It doesn’t require a journey to Hollywood to notice the effects of the Oscar campaign, that great PR institution that rules the fortunes of the movie world. The Oscars were created as a way of promoting the movies, but they have become, in the hands of Henry Rogers, Warren Cowan and the endless array of flacks who have followed in their footsteps down the ragged edges of the red carpet, always in the wake of the latest Oscar nominated star, an international multi-ringed circus of the gaudiest proportions. Phineas Barnum would be proud of the enterprising zeal and self-approbating hoo-ha that attends each year’s awards season and thanks to it, careers are made or broken.
According to Warren Cowan, the template for the Oscar ceremony was created by Howard Hughes in 1930 when he launched the film Hell’s Angels and, instead of the usual premiere, which had, until that point, been relatively run-of-the-mill, he decided that opening night would feature Klieg lights and a red carpet and all the stars in the Hollywood galaxy, in an attempt to woo and excite as many press and people as possible about the film. It worked; he invited all the stars he could get hold of to come and parade themselves in front of the Chinese Theatre, where the film was showing, and they duly did. A scribbled note in Nottage’s papers suggests that he was convinced that Hughes had stolen the idea from him, but there is nothing whatsoever to support this statement – it was written towards the end of his life, at the height of his bitterness towards the industry, and offers no suggestion as to what film he might have laid down a red carpet for.