The 2014 Oscars have all been awarded, with "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity" both enjoying big nights. While the movies of 2013 were the focus of this year's Academy Awards, there was plenty of evidence of Hollywood history throughout the night. Here are some of the classic movie highlights of the evening.
Leading lady Kim Novak appeared on stage as a presenter with Matthew McConaughey to announce the winner for Best Animated Feature. Born in 1933, the actress is best remembered for her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo" (1958), but she also appeared in "Picnic" (1955), "Bell Book & Candle" (1958), and "The Mirror Crack'd" (1980). Novak's appearance inspired speculations about plastic surgery on Twitter and other social media outlets, but the 81 year old star, who celebrated her most recent birthday in February, seemed to enjoy her moment in the spotlight and the attention of her Oscar-winning companion. The Disney hit "Frozen" took home the award that Novak and McConaughey were on hand to deliver.
The legendary Sidney Poitier also attended the Oscars as a presenter. He appeared onstage with Angelina Jolie to announce the winner for Best Director, but classic movie fans were keenly aware of Poitier's role as a trailblazer for black actors on a night when "12 Years a Slave" took home awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay, with additional nominations in six categories, including Chiwetel Ejiofor for Best Actor. Sidney Poitier became the first African-American performer to win Best Actor for his performance in "Lilies of the Field" (1963), but he is primarily known today for his signature roles in "In the Heat of the Night" (1967) and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967). Born in 1927, Poitier celebrated his 87th birthday in February, so his attendance at the awards was particularly exciting for fans.
Bruce Dern celebrated the evening as a nominee for Best Actor thanks to his performance in "Nebraska," but many viewers at home might not have realized that his acting career stretches all the way back to 1960. Dern appeared in a small role in Alfred Hitchcock's "Marnie" (1962) and played a pivotal if briefly seen character in the Bette Davis cult classic, "Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" (1963). His other early films include "The Wild Angels" (1966), "The War Wagon" (1967), and "Will Penny" (1968). Although Matthew McConaughey enjoyed a widely predicted win for Best Actor for "Dallas Buyers Club," Dern looked genuinely happy to be nominated for the award for the first time in his long career. His only other Oscar nomination was for Best Supporting Actor in "Coming Home" (1978).
Among the evening's tribute segments was a special retrospective honoring "The Wizard of Oz" (1939). Judy Garland's three children, including Oscar winner Liza Minnelli, were in the audience to mark the special occasion of the film's 75th anniversary. Although 1939 also included enduring movie hits like "Gone with the Wind," "Stagecoach," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," the beloved musical proved easy to honor with a performance of its signature song, "Over the Rainbow," by modern recording star P!nk. "Over the Rainbow" won the Oscar for Best Song back in 1940; in 2014, the winner for the award was "Let It Go" from the Disney movie, "Frozen."
As usual, the memorial montage for the evening featured many beloved classic movie figures. Among those who passed away in the last year were Joan Fontaine, Shirley Temple Black, Deanna Durbin, Ray Harryhausen, Esther Williams, Eleanor Parker, Annette Funicello, Julie Harris, and Peter O'Toole. While all of the classic stars included had enjoyed long lives, fans were still saddened to remember their loss.
Classic star Angela Lansbury was honored during the broadcast as the recipient of an honorary Oscar, but the 88 year old actress was busy in London preparing for a new stage role and could not attend the ceremony. Her reason for being absent was no surprise to fans of the hard-working icon, who made her first screen appearance in "Gaslight" in 1944. Lansbury has earned three Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress during her long career; in recent years she has balanced stage work with voice acting and roles in family films.
You can read more about the 2014 Academy Awards and peruse a full list of the evening's winners at the official Oscars website.
Jennifer Garlen writes as the Huntsville and National Classic Movies Examiner. Her book, "Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching," is available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.