Going to the Oscars? Your chariot awaits… Then and now…

March 26, 1958:

1958 Oscars at Pantages

The 30th Academy Awards were big for David Lean and Bridge on the River Kwai and for an actress named Joanne Woodward who toted home a statue for her performance in The Three Faces of Eve. On her big night out Miss Woodward wore an evening gown she had stitched together herself. While today’s stars have a retinue of stylists, makeup artists, and hairdressers arrive at their homes to make them camera-ready; Joanne went to the studio.

After the awards she and her husband, Paul Newman, stopped at a grocery store to pick up some celebratory beer on their way to the Governors Ball… Or, so the story goes.

These days, after the primping, a limo arrives at three in the afternoon to pick you up and take you to the Dolby Theater on Hollywood Blvd.  The streets all around the theater are closed to through traffic.

The limo has a fully stocked bar. Once you reach Hollywood Blvd. you might have had a glass or two of champagne, which makes the traffic jam of Town Cars jockeying for position fascinating.

Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur (the 1925 version)…Irving Thalberg produced…William Wyler was an Assistant Director and would later direct the 1959 version…Hollywood turned out as extras in togas and sat and cheered in the arena during the chariot race (Joan Crawford, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, Samuel Goldwyn, Coleen Moore, etc.)…Cowboys drove the chariots…Now over 700 limos slide into place with drivers alert to every moment of the race (Oscar-wise)…

Walking down the red carpet, if you are in the wake of a star, you will see cameras, handlers, and press in a tightly orchestrated blitz of PR. If you’ve been nominated you are riding an adrenaline wave – and everything sparkles.

Let’s walk inside. The Dolby Theater (formally the Kodak) was built for the express purpose of hosting the awards. It is state of the art. Seating arrangements vary, but usually you are seated with fellow nominees in your category. If your name is called you have only three minutes (total) to get from your seat to the stage, find your notes — or regain your thoughts — and deliver your speech. It goes by in one explosive heartbeat.

Afterwards there’s dinner and dancing at the Governors ball, and if you’re carry a golden statue that’s all the invitation you need for the after parties. You’ll probably glide into bed between two and three in the morning, exhausted, elated, and probably harboring a cold.



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