“Years ago, when Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon were getting divorced, a perhaps apocryphal story appeared in the scandal sheets: As an example of Grant’s supposed irrationality, Cannon cited to the judge Cary’s yearly habit of sitting in front of his television and sardonically abusing all the participants. This item, true or not, must have amused nearly everyone in Hollywood, since nearly everyone in Hollywood does pretty much the same thing.
The funny thing is that from all accounts, when the Academy Awards began in 1939, they were conducted in a similar spirit of irreverence, something that has practically disappeared from the event itself. “They used to have it down at the old Coconut Grove,” Jimmy Stewart told me in the late 70s. “You’d have dinner and alawta drinks — the whole thing was…it was just…it was a party. Nobody took it all that seriously. I mean, it was swell if ya won because your friends were givin’ it to you, but it didn’t mean anything at the bawx office or anything. It was just alawta friends gettin’ together and tellin’ some jokes and gettin’ loaded and givin’ out some little prizes. My gawsh, it was..there was no pressure or anything like that.”
Cary Grant corroborated this to me: “It was a private affair, you see — no television, no radio, even — just a group of friends giving each other a party. Because, you know, there is something a little embarrassing about all these wealthy people publicly congratulating each other. When it began, we kidded ourselves: ‘All right, Freddie March,’ we’d say, ‘we know you’re making a million dollars — now come up and get your little medal for it!’“
-excerpted from Peter Bogdanovich’s Who the Hell’s In It