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Maitland McDonagh – A History of Horror and the Golden Globes

There are no horror movies among this year’s Golden Globe nominees, unless you want to count the best foreign-language feature nod to The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke’s icy examination of the systematic, multi-generational cruelty in a small German town. But that would be quite a stretch, even if Haneke did make Funny Games (2007).

That said, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has always been far more generous to the genre than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Maybe it’s their old-world roots: Many HFPA members come from places that take ghosts, shape shifters, ghouls, haints bog beasts and assorted other fiends very, very seriously. And they come from countries that take horror movies seriously too — it took the French to coin the word cinefantastique, which sounds so much classier than “fright flicks” or “monster movies.”

Whatever the reason, for 60 years, genre movies — horror, science fiction and fantasy — have gone home with shiny Golden Globe statues and the warm ‘n’ fuzzy feeling that somebody out there really, really likes them. Here are some highlights, along with a couple of dismal lows:

1944: Ingrid Bergman takes home a best actress award for Gaslight, in which she played a woman terrorized by her monstrous husband; to be fair, Bergman got an Oscar as well. Gaslight, by the way, gave the world the term “gaslighting,” as in systematically trying to make someone think he or she is crazy. Bergman’s husband does sneaky little things like rig the lights so they dim and flicker while they’re together and then, when she wonders innocently what could be wrong, denies that any such thing happened and solicitously asks whether she’s feeling quite all right.

1945: Angela Lansbury takes home a best supporting actress award for The Picture of Dorian Gray; she played a singer seduced and abandoned by the wicked Dorian. Lansbury was also nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Ethel Barrymore (None But the Lonely Heart).

1956: The White Reindeer (1953), a Finnish movie about a woman who becomes a were-reindeer, receives a special foreign-language film award.

1960: Psycho star Janet Perkins (one day to be known as Halloween star Jamie Leigh Curtis’ mom) gets a best actress award. The Academy nominated Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece for four awards and sent it home empty-handed.

1963: Tippi Hedren (The Birds) shares the New Star of the Year award with Dr. No‘s Ursula Andress and Elke Sommer for The Prize. It was a very blonde year.

1964: Agnes Moorhead is named best supporting actress for her part in the Southern Gothic horrors of Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte. Robert Wise gets a best director nomination for The Haunting, but loses to Elia Kazan for America, America.

1965: The sublimely disturbing The Collector, in which Terence Stamp “collects” pretty girls like Samantha Eggar, is nominated for best picture. Dr. Zhivago stole its thunder; Zhivago director David Lean, beat out The Collector‘s William Wyler and the best screenplay award for which John Kohn and Stanley Mann were nominated went to, yes, Zhivago‘s writers. But Eggar, who later starred in David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979), won best actress. How cool is that?

1967: Audrey Hepburn gets a best actress nomination for playing a blind woman terrorized by three sociopaths in Wait Until Dark (uber-fanboy Quentin Tarantino loves Wait Until Dark so much that when the play on which it was based was revived for Broadway in 1998, he played one of the sadists). She lost to elderly legend Edith Evans, whose psychological thriller The Whisperers emphasized pathetic tragedy rather than sadistic thrills. Wait Until Dark‘s Efram Zimbalist Jr. lost best supporting actor to Dr. Doolittle‘s Richard Attenborough, and The Fox walked away with the award for “best foreign film in English.”

1968: Ruth Gordon who the best supporting actress award for Roman Polanski’s masterful adaptation of Ira Levin’s pulp horror tale Rosemary’s Baby: Yay! Tony Curtis, nominated for best actor for The Boston Strangler, lost to Peter O’Toole (The Lion in Winter). Boo!

1971: A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s horrifying vision of a brutal future was nominated for three awards — best picture, actor and director — and lost to The French Connection in all categories.

