The Oscars’ ‘In Memoriam’ Problem: Who'll Make the Cut?

The Oscars' 'In Memoriam' Problem: Who'll Make the Cut?

The sequence honoring those who've died is always a headache, but this year could be particularly difficult

The annual “I See Dead People” montage at the Academy Awards, more properly known as the In Memoriam sequence, always causes problems for the Academy and the show's producers. It always leads to second-guessing and outrage. It always involves tough decisions.

And this year, those decisions could be tougher than ever. Among the questions facing the Academy:

Do you revamp a no-doubt-completed In Memoriam sequence to add Harold Ramis, who died on Monday of Oscar week, or do you wait until next year to include him?

Also read: Harold Ramis and Bill Murray: Inside The ‘Groundhog Day’ Duo's Decade-Long Feud

Is comic pioneer Sid Caesar too affiliated with TV to include, or does he belong on the Oscars?

Will you appear to be too frantically chasing young viewers if you include Cory Monteith, who became a star on TV but also made a couple of movies near the end of his life? You have to leave out more than two-thirds of the 100-plus Academy members who have died since the last Oscars show – but which ones?

Should they even try to add Sarah Jones, the crew member who was killed on the set of “Midnight Rider” last week and is the subject of an online petition to get her in the sequence?

How about the 27 deceased Oscar nominees and winners? If you include all of them in a sequence that normally includes about 30 people, how will you have time for all the other people who deserve inclusion?

Does anybody deserve a special tribute apart from the In Memoriam sequence?

And does Bette Midler sing “Wind Beneath My Wings” as the memorial sequence plays, or do you use her elsewhere in the show?

Also read: Oscars Countdown: The Ultimate Guide to Historic Hollywood

The decisions are particularly tough because the list of notable figures who have died since the last Oscar show includes two past presidents of the Academy, a producer who is tied for the most Best Picture wins of all time, an actor who holds the record with eight Best Actor nominations without a win, and the man whose name is on the theater in which the Oscars are held.

(That would be Fay Kanin and Tom Sherak, Saul Zaentz, Peter O'Toole and Ray Dolby.)

“It is a beloved segment, but I would much prefer we didn't do it,” the Academy's longtime (and now retired) executive director Bruce Davis told me years ago. “When you sit down to do the list, the last 15 or 20 cuts you make are people with substantial careers.

“You just feel like s— for days afterwards. And there is nothing you can say to somebody's wife or daughter about why they didn't make it into the sequence.”

On the Academy website, a page is devoted to members who have died in the last year; as of Tuesday morning, it contained 108 names.

See photos: 28 Classic Movies That Never Won Best Picture Oscars – From ‘Raging Bull’ to ‘Chinatown’ (Photos)

Four of them served on the AMPAS Board of Governors, 27 were nominated for Oscars, and 15 won.

And that doesn't include people not listed on the Academy members’ page, including critic Roger Ebert, actor Paul Walker, actor/comic Sid Caesar, actresses Joan Fontaine and Deanna Durbin and novelist Tom Clancy.

Here, from the Academy website, is the list from which this year's memoriam will likely be drawn, with Board of Governors service and Oscar nominations indicated. Oscar wins are noted with an asterisk.


Fay Kanin – Writers Branch
Board of Governors, June 1974-May 1976, June 1977-July 1988, July 1989-July 1998, August 1999-July 2008
President, July 1979-June 1983
1958 (31st) Writing (Story and Screenplay written directly for the screen) – “Teacher's Pet”

Thomas Sherak - Executives Branch
Board of Governors, August 2003-July 2012
Treasurer, August 2008-July 2009
President, August 2009-July 2012


Brian Ackland-Snow - Designers Branch
1986 (59th) *Art Direction – “A Room with a View”

Charles L. Campbell – Sound Branch
Board of Governors, July 1984-July 1987
1983 (55th) *Sound Effects Editing – “E.T. The Extra-Terrrestrial”
1985 (58th) *Sound Effects Editing – “Back to the Future”
1988 (61st) *Sound Effects Editing – “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”
1990 (63rd) Sound Effects Editing – “Flatliners”

Vincenzo Cerami – Writers Branch
1998 (71st) Writing (Screenplay written directly for the screen) – “Life Is Beautiful”

Thomas S. Cook – Writers Branch
1979 (52nd) Writing (Screenplay written directly for the screen) – “The China Syndrome” (1979)

Ray Dolby – Members-at-Large
1978 (51st) *Scientific or Technical Award (Scientific and Engineering Award)
1988 (61st) *Scientific or Technical Award (Academy Award of Merit)

Bryan Forbes – Directors Branch
1960 (33rd) Writing (Story and Screenplay written directly for the screen) – “The Angry Silence”

