Liz Smith: Oprah’s Oscar–She’s Getting It…Get Over It

More from our Liz: What Does Daniel Craig Have That All Men Want? … the Lost “Blue Bird” Footage:  Will We Ever See Liz Taylor and Ava Gardner Sing Together?

“THE WORLD is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything,” said Albert Einstein.

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SO OPRAH Winfrey will be receiving the famous Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in the fall—she will add an Oscar to her already crowded shelves of awards and plaques.

Good news? I’m sure Miss Winfrey thinks so, but she might be the only one. Lots of criticism out there. Most of it centers on the fact that Winfrey made her name and fame in television, not motion pictures. (She has appeared onscreen in “The Color Purple” and “Beloved.”) How dare she accept an Oscar? Who does she think she is?

Let’s see. She’s somebody who raised $80 million via Oprah’s Angel Network. Somebody who gave $10 million in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Somebody, who in 2007, was listed as having donated over $300 million to various charities. Somebody who…oh, forget it. People who like Oprah, love her. People who don’t, loathe her.

You know, it’s called the Humanitarian Award. So what if Oprah is not a movie star or a producer? How many of you rolled your eyes and went to the bathroom over the years when the likes of David L. Wolper, Sol Lesser, Lew Wasserman, Walter Mirisch, Arthur B. Krim, George Seaton and Jules C. Stein accepted their Oscars?  It’s not always stars such as Frank Sinatra, Rosalind Russell, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Jerry Lewis or Gregory Peck who do good deeds in a naughty world.

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OPRAH WINFREY has done good deeds. She is a phenomenon in show biz, and her influence is worldwide. If she had ever wanted to be a movie star, I’m sure she would have become a movie star. And if you think she’s only doing it all for herself, for her own ego—fine. There are worse things to do with one’s ego.

I don’t think Oprah is all sweetness and light. (Just take a look at the behind-the-scenes series she approved, showing the workings of her final season. Tough cookie!)  I have even criticized her—the James Frey incident…the owner of Hermes incident, etc. But she has still contributed more to the good side than to the dark. Much more. She deserves her humanitarian award.

Of course Doris Day still deserves her Lifetime Achievement Oscar, too. But God forbid the high-ups at the Academy do two things correctly in one year.

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THE HOLLYWOOD Reporter tells us that few in Hollywood have “enough downtime” to submit to full-out plastic surgery. Everybody’s opting for the quick fixes that often have better results than the old stitch-‘em-up-and-hide-out-for-a-month methods.

Super-effective lasers, light treatments, vastly improved fillers. Nobody just gets out of bed, washes their face, combs their hair, puts on a bit of mascara and heads to the red carpet. (Well, nobody ever did that!)

Angelina Jolie benefits from something called the Gentle Waves machine, developed by dermatologist David Colbert. Michelle Williams (and apparently every actress in Hollywood) has undergone the “triad facial,” another Colbert innovation. This is very popular with stars who are about to be photographed for Vanity Fair or Vogue. Also, the ruthlessly sharp HD transmissions on TV make it impossible now to simply use a good concealer.

But my favorite info gleaned from this article was the Calcium Nature Lift. This is very popular with men. For a mere $5,000 guys are injected for 10 minutes with liquid calcium in the jaw. It gives the immediate appearance of a square manly movie-star jaw line. And who is the model for this procedure, whose picture is carried into the session (“I want to look like this!”), whose name is whispered to doctors all over Hollywood?

But of course, it is the squarest-jawed man in the biz—007, Daniel Craig himself. Although I must say, I think Daniel’s intense blue eyes beat out his jaw.

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GOOD GRIEF! On the Fox Movie Channel the other night, I stumbled upon “The Blue Bird,” the 1976 George Cukor movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Jane Fonda and Cicely Tyson. Considering the millions 20th Century Fox spent, how astonishing that the movie ended up resembling a Poverty Row production, costing one hundred bucks, and filmed in a backyard? Everybody (including yours truly) had to travel to Russia for this? It was the first US/Russian movie collaboration and hopes were high. Fox lost a bundle.

Miss Taylor looks extremely lovely but somewhat pained throughout (well, she was stricken with a virulent dysentery mid-way through filming.) She is best when disguised as a cackling old witch. Jane Fonda and Ava Gardner (especially Ava!) have some campy fun.

I was disappointed, however, that the musical number between Elizabeth and Ava—a showdown between Light and Luxury—was cut. I watched that scene being filmed, and it looked divine. Maybe, with Elizabeth recently gone, and interest in her career renewed, that bit of history might turn up? Elizabeth and Ava, onscreen, for the one and only time. Even in something as awful as “The Blue Bird” that’s a moment worth seeing.

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“You know, so little is asked of people who are getting so much. I mean, I don’t mind paying more. I really don’t mind paying more taxes.”

That’s actor Matt Damon, one of the real sweethearts in this business. He gives back in this life, and is grateful for what he has. Maybe someday we’ll see him accepting a Jean Hersholt Award.

11 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Oscars, even the honorary ones, are meant to acknowledge the contributions by members of the film industry and apart from two films, Oprah simply is not part of the industry.  But, well, what Oprah wants, Oprah gets.  Oprah wanted an Oscar. So Oprah gets an Oscar.
    If they’re going to give her an award, perhaps they should create a new one.  Call it the Oprah Winfrey Hubris Award.

