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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles correspondant covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Hollywood Award Shows in Wartime, Will History Repeat Itself?

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Superman and Batman saluted a flyby; in 1943, the Oscar statuette was made of plaster instead of metal due to shortages during World War II. In 1945, Doubleday published “Movie Lot to Beachhead.”


Edited by Look Magazine staff, and prefaced by Robert St. John, this classic sought to show how “the motion picture goes to war and prepares for the future.”

St. John, who died at the age of 100 in 2003, had been a chronicler of many news events outside of Hollywood, specifically the exploits gangster Al Capone who allegedly had him roughed up, but he was best known for spinning the stories about Tinseltown that became legendary.

Variety magazine reported that he spent 117 continuous hours broadcasting reports over the airwaves during D-Day, June 6, 1944.

During this wartime period, Hollywood took cues from World War I, when US motion picture cameras were deployed along with the troops. But during WWII, A-List directors like John Ford and John Huston crafted narratives in support of US policy as implemented by the Military.

In 2020, US President Donald Trump has opened the door for another wartime atmosphere in Hollywood. At last night’s Golden Globe ceremony, only one celebrity mentioned the current brink-of-war situation in the United States now in conflict with Iran.

In this divided New Hollywood a new precedent may be set. Beset by internal conflicts - with streaming platform impingement and movements from #MeToo to #PayUp - the mood has changed. It is unlikely New Hollywood will follow the old ways when insiders "changed golden slippers for GI boots, make believe for reality,” as is the quote recalls from Movie Lot to Beachhead.


With the 92nd Oscar presentation coming up on Feb. 9, 2020, The Academy Awards will certainly have a different tone than any recent telecast due to world events. AMPAS, the governing body that presents the Oscars, has only postponed the show three times in its history.

In 1981, the 53rd Academy Award presentation was put off for 24 hours in deference to then US President Ronald Reagan, who was nearly assassinated on March 30. In 1968, after the execution-style slaying of Martin Luther King, the Oscars also went silent in postponement.

Record flooding in 1938 was cause for a brief award show shutdown and reschedule for The Academy. As of last year, AMPAS awarded 3,096 statuettes since the 1st Academy Awards show on May 16, 1929.


It will remain to be seen whether 2020 is the year for another postponement if World War III breaks out, or whether there is enough public outcry to cancel this impending sequel to the worst global events in human history.

Either way, Awards Season always weathers Wartime. In fact, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) was founded in 1943 to foster international relations. Then known as the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association (HFCA), the first Golden Globes ceremony was held at the 20th Century Fox Studios on Feb. 11, 1944.


In 1953, HFPA released a commemorative brochure which defined the organization’s motto as “Unity Without Discrimination of Religion or Race.”

Tune in to the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 9, 2020 here.

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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

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