Bob Godfrey – Short Films and Feature Animation Branch
1972 (45th) Animated Short Subject – “Kama Sutra Rides Again”
1975 (48th) *Animated Short Film – “Great”
1979 (52nd) Animated Short Film – “Dream Doll”
1993 (66th) Animated Short Film – “Small Talk”

Mike Gray – Writers Branch
1979 (52nd) Writing (Screenplay written directly for the screen) — “The China Syndrome” (1979)

Gerry Hambling – Film Editors Branch
1978 (51st) Film Editing – “Midnight Express”
1980 (53rd) Film Editing – “Fame”
1988 (61st) Film Editing – “Mississippi Burning”
1991 (64th) Film Editing – “The Commitments”
1993 (66th) Film Editing – “In the Name of the Father”
1996 (69th) Film Editing – “Evita”

Julie Harris – Actors Branch
1952 (25th) Actress – “The Member of the Wedding”

Ray Harryhausen – Visual Effects Branch
1991 (64th) *Gordon E. Sawyer Award

Philip Seymour Hoffman – Actors Branch
2005 (78th) *Actor in a Leading Role – “Capote”
2007 (80th) Actor in a Supporting Role – “Charlie Wilson's War”
2008 (81st) Actor in a Supporting Role – “Doubt”
2012 (85th) Actor in a Supporting Role – “The Master”

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – Writers Branch
1986 (59th) *Writing (Screenplay based on material from another medium) – “A Room with a View”
1992 (65th) *Writing (Screenplay based on material previously produced or published) – “Howards End”
1993 (66th) Writing (Screenplay based on material previously produced or published) – “The Remains of the Day”

Garrett Lewis – Designers Branch
1988 (61st) Art Direction – “Beaches”
1989 (62nd) Art Direction – “Glory”
1991 (64th) Art Direction – “Hook”
1992 (65th) Art Direction – “Bram Stoker's Dracula”

Stephenie McMillan – Designers Branch
1996 (69th) *Art Direction – “The English Patient”
2001 (74th) Art Direction – “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone”
2005 (78th) Art Direction – “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
2010 (83rd) Art Direction – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
2011 (84th) Art Direction – “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”

Frank E. Morriss - Film Editors Branch
1983 (56th) Film Editing – “Blue Thunder”
1984 (57th) Film Editing – “Romancing the Stone”

Hal Needham – Directors Branch
1986 (59th) *Scientific or Technical Award (Scientific and Engineering Award)
2012 (85th) *Honorary Award

Riz Ortolani – Music Branch
1963 (36th) Music (Song) — “More” from “Mondo Cane”
1970 (43rd) Music (Song) — “Till Love Touches Your Life”" from “Madron”

Peter O'Toole – Actors Branch
1962 (35th) Actor – “Lawrence of Arabia”
1964 (37th) Actor – “Becket”
1968 (41st) Actor – “The Lion in Winter”
1969 (42nd) Actor – “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”
1972 (45th) Actor in a Leading Role – “The Ruling Class”
1980 (53rd) Actor in a Leading Role – “The Stunt Man”
1982 (55th) Actor in a Leading Role – “My Favorite Year”
2002 (75th) *Honorary Award
2006 (79th) Actor in a Leading Role – “Venus”

Eleanor Parker – Actors Branch
1950 (23rd) Actress – “Caged”
1951 (24th) Actress – “Detective Story”
1955 (28th) Actress – “Interrupted Melody”

Maximilian Schell - Actors Branch
1961 (34th) *Actor – “Judgment at Nuremberg”
1975 (48th) Actor – “The Man in the Glass Booth”
1977 (50th) Actor in a Supporting Role – “Julia”

Michael Sporn – Short Films and Feature Animation Branch
1984 (57th) Animated Short Film – “Doctor DeSoto”

Shirley Temple Black - Actors Branch
1934 (7th) *Special Award

Roy Walker – Designers Branch
1975 (48th) *Art Direction – “Barry Lyndon”
1983 (56th) Art Direction – “Yentl”
1999 (72nd) Art Direction – “The Talented Mr. Ripley”

Saul Zaentz – Producers Branch
Board of Governors, July 1988-July 1994, August 1997-July 2003
Secretary, August 2001-July 2002
1975 (48th) *Best Picture – “One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest”
1984 (57th) *Best Picture – “Amadeus”
1996 (69th) *Best Picture – “The English Patient”
1996 (69th) *Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award


