Golden Globes: a bit goofy

January 15, 1994|By John Kehoe | John Kehoe,New York Times News Service

The spectacle of an old rogue still energetically plying his craft is somehow deeply charming. So it is with the 51st presentation of the Golden Globe awards, which will be broadcast live on the TBS cable network at 10 tonight.

In the overly solemn awards-giving business, the Golden Globes have a refreshing, even goofy, appeal. Yet conventional wisdom has it that the Golden Globes are a bellwether for the Oscars. Beyond the spectacle of a room full of famous people handing one another oddly shaped statuettes, the Golden Globes offer proof of a singular show business rule: No one cares if the deck is stacked as long as the show delivers.

Whatever it takes to lift an awards ceremony out of the ordinary, the Golden Globes has it. Historically the Golden Globes ceremony has delivered wacky awards, amateurish production values, scads of celebrities, phony recounts, blatant favor-trading and charges of corruption.

Last year there was a hoo-ha because 34 of the 86 members who voted for the Golden Globes took a junket to New York to meet the stars of "Scent of a Woman."

The movie subsequently won the award for best picture, and its star, Al Pacino, won the award for best actor. But the fuss "was totally unfair," says Nadia Bronson, the head of international marketing for Universal Pictures, which released "Scent of a Woman." "All the other studios send people on their junkets, too."

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which administers the awards, has 84 members this year: journalists for publications as august as Le Figaro and as obscure as Se og Hor of Denmark.

The Golden Globes ceremony has always preceded the Academy Awards by about six weeks, because, as its founding members realized, no one would care about them if they followed the Oscars.

For several years, the Globes languished in obscurity. "They were nothing," says James Bacon, a former Associated Press correspondent based in Hollywood. "Nobody cared. They were just a publicity thing."

In the face of such indifference, the association was quick to make a virtue out of improvisation. While the academy grew increasingly conservative, rarely instituting new award categories, the Golden Globes created, discarded and brought back categories with giddy abandon.

In 1948, the Golden Globes gave a "Special Award for Furthering the Influence of the Screen" to "Bambi," the Hindi version. That award was discontinued the next year.

The Globes endured, however, and the association grew more creative. A "Most Promising Newcomer" award was established to honor film rookies, male and female. The list of winners would soon include standouts like Richard Todd, Joe Adams, John Saxon, Susan Kohner, Ina Balin and Rita Tushingham.

In 1950, the association decided to split its acting awards into two categories, motion picture drama and motion picture comedy or musical -- an innovation that allowed awards to go to a total of four actors and actresses.

By the late '50s, the association was so in thrall to its award-making prowess it seemed to lose control: Golden Globes for "Best Documentary of Historical Interest," "Best Western Star" and "Best Outdoor Drama" were presented.

The process reached its height in 1956 with a special "Posthumous Award for Best Dramatic Actor" for James Dean.

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