Oscar Show 1967: Taylor and Burton Sabotaging the Awaards

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Elizabeth Taylor, who won her second Best Actress Oscar, for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966), was upset that her then husband, actor Richard Burton, lost, believing that he gave the best performance of the year.  Burton knew that he had no chance of winning after Paul Scofield was cited by the New York Film Critics Circle, for “A Man for All Seasons.”

To his credit, Burton didn’t try to conceal that he was hurt, having lost out on six previous occasions. “I want the Oscar,” he told close friends, “I’ve won all kinds of little Oscars but not the big one.”
 
Burton talked his wife out of attending the Oscar ceremonies, despite promises made to Jack Warner that she would, and despite predictions that she would win. The excuse given to the Academy by Hollywood’s royal couple was their need to be on the settings of their new film, “The Comedians,” in France.   However, no one believed that.
 
Taylor later rationalized their decision: “I’ve gone to those award dinners four times, won it once, for not dying.  The only time I didn’t go was when I was nominated for “Raintree Country,” because the dinner was just two weeks after Mike (Todd) was killed.  They didn’t expect me to go.  But most of the time you’re supposed to, if you possibly can, whether you’ve got a chance of winning or not. It’s for the industry.”
 
Anne Bancroft accepted the award for Taylor, which prompted emcee Bob Hope to quip: “It must be nice to have enough talent just to send for one.”
 
Taylor’s absence was criticized since all pre-award polls predicted she would win. “Everybody was talking about it backstage,” Walter Matthau, the supporting winner that year (“The Fortune Cookie”) recalled.  “When the winners aren’t present, it denigrates the whole thing, it cheapens it, it lessens the value, the drama, the excitement.”
 
In the same year, the other supporting acting winner, Sandy Dennis (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) also didn’t attend the show, because she was performing in New York; besides, she hated flying.  “It’s much easier to go than raise a storm of criticism,” Dennis later admitted.
 
Contestants in all categories are expected to attend the ceremonies regardless of their chances to win. Indeed, in the last decade most have been present. Even so, the Oscar show, more than other awards, is fun for the winners, but not for the losers, as every gesture is mercilessly recorded and instantly broadcast all over the world.