Last night’s Oscars snafu was the ultimate live TV moment in a rather conservative broadcast. In a jaw-dropping fuck-up of epic proportions, the wrong envelope ended up in the hands of Bonnie and Clyde stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Holding the actual envelope for the previously announced Best Actress category, Beatty stalled before passing the envelope to his former co-star who announced that La La Land won Best Picture. Nearly three acceptance speeches in, the mistake was clarified and Moonlight took home the gold.
But that wasn’t the first time the Oscars was plagued by an envelope swap.
In 1964, Sammy Davis Jr. was given the incorrect envelope while presenting Best Adaptation or Treatment Score. After reading the correct nominees off the teleprompter, Davis ended up announcing the Best Original Score recipient instead. “They gave me the wrong envelope?” he asked upon realizing what had happened. A PricewaterhouseCoopers rep quickly came to his aid with the right info and Davis joked: “Wait till the NAACP hears about this!”
Skip ahead to 1:30 to see how it went down.
Last night’s debacle was odd, but it was also great television. I feel bad for the La La Land producers who gave full heartfelt speeches for awards they didn’t win. I also feel horribly for the Moonlight team, whose moment of glory was forever hampered by the mistake. Watching them try to process what happened while also attempt to accept the award was incredibly unfortunate. However, the film is excellent and beyond worthy of the highest award the Academy has to offer.
So let’s make sure we celebrate Moonlight for everything it accomplished and try to shut out the controversy and noise once the news cycle dies down a bit. Because a black, gay drama just won Best Picture, and that’s something that demands respect.