I don’t usually nitpick over small matters, but then again, this really isn’t a small matter. In fact, it’s a pretty big freakin’ slap in the face to an American legend. The Academy Awards on Sunday night (Feb. 24), which aired locally on ABC KATV Conway Corp. channel 7, included the usual in memoriam tribute to film personnel who passed away during the previous year. This year’s in memoriam segment included the biggest omission I’ve ever witnessed at an awards show and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences should be ashamed of themselves.
Andy Griffith, one of America’s most beloved and gifted actors, was completely and unforgivably omitted from the in memoriam to the shock of myself, and based on Twitter responses, many others. Some might argue (and a few on Twitter did) that Griffith was mostly a television actor and the Academy Awards are a movie showcase, but that shows severe ignorance on their part.
Griffith was a talented movie actor (and Broadway actor before that) before ever appearing on TV as Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, N.C. in the 1960s sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show” and continued to be a talented film actor long after.
Griffith’s most notable and best film performance came as country bumpkin turned television superstar Lonesome Rhodes in Elia Kazan’s 1957 classic “A Face in the Crowd.” The movie and performance are two of the best in film’s great and illustrious history, but are also among the most criminally underrated. Griffith’s work under the tutelage of Kazan and reading and performing the word’s of the great screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who collaborated with Kazan on the 1954 Best Picture winning film “On the Waterfront,” was Brando-esque and worthy of an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Griffith never received an Oscar nomination, but his performance as Rhodes in this film remains one of the greatest non-nominated performances in film history.
Griffith also put forth critically acclaimed and beloved performances throughout his long acting career in such movies as “No Time for Sergeants” (1958), “Hearts of the West” (1975) and “Waitress” (2007). Griffith didn’t appear in many films over his career, which included two highly successful television series, but almost every time he did he put forth memorable and remarkable efforts.
It seems crass to value one’s life over another’s and I don’t mean any offense by this, but the fact that Griffith was left out of the in memoriam section of the Oscar’s telecast, but the names and faces of people who did sound effects for a “Transformers” film and worked behind the scenes on “Robocop” seems even more of a slap in the face to the legacy of this great and beloved actor.
Griffith was the most noticeable omission from the Oscars piece put together by Prologue Films, Kyle Cooper and Kimberly Cooper, but wasn’t the only high profile snub. Also, recently deceased and not featured in the tribute was Ben Gazzara, Larry Hagman and Gore Vidal among others.
The end of the in memoriam tribute section featured a performance by former Oscar winner Barbra Streisand in tribute to recently departed composer Marvin Hamlisch that lasted three or four minutes. Hamlisch’s contributions to film are hugely important and timeless, but the fact that he’s given such an elongated tribute and the likes of Griffith are completely forgotten is inexcusable by the Academy.
Andy Griffith’s legacy, particularly his utterly fascinating performance in “A Face in the Crowd,” is something that simply cannot and will not be forgotten, which simply makes the Oscars’ omission one of the dumbest and unbelievably foolish errors on record.