Revisted: Vanessa Redgrave 'zionist hoodlums' Oscar rant

Yahoo UK Movies Features

Oscar speeches fall into a few categories. Some are pithy and amusing, most are embarrassingly gushing, and a handful, usually the ones latterly dubbed 'controversial', are overtly political.

Vanessa Redgrave's acceptance speech on winning the Best Supporting Actress gong for her role in the 1977 film 'Julia' fell rather firmly into the latter category.

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The controversy began with her involvement in a preceding film, 'The Palestinian', a documentary which she narrated about Palestinians and the PLO. Upon her nomination for 'Julia', in which she played a woman murdered by the Nazi regime for her anti-fascist activism, effigies of her were burned by the ultra-nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane.

She chose the podium at the Oscars to respond to the criticism, directing some of it rather pointedly at Rabbi Kahane.


She spoke of those who gave their lives to save others in Nazi Germany, saying: “I salute you, and I pay tribute to you, and I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you've stood firm, and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behaviour is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression.

“And I salute that record and I salute all of you for having stood firm and dealt a final blow against that period when Nixon and McCarthy launched a worldwide witch-hunt against those who tried to express in their lives and their work the truth that they believe in. I salute you and I thank you and I pledge to you that I will continue to fight against anti-Semitism and fascism.”

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Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, who appeared later on during the ceremony to present an award, himself an Oscar-winner, couldn't hold his tongue.

“There's a little matter I'd like to tidy up... at least if I expect to live with myself tomorrow morning.

"I would like to say that I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal propaganda.

“I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple 'thank you' would have sufficed.”

Politics. Best avoided, then.

Read more of our great Oscar moments:
[The Snow White debacle]
[When Tom Hanks outed a drama teacher]
[The tragic story of the Oscar streaker]
[Why did Brando send a Native American to collect his Oscar?]