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Southern Jewish Widow Character Grabs Oscars, Hollywood’s Heart

A feisty, prideful Jewish widow of 72 won the heart of Hollywood on Monday evening, as the film “Driving Miss Daisy” won Oscars for best picture and for Jessica Tandy as best actress in the title role.

Writer Alfred Uhry, who modeled Miss Daisy on his grandmother, created both the play and the movie version of her relationship to her black chauffeur in a changing South and carried off the Academy Award for best screenplay adaptation.

In the other writing award, Tom Schulman beat out Woody Allen, Nora Ephron and two other competitors to garner the Oscar for his original screenplay of “Dead Poets Society,” the story of an idealistic but irreverent literature teacher at a starchy boys’ boarding school.

Two movies keyed to Holocaust themes came away empty-handed. “Enemies, A Love Story,” based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel of the love-hate relationships among four Holocaust survivors in post-war New York, had four nominees in contention.

Despite critical acclaim, neither supporting actresses Anjelica Houston and Lena Olin, nor screenwriters Paul Mazursky and Roger Simon ended up in the win column.

The same fate befell Jessica Lange, nominated for best actress for her role in “Music Box.” Lange portrayed a Chicago lawyer who defends her immigrant father, charged with wartime atrocities against Hungarian Jews.

Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” set entirely in a contemporary American Jewish milieu, failed to ignite the Academy voters. There were no Oscars for Allen, nominated for both best director and original screenplay, nor for Martin Landau, who was in the running for best supporting actor.

In the less glamorous categories, Ray Errol Fox’s short documentary on the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, “Preserving The Past To Ensure The Future,” also did not make the winner’s circle.

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