The Emmys are pretty stingy when it comes to giving out posthumous awards. A 2017 Goldderby piece proclaimed that the reason the Emmys haven’t honored the dead is because the voters are not sentimental. I think that’s part of the reason, but I also think it’s just so sad when they do win. To clarify, it’s not that they shouldn’t have won, it’s just so emotional to see spouses, friends, children and co-workers go up on stage and accept the award in their honor.
Remember John Travolta’s impassioned acceptance speech for his late girlfriend Diana Hyland, and “Boy in the Plastic Bubble” co-star who won the Emmy for outstanding performance by a supporting actress in a comedy or dramatic special? She had died in his arms of breast cancer in March 1977 at the age of 41. The audience was crying as hard as Travolta. “Wherever you are, Diana, I love you,” he said through his tears. “You did it, baby.”
I imagine that even though both the Primetime and Creative Arts Emmys are virtual this year, there will probably be more than few tears shed with this year’s posthumous nominees Fred Willard and Lynn Shelton.
Funny man Willard, whom I fell in love with back in 1977 as Jerry Hubbard, the clueless sidekick of snarky talk show host Barth Gimble in the comedy series “Fernwood Tonight” and 1978’s “America 2-Night,” and is best known for being part of Christopher Guest’s repertory company, died this past May at the age of 86. He had earned four Emmys nomination for outstanding guest actor on a comedy series for playing Hank on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and as Phil’s dad, Frank Dunphy on “Modern Family.” Willard picked up a posthumous bid last week for his role as Frank. I hope he wins
Shelton was an award-winning indie film director/writer of such films as 2009’s “Humpday” and 2011’s “Your Sister’s Sister.” She was just 54 when she died in May. She earned her first Emmy nomination for directing last week for the “Find the Way” episode of Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere.”
One of the first actresses to earn a posthumous Emmy was Alice Pearce who received the honor in 1966 just a few months after her death of ovarian cancer at the age of 48 for her role as the ultimate busybody Gladys Kravitz on ABC’s “Bewitched.” She had been diagnosed with cancer before the series began and managed to complete nearly two seasons of the classic sitcom before her death. Her husband of two years, Paul Davis, accepted in her honor.
Two years later, “Bewitched” star Elizabeth Montgomery took the stage at the Emmy ceremony to accept the outstanding actress in a supporting role in a comedy series honor for the comedic treasure Marion Lorne, who had played the befuddled Aunt Clara on the show. She had just died 10 days before at the age of 84. Lorne had previously been nominated four times previously for the supporting actress Emmy including twice for the seminal early comedy series “Mister Peepers.”
Ingrid Bergman was nominated for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or special for her remarkable performance as Golda Meir in 1982’s “A Woman Called Golda.” She won the Emmy posthumously having died on her 67th birthday of breast cancer just three weeks before the ceremony. Her daughter Pia Lindstrom accepted the award. “I really do think she deserved this award,” she said, “She was very ill [during production} and she showed the same courage and determination that Golda did.”
I am an unabashed Audrey Hepburn fan. I took her death of cancer on Jan. 20, 1993 at the age of 63 pretty hard. But I did manage to watch the lovely documentary special “Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn,” which premiered the following day on TV. Hepburn would go on to win posthumously the Emmy for outstanding individual achievement. She became an EGOT winner in her death as she was also awarded a Grammy 1994 for best spoken word for children for Hepburn’s Enchanted Tales.” (In 1954, she won an Oscar for “Roman Holiday” and then a Tony three days later for “Ondine.”)
I never met Hepburn or saw her in person, but I was honored not only to see Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy on stage in “The Gin Game” and “Foxfire”– I also saw Tandy in “Rose” and “The Glass Menagerie” — I had the opportunity to interview them couple and then Tandy separately a few years later. So, I was excited when the couple were nominated for the charming 1993 “Hallmark Hall of Fame: To Dance with the White Dog.” The Emmy ceremony that year was Sept. 11, 1994. Earlier that morning, Tandy died at the age of 85 after a long battle with cancer. She didn’t win the Emmy that evening, but Cronyn did.
Raul Julia, who also had battled cancer and the effects of a stroke, died on Oct. 24, 1994 at the age of 54 just a few weeks after HBO’s aired “The Burning Season,” in which he was electrifying as murdered Brazilian activist Chico Mendes in HBO’s “The Burning Season.” Nearly a year later, his wife Merel Poloway accepted his Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or special. She told the audience: “`Raul used to say, `You know, if I ever win one of those awards, I think I’m going to get up there and I’m going to thank myself.’”
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