The Golden Globes: a History of Scandal
The timeline of a doomed awards show
NBC made waves this week when it announced it would not be airing the Golden Globes in 2022 in light of a recent LA Times expose that revealed, among other things, a striking lack of diversity in its voting body–none of the members are Black.
The Globes, which Hollywood often treats as a precursor to Oscars glory for many films, is an awards show with a voting body made up of 87 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of California journalists writing for foreign publications. Controversies and allegations of rigging, bribery and corruption have marred the voting body and awards show in its 77-year history.
Here’s a timeline of the Golden Globes and its many controversies.
20th Century Fox Studios hold the first Golden Globes to honor the films of 1943. Winners include The Song of Bernadette for Best Picture and Paul Lukas and Jennifer Jones for Best Actor and Actress, respectively.
Former HFPA president Henry Gris resigns from the board, questioning why one public relations firm represented so many winners, and saying “certain awards are being given more or less as favors.”
March 9, 1960
The first televised Golden Globes airs on the independent KTTV, now a FOX-owned station.
The Globes starts the practice of designating the daughter of a celebrity, nicknamed “Miss Golden Globe,” to hand out the trophies during the ceremony, a highly sought-after position. The name was renamed to the more inclusive “Golden Globe Ambassador” in 2018.
NBC begins its lucrative deal to broadcast the Globes nationally. The rights to air the show would go on to change hands many times over the years, but NBC ended up broadcasting it for 29 combined years. As of 2021, the network is in year three of a $60 million-per-year, eight-year deal to broadcast the show.
The Federal Communications Commission hits the Globes with its first complaint. The FCC claims the show “misled the public as to how the winners were determined.” Other allegations included that winners were chosen by lobby and that winners were told to attend the ceremony in advance and if they didn’t show up, another winner woud be announced instead.
As a result, NBC refuses to broadcast the show from 1968 until after 1974 (it would not actually air the show again until 1996), and no network broadcast the show again until 1973.
Actress Pia Zadora wins the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture for her role in Butterfly. Shortly after her win, accusations emerge that her husband, multimillionaire Meshulam Riklis, bought the award. Riklis spent a lot on advertising for her awards campaign, flew members of the Foreign Press Association to the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, and had members of the voting body over to his house for an elaborate meal and screening of the film.
Dec. 6, 1996
The Washington Post publishes a takedown of the Globes, headlined “Hollywood’s Globe Awards Are More Spin Than Substance,” preserved here. The article includes allegations of bribery and sheds a spotlight on who actually makes up the HFPA’s voting body. In 1996, that body included part-time freelancers for small publications in places like Lithuania and Bangladesh, and include a college professor, a retired engineer, a man who runs an ‘auto referral service,’ and another who until recently sold appliances in Burbank.”
The televised Golden Globes ceremony is cancelled because of the Writer’s Guild strike. They hold a press conference announcing the winners instead.
The Globes nominated Johnny Depp’s widely panned spy thriller The Tourist in the Best Musical/Comedy category. It doesn’t win, but allegations surface that the film’s distributor Sony influenced voters with an all-expenses-paid Vegas trip and a Cher concert.
Another takedown of the Globes comes out, this time from Vulture. The article hits many of the same points as the Washington Post article from 1996, and names as many members of the voting body as possible.
Jan. 15, 2015
The Academy Awards releases an all-white acting nomination slate for the first time in two consecutive years. This inspires April Reign, then a campaign finance lawyer, to create the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. As a result, the Oscars slowly began to take a more diverse approach.
Norwegian entertainment journalist Kjersti Flaa sues the HFPA, claiming it embodies a “culture of corruption.” A federal judge would go on to dismiss the suit in Nov. 2020, but the lawsuit laid the groundwork for current members of the HFPA to speak out about corruption at the Globes.
Feb. 21, 2021
The LA Times publishes an expose on the Globes and its inner turmoil, with members calling the HFPA “an archaic organization” in need of change. The biggest bombshell is that the HFPA paid nearly two million dollars in fiscal year 2020 to members serving on various committees. What’s more, the report reveals there are no Black members in the 87-member voting body for the HFPA.
May 6, 2021
The HFPA announces sweeping reform in response to the LA Times article, including a “specific focus on recruiting Black members” and a “goal of increasing the membership by 50 percent over the next 18 months.”
NBC initially approves the reforms, but the 18-month timeframe didn’t work for organizations like Time’s Up, more than 100 PR firms, Netflix, Amazon and WarnerMedia, who all say they won’t work with the HFPA until further change is enacted.
May 10, 2021
NBC says it won’t air the Globes in 2022 and issues a new statement on the HFPA’s reforms:
“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right. As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes. Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”
May 11, 2021
Stars respond to NBC’s decision and HFPA’s reform plan, including Tom Cruise, who sent his three Golden Globes back to the HFPA in a box.
Other responses include Scarlett Johansson:
“The HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition and the industry followed suit. Unless there is necessary fundamental reform within the organization, I believe it is time that we take a step back from the HFPA and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole.”
“Thank you, NBC, for taking the time to do this right.”
“Everything matters. Even this. The ripple effects echo through our industry, especially for Black artists and artists of color.
“Kudos to all the activists, artists, publicists and executives who took a stand to make this so.”
Maybe Hollywood will have one fewer awards show.