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As the Golden Globe spins

A less-than-respectful Golden Globes timeline
/ Source: contributor

Having presented awards for 60 years, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globes are one of the awards biz’s oldest institutions. Yet, for most of their history, the Globes have had a struggle for respect that would drive Rodney Dangerfield to despair.

1943: The group’s mission statement, to promote “favorable relations and cultural ties between foreign countries and the United States of America by the dissemination of information concerning the American culture and traditions as depicted in motion pictures” was overwhelmingly supported by members with English as a second language. But the HFPA’s true mission was clear from the very start: to stage an awards show two months before the Oscars.

1944: The first Golden Globe Awards were a low-budget affair, staged in the 20th Century Fox commissary and giving the winners scrolls instead of trophies. They instantly established their reputation as an unreliable precursor for the Oscars, matching three out of six major awards, but overlooking “Casablanca” for Best Picture in favor of “The Song of Bernadette”, a film about the religious visions of a French peasant girl that was produced by (surprise!) 20th Century Fox.

1945: The Golden Globe trophy made its debut, and the ceremony was held in the banquet hall of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Two years earlier, the Academy Awards had abandoned the banquet format as ‘impractial’, but the Globes hold onto the format to this day, hoping for a more casual and less predictable ceremony if the winners have had something to eat — and drink. The format has its downside, considering that Christine Lahti in 1998 and Renee Zellweger last year both had their names announced as winners while they were in the bathroom.

1946: To differentiate itself from those other awards, the Golden Globes made its first of many experiments with different kinds of categories, and presented its first award for “Motion Picture Promoting International Understanding” to the short film “The House I Live In”, in which a group of rowdy teenagers are given a lesson in tolerance from Frank Sinatra. An educational film, especially for people who think political correctness and Afterschool Specials started in the ‘70s.

1947: The Globes introduced their most infamous category, “Best New Star,” with trophies for both male and female newcomers. The first winners are Richard Widmark, playing a psychopath stalking Victor Mature in “Kiss of Death”, and Lois Maxwell, playing a trusted teacher to a teenaged Shirley Temple (who thinks Ronald Reagan is her father) in “That Hagen Girl”. Maxwell never became a major star, but got regular work as Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond movies.

1949: After successfully predicting the Academy’s Best Picture with its own award for four years straight, the Globes jumped the track with a tie between “Johnny Belinda” and “Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, while Oscar picked “Hamlet”. No “New Star” awards that year, but a Globe for “Juvenile Performance” was given to 9-year old Ivan Jandl, whose performance as a mute Auschwitz survivor got so much attention in his native Czechoslovakia that the Communist government took him out of school and put him to work at a rock quarry.

1951: The Globes added The Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite chosen by an international survey taken by the Reuters news service (since blamed as the inspiration for The People’s Choice Awards). The HFPA has no official information about the origin of the award’s name, but rumors persist that Henrietta was Oscar’s ex-wife.

1952: For the first time, the Golden Globes split the acting and Best Picture awards into Drama and Musical-or-Comedy categories. The studios applauded the change, which gave them twice as many chances to headline “Golden Globe Winner” in their advertising. That year, the “Motion Picture Promoting International Understanding” was awarded to the sci-fi film “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and the first Cecil B. DeMille Award for Career Achievement was given way too appropriately to Cecil B. DeMille.

1956: A year after the Academy Awards were first shown on TV, the Golden Globes began giving prizes for television (The Oscars TV show has won the Emmy, but not the Globe). The first TV Globes were uncategorized “Television Achievement” awards, presented to Dinah Shore, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Disney’s “Adventures of Davy Crockett” and the very generic “American Comedy." There is no historical record of how many people went up to accept that award.

1957: The Globes continued to perpetuate multiple special award categories with the first “Hollywood Citizenship Award” for Ronald Reagan (the first hint that he might do better in politics than in movies). Meanwhile, the “World Film Favorite” was James Dean, a year after the Globes gave an official posthumous award to the actor who’d died in ‘55.

1958: The Golden Globes ceremony was disrupted when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., drinks and cigarettes in hand, took over the show from the HFPA member serving as emcee. They were formally invited back the next year, and the association embraced celebrity hosts from then on.

1959: Category proliferation reached a simultaneous new high and low when the Golden Globes separated Musicals and Comedies, resulting in a nomination for the unmemorable “The Perfect Furlough” which starred Tony Curtis as a soldier at an Arctic radar base who wins a three-day pass in Paris with a movie starlet (a plot copied by every military-themed sitcom since).

