Oscar & Emmy Watch: Musings & Misgivings: Rookie Hosts
“I see a lot of new faces, especially on the old faces”—host Johnny Carson scanning the audience at the Oscars
So now that they’re named two new faces to host the 83nd Academy Awards telecast—Anne Hathaway and James Franco —the pairing has been announced as one that, say the producers, “personifies the next generation of Hollywood icons.” Their selection is clearly designed to serve and attract a younger viewing audience, and that’s all well and good, but can we please not liken these talented and pleasant young actors to icons. Icons are always stars, but not all stars are—or ever will be--icons. It’s about indelible personality as much as artistry, awards or longevity.
True icons, the for-all-time legendary faces that would be carved on Hollywood’s Rushmore, are—from the sound era--the likes of Grant and Gable and Davis and Garbo and Stanwyck and Crawford and Fonda (the elder) and Cooper and Garland and Rooney and Stewart and Astaire and Bogart and Cagney and Welles and both Hepburns and Peck and Wayne and Douglas (the elder) and Lancaster and Tracy and Monroe and Holden and Brando and Taylor and Dean and Newman and Redford and O’Toole and Eastwood and Streep and Pacino and Poitier and Streisand and Nicholson and De Niro and Freeman.
And then there’s the class of cross-generation possible-icons-in-waiting (depending on your own particular grading curve), which might include a select few from among Roberts and Hanks and Keaton and Beatty and Duvall and Bridges and De Caprio and Damon and Washington and Clooney and Cruise and Pitt and Depp. Our young hosts are a long way from either group, but it does invite the question as to whether the right host, any host, solo or in partnership, can elevate the Oscar from a tedious, self-congratulatory affair with way too much industry business to conduct (and awkward acceptance speeches to endure) into a bona fide entertainment showcase that does the movie business proud.
I have my doubts, but every circus does need an affable ringmaster and even if you can’t get the likes of a modern-day Will Rogers (the host in 1934), we would benefit from one with a comedic bent who can deliver a sharp monologue and has the ability to toss out an ad-lib or two—18-time host Bob Hope (“How about the pictures this year? Sex, persecution, adultery, cannibalism—we’ll get those kids away from TV sets yet”) and eight-time MC Billy Crystal (“a billion people are watching tonight, except for Linda Tripp—who’s taping it”) having set the standard.Continued on the next page