Oscar Politics: Campaigns by Fox for Turkeys–Doctor Dolittle

Needless to say, the Academy’s warnings against excessive campaigns didn’t change the situation at all. On the contrary, in the 1960s, advertising campaigns for less than worthy films reached their peak, resulting in a severe decline in the Academy’ s public credibility. Fox outdid the other studios after its successful campaign for “The Sound of Music,” which was dubbed in the industry as “The Sound of Money.”

In the next four years, Fox was determined to win nominations and awards at all costs for such clinkers as The Sand Pebbles, Doctor Dolittle, and Hello, Dolly!. Through special screenings, fancy banquets with resplendent menus, and letters to each member, Fox managed to get multiple nomination for those aforementioned movies, which was enough to repudiate the Oscar’s prestige in the public eye. Fox’s campaigns showed that the most dismal films could get nominations, if they are sold and marketed by the right campaigns. Many began to suspect that Oscar’s function has changed from honoring the best films to rescuing faltering films at the box office. Labeled as “Oscar’s rescue mission, the whole issue soon became a public joke.

To be sure, the Oscars have always had effects on the commercial status of the winning films, and the ceremonies’ ability to promote movies has always been known as a public fact. Nonetheless, it is one thing to honor decent films such as Chariots of Fire, which was critically acclaimed but initially commercially unsuccessful, and quite another, to nominate mediocre films like Cleopatra, as a compensation for its immense budget. To honor a downright artistic failure like Doctor Dolittle, in order to help recoup its mammoth costs, was downright embarrassing.