Moonlight and Yul Brynner
What to say about the 2017 Academy Award? I know – all they have to do is remove a card from an envelope and announce the name written on it. And yes, I know that many of these folks (especially Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway) have had a lot of practice reading, out loud, words written by other people. But hey, let's cut them some slack. These shows are run by people. And people make mistakes.
Now, I have read quite a few comments in news articles related to the Best Picture mistake. "The Russians hacked the Oscars." "La La Land won the popular vote." "They should just give everyone a trophy and call it a night – no hurt feelings that way." My goodness, some folks have a wit that can be as biting as it can be witty.
But I prefer to recall a bit of humor to offer some perspective. In 1957, the Oscars race for Best Actor featured a loaded field: Kirk Douglas for Lust for Life (his third and last nomination – he never won competitively, but nearly 40 years later, he was given a honorary award for his lifetime achievement); Laurence Olivier for Richard III (over his career, he would garner 11 nominations for acting and directing, winning one for acting and two more honorary awards for achievement); James Dean for Giant (his second nomination – both posthumous; if you can believe it; the only person so far to hold that distinction), Rock Hudson for Giant (his first and only nomination); and, the winner, Yul Brynner for The King and I (his only nomination and only win).
Yul Brynner was extremely gifted – he had a deep, commanding voice; a charismatic and intense stare; and a clean-shaven face and head that enabled him to project strength and command respect in any role he played (he made being bald cool, years before Michael Jordan). And he could play a variety of roles: he was the king of Siam in The King and I, the pharaoh Ramses in The Ten Commandments, the noble gunfighter Chris in The Magnificent Seven, and he even played an android of a noble gunfighter in Westworld. And he was completely convincing in all of them.
Yul Brynner had a remarkable, lauded career. But what I will remember about him most is that through it all, he was able to keep his sense of humor about things. On Oscars night, when Anna Magnani announced his name as the winner for Best Actor, Yul Brynner strode to the podium and gave an acceptance speech that lasted all of six seconds. In its entirety:
I hope this is not a mistake, because I won't give it back for anything in the world. Thank you very much.
For his sense of humor – especially with himself – Yul Brynner takes the award for being a truly wise man.