Oscars 2012 In Memoriam: Whitney Houston and Steve Jobs Honored, Etta James Snubbed

 @EllenKilloran
on February 27 2012 9:59 AM
Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston, who starred in "The Bodyguard," was honored in the In Memoriam segment at the 84th Academy Award ceremony on Sunday. Reuters

Every year at the Oscars, the 'In Memoriam' segment honors those in the film industry who died in the preceding year.  At Sunday's 84th Academy Award ceremony, the 2012 montage honoring  Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Falk, Sidney Lumet and more was set to Ezperanza Spalding's stirring rendition of the Louis Armstrong standard, What a Wonderful World.

This year's In Memoriam showcase included classic screen stars like Jane Russell and Michael Gough, and honored artists who left this world too soon. Whitney Houston, who died suddenly on Feb. 11, earned a spot in the montage: Though she was primarily a pop star, Houston co-starred with Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard, where she delivered an unforgettable performance of Dolly Parton's song I Will Always Love You.

Steve Jobs, who died on Oct. 5, was paid tribute toward the end of the montage, with his title listed as Executive. The Apple co-founder and CEO was also the co-founder and CEO of Pixar, the animation studio behind the Toy Story series, The Incredibles and WALL-E. Jobs was an executive producer on Toy Story, the inaugural Pixar feature, released in 1995.

Some notable celebrity deaths in 2011 went unmentioned in the montage. Amy Winehouse, whose sudden death in July rocked the music industry, was not included in the montage -- while her songs were featured on numerous film soundtracks, she never appeared in a film.

Etta James was perhaps a more notable snub, as she has appeared on dozens of film soundtracks and is credited as an actress on two films: She appeared as a blue singer in Tap in 1989 and had a small role in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Beyonce Knowles played Etta James in the 2008 film Cadillac Record, the story of Chess Records and the legendary artists signed to the label.

While a nod to Betty Ford, who died  on July 8, would have been a bit of a stretch, the former first lady is indelibly associated with the film industry as countless of Hollywood stars have sought treatment at The Betty Ford Drug and Alcohol Abuse Treatment Center. Ford has an IMDB entry for her television guest star roles, and numerous credits as herself on documentaries and television specials.

In 2010, the exclusion of Farrah Fawcett from the In Memoriam montage at the 82nd Academy Awards angered her family and fan base. Tatum O'Neal, the actress daughter of Fawcett's longtime partner Ryan O'Neal, issued a statement the Tuesday following the award ceremony.

On behalf of myself, my father Ryan O'Neal and my entire family, we are deeply saddened that a truly beautiful and talented actress Farrah Fawcett was not included in the memorial montage during the 82nd Academy Awards. We are bereft with this exclusion of such an international icon who inspired so many for so many reasons. Beautiful, talented Farrah will never be forgotten by her family and amazing fans.

In response to criticism, Bruce Davis, the executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, acknowledged it was an uncomfortable choice not to include the actress.  It is the single most troubling element of the Oscar show every year, because more people die each year than can possibly be included in that segment, Davis told The Associated Press. You are dropping people who the public knows. It's just not comfortable.

Davis said in a statement quoted by People magazine that he had considered including Fawcett, but felt that she would have been more suitably honored at the Emmy Awards for her remarkable television work.

There's nothing you can say to people, particularly to family members, within a day or two of the show that helps at all, Davis said. They tend to be surprised and hurt, and we understand that and we're sorry for it.

Fawcett's exclusion was particularly painful because she died on the same day as Michael Jackson, and her death was somewhat overshadowed by the media frenzy surrounding his sudden passing. Davis defended the inclusion of Michael Jackson in the montage because of the documentary This is It.

In 2011, the exclusion of Betty Garrett (On the Town, All in the Family) and Corey Haim (The Lost Boys) angered some fans.

Tell us what you think: Should Etta James or Betty Ford have been honored at the 2012 Oscars?

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