In 2018 I traveled to Egypt with a small group of people on a tour led by William and Clare...
Henry. We stopped for lunch one day at a restaurant owned by a wealthy merchant who had an adjacent store where he sold many kinds of clothing and other useful items. While we were eating, someone in our group mentioned to the merchant that I was Producer of the Academy Awards. I tried to explain to him that I had not "Produced" the awards show although I had worked on the international version as Associate Director. To my astonishment he was extremely impressed and regarded me as someone very special. He gave me his business card and encouraged me to return to Egypt as his guest. He said he had a very large home on a big estate with the swimming pool that I could enjoy. I would have my own private room and I could stay as long as I wished! I had no idea how important the Academy Awards show was to people on the other side of the world. That memory brings to mind this story: I was cleaning the garage the other day when I ran across my script for 1977 Academy Awards show. The script had a fancy leather bound cover embossed with the name of the show with my name below it. That was the year when Vanessa Redgrave was nominated for her role in Julia as best supporting actress. My job as Associate Director was to edit the three and a half hour telecast down to 55 minutes for the international version of the show which would be seen by an even larger audience of a billion people. This job required me to be editing overnight even as the live show was on the air in order to make the 8 o'clock in the morning deadline when we would feed it via satellite to the rest of the world.
Editing out over two and a half hours from a three and a half hour broadcast was demanding and difficult. For example, on this particular show I took Bob Hope's 20 minute monologue and cut it down to his best three jokes.
As the award for Best Supporting Actress was given to her, Vanessa Redgrave thanked all of her friends and the pool man, and then launched into a long tirade against Zionist "hoodlums" and then she asked us to support the PLO and told us how we should all love Yasser Arafat.
From my point of view, cutting her speech was an easy edit: I knew my version of the ‘Academy Awards Show’ would be seen everywhere in the whole world and especially be shown to a number of nations who would not necessarily agree with Ms. Redgrave’s political broadside. Therefore, after my cut, her speech ran like this: "I think Jane Fonda and I have made the best picture of our lives, and I would especially want to thank our Director, Fred Zinnemann. (Applause, applause, applause)".
Beautiful! I just lopped out 20 minutes and improved the show at the same time!
The NABET Tape Editor and I had worked all night to get the show pared down to the required 55 minutes. We finished just in time to feed it to London at 8AM our time. Then I made the 25 minute drive home in morning LA traffic, looking forward to a few hours of rest. However, that was not in God’s plan.
As I exited the garage, my wife, Lisa, came to the door. “I’m sorry honey. You must be exhausted. But Gregory Peck is on the phone and he wants to talk to you. He says it’s urgent!”
Lisa passed me the phone. Puzzled, I pressed the receiver to my ear:
“Hello, Mr. Peck. This is Ron Bacon. What’s up?”
“Well, Ron, I just got a phone call from London, and they said they got the feed OK, but it seemed to be missing part of Vanessa Redgrave’s speech. Do you know what they are talking about?”
I said, “Sure. I cut it. The show was too long and it was an easy place to get some time. Besides I know the Academy doesn’t like it when its members use the show to make political speeches.”
“Well, Ron, evidently the British Press is all over this thing and the London Office insists her speech needs to be part of their show. We don’t have any choice but to put it back in.”
Mr. Peck was certainly being cordial, but firm. He gave me the phone number of somebody I needed to contact in London and we said goodbye.
I felt like I had just been hit in the stomach. I called London, but I couldn't remember the name of the guy I needed to talk to. It was Martin Crothers or something like that. Maybe it was Crothers Martin. I have always had difficulty remembering names. I tried visualization. I had associated the name, Martin, with a martini glass. Unfortunately, I said, “Mr. Martini I don’t know how I can ever find 20 minutes to cut in order to make room for Redgrave’s entire speech. We’ll never get it done in time for air.”
There was a long silence, heavy breathing. Then he said, “The name is Martin... Look, we’ll just let the show run over. It’s imperative that the PLO speech be in there. Just send me the part you took out and we’ll do the editing here. Then we’ll still have the 55 minute copy to run in places other than Britain.”
Wow! Hallelujah! I could have kissed Martin, or whatever they do to thank someone on the other side of the pond. I guess not much.
You know they say: ‘"Keep a tight upper lip!"