    • avatar rick gould says:

      Liz, all those things you say about Oprah may be true. If so, good for her. I never drank the Oprah Koolaid, so I stopped watching her years ago.

      But that’s just my opinion. Those who love her, great.

      The reason this Oscar for Oprah looks so obsequious is because she’s in the TV biz, not the MOVIE business. Not that complicated…

  2. avatar Craig Coogan says:

    There is nothing stopping Mr. Damon from sending in more funds to the Treasury since he feels so compelled to pay more.  Please make your check payable to the IRS.

    • avatar Jay Gentile says:

      As long as you don’t have to pay any more, right? It’s fine for others to foot the bill.

  3. avatar Richard Bassett says:

                          In the 1980’s…in Hollywood with time of my hands, I befriended a cosmetic surgeon, who approached me…telling me that had a great look. I kinda knew that as I had a print agent and was going on auditions routinely for print work. But, he was watching me in a nightclub (how creepy) for months. He told me that if I had a procedure that took the fat pads out of my puffy facial cheeks, I wouldn’t have to work so hard at looking so GQ gaunt, as I already had high cheek bones.
                            It was experimental to him, as well, and had an office right smack dab in the middle of Beverly Hills.  He would charge me a fraction of the cost, so I had the procedure done. Going inside your mouth, like getting your wisdom teeth taken out, and slicing a line from top to bottom of the inside of my cheek and teasing out the fad pad. The only danger was hitting the facial nerve and having a permanent droop to the side of my face (like Bell’s palsy). Charming…. but the operation worked. I did much more print work. (It took six weeks to heal. First it swells and up and I looked like a chipmunk for a few weeks) I didn’t have to ‘suck in my cheeks’ any longer to portray a fashion look The skin melted over the cheek bone and created a large dimple when I smiled. I was 30. I made money. It was worth it.
                                        It is strange that twenty-five years later, AIDS patients lose facial fat and look withdrawn and NOW, there are procedures that fill out a gaunt face. The complete opposite of the cheek pad surgery. But in 1985 it enhanced an already good look. Today, HIV infected people won’t walk down the street feeling as though they look like they were wasting away. There is much more to it than that, but those are the basics.
                                  I saw “The Blue Bird” is Russian that was subtitled in English. Don’t ever do that. I am looking forward to seeing it in English. Amebic dysentery takes months to treat and a ton of weight is lost. I’ve seen the stills of the 1975 film…she was definitively thin…with Wynberg by her side.
                     Oprah is getting an Oscar. I’m surprised that it took this long. I like the idea the award is for film work only, but that’s just my two cents and it IS Oprah.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      La Liz was trim when she began “The Blue Bird” and fabulously thin by the time she escaped the production.  She couldn’t drink for weeks following the dysentery.  She didn’t look  as fresh until her 1983 rehab. 

      George Cukor.  Jesus.  He ended the careers of so many great ladies–Garbo, Norma Shearer, Marilyn…almost did in Sophia Loren.  Not to speak ill of of the dead, but–he was  a vicious old queen, and not such a great director.  Oh, sorry.  I have spoken ill of the dead.  Nevermind.

      Honey, “The Blue Bird” is  not better in English. 

      • avatar Sunnyside says:

        Sounds as though Mr. WOW is the real vicious old queen in addition to being the one without talent.  George Cukor directed great films throughout his career meanwhile MR WOW’s “career” consists of making snarky comments on a gossip website.  Pathetic.

  4. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Liz, thank you so much for writing this op-ed on Oprah.

    You have said what I have been trying to say for years, but my emotions color my words. Like her or hate her, she has done (in my opinion) exactly what someone that is worth billions should do, give back. Use the money to make the lives of others better.

    In her farewell show taped at the United Center in Chicago, there is a segment in which the producers of the show wanted to not just say how many people she has educated, but to have a visual. And in a moment that she has said was one of the most profound moments of her life – and truly one for me as well – in a darkened room one by one young men from Morehouse College in Atlanta came walking in, each carrying a candle. Hundreds and hundreds of young Black men each that received a college education solely because of her.  There was not a dry eye in the place.

    I loved watching the behind the scenes series because it gave those that lover her (and hate her) to see her for exactly who she is. And who she showed herself to be is exactly who I always thought she was. I still stand by my belief that women don’t acquire her level of wealth and power by being sweet, bubble gum kind women. You have to make hard choices, you have to assert yourself but at the same time you have to be honest and fair to gain the respect of those that work for you.  The people that work for her were clearly filled with pride that they work for her. Good pay, great benefits, long hours and respect. All of what an ambitious peron seeks.  She is such a unique woman.        

  5. avatar Rho says:

    Sorry, but  I have not been a fan of Oprah.

  6. avatar annee says:

    to belinda joy. I guess when people don’t know someone and are jealous or envious of
    of them they are viscious enough to make a negative judgement . I wish instead of
    that nasty behavior they would remember “when ones finger is pointing at another, the
    others are pointing back at them:”. Belinda, I echo your comment. I’m thrilled that
    Oprah is among those , who have private lives, and feelings for the less fortunate and
    doesn’t let B.S walk and money talk”

  7. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    And it matters how many movies 0prah  has been in to win this award to whom?  It matters to whom who wins the Oscar for anything these days?

    Cool for Oprah.