Actors Bill Paxton and Anne Jeffreys were left out of Oscar's 'In Memoriam.'

For, Friday, March 9, 2018

Every year the Academy Awards show takes a few minutes out for an “In Memoriam” segment, with photos or film clips of prominent motion picture figures that died during the past year.

And every year there are people left out, causing family members, friends and fans to complain.

Often, those that aren’t included are not very well known to the general public, or, due to their having been retired for some years, they are not well remembered. And others may have been in a movie or two, but are better known for television or music or some other field of show business, and therefore it makes sense to skip them in a show devoted to the motion picture industry.

But this year, some that didn’t show up raised my eyebrows, names that seem to me much more important than some of the obscure folks to whom the Academy paid tribute.

Last year, Bill Paxton died just before the Oscarcast, so it was impossible to include him in the 2017 “In Memoriam” segment. But he did get a brief shout-out from presenter Jennifer Aniston, who choked up a bit. (Check it out here.)


    Also fogotten were Robert Guillaume and John Mahoney.

As a result, Paxton was expected by many to show up in last Sunday’s “In Memoriam” segment. But he didn’t make the cut.

Others who passed away last year and were ignored in this year’s Oscar “In Memoriam” segment are arguably less well-known character players — but they did appear in many, many movies: Miguel Ferrer, Stephen Furst, Anne Jeffreys, Lola Albright. …

And Robert Guillaume and John Mahoney, who were best known for their television roles, on “Soap” and “Frasier,” respectively — but Guillaume was in a lot of movies and provided important voice work for “The Lion King,” while Mahoney made an impression in “Say Anything” and “Moonstruck,” among other films.

Guillaume died last October, and although Mahoney died in February, that left plenty of time for him to be included. And the same goes for Lewis Gilbert, veteran director of multiple James Bond films, who also passed in February.

Another surprising filmmaker who was left out was Tobe Hooper, the director of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” “Poltergeist” and many other pictures.

Hooper and Gilbert are especially surprising because they helmed films that were nominated for Oscars. “Poltergiest” was nominated in three categories — and Gilbert took home a best-director Academy Award for “Alfie.”

Which brings me to what I consider the worst omission: Dorothy Malone.


Dorothy Malone, before and after, in 'The Big Sleep,' with Bogie.

Malone began her movie career in 1940, and gained wide attention after making a knockout impression in just one brief sequence opposite Humphrey Bogart in the 1946 mystery “The Big Sleep.” (You can watch that scene here.)

As a bookish plain-Jane who greets private eye Philip Marlowe (Bogart) when he enters her bookstore, Malone’s character provides him with some key information about a crook that owns another bookstore across the street.

After some innuendo-laden banter, she removes her glasses and lets down her hair. Plain Jane is transformed — and she knows it. Marlowe is interested. It’s a classic scene in a classic movie, driving the narrative forward while providing a sexy, funny and memorable moment.

Malone continued to appear in several movies each year over the next decade, mostly supporting roles opposite bigger stars, including westerns, film noir thrillers, a couple of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis comedies and a wide variety of other genre pictures.


                        Dorothy Malone and Oscar

Then, her career was kicked up a notch after she landed a showy role as a self-destructive alcoholic in the glossy 1956 melodrama “Written on the Wind,” starring Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including Malone as best supporting actress.

And she won. (Here’s the film’s trailer.)

You could argue that since she died in January of this year (at age 93), perhaps she’ll be in next year’s Oscar “In Memoriam” rundown. But after Bill Paxton, that doesn’t seem likely.

The Academy Awards don’t pretend to be fair, not with the trophies that are handed out by movie stars to movie stars (it’s basically a popularity contest) — and certainly not with the “In Memoriam” feature.

But of the many names overlooked this year, Oscar-winner Malone’s exclusion seems the most egregious.