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Oscar Time--Without a Safety Net : Welcome to Live TV--When Even Dogs Can Have Their Day

March 21, 1994|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I don't think the show drags at 3 hours and 20 minutes," he said. "The only problem with it being 3 hours and 20 minutes is that my friends in the East, who want to go to work Tuesday morning, would like to go to bed before 12:30. That's the reality."

Cates said he loves to do different things with the show every year. Once, he used satellite communications to beam celebrities in from such faraway locales as Russia, Japan, Australia and Britain.

Last year, some people complained that the show celebrated the role of women in films during a year when there weren't many good roles for women.

"A lot of people mistook it," Cates said, "saying it was a terrible movie year for women. . . . (I told them) we're not celebrating the success of women in movies this year. We're celebrating women in movies for history."

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In addition to performers onstage, the success of this year's show will also depend on professionals behind the scenes.

The set was designed by Ray Christopher ("Murphy Brown," "Frasier"), who said Cates let him have free rein, but wanted something "contemporary, dynamic, a new look. I want it asymmetrical." So, Christopher put giant Oscar statues inside metal cones. The five cones on stage are illuminated periodically for dramatic effect.

Film supervisor Douglass M. Stewart (this is his 12th Oscar show) gathered clips from the nominated movies and assembled special film presentations. There will be one dedicated to Hollywood's famous dogs--ranging from Toto in "The Wizard of Oz" to Asta in "The Thin Man"--and another in which actors are shown winking.

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