25 Years Ago at the Oscars
Wins by 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' weren't the only nutty things to happen at the 1975 award show
This was the year of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but there seemed to be a lot more than one in 1975. Cher divorced Sonny, then married and left Gregg Allman. Liz and Dick remarried. Sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland still aren’t talking. Betamax was hailed as the future. Thanks to a lightweight TV actor and the man behind Creedence Clearwater Revival, the long-dormant Cuckoo finally made it to the screen. And talk about madness: The director of the biggest money machine in movie history was shut out of the nominations, attacked by a shark called Backlash.
In fact, many of the nominations defied reason. For the third year in a row, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino were proposed for Best Actor, but this time their competition included James Whitmore for Give ‘Em Hell, Harry! and Maximilian Schell for The Man in the Glass Booth, two theatrical pieces that had been shown on Z Channel in Los Angeles. (Ignored were Warren Beatty for Shampoo, Roy Scheider for Jaws, Sean Connery and Michael Caine for The Man Who Would Be King, and Gene Hackman for Bite the Bullet.) The Best Actress field was even weaker: Ann-Margret as Tommy‘s mother, Isabelle Adjani in The Story of Adele H., Carol Kane on Hester Street, Glenda Jackson as Hedda, and Louise Fletcher for playing Nurse Ratched in Cuckoo’s Nest. The previous year’s Best Actress winner, Ellen Burstyn, decried the lack of substantial roles for women and called for a boycott of the voting in the category. Fletcher phoned Burstyn, who hadn’t seen Cuckoo’s Nest, to tell her it would have been nicer if she had made the suggestion in a year in which Burstyn was up for a nomination.
Kiss-kiss Hollywood pretty much turned to bitch-bitch. Fletcher was also mad at Robert Altman, who had used her as the inspiration for the role of a mother of deaf children in Nashville — a role he gave to Lily Tomlin after he had a disagreement with Fletcher’s producer husband. Altman was mad at the Academy for nominating just one of Nashville‘s songs, ”I’m Easy,” and so were people who complained about the initial exclusion of the theme from Mahogany. When the nominations were announced, ”Do You Know Where You’re Going To” had made the list. Who wasn’t Robert Shaw mad at? The actor/playwright called Jaws ”a piece of s—” and demanded that his name be pulled from the screen version of his play The Man in the Glass Booth. Ken Kesey, the author of Cuckoo’s Nest, was so mad he didn’t get a larger share of the profits that he said, ”I’d like to have subpoenas in some of those award envelopes.” And Oscar-show producer Howard Koch was mad at Swifty Lazar for drawing some of Hollywood’s bigger names to his concurrent party at the Bistro, which happened to provide the backdrop for the most memorable scene in Shampoo.
Among the duos arriving at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 29, 1976, were Nicholson and Anjelica Huston, John and Keith Carradine, George Cukor and Liz Taylor, and Michael Douglas and Brenda Vaccaro. Nominated as Best Supporting Actress for Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough, Vaccaro had been living with Douglas; had played opposite his father, Kirk Douglas, in the movie; had costarred in Midnight Cowboy with her rival for Best Supporting Actress, Sylvia Miles (Farewell, My Lovely); and was the godmother of nominee Glenda Jackson’s child.