2020/07/10

She Was Robbed!

Alice Brady

Amid the endless revelations of Hollywood's current moral and creative decay, it's refreshing to look back to the movie industry's Golden Age, when the scandals and intrigues at least had a hint of novelty.

Take the case of Alice Brady, one of the talented few whose career survived the end of the silent film era. The daughter of Broadway producer William Brady, Alice received Academy Award nominations for My Man Godfrey and In Old Chicago. She won Best Supporting Actress for the latter.

Unfortunately, and strangely, Alice was robbed of her award. That's not a figure of speech. Sick with the cancer that would kill her two years later, Brady chose not to attend the award ceremony. Nor did she send someone to accept the Oscar in her place. But that didn't stop the unknown man who emerged from the crowd, accepted the award from the presenter, and promptly disappeared, along with Brady's plaque--Best Supporting winners didn't get statues yet.

Hot tip: if you're ever cleaning an attic and you come across an old plaque that looks like this...

Alice Brady Academy Award

Get that sucker to an expert for appraisal, because it's possible you'll have found one of Tinseltown's long lost treasures. FYI, Alice Brady's name probably won't be on it since the plaque was stolen from the awards dinner itself. The award pictured above is a replacement issued by the Academy.

About the theft itself, Infogalactic states:
At the Academy Award presentation dinner, Brady's Oscar Award, a plaque (statuettes were not awarded for the Supporting categories until 1943) was stolen by a man who came onstage to accept the award on the absent actress's behalf. It was never recovered, and the impostor was never tracked down. The Academy issued a replacement plaque which was later presented to Brady.
Regarding the thief who stole Brady's award, his story isn't all that remarkable. But the twisted tale of how he acquired the means to steal an Oscar is among Hollywood's strangest.

As mentioned previously, Alice Brady suffered from a lingering form of cancer. She kept working for years even while fighting the disease. However, the cancer made her bones brittle, and she endured frequent incapacitating breaks that threatened her career.

Enter Alice's father William Brady. As luck would have it, William's job as a theater producer brought him into contact with a performer who could pull off an uncanny impression of Alice's voice, and with the right Hollywood makeup and wardrobe magic, be made to look like her identical twin sister.

The only complication? The actor who could perfectly impersonate Alice Brady was a dude.

Arthur Blake
As a man, Arthur Blake never rose much above the B list. As a frequent stand-in for Alice Brady, he may have won an Oscar. Late in the production of In Old Chicago, Brady became too ill to work, and Blake stepped in to finish her scenes.

Blake didn't attend the Academy Awards presentation, and his estate contained no Oscar when he died, so he wasn't the thief. He did have an invitation to the ceremony, though, making Blake's live-in boyfriend at the time the most likely culprit. Knowing that neither Blake nor Brady would be there, he may have become the most audacious party crasher of all time by stealing Blake's ticket, accepting Brady's Oscar, and making off with the award.

You've got to admit it, a caper like that is way gutsier than the far more debauched yet more pedestrian antics of Harvey Weinstein.

The 'Big Five' publishers didn't have the nerve for this type of book anymore.

6 comments:

  1. “making Blake's live-in boyfriend at the time the most likely culprit.“

    Current moral decay? Looks like the whole institution should have been burned to ground even before the Golden era.

    Interesting story though, even if once again we see communists never being punished for their crimes.

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    1. Think about the kind of brain that it takes to play pretend for a living. The constant disconnect from reality, even for films that are less than 90% CGI, begs for moral decay.

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  2. There indeed was a charm to the philandering of Hollywood stars and starlets during the Golden Era. Back then sin required bold initiative to pursue, as opposed to now when porn and gambling is packaged into apps on your phone, ready for you to indulge privately and in secret at any time.

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    1. One indicator that goodness transcends the qualitative level to the order of being is that even evil has degrees of perfection.

      One can rightly be called a "good safe cracker" or a "good forger".

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  3. The scandals of the day were limited by the need to stay employed. Performers were discouraged from advertising their character flaws as that might anger significant parts of the audience. The studio heads of the time didn't see ticking off the audience as a viable business strategy. In some cases (cough-new ghost busters-cough) that's still true.

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