Joseph A. Adelman – Executives Branch
Michael Ansara – Actors Branch
Conrad Bain – Actors Branch
Harvey Bernhard - Producers Branch
Antonia Bird – Directors Branch
Les Blank – Documentary Branch
Daniel H. Blatt – Producers Branch
Richard Bull – Actors Branch
Dennis Burkley – Actors Branch
John Cacavas – Music Branch
David T. Campling – Sound Branch
William Tilton Cartwright – Documentary Branch
Mary Carver – Actors Branch
Jay H. Cipes – Members-at-Large
Richard J. Collins – Writers Branch
Jeanne Cooper – Actors Branch
Eduardo Coutinho – Documentary Branch
Brett Dicker – Public Relations Branch
Bill Edwards – Public Relations Branch
David R. Ellis – Members-at-Large
Dennis Farina – Actors Branch
Richard M. Finkelstein – Executives Branch
Steve Forrest – Actors Branch
Annette Funicello – Actors Branch
James Gandolfini – Actors Branch
Jerry Gebr – Designers Branch
Bernard M. Glasser – Producers Branch
Hilton A. Green – Members-at-Large
Marvin L. Gunter – Associates
Richard D. Heffner – Members-at-Large
Gordon Hessler - Associates
Leonard Hirshan - Associates
James Jacks – Producers Branch
Mikki Jamison – Actors Branch
Myron D. Karlin – Executives Branch
Elmore Leonard - Writers Branch
Harry Lewis – Actors Branch
Sydney Z. Litwack – Designers Branch
A.C. Lyles – Producers Branch
Arthur Malet – Actors Branch
Larry D. Mann – Actors Branch
Eugene R. Marks – Music Branch
Frank Marth – Actors Branch
Richard Matheson – Writers Branch
David McCann – Members-at-Large
G. Gregg McLaughlin – Film Editors Branch
D. Michael Moore – Directors Branch
Tony Musante – Actors Branch
Julian F. Myers – Public Relations Branch
Joseph Thomas Naar
– Producers Branch
Don Nelson – Writers Branch
Ha Nguyen – Designers Branch
Milo O'Shea – Actors Branch
Marvin Paige – Members-at-Large
Leif B. Pedersen – Designers Branch
Ted Post – Directors Branch
John S. Ragin – Actors Branch
Robert E. Relyea – Members-at-Large
T.H. Richmond – Producers Branch
Mickey Rose – Writers Branch
Mann Rubin – Writers Branch
Al Ruscio – Actors Branch
Joseph Ruskin – Actors Branch
Richard C. Sarafian – Directors Branch
Lou Scheimer – Producers Branch
Krishna B. Shah – Directors Branch
Richard A. Shepherd – Executives Branch
Susan Smith – Associates
Bert Schoenfeld – Sound Branch
Keith W. Stafford – Sound Branch
Jean Stapleton – Actors Branch
Ben Starr – Writers Branch
Maxine Stuart – Actors Branch
Stanford Tischler – Film Editors Branch
Audrey Totter – Actors Branch
Virginia Vincent – Actors Branch
Robert D. Wachs – Producers Branch
Lew Weitzman – Associates
Esther Williams – Actors Branch
John David Wilson – Short Films and Feature Animation Branch
Michael Winner – Directors Branch


Sid Caesar, actor/comedian
Deanna Durbin, actress
Tom Clancy, author
Roger Ebert, critic
Joan Fontaine, actress
Cory Monteith, actor
Paul Walker, actor


    Paul Walker ????

  • Jacquie

    No mention of Paul Walker? He should be mentioned way before Cory Monteith.

    • Steve Pond

      You're both right. Paul Walker is somebody they definitely have to consider and will likely include — and the fact that I forgot about him when writing this story shows how difficult it is to be all-inclusive.

    • Sferd

      I really don't think Cory Monteith should be included. He got an extended Emmy tribute (not sure that was necessary). As a television star, he should not be part of the Oscar segment. Paul Walker should.

  • James McDonald

    I think they should make the time to include everyone at least the actors, directors and producers. People may not care about or remember writers and cinematographers. If an actor as been known for television work, but has been in a notable movie, then include him or her. Yes, they should include Harold Ramis, Sid Caesar, Paul Walker, Joan Fontaine, Maximilian Schell, Peter O'Toole, Dale Robertson, Julie Harris, Karen Black, Michael Ansara, Margaret Pellegrini (The Wizard of Oz), Eileen Brennan (Last Picture Show), Esther Williams, Jean Stapleton (Bells Are Ringing), Deanna Durbin and Annette Funicello.

  • Umbrage about stupidty

    Really James McDonald? Forget about the writers and cinematographers because nobody knows them? In the first place, there would be no actors, directors or producers to remember if they didn't have a script to work from. All those that people love to quote were written by somebody. And of course, nobody would see those actors on the screen without the DP's filming them. It's just an utterly idiotic and insulting thing to write. Ignorance is not an excuse to dishonor somebody.

  • Jimmy

    Instead of taking out one section of the show to list all the dead people, why not do a portion of the list at the start of each commercial break, Then they could list every last person who died over the entire 3-4 hour length of time. But let's be real, no matter what producers do people are going to bitch and moan. Granted, Nikki Finke won't be around to snark her way through every second of the show, but there will always be whiners.

