Eddie Murphy and The Oscars: An Odd but Welcomed Coupling
1 year ago
The comedic actor joins a handful of African American hosts
The announcement earlier this week that Eddie Murphy will host the Academy Awards next year seems to have produced more questions than answers. Was it a commercial move by Brett Ratner, who is producing the Oscars, to promote “Tower Heist,” the Bernie Madoff-themed movie he’s collaborating on with Murphy? What does it mean to have an actor better known for his recent flops than the Academy Award nomination he received in 2007 hosting the nation’s biggest celebration of excellence in movies? Where does Murphy fit in the tradition of black Oscar hosts? And what approach should he take to the gig?
The Academy Awards, which have not been exceptionally progressive when it comes to recognizing the work of black actors and directors, had an animated duck host the Oscars before they tapped an African-American emcee.
Donald Duck co-hosted the Academy Awards as part of a crew that included Bob Hope in 1958, but it wasn’t until 1972 that Sammy Davis, Jr. took the stage with Helen Hayes, Alan King, and Jack Lemmon. Diana Ross followed him in 1974, again as part of a group, and Davis reprised his role in a group the next year. Richard Pryor hosted with Warren Beatty, Ellen Burstyn, and Jane Fonda in 1977 and again as part of an ensemble in 1983. Whoopi Goldberg became the first African-American to handle the hosting duties on her own in 1994, a role she’d repeat in 1996, 1999, and 2002. And Chris Rock was the last black host to run the show, in 2005.