For almost 60 years of Oscar action, DeMoss screams for the silver screen

Rhydian Talbot/Staff Writer

Director Martin Scorsese, acting legend George Clooney, English teacher and film aficionado Marguerite DeMoss — each, in their own right, Hollywood royalty.
For though only two of the three listed will be walking the red carpets at the 84th annual Academy Awards, only one has viewed each and every televised Oscars ceremony since its black-and-white television debut in 1953.

Though her resume is strung with character roles in various theater productions, DeMoss’ passion for acting’s big night burgeoned well before taking to the stage herself. “Ever since I could read I was in love with movies, always tearing through movie magazines and movie gossip,” DeMoss said. Such love, perhaps, was fostered by necessity. “In my small town, there wasn’t much to do except go to the movies or ride your bike around, so every Saturday afternoon for years I was at the matinee. We just had a little theater, and it just showed one movie on Saturday afternoon and three other nights a week. It was always, always a cowboy movie, and those would involve a little cartoon and newsreel.”

From cowboys and cartoons grew film genres starring some of America’s most famous historical heartthrobs. Big names like Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando took to the big screen, redefining the movie experience for viewers unfamiliar with such leading man potential. “There weren’t anything like teenage movies per se, but when James Dean came around, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. You can only imagine the devastation when news broke of his car crash,” DeMoss said.

With strong pulls to the world of films, 1953’s first televised Oscars ceremony drew DeMoss’ attention with ease. Citing winners like Shirley Booth’s best actress nod for “Come Back, Little Sheba” and Gary Cooper’s turn in “High Noon,” DeMoss recalled the television event with apparent attachment. “I was still fairly young, so it was a big deal that my grandparents let me stay up to watch. They sat to watch, too, and got so caught up in it that they forgot I was there, and I stayed up the whole time.”

Since the first airing in 1953, DeMoss has religiously followed the ballot race every year, annually following the award show and the hype surrounding it. Such longevity in dedication and time allows her to compare the star-studded show throughout the decades. “The ‘50s were always fun because you’d always get one or two films that were really racy for the time, and they just rocked the rafters because it all seemed so wicked!”

The 1960s and 1970s also provided memorable soundbites as stars utilized their stage time politically, treating the acceptance podiums as platforms for protest. DeMoss recalls Jane Fonda’s infamous Black Panther fist raise after her Best Actress win and the audience that booed Vanessa Redgrave for her acceptance speech that morphed into an attack against Israelies. Infamous protester Marlon Brando shook up the Academy Awards when he enlisted a Native American to accept his Best Actor award in his place and to deliver a statement about the misrepresentation of Native Americans in the film industry. “That was a scandalous year. Brando sends up this gorgeous Native American princess who, as it turns out, isn’t even Native American, just some actress he’d hired. That was also the same year a naked streaker ran behind [host] David Nimen,” she cackled.

Though format remains essentially the same — film-industry greats receive accolades, stars deliver gasping speeches that last too long, shows consistently run overtime — certain aspects of today’s Academy Awards differ from its inaugural television debut in 1953. “Nowadays, the productions are always just so much more extravagant than they ever have been. There weren’t really the red carpet affairs that they have today, and the jokes are much raunchier than they ever have been,” DeMoss noted.

The thrill of speculating, however, transcends time. “I’m typically always most interested in the nominees for Best Actor and Actress. My son usually calls and asks for predictions, but I’m fairly certain [Best Supporting Actor] Christopher Plummer will walk away this year, and it’s an absolute toss up between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis for Best Actress, and Best Actor is definitely going to be Jean Dujardin from ‘The Artist’ or George Clooney for ‘The Descendants,’” DeMoss said.

As DeMoss settles in on Feb. 26 to watch her predictions unfold, celebratory traditions from years past will be maintained. “I don’t dress up or throw elaborate parties. I’ll be celebrating the way I always do: with a big steak and a glass of red wine. My sons know I will not be answering the telephone during the broadcast, except during the commercials. They also know they can’t exceed commercials or else I’ll hang up,” she said, laughing.

The 84th Academy Awards airs at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 on ABC with red carpet coverage beginning at 4 p.m.

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