Access All Areas - Archive Treats
04 January 08
We delve into the Academy archive and recall some of the most memorable moments, faces and places from over 60 years of the British Academy Film Awards.
If a picture can tell a thousand words, then the gleaming monochrome and sparkling colour images which decorate the Academy's own archive surely speak volumes.
They fascinatingly unveil seven decades of Awards night memories—from the earliest arrivals on the red carpet to the final whirl around the dance floor, from an exchanged confidence to a shared joke.
There are the moments of triumph as recipients from all over the world step on stage, and of unspoken disappointment as the camera catches the shrug of an unlucky nominee.
Fashion to die for, now and then a dress sense to dismay, glitz and glamour. “I love the smell of lip balm in the evening,” joked sometime host Stephen Fry.
Above all, a very British, regularly Royal, sense of occasion.
Of course, shining through so many of these nights to remember is the sheer weight of star power revealed in snapshots from—can you guess?—no fewer than 15 different venues since the Academy's prize-giving first began at the back end of the ’40s, the latest being the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Everyone remembers the Odeon Leicester Square where it all first began and then, 51 years later, resumed at the start of the second Millennium. But in between were such diverse places as the Talk of the Town, the London Palladium, the Wembley Conference Centre, even the Business Design Centre in Islington.
The Academy's Archive Officer, Doreen Dean, cites the Royal Albert Hall, which housed the Awards for five years between 1971 and 1975, as her favourite — “the be all: the easiest place to seat with just the right ambience.”
(continued...) When it comes to her starriest memory, that's easy, too. “The stand-out for me,” she recalls, “has to be when Gloria Swanson [aged 84 and just two years before her death] was citation reader for the Michael Balcon Award, given to Kevin Brownlow in 1981 [see picture below]. It was just marvellous having this great silent film star there. Then, the following year we had Ginger Rogers!”
The pictures also reveal how the Academy has, over the years, reached well beyond our shores to decorate talent from across the globe.
Who, for instance, can forget the courageous Cambodian doctor Haing S Ngor (pictured above)? He effectively re-lived his own life story for The Killing Fields and was on hand to receive two awards—for Actor and Outstanding Newcomer. More recently, the flamboyant Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar also became a BAFTA favourite, winning three awards for two of his films, All About My Mother and Talk To Her.
Intriguingly, it took another Latin to provide one of the more controversial memories of late as young Mexican actor and presenter Gael García Bernal spoke-out against the war in Iraq.
An obligatory currency of often such affecting evenings, there were tears as Juliette Binoche opened the floodgates on receipt of the Actress in a Supporting Role BAFTA for The English Patient in 1997. She seemed so taken aback by the award; I think she had thought nobody liked her,” Dean remembers.
Finally, there was dampness of an altogether stranger variety the year after the Awards first made their move ahead of the Oscars. “The BAFTAs are the only Awards where you get your feet washed as well,” Academy veteran Sir Sydney Samuelson heard one guest remarking on the occasion when heavy English rains caused flame retardant to foam on the red carpet.
Or, as the evening's host Stephen Fry put it wittily: “It is years of greasy flattery given to actors finally bubbling up.”
FIND OUT MORE
Explore our Film Awards database stretching back to the first Awards in 1947.