1960: A historic reconciliation for the foreign press, when the Golden Globes presented a “Special Journalistic Merit Award” to both Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons and both showed up to accept.

1962: The Golden Globes got their first TV broadcast, but only on a local Los Angeles station. A few years later, they got their first national exposure as a ‘special edition’ of Andy Williams’ variety show, but spent most of the ‘60s and ‘70s blissfully underexposed.

1967: The Golden Globe for “Actor in a Television Series” was awarded to Dean Martin for his variety show (and the HFPA was disappointed when he didn’t bring Frank and Sammy with him to accept it). The next year Carol Burnett won for “Actress in a Television Series”, and she didn’t bring Frank and Sammy with her either.

1971: The Globes had their worst year to date for predicting the Oscars, matching only 3 out of 10 categories, including George C. Scott’s “Best Actor” for “Patton”, which he rejected anyway. The next year, Marlon Brando got to turn both awards down.

1975: The debut of the first People’s Choice Awards relieved the Golden Globes of the title of Least-Respected Awards Show, at least temporarily.

1977: Exactly 20 years after Ronald Reagan’s award, Arnold Schwarzenegger won “New Star of the Year - Male”. Coincidence? I hope so.

1980: Inching toward respectability, the Globes chose Bette Midler for Female “New Star of the Year” over Bo Derek, while the Male “New Star” was 9-year-old Rick(y) Schroder (who was later taken out of school and put to work on the sitcom “Silver Spoons”). Later that year, the HFPA signed to air its awards on CBS.

1982: In the second year on CBS, the Golden Globes combined the Male and Female “New Star” honors into one, and responded to the high-profile, extremely-expensive and blatantly crass campaign financed by her multimillionaire husband by giving Pia Zadora the award. CBS then dropped the awards.

1983: Ted Turner, looking for an awards show to call his own, discovered the Globes. Thus, the Golden Globe Awards experienced a comeback by appearing on a Turner cable channel, just like Pat Buchanan and Scooby Doo. Splitting the “New Star of the Year” again, the Male award went to Ben Kingsley for “Gandhi” and the Female award went to Sandahl Bergman for “Conan the Barbarian”. The “New Star” award was never given again.

1984: Continuing the tradition of occasionally inexplicable winners, the Golden Globe for “Director - Motion Picture” went to Barbra Streisand for “Yentl” and “TV Series Actor - Comedy” to John Ritter for “Three’s Company”. Other inexplicable awards in the ‘80s included Paul Hogan for “Crocodile Dundee” (Leading Actor - Comedy, 1987) and Ron Perlman for TV’s “Beauty and the Beast” (TV Series Actor - Drama, 1989).

1992: The most questionable year in Golden Globes history for Television Drama. Actor: Scott Bakula for “Quantum Leap”, Actress: Angela Lansbury for “Murder, She Wrote”, and (from the first awards to re-classify “Ally McBeal” as a Comedy) Dramatic Series: “Northern Exposure”.

1996: Recognizing the dozens of frivolous awards shows that were already being aired on network television, NBC picked up the Golden Globes broadcast.

1997: In the second year on NBC, the Golden Globes gave its awards for Screenplay and Director to “The People Vs. Larry Flint”, while “Picture — Musical or Comedy” and “Actress — Musical or Comedy” went to Madonna’s performance in “Evita”. NBC renewed the award show for several more years.

1998: Everyone has opinions about the times awards shows picked the wrong winner, but only once on the Golden Globes did anyone do something about it. When Ving Rhames was announced the winner of “Actor in a Mini-Series or Television Movie” for “Don King: Only in America”, he called losing nominee Jack Lemmon (for “12 Angry Men”) up on stage with him and ‘presented’ the trophy to him. (Two years later, when Lemmon actually won for “Inherit the Wind”, he declared: “In the spirit of Ving Rhames, I’m going to give this award to Jack Lemmon.”)

1999: During his acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, Jack Nicholson “good-naturedly mooned the crowd." The HFPA officially abandoned all hope of respectability and now celebrates the moment on its own Web site as an example of the awards’ “intimacy and spontaneity”, although the accompanying picture of Nicholson is facing forward.

2002: The Globes indulged their love of TV spies (dating back to 1966 when “The Man from UNCLE” won best TV Series) by giving its television acting awards to Kiefer Sutherland of “24” and Jennifer Garland of “Alias”.

Today, more than half of Hollywood’s movie revenue comes from the international market and even MTV gives out movie awards. But even in show business, some things never change: one of the nominees for the Golden Globe for “Leading Actor — Comedy” is Jack Black in “School of Rock”.