TV Academy Rescinds Several of George Stevens Jr.'s Emmy Noms, Awards (Exclusive)

Stevens and his editor Catherine Shields have been sanctioned after the TV Academy learned that a project for which they received Emmys in 1994 was not an original work.
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
George Stevens Jr., clutching one of the Emmys that he was awarded in 1994

The TV Academy has stripped George Stevens Jr. of three Emmy nominations and two Emmy wins and Catherine Shields of one Emmy nomination and one Emmy win that had been accorded 26 years ago for an informational special that was misrepresented to the TV Academy as an original work, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

"Recently, the Television Academy became aware of a 1985 BBC documentary, D-Day to Berlin, which shared some production elements with the similarly-titled 1994 program George Stevens: D-Day to Berlin, a documentary entered into the Emmy competition," a TV Academy spokesperson tells THR. "Based on a review of the two programs, the Television Academy concluded that the 1994 documentary was ineligible for Emmy consideration per the 'Criteria for Eligibility Rule #9,' which reads — a program that is a foreign acquisition without benefit of a domestic co-production cannot be re-introduced into eligibility in a current awards year, even though it may have been modified with new footage, sound track, musical score, etc. Because of this determination, the 1994 documentary's Emmy nominations and wins have been disqualified."

Stevens, 87, is a member of one of Hollywood's great families — he is the son of George Stevens, who won best director Oscars for 1951's A Place in the Sun and 1956's Giant, as well as a 1954 Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award — and has had a distinguished career himself, highlighted by founding the American Film Institute in 1967, producing the Kennedy Center Honors for decades and receiving an honorary Oscar in 2012. Shields has edited many of Stevens' productions.

In the 1980s, British filmmakers learned that Stevens possessed never-released color footage of World War II and its aftermath that had been shot by his father, who was part of a team of Hollywood filmmakers dispatched to Europe to chronicle the war. The British filmmakers — including Paul Woolwich, an Emmy and BAFTA winning producer, and Robert Harris, a journalist turned best-selling author — sought and received Stevens' permission to turn that footage into a documentary.

The Brits then spent considerable time tracking down and interviewing people who had worked alongside Stevens during the war, both to help identify other people and places in the footage and to describe their experience working with him. They arranged for sound effects to be added to the footage, for which sound was not recorded, to help bring it to life. And Harris wrote and recorded narration for the program, which was completed and aired on the BBC on May 7, 1985, ahead of the 40th anniversary of D-Day, under the title D-Day to Berlin: Newsnight Special, drawing an audience of some 10 million.

Unbeknownst to Woolwich or Harris until the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019, their work was subsequently cut down from 60 minutes to 46 minutes — with Stevens now providing narration, using large portions of the Harris-written script — and retitled George Stevens: D-Day to Berlin. That version was submitted for Emmys consideration in 1994, and garnered four nominations — outstanding narration for informational programming (Stevens), outstanding writing for informational programming (Stevens), outstanding editing for informational programming (Shields) and outstanding producing for an informational special (Stevens) — ultimately winning all of them except the one for producing.

Upon learning what had happened to their work after 1985, one of the British filmmakers registered numerous complaints with the TV Academy, which were then considered by several different committees. Earlier this year, the TV Academy made the unprecedented decision to rescind the four nominations and three wins (which no longer appear on the Emmys webpages noting Stevens' or Shields' track records at the ceremony). Until now, the news of the rescindment has not been reported.

"I think it was a very brave thing for the Academy to do," Woolwich tells THR from London. "Given the passage of time, they could have kicked it into the long grass and come up with any excuse not to deal with it. But what they have done ensures the credibility of the awards and the integrity of the Academy." He added, "I would have hoped, though, that rather than just disqualify the program on eligibility grounds, they would have also commented on the impropriety of the underlying behavior. If anyone should have gotten an Emmy for that work, it was Peter Minns, the original editor, who crafted a beautiful film out of mute rushes."

Stevens and Shields could not immediately be reached for comment.