Whoopi Goldberg will be the special guest at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “Monday Nights with Oscar” screening of Steven Spielberg’s 1985 Best Picture nominee The Color Purple on Monday, April 16, at 7 p.m. at the Academy Theater in New York City. Goldberg will participate in a post-screening discussion about the film.
The Color Purple, adapted by Menno Meyjes from Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, tells the story of a young black woman’s struggle against racism, machismo, poverty, and all-around human nastiness in the American South of the early 1900s. This potentially gripping tale became mush in the hands of Steven Spielberg, who inherited D.W. Griffith’s flair for turning pathos into bathos. But just like Griffith in his heyday, Spielberg knows his audience. The Color Purple went on to become one of the biggest grossers of 1985-86.
In addition to Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple stars Danny Glover and Margaret Avery – who gives the best performance in the film. Oprah Winfrey, before she became Queen of Talk Shows and Oracle for the Masses, made her feature film debut in this melodrama.
But more interesting than just about anything that takes place on screen were two real-life brouhahas that erupted at Oscar time.
First, right before the end of the voting period, Margaret Avery decided to place an ad in the trades that read, “Dear God, My name is Margaret Avery. I knows that I been blessed by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg, and Quincy Jones. Now I is up for one of the nominations fo’ Best Supporting Actress alongst with some fine, talented ladies that I is proud to be in the company of. Your little daughter Margaret Avery.”
Avery later said that Alice Walker had approved the ad, but the actress was accused of displaying poor judgment, nevertheless.
“The ad cost me a kitchen stove,” Avery later told People. “It’s easy to give lip service to thanking God, but I wanted to do something that would force me to give up something. I had been wanting a stove for ten years.”
Compounding matters, after the nominations were announced the Academy’s director’s branch was accused of being elitist, bigoted, and treasonous because The Color Purple received 11 nominations whereas Steven Spielberg didn’t get one for best director. How dare the director’s branch nominate instead that old Chinese guy, Akira Kurosawa, for Ran? (Only three films with more than 10 Academy Award nominations have failed to get a best director nod.*)
In any case, the Directors Guild of America, ever the champion of downtrodden multi-millionaire directors of commercial flicks, made sure Spielberg won their DGA trophy that year.
And whether or not God felt sorry for Margaret Avery’s stovelessness, she did get an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
The other nominees were:
Actress in a Leading Role (Whoopi Goldberg), Actress in a Supporting Role (Oprah Winfrey), Art Direction (J. Michael Riva, Robert W. Welch; Set Decoration: Linda DeScenna), Cinematography (Allen Daviau), Costume Design (Aggie Guerard Rodgers), Make-Up (Ken Chase), Music– Original score (Quincy Jones, Jeremy Lubbock, Rod Temperton, Caiphus Semenya, Andrae Crouch, Chris Boardman, Jorge Calandrelli, Joel Rosenbaum, Fred Steiner, Jack Hayes, Jerry Hey, Randy Kerber), Music - Original song (“Miss Celie’s Blues [Sister],” Music by Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton; Lyric by Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, Lionel Richie), Best Picture (Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Quincy Jones, producers), Writing - Screenplay based on material from another medium (Menno Meyjes).
The Color Purple shares the record for most Academy Award nominations without a single win. (If only Margaret Avery had also given up her fridge…) Only one other film, The Turning Point (1977), directed by Herbert Ross, has earned as many nominations without winning in any of the categories.
“Mondays Night with Oscar” is a monthly series showcasing high-quality prints of films that have been nominated for or won Academy Awards. This screening will feature a newly struck print from the Academy Film Archive.
Though the reservation list is currently full, the MNWO hotline is accepting names for the waiting list. Please call 1-888-778-7575 to add your name to that list. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the screening are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.
The Academy Theater is located at 111 East 59th Street in New York City.
* In 1942, the baseball melodrama The Pride of the Yankees received 11 nominations, but director Sam Wood didn’t get one. However, that same year Wood’s name could be found in the best director shortlist for his handling of the dysfunctional family melodrama Kings Row. (It should be noted that back in 1942, there were more – sometimes many more – than five nominees in most categories, including best film. But there were only five slots for directors.)