Academy apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for the 1973 Academy Awards incident

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It was 1973. Venue: The Oscars. Marlon Brando just won Best Actor for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather. But he did not walk on stage to accept the award.

Instead, a 26-year-old woman in moccasins and a Native American suede dress stepped up the stairs. After waving away the golden Oscar statuette, she introduced herself as Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache, and said Brando was turning down the award.

“And the reasons for that, is the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans today,” She said to a mixture of applause and boos from the audienceadding that the abuse spread to television, as well as the tense showdown at Wounded Knee in South Dakota.

Actor Will Smith slapped anchor Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27. The awards show has a history of unexpected moments. (Video: Ally Karen/The Washington Post)

she Remember clearly Seeing mouths drooping while looking at the mostly white audience. John Wayne said in a recent interview published in framework. And at Brando’s house after the party, Littlefeather claims she was shot.

The moment made history. It was the first time a Native American woman had stood on the Oscars stage, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and her statement on behalf of Brando sent shockwaves through. Little Feather, the aspiring actress, said she was blacklisted from the industry and harassed.

Now, the Academy is publicly apologizing to Littlefeather. In June, he sent her a Declaration of Reconciliation.

“The abuse I was subjected to by this statement was unwarranted and unwarranted. The emotional burden you have experienced and the cost of your career in our industry cannot be compensated,” read the June 18 letter, signed by then-Academy President David Rubin. “For too long, the courage you showed has not been recognized. For this, we offer our deepest apologies and sincere admiration.”

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The statement will be read out on September 17 during the “Program of Conversation, Meditation, Healing, and Celebration” with Littlefeather, the academy announced at new version on Monday.

In an interview with The Hollywood ReporterLittlefeather said she was shocked by the apology.

“I never thought I would live to see the day when I would hear this, and experience it,” she said. “When I was on the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”

The apology comes as the Academy has taken steps to be more inclusive of groups traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. in 2020 Standards for diversity and inclusion have been introduced Films must meet to qualify for a Best Picture nomination, following criticism that the Oscars have been dominated by white actors and filmmakers.

Despite efforts, Hollywood still struggles to represent women and ethnic minorities. Stereotypes in the movie insist – stick to his opinionWhite actors are still criticized for They play members of ethnic groups that are underrepresented on the screen. While people of color are increasingly being included in film actors, certain groups—including Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans—remain underrepresented, according to 2022. “Hollywood Diversity Report” UCLA.

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In her interview in A.Frame, an online publication of the Academy, Littlefeather explained that her 1973 Oscar moment came after she became friends with Brando, whom she said she met through her neighbor, director Francis Ford Coppola. Shortly before the ceremony in March, Brando asked her to represent him and read a 739-word letter if he won. And she remembered that he specifically instructed her not to touch the statuette.

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Little Feather remembered attending the party at the Dorothy Chandler Suite in Los Angeles minutes before the Best Actor category was rolled out. She said she was there as Brando actress. She was allowed in, but the show’s producer said she could not read the letter. Little Feather remembers threatening to arrest her if she spoke for more than a minute.

Then, after Littlefeather sat down to wait for a commercial break, the class was announced. “Of course, my heart was racing. Then he called out his name,” Little Feather recalled. “So, I took a deep breath, and made a prayer.”

She introduced herself and explained why she was there. She said she would make a brief statement in place of Brando’s speech, and began speaking out about the abuse of Native Americans in Hollywood. She paused as the crowd applauded and booed, and then continued, noting the ongoing confrontation between Native American activists and federal agents in injured knee.

“It was fun because some people were giving me a tomahawk,” Littlefeather recalls. “I thought, this is very racist. Really very racist.”

I walked out of the stage and ignored them.

In the aftermath of the party, she said she was banned from talk shows even when “people talked about me.”

“I couldn’t and was not allowed to speak for myself,” she said. “It was as if I was silent.”

In an interview day “The Dick Cavett Show” Several months later, Brando said he was embarrassed by the way Littlefeather had been treated. “They should at least have the courtesy to listen to it,” he said.

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But he said he did not regret his decision to send her there, adding that stereotyping of ethnic minorities is still a problem in Hollywood. (Brando himself earned an Oscar nomination for playing a Mexican revolutionary in the 1952 western “Viva Zapata!” despite having no Mexican or Latin heritage.)

Littlefeather also realized that it was an important step to take.

“All we were asking, and I was asking him, was, ‘Let’s work. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s play ourselves in the movies. Let’s be part of your industry, in producing, directing and writing. Don’t write us our stories. Let’s write our own. We. “That’s all I was saying.”

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