Kazan receives Academy award

The opening statement was written one of those who protested Elia Kazan's special Oscar award, given to him by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in March 1999.

The official demonstration against Elia Kazan's award was held just
across the street from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where the
ceremony was held. It was confined to a relatively small area
and only 500 (not including me) were permitted to join in the
area. Police security was, as you can imagine, extremely tight.

At one point, Jackie Goldberg, LA City Council member and
the only openly-lesbian local elected official, had to escort
Norma Barzman, the blacklisted screenwriter and Becca
Wilson, daughter of blacklisted screenwriter Micheal Wilson
through police lines to be able to join the main protest.

Two hundred more of us, held an additional demonstration half
a block away, which was addressed by some of the blacklisted
as well. David Clennon was the only currently performing
actor who joined our part of the demonstration. We were part
of the main protest, but were prevented by police from joining
it, on supposed security grounds.

All together some 700 picketed to protest the award to Kazan.

Kazan supporters marched in two separate contingents: one,
the Ad Hoc Committee to Name Names, was created by the
Ayn Rand Institute and had perhaps twenty picket signs.  The
other was a coalition of the Young Americans for Freedom
(about a dozen) and the Jewish Defense League, led by
Irv Rubin and one other familar face. I stood near them and
there were no more than a dozen in their contingent. The
Rand supporters and the YAF-JDL groupings were across
the street from one another.

from the Los Angeles Times:

Monday, March 22, 1999
The 71st Academy Awards
Many Refuse to Clap as Kazan Receives Oscar
By PATRICK GOLDSTEIN, Times Staff Writer

      Hollywood still isn't sure whether it's ready to forgive Elia Kazan. 
In an appearance that was considerably less dramatic than the controversy
leading up to Sunday's Academy Awards, the 89-year film titan received a
mixed reaction as he took the stage to receive his honorary Oscar at the
71st annual Academy Awards ceremony. 

     Demonstrators had noisily protested the acclaimed director's lifetime
achievement award outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion earlier in the
day, urging Oscar-goers to sit on their hands during Kazan's appearance.
According to eyewitnesses at the ceremony, many in the audience stood and
applauded, but an almost equal number stayed seated and did not applaud. 

     Television cameras caught Warren Beatty, Helen Hunt and Meryl Streep
standing and applauding. Steven Spielberg remained seated, although he
applauded; actors Nick Nolte, Ed Harris and Amy Madigan made a point of
staying in their seats and not applauding. 

     Noting the applause he received as he slowly walked out on stage on
the arm of his wife, Frances, Kazan said, "I really like to hear that.  I
want to thank the Academy for its courage and generosity. I'm pleased to
say what's best about them--they're damned good to work with." 

     Kazan gave a big hug to director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro,
who introduced him, then added: "Thank you all very much.  I think I can
just slip away." 

     Producer Mark Johnson, who won an Oscar for "Rain Man" and supported
Kazan's award, said, "It was a nonevent, wasn't it? Watching it on TV, you
wouldn't have known there was such a big controversy.  The big
disappointment was that Kazan didn't address it one way or another." 

     Even Kazan's foes agreed that his appearance seemed anticlimactic. 
"I was more overwrought over [Roberto] Benigni getting the best actor
award, because I didn't like the movie," said Walter Bernstein, who wrote
"The Front" about his days as a blacklisted writer in the 1950s. "The only
good thing is that it may have made more people aware that there once was
a blacklist." 

     About 500 protesters gathered outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Sunday afternoon, armed with placards adorned with such slogans as "Elia
Kazan: Nominated for the Benedict Arnold Award," "Don't Whitewash the
Blacklist" and "Kazan--the Linda Tripp of the '50s." 

     Across the street, pro-Kazan protesters, numbering about 60, carried
yellow signs saying "Kazan: Defender of Freedom in America" and "Hollywood
Communists Should Apologize." 

     The Academy's decision to give Kazan an honorary Oscar had become the
hottest issue in Hollywood. The gesture at first seemed to signal an end
to years of wrangling over Kazan's April 10, 1952, testimony before the
House Un-American Activities Committee. Called before the committee at the
height of the Red Scare, the director informed on eight of his old friends
from the Group Theater who, like Kazan, had once been members of the
Communist Party. 

     Kazan's testimony, and his refusal to apologize for it in later
years, made the legendary director something of a nonperson in politically
liberal Hollywood. Recognized as perhaps the leading film and theater
director of his time, Kazan made a star out of Marlon Brando in the film
version of "A Streetcar Named Desire," directed James Dean in "East of
Eden"  and gave Warren Beatty his first starring role in "Splendor in the

     But in recent years, Kazan was snubbed by several prestigious
Hollywood organizations, including the American Film Institute and the Los
Angeles Film Critics Assn., both of which refused Kazan lifetime
achievement awards. 

     A week after the Academy's decision, Academy President Robert Rehme
said he had received an "overwhelming" positive reaction. But instead of
signaling an end to the debate over Kazan's actions, the honorary Oscar
sparked an acrimonious war of words that spread from the Hollywood trade
papers to publications as far left as the Nation and as far right as the
editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. 

     A host of surviving writers and actors, who were blacklisted in the
1950s for refusing to testify before HUAC, denounced the Kazan award. 
Kazan defenders included a number of Hollywood actors and directors,
including Warren Beatty and Nora Ephron, as well as playwright Arthur
Miller and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who called the criticism of
Kazan "an orgy of self-righteous frenzy." 

     Several fights broke out Sunday between anti- and pro-Kazan factions,
prompting police to separate protesters and disperse the crowd. Police
called out reinforcements and arrested one person for fighting, according
to an LAPD spokesman. 

     Robert Lees, a screenwriter who was blacklisted in the 1950s, said,
"Kazan crawled through the mud for a [big money] contract at 20th Century
Fox. He should apologize." 

     Joan Scott, a writer who was blacklisted along with her husband,
Adrian Scott, one of the Hollywood 10, said: "Like Judas, informers are
never forgiven. I had to go into hiding to avoid a subpoena. Being
blacklisted still affects me." 

     Kazan defenders were equally vociferous in support of the director. 
"Mr. Kazan was a moral hero," said Scott McConnell, a leader of the Ad Hoc
Committee for Naming Facts, organized by the Ayn Rand Institute.  "He was
a brave and courageous man, and the people who should apologize are the
Communists who wanted him to stay quiet about what he had witnessed." 

     In addition to his honorary award, Kazan won two Best Director
Oscars, for "Gentleman's Agreement" in 1947 and "On the Waterfront" in

     Kazan's honorary Oscar prompted a flurry of comic asides during the
Oscar telecast. Oscar host Whoopi Goldberg made a veiled reference to the
controversy in her opening remarks, quipping: "I thought the blacklist was
me and Hattie McDaniel." 

     Presenting a sound effects editing award, comic Chris Rock said that
he ran into Kazan and Robert De Niro backstage, joking: "You better get
Kazan away from De Niro, because you know, he hates rats." 

Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved


Document URL: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/kazan-protest.html
Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:42:18 EDT