Like the Pyramids of Giza or the temples at Angkor, Bette Davis’ maximum magnificence really kicked in once she became a crumbling ruin.
In 1987 Geraldine Page, the previous year’s Best Actress, was too sick with kidney disease to attend the ceremony (she passed away three months later) and so Miss Davis presented that year’s Best Actor Oscar.
A loving montage of her performances and a thundering announcement of her Academy-related accomplishments played before her appearance at the podium. Miss Davis took in a lengthy standing ovation, before dismissing the adulation with a quick line of self-referential wit at which point everyone dutifully laughed. Then she began announcing the nominees, but in the way of Old Hollywood, where each nominee was briefly spoken about.
Her microphone was immediately switched off after she started talking about Bob Hoskins (nominated for Mona Lisa and a sure winner if overdue Paul Newman hadn’t been also on the list) after the sting for the next nominee, Dexter Gordon, had started playing (to a live television audience of one billion people).
It was switched back on again for her to announce the winner, Newman, and left on as Robert Wise attempted to accept on behalf of the absent honoree. This precious six minutes and twenty-one seconds of material should be watched in its entirety and many times, too, but the awesomeness really goes into overdrive from 5:25:
Further information: on a subsequent appearance on The Joan Rivers Show, Miss Davis explains the entire incident. From 2:05, witness the power: