Total Recall: Discontinued Academy Awards
With the Oscars right around the corner, we take a look at the awards the stars won't be taking home this year.
We're in the home stretch of Awards Season 2013, film fans -- which means we're in the thick of everyone's Oscar picks, predictions, and prognostications for the big winners and losers in all the major categories. But before Hollywood's best and brightest get all gussied up for the main event on February 24, we thought it'd be nice to pause for a moment and take a look back at some of the awards the Academy won't be handing out -- specifically, the ones that have been phased out over the previous 84 ceremonies due to technological progress, redundancy, or a simple lack of popularity among the voters. You'll see some familiar titles (The Full Monty, The Sound of Music) and some not so familiar ones (Penny Wisdom, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer), but they're winners all, and there shall never be any others like them. With that said, it's time for Total Recall, Oscar flashback style!
Academy Juvenile Award
Years Awarded: 1934-60 (off and on)
Noteworthy Winners: Given that only a dozen people ever took one home, most of the winners were fairly noteworthy, but the most memorable names on the list include Shirley Temple (who won the very first Juvenile Award Oscar), Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, and Hayley Mills (who won the last one for her work in Pollyanna).
Why It Was Retired: Created after a nine-year-old Jackie Cooper lost out for Best Actor in 1931, the Juvenile Award was always a little patronizing -- it existed because Academy members felt like child actors were at a disadvantage when competing against their older counterparts, and the statue itself was a half-sized Oscar replica -- and over the years, enough younger actors crossed over into the "real" categories that when 16-year-old Patty Duke finally won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in 1963's The Miracle Worker, age discrimination no longer seemed necessary.
Best Assistant Director
Years Awarded: 1934-37
Noteworthy Winners: Clem Beauchamp and Paul Wing, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935). Neither of them ever became household names, but Beauchamp and Wing both led fascinating lives behind the scenes. Beauchamp abandoned his short-lived acting career (which included a role in Clark Gable's The Painted Desert) to become a second unit director, then moved into production, working on a long and varied list of films and TV series (such as High Noon, Death of a Salesman, and The Adventures of Superman). Wing, meanwhile, was a World War I veteran when he arrived in Hollywood, and after a few years of (mostly uncredited) studio work, re-enlisted for WWII -- during which he endured the Bataan Death March as a prisoner of the Japanese.
Why It Was Retired: As anyone who's spent time on a film set could tell you, it isn't unusual for the AD to get the short end of the stick -- it's a position that requires a lot of dirty work (e.g. scheduling, budget management, and setting up location shoots) and comes with very little glory. Unlike the awards that were eliminated due to redundancy or changing technology, the Best Assistant Director Oscar could always make a welcome return.
Best Dance Direction
Years Awarded: 1935-37
Noteworthy Winners: The category's final winner, Hermes Pan, only took home one Oscar in his career (for "Fun House," from A Damsel in Distress), but he was one of Hollywood's most distinguished and in-demand choreographers over the 40-year span between 1928-68, thanks largely to his status as Fred Astaire's longtime collaborator. A relatively early Pan/Astaire picture, A Damsel in Distress actually lost money for the studio (probably due at least in part to Ginger Rogers' absence), but there's no arguing with the cast (which included George Burns and Gracie Allen) or the music, provided by George and Ira Gershwin.
Why It Was Retired: These days, a Best Dance Direction Oscar wouldn't make any sense, but at the time, there was still plenty of hoofing on the big screen. The Best Dance Direction category rankled the DGA, however, and after a few years of insisting that "direction" should only apply to the overall film, they successfully lobbied for its removal.
Best Director, Comedy Picture
Years Awarded: 1928
Noteworthy Winners: Lewis Milestone took home the first and last Best Comedy Direction Oscar for Two Arabian Knights, starring William Boyd and Louis Wolheim as a pair of World War I soldiers whose constant squabbling lands them in a German POW camp -- and, eventually, onto a ship bound for Arabia, where both men fall under the spell of a veiled beauty (Mary Astor). Part of a trilogy of Howard Hughes productions that were thought lost for decades, Knights eventually turned up after Hughes' death, and has been aired by the Turner Classic Movies channel on a couple of recent occasions.
Why It Was Retired: Like a lot of other category deductions, it was most likely done under the guise of streamlining the awards by honoring one overall director rather than splitting the nominees between genres, but in light of the Academy's longstanding perceived bias against comedy, it's hard to see this decision as anything more than another example of Oscar's serious nature.
Best Engineering Effects
Years Awarded: 1929
Noteworthy Winners: Just one: William A. Wellman's World War I flying drama Wings, which also took home the very first Best Picture Oscar and was (rather incredibly) lost for decades before a spare negative was discovered in the Paramount vaults and meticulously restored. Starring Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen, and future sweethearts Clara Bow and Gary Cooper, the picture benefited from Wellman's flight experience, as well as then-cutting-edge special effects; today, it's enshrined in the National Film Registry.
Why It Was Retired: The early Oscar years came with a lot of category rejiggering; in fact, at the first ceremony, Best Picture was called Outstanding Picture -- and it wasn't deemed as desirable as Unique and Artistic Production, a category that was dropped the following year. What effects artists lost when this award was eliminated, however, they eventually regained with Special Effects (later renamed Special Visual Effects before finally becoming Visual Effects in 1977).
Best Original Musical or Comedy Score
Years Awarded: 1995-98
Noteworthy Winners: While most of the winners leaned one way or the other on the "musical or comedy" spectrum, 1998's The Full Monty proved a crowd-pleasing blend of both, using a pretty gloomy storyline (about a group of unemployed men who decide to start a burlesque show in order to make ends meet) as the basis for a surprisingly thoughtful comedy with a feel-good soundtrack -- including what might be the best-ever use of Tom Jones' cover of the Randy Newman classic "You Can Leave Your Hat On." The award for the score, however, went to Anne Dudley -- the composer fondly remembered by children of the 1980s as a member of the avant garde synthpop band Art of Noise.
Why It Was Retired: The Academy has changed its approach to awarding musicians and composers many times over the years, and this award -- designed to give songwriters and lyricists a chance at Oscardom -- is just one short-lived example.
Best Score - Adaptation or Treatment
Years Awarded: 1962-67
Noteworthy Winners: This Academy Award, created to honor the composers who worked on big-screen adaptations of stage musicals, happened to have its run during a pretty good stretch for the genre -- The Sound of Music, The Music Man, and My Fair Lady were all honored during the Best Score - Adaptation or Treatment's brief existence, along with Irma la Douce, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Camelot.
Why It Was Retired: Prior to this category's introduction, music was honored with the Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture and Scoring of a Musical Picture Oscars; after it was phased out, the Academy moved on to the Original Score for a Motion Picture (not a Musical) and Score of a Musical Picture - Original or Adaptation categories. A bit of semantics, in other words.