  • hupto

    Oh, I'm sure they'll do what they always do: pick two or three people who were in the biz before STAR WARS and dump the rest. More important to include those studio execs whom even other studio execs didn't know, let alone the public.

  • VisualEyes

    If they're a member of the Academy, they should receive recognition. This is the most anticipated part of an otherwise often-boring 3 hours of TV. Trying to cut it “short” is an insult to the members who passed. If Sid Caesar was a member of the Academy, it shouldn't matter that he was primarily known for his television work.

    As for whether or not to include recent deaths, follow the precedent of years gone by. If the cutoff is end of the calendar year, then that's it.

  • Charles Ellis

    Steve Pond, YOU ARE INCREDIBLY STUPID!!! Don't you know that the late Joan Fontaine was an Academy Award-winning actress and multiple nominee? Some movie historian you are!!!!! Why don't you quit your day job and join the custodial staff at the Dolby Theatre??

  • Ron Merk

    It's ironic that the most interesting segment in the show is the In Memoriam segment. Its truly ad that we are only moved emotionally by this given the great talent that appears in the show. It may be that the segment is the best part of the show, and that should give pause to the show producers to do a major re-think of the presentation. Getting the right host is half the battle, and using them well another 25%. Then the rest is making sure we are entertained by the other presenters, recipients and in-between entertainment. The bad repartee between presenters has always irked me. With a staff of A-class writers, who comes up with the final script?! I love the Oscars, and have always loved them since I was a kid in Newark, New Jersey dreaming of getting one of those shiny statuettes one day. The Oscars deserve better than they are getting with the annual presentation.

  • Les

    I also feel they should include everyone and not pick and choose. So what if they have to remove one of their stupid musical numbers that no one cares about anyway. It has been proven that people care a lot about the “in memoriam” tributes than that. Show everyone some respect.

  • michelle

    I think they should include everyone. I don't think any of the viewers would complain if you honored everyone of these people, like they deserve to be and just cut out a few minutes of the opening monologue or a musical number. This is much more important and clearly a the most meaningful time of the program for everyone. Scroll down and read Jimmy's idea, it's a good one and an easy way to get everyone in. That's just one idea, you guys are creative so figure out a way to do it, but do not cut anyone out. On a sad note, I read through the list and 3 people who died are the parent of 3 people I went to high school with. It made me cry for them.

  • John Roundtree

    I dont see why they don't have 3 large screens sequenced to change every 7-10 seconds with overlapping images of all 100+ (35 per screen) showing persons who have passed. The major stars/industry majors could use all 3 screens simultaneously but at least everyone gets a nod. The whole sequence could be complete in 3-4 minutes. Yes, Paul Walker was omitted. What about Philip Seymour Hoffman, he was bigger than Cory by far.

  • Sferd

    Whatever the Academy decides, I WISH they would ask the audience not to applaud until the END of the segment (can be announced during commercial break). It is very distasteful to hear the ‘popularity’ of each deceased person. That why I have liked the addition of a song during the segment since it drowns out the applause. I agree with the other posters that the segment should be lengthened to ensure that those deserving tribute receive it. I certainly hope that Roger Ebert is included. Even though he wasn't an Academy member, he had a profound impact on the film industry.

  • Lila

    So Corey Monteith is listed but ESTHER WILLIAMS isn't mentioned???? How can that be???

  • Ellen

    I understand it is impossible to include everyone, but do understand the pain of the families/friends of those left off. For example, Aubrey Woods does not make even the ‘They might include list’ and after he gave nearly 50 years to the business and acted in some big movies. It is hard I know with so many great people lost, but I can tell you, as someone who knew him, it hurts!

  • Matthew Versace

    If they were smart, the ‘in memorium’ sequence should be anounced that it will not be part of the aired broadcast, but will be shown on the Academy website. That way they don't have to cut people, amd can offer a tribute to all the deceased that deserve mention.

  • SherryInHollywood

    What about Christopher Jones star of Ryan's Daughter & Wild In The Streets that passed away on Jan. 31, 2014?

  • jennifer

    Instead of playing clips from actors movies during the memorium, just do it the way it used to be done. Flash name and picture and move to the next one. Not really that hard. I do hope they have respect to Sid Cesar, and Shirley Temple, and include them. Sid was in a few movies..Grease being just one. Need I say anything about Icon Shirley Temple?

  • TT

    PW was taken way before his time & at the start of where his acting roles were far more than just fast cars. He was more than actor but a role model & life saver to many & if ya dont know what im talking about look up his works at ROWW. He went to destroyed areas & gave his time & not for the cameras or fame…because thats the kind of man he was! I can go on & on about all of his charitable work or him as a person but there's not enough room on this site. HE DESERVES TO BE REMEMBERED AT THE OSCARS!