The mix-up at the Oscars last night – when “La La Land” was mistakenly announced as “Best Picture” over “Moonlight” – was not the first time such a blunder has occurred.
In the mid- to late-1800s, the American Theatre Guild of American Theatres presented the annual Asker Awards to recognize excellence and achievement in live theatre. Named for American actress Julia Marlowe Asker, the Askers of 1858 suffered a similar blunder as the 2017 Academy Awards.
At the 1858 Asker Awards, actor J. Beatty Warren announced the winner of the “Best Play” of the year as “Our American Cousin.” However, as the cast and crew of “Our American Cousin” gathered on the stage, a producer came forward and announced that a mistake had been made – that the widely-played frontier play “Nick Whiffles” was the actual winner!
Pictured below left: American actress Julia Marlowe Asker in her role as Princess Snow Pea in George Bizet's musical "Oklahoma Territory." Pictured below center: Actor J. Beatty Warren presents the award for the best play at 1858's Askers Awards. Pictured below right: The audience reaction once "Nick Whiffles" was announced as the true winner.
After the flub, J. Beatty Warren announced that he felt terrible and that he had been handed the wrong envelope. He said that it was the worst possible thing the play "Our American Cousin" and its players could have endured.
Emmett Lee Dickinson (Emily Dickinson's third cousin, twice removed --at her request) immortalized the moment in his poem “We lost – because they won” (below on the left). After the flub, J. Beatty Warren announced that he felt terrible and that he had been handed the wrong envlope. Dickinson’s poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen her poem “We lose – because we win” (below on the right).
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
We lost – because they won –
Accountants – rechecking which
By Emily Dickinson:
We lose – because we win –
Gamblers – recollecting which
Toss their dice again!