Ghost (1990): Oscar Winning Romantic Comedy, Starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg in Oscar Role

A high-concept romantic supernatural, Jerry Zucker’s “Ghost” became a blockbuster, grossing worldwide $500 million, half of which domestically. Zucker, better known for his spoofs (“Airplane”), benefited from Bruce Joel Rubin’s well-written scenario, which won the Original Script Oscar.

A “Yuppie” movie, released at the end of a cycle of films about this type of lifestyle, the saga centers on Patrick Swayze, who is killed early on in what seems to be a mugging, but later turns out to be a cold murder by a man he had known. Demi Moore, then at the height of her box-office popularity, plays his devastated lover, who’s also in danger of being killed by the same man. Since Swayze is unable to communicate with her directly, he enlists the help of a psychic, Ada (Whoopi Goldberg), a con artist-medium who can hear but not see him.

Inexplicably Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, “Ghost” competed for the coveted award with Penny Marshall’s “Awakenings,” Coppola’s last chapter in his Mafia epic, “The Godfather: Part III,” Scorsese’s crime-gangster biopic “GoodFellas,” and Kevin Costner’s neo-Western “Dances With Wolves,” which won.

In 1990, when Goldberg won the Supporting Actress for Ghost, she became the first black actress to win an Oscar since Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind, back in 1939. So much for progress.

Goldberg told the press rather revealingly: “I never say I’m black when I’m looking for work. I just don’t admit it, because as soon as you say it, they tell you there’s no work for you. You wouldn’t say to a doctor that he couldn’t operate on your kneecap because he is black. In the same way, art should have no color and no sex.”

Goldberg, no doubt, benefited form the bonanza success of Ghost, and from the fact that the supernatural romantic melodrama was nominated for major Oscars, including Best Picture. Only a few critics at the time pointed out that Goldberg’s role in Ghost was problematic and stereotypical. As Oda Mae Brown, a fake medium dressed in a gold lame dress and sporting long hair, Goldberg operates in the realm of other-worldly spirits, what Bogle has described as “an old stereotype revamped for a new generation.”

The part certainly did not promote a more realistic view of black woman, as Goldberg’s character is an asexual oddball, with no personal life of her own, channeling all her energy toward uniting two lovers, and getting an epiphany while pulling off a bank scam at the end.