1972: In another bizarrely bittersweet turn of events, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy picked up three nominations; one for the master of suspense himself, and two others for screenwriter Anthony Schaffer and best picture: All three went to The Godfather. But Ben, the sequel to “boy and his rat” love story Willard scuttled away with the award for best song. Squeaks of delight were heard behind baseboards all over America. Oh, and did I mention that “Ben” was sung by Michael Jackson?

1973: The Exorcist wins best picture and exploitation star-of-the-future Linda Blair went home with a best supporting actress award, and that’s not the half of it: William Friedkin was named best director and screenplay honors went to William Peter Blatty.
Yes, Paper Moon‘s Tatum O’Neill snatched New Star of the Year from Blair, and Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow lost out in the best acting categories, but in all, a good year for horror.

1974: Young Frankenstein‘s Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn were nominated in the Globes’ best and best supporting actress categories; Leachman lost out to Raquel Welch (The Three Musketeers) and Kahn was bested by future horror star Karen Black (Great Gatsby). And it went on: Ann Turkel was nominated in the New Star category for the psycho-gangster 99 and 44/100% Dead (1974) but lost to Susan Flannery for The Towering Inferno and Paul Williams’ extraordinary work on Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise was ignored in favor of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s score for The Little Prince. But hey — the nomination is its own reward, right?

1975: Steven Spielberg’s super-slick, game-changing, tarted-up B-movie Jaws nabbed four Golden Globe nominations and won one. This is a case where the Oscars did better… way better. But hey: Nobody’s perfect.

1987: Two words: Bunny boiling! That’s why Fatal Attraction, which would otherwise be a regular old erotic thriller, gets to be called horror. Sadly, it won none of the three Globes — Best actress and best supporting actress/drama (Glenn Close, Anne Archer) and best director (Adrian Lyne), for which it was nominated.

1991: Also known as the year Silence of the Lambs slew ’em at the Oscars, to the tune of seven nominations and five wins, including the big four: Best picture, actor (Anthony Hopkins), actress (Jodie Foster) and director (Roger Corman-protege Jonathan Demme), plus best adapted screenplay for Ted Tally. HFPA, by curious contrast, nominated only Hopkins and Tally, both of whom were passed over.

1994: Kirsten Dunst was nominated for her portrayal of a creepy-sexy little-girl vampire in Interview With the Vampire but lost to veteran Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway. Nice forward thinking, though, given that the Twilight of vampire mania was still a good decade in the future.

1997: The gimmicky Primal Fear was rightly ignored by the Academy, critics’ circles and other award-giving organizations, but no-one could ignore that gangly newcomer, the one with no previous credits aside from a segment of some made-for-TV language instruction program, who starred as an altar boy accused of slaughtering a priest. Edward Norton was nominated for an Oscar; he took home a Golden Globe.

1998: Billy Bob Thornton was nominated in the best supporting actor/drama category for cut-your-wrists thriller A Simple Plan, but lost to Ed Harris (The Truman Show).

2000: As an oblivious world continued to ignore signs that vampires were about to kick the lids off their coffins and take over the world, Willem Dafoe lost both Academy and Golden Globe awards for playing Nosferatu star “Max Schreck” in the meta-fright flick Shadow of the Vampire to future wolfman Benicio Del Toro (Traffic).

2006 Pan’s Labyrinth was nominated for best foreign language film, but lost to Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima. This was another atypical year when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did better by a horror movie than the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: It handed Guillermo del Toro’s chilling examination of the uses of enchantment six nominations and three awards.

2007: And the Golden Globe for best picture/musical or comedy goes to… Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street! Too bad Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) snatched the best director award from Tim Burton, but any year that a blood-soaked tale of cannibalism, madness and gin-addled children can take a best picture award in any category — let alone “musical or comedy” — is a banner year.

Will horrors such as these never cease? Let’s hope not — from where I’m standing, the Golden Globe awards are fighting the fight for my favorite genre. So how about it, fright fans? Tune in for a few minutes just to let them know you appreciate their open-mindedness!

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