Presidents and the Oscars

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Since American presidents play a prominent role in this year’s Oscar race for best picture, this Presidents Day, less than a week before the Oscars presentations, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the old Hollywood-Washington connection.

Of course, one of the best picture nominees is Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of the 16th president was marvelous. I believed I was watching President Lincoln on the screen. Many who deal in the world of politics could identify with the policy and political machinations in the tale. Interestingly, while attributed to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize winning tome, Team of Rivals, the movie encompasses only about four pages of the 700-plus-page book.

At the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, former President Bill Clinton introduced the Lincoln movie. Former President Jimmy Carter also became involved with the current crop of Oscar contenders confirming the truth about the events of Argo, based on the true story of rescuing Americans during the Iran hostage crisis during the Carter presidency.

President Obama is not directly involved in the Zero Dark Thirty film, but the current president is clearly on anyone’s mind that watches the film, knowing that the president approved the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.

Hollywood Oscar campaigns can resemble political campaigns. While ads in newspapers have diminished to a great extent in political campaigns over the years, anyone reading newspapers in Los Angeles are subjected to multiple ads asking potential Oscar voters to consider the contending films.

The number of radio and TV commercials also increase on the L.A. air at this time not only encouraging potential viewers but also attempting to influence Academy Award voters.

Some movies have been entangled in political discussions beyond presidential connections. Prominent senators, including California’s Dianne Feinstein, have challenged the torture scenes in Zero Dark Thirty.

As to the Oscar race, one has to hope the political inclination of Hollywood won’t hurt the chances of Republican Abraham Lincoln, will it? And, as one astute observer pointed out, Argo may have an advantage because the movie business plays a hero’s role in the film and for Academy members supporting Argo might be like a candidate voting for him or her self.

By the way if you want to find out what happened to Mr. Lincoln after the theater—and I admit this is a bit shameless—may I recommend Lincoln’s Hand. In my mystery novel set in present day, the catalyst of the story is the true attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body in 1876. What happened to his coffin after the body napping attempt and the question: Is Lincoln in his tomb? spur the story to its conclusion. There’s a link to the book’s website on this page.

I’m rooting for the Lincoln movie to take the top prize.

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