronald Reagan, Screen Actors Guild president, was an FBI informer against his colleagues as confidential source “T-10”.

But hey today is now.  The Academy long ago cleaned up its act by restoring credits to blacklisted writers.   We’re on to more serious matters like Jennifer Lawrence’s cute haircut and will a vote for Cate Blanchett in the Woody Allen movie mean a vote for pedophilia?   Today’s young women actors look alike and dress drearily alike, as if being presented at a Deep South sorority cotillion.  Ah, how I miss the long lost years when a streaker ran onto stage to show (in David Niven’s immortal phrase) his shortcomings, when Angelina incestuously locked lips with her older brother, when Marlon Brando sent “Sacheen Littlefeather” to collect his Oscar, and most of all Cher in anything she chooses to wear.

One day, maybe, an Oscar nominee will have the guts to stand up and scream, as Samuel Jackson almost did when he lost to Martin Landau: “Awww, shit!”

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
December 08, 2016
John W. Whitehead
Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
Mike Whitney
Rolling Back the Empire: Washington’s Proxy-Army Faces Decisive Defeat in Aleppo
Ellen Brown
“We’ll Look at Everything:” More Thoughts on Trump’s $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
John Stauber
The Rise and Fall of Obamacare: Will the Inside Story Ever be Told?
Ted Rall
Ameri-Splaining
Michael J. Sainato
Mainstream Media Continues Absolving Itself From Clinton, Trump Election Failures
Ralph Nader – Mark Green
Divest or Face Impeachment: an Open Letter to Donald Trump
Gareth Porter
US Airstrikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Undermine Claim of “Mistake”
Martha Burke
What Trumponomics Means for Women
Ramzy Baroud
Fatah, Hold Your Applause: Palestinian Body Politic Rotten to the Core
Steve Horn
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Attorney General Pick, Introduced First Bill Exempting Fracking from Drinking Water Rules
Joe Ware
The Big Shift: Why Banks Need to Stop Investing Our Money Into Fossil Fuels
Juliana Barnet
On the Ground at Standing Rock
Franklin Lamb
Aleppo Update: An Inspiring Return to the Bombed Out National Museum
Steve Kelly
Hidden Harmony: on the Perfection of Forests
December 07, 2016
Michael Schwalbe
What We Talk About When We Talk About Class
Karl Grossman
The Next Frontier: Trump and Space Weapons
Kenneth Surin
On Being Caught Speeding in Rural America
Chris Floyd
In Like Flynn: Blowback for Filth-Peddling Fascists
Serge Halimi
Trump, the Know-Nothing Victor
Paul DeRienzo
Flynn Flam: Neocon Ex-General to Be Trump’s National Security Advisor
Binoy Kampmark
Troubled Waters: Trump, Taiwan and Beijing
Tom Clifford
Trump and China: a Note From Beijing
Arnold August
Fidel’s Legacy to the World on Theory and Practice
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
John Kirk
Cuba After Fidel
Jess Guh
Repeal of Affordable Care Act is Politics Playing with the Wellbeing of Americans
Eric Sommer
Team Trump: a Government of Generals and Billionaires
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Reactions to the Death of Fidel Castro
John Garvey - Noel Ignatiev
Abolitionism: a Study Guide
Clancy Sigal
Caution: Conspiracy Theory Ahead!
December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Warmongering 99 – Common Sense 0: the Senate’s Unanimous Renewal of Iran Sanctions Act
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
CJ Hopkins
Manufacturing Normality
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail