No Oscar for the Oscar? Behind Hollywood’s Walk of Greed
In 1966 the popular interest in the Academy Awards propelled Paramount Pictures to produce The Oscar (Embassy Pictures-Paramount Pictures, 1966), a film based on the homonymous novel by Richard Sale. The Oscar tells the story of an unscrupulous actor willing to do anything in his power to obtain the golden statuette, regardless of whom he has to take down along the way. Building up on fantasies of social mobility, we see the protagonist (Frankie) display his vanity, arrogance and greed to create a less than likeable character whose only hope to put his career back on track lies in obtaining the precious statuette.
The movie intends to be a sneak peek behind the scenes of the biggest award ceremony, but also behind the lifestyle of the Hollywood elites, their glory and their misery as part of the Hollywood disposal machinery. Despite not being financed or officially supported by the Academy, the film intertwines elements of fiction and reality by using real footage of the event, and featuring several contemporary representatives of the movie industry such as Edith Head, Hedda Hopper, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, playing cameo roles, adding up to the inter-textual capacities of the story. Head’s participation was particularly exploited for the promotion of the film, taking advantage of her position at Paramount, her status as a multiple winner, and her role as a fashion consultant for the Academy Awards. This paper is an analytical account of the film’s production process. Through a close look to its publicity, it will unravel how the studios relied on the awards, and all possible inter-textual capacities to promote the film, despite the Academy’s distancing from the project.