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