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On This Day in History, March 20: ‘Kid From Brooklyn’ Hosts Oscars

The year 1951 was an active one for Hollywood. It was the year the House Committee on Un-American Activities opened another round of hearings. The first movie theater in a shopping center was built in Framington, Massachusetts.  Hollywood was trying to fight TV, its competition, with color, not yet available on the tube. The use of the unstable cellulose nitrate as film stock ended, but not soon enough to save from deterioration almost half the films made up to that time in America. There were 18,980 theaters of which an astounding number were drive-ins — 2,830. Average ticket price to a movie was 53 cents.

It was Brooklynite Danny Kaye who was chosen to host the 1952 Academy Awards ceremony. (Kaye was born Daniel Kaminski in Brooklyn in 1913 and was known for his role in the boxing flick The Kid From Brooklyn. Later he also starred in the holiday favorite White Christmas with Bing Crosby).

It was March 20, 1952, and this time the ceremonies were in a most suitable surrounding — the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. The bleacher fans had begun lining up outside the theater at 11:30 a.m. The first celebrity to arrive at 7 p.m. was Leslie Caron, who had the flu. The first nominee to appear was Humphrey Bogart with his pregnant wife, Lauren Bacall. Later, Best Actress nominee Shelley Winters rode up and exclaimed, “I’m running a fever of 101 but I had to come tonight.” For the occasion, Winters had commissioned Orry-Kelly to design an off-the-shoulder gown in her lucky color — mauve.

As Academy president Charles Bracket made an opening speech, Danny Kaye stood behind him making faces. Bracket introduced Danny as “The man who went from Loew’s Palace to Buckingham Palace, the same unspoiled kid from Brooklyn — Danny Kaye.”

The 1951 winners were: Best Picture, An American in Paris; Best Actor, Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen; Best Actress, Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire; Best Supporting Actor, Karl Malden in A Streetcar Named Desire; and Best Supporting Actress, Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Bogart later recalled that when he was announced as winner, wife Bacall “… let out a scream when my name was called. She jumped four feet and almost had
a miscarriage.”

March 20, 2012 - 9:24am


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