The Most Awkward Moment in Oscar History Involved a False Death: ‘I Am Alive and Well’

The Academy Awards is one of the most highly-anticipated pop culture events of the years. Thousands of fans flock to their screens to watch as all the hottest movie stars and entertainers gather in one place to celebrate each other as well as the most critically acclaimed movies of the year. While COVID-19 might change the way that award ceremonies look this year, many fans are still thinking about the upcoming event — and looking to certain Academy Award ceremonies of the past, even when those celebrations included notable mistakes and flubbed moments. 

Overview of Oscar statues on display at "Meet the Oscars" at the Time Warner Center on February 25, 2010 in New York City.
Overview of Oscar statues on display at “Meet the Oscars” at the Time Warner Center on February 25, 2010 in New York City. | Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

The ‘In Memoriam’ segment is a touching moment during the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards, also commonly called the Oscars, were first presented in 1929. While that initial ceremony might have looked very different from modern Oscars, it set a precedent for celebrating excellence that was an inspiration for many.

Over the years, the Academy Awards have changed a great deal, and while categories have been added and switched up, the basic premise has remained consistent.

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In 1993, the Academy Awards introduced a very special section, the In Memoriam tributes. The segment intends to honor all those who had passed away in the preceding 12 months who had made a significant contribution to the world of movies and filmmaking — everyone from high-profile actors and composers to production assistants and costume designers.

In the years since the segment was introduced, many hundreds of names have been celebrated. Still, the segment has often come under fire over the years and has even made headlines on several occasions. 

The 2017 Academy Awards had a disastrous snafu during the ‘In Memoriam’ segment

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One of the most disastrous Academy Awards incidents ever happened during the 2017 broadcast. During that years’ In Memoriam segment, the name Janet Patterson, an Australian costume designer and four-time Oscar nominee, flashed across the screen.

The slide included her death date of October 2016. However, the image that accompanied Patterson’s name was not that of the distinguished costume designer. Rather, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the photo was of Jan Chapman, an Australian-based film producer who was very much alive.

Chapman’s friends and family spoke out in the wake of the snafu, stating that the producer was thriving and nowhere close to being dead. In fact, Chapman even released a statement in the days following the incident: “I was devastated by the use of my image in place of my great friend and long-time collaborator Janet Patterson. I had urged her agency to check any photograph which might be used and understand that they were told that the Academy had it covered. Janet was a great beauty and four-time Oscar nominee and it is very disappointing that the error was not picked up. I am alive and well and an active producer.”

Some notable personalities have been left out of the memorial segment

While the incident involving Patterson is one of the most outrageous incidents of the In Memoriam segment gone wrong, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding it over the years. Most of the time, it is because certain names are left out of the segment altogether, prompting many pop culture fans to label the segment as a “popularity contest.” 

Most recently, actor Luke Perry, who passed away in March 2019, was left out of the In Memoriam portion of the Academy Awards ceremony for 2019, which took place in February 2020. Fans were outraged, but the Academy explained his absence in a simple statement: “The Academy receives hundreds of requests to include loved ones and industry colleagues in the Oscars In Memoriam segment. An executive committee representing every branch considers the list and makes selections for the telecast based on limited available time.”