Oscar Actors: Cher

In 1983, Silkwood benefited from fifty pages in Variety, Yentl from thirty-one, and Terms of Endearment from twenty-eight. Terms of Endearment, which won, did not need as much publicity as Yentl or Silkwood, because it opened to rave reviews and immediately became a boxoffice hit. It was also a much easier film to sell than either Yentl or Silkwood.

Advertising ensures that a movie will not be accidentally overlooked, which was crucial to Yentl, since it divided critics and opened to lukewarm reviews–it received five nominations. It's hard to tell whether Silkwood's five nominations were attributable to the ad campaign. Meryl Streep would have been nominated for Best Actress and Mike Nichols for Best Director without the campaign–anything with Streep gets extra attention. But Cher, nominated for supporting award, certainly benefited from the campaign.

It may be a coincidence, but in 1987, Streep and Cher found themselves competing in the same category, when the former was nominated for Ironweed and the latter for Moonstruck.

Admittedly, Streep and Nicholson, both Oscar-caliber performers, were nominated for typically “Oscar stuff” roles: Alcoholic drifters in Depression-era Albany, and Streep even got to sing. But the mixed reviews to Hector Babenco's downbeat and flawed adaptation of the prize-winning novel called for extra-campaigning on behalf of the performers, especially since the film was a commercial failure. Hence, Streep agreed to pose for the cover of Life magazine, which ran a story titled, “On Top–and Tough Enough to Stay There.” And the distributor, TriStar, took many ads in the trade papers and organized special screenings for small groups of influential members.

As for Cher, she proved that timing is everything, and campaigns can create a momentum for a film or a performance, start the buzz within the film colony. A vet performer, Cher knew all too well the rules of the publicity game. During the run of Moonstruck, which got good notices and was popular with the public, Cher decorated the cover of every possible magazine, from the more serious, Newsweek, to the more specialized, Health and Fitness. At the time, she was a spokesperson for Jack LaLanne health clubs.

It did not hurt that as a singer, Cher's new album hit the charts, and it also didn't hurt that she was dating a handsome beau, Robert Camilletti, who was almost half her age. One couldn't escape Cher's presence: She finally agreed to appear on the David Letterman Show for a reunion with former partner, Sonny Bono. In a moment of honesty, she confided in New York magazine: “Sometimes I feel like an old hooker. Just because they've stayed alive and stayed around, people start to respect them.” That Cher won the Best Actress that year goes without saying.