HOLLYWOOD -- Ronald Reagan will open the 53rd Academy Awards ceremony tonight in a taped message as the star-studded gala gets off to a delayed start because of the attempt on the president's life.
Fay Kanin, president of the Acadmey of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said today the White House had advised academy officials to use the tape, which was made more than a week ago by the only former actor ever elected president.
'The White House said we can do whatever we choose with the tape,' she said. 'We've decided to use it.'
Setting aside the tradition of 'the show must go on,' the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced four hours after Reagan was shot that the awards show Monday night was being postponed 'in deference to the tragedy in Washington.'
The decision affected an estimated 300 million television viewers in 66 nations and some 2,900 guests invited to the gala at the Los Angeles Music Center.
The ceremony was rescheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST), the show's producer, Norman Jewison, said.
'We'll have a good show tomorrow night,' said Jewison. 'It's amazing how people will pull together in times of trouble.'
It was only the third postponement in the academy's history, and for the second time in 13 years, the reason was political violence.
The ceremony was postponed for a week in 1938 due to disastrous flooding, and for two days in 1968 because of the assassination of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
Film stars reacted with shock to the attempted assassination of Reagan, one of their own, an actor turned president.
'I am terribly shaken up by this,' said Gregory Peck, who as president of the academy ordered the postponement in 1968 after assassination of King.
'I have a lump in my throat the size of a grapefruit. It brings to mind the horrors of the Kennedys, John Lennon and Martin Luther King.'
'It's absolutely the right thing to postpone our show,' said Jack Lemmon, a nominee for the best actor award.
'It's supposed to be a gala occasion. Our thoughts should not be on such an affair. When I heard the news I found myself crying and wondering what the hell is going on in what seems to be a crazy world.'
Frank Sinatra, a personal and political friend of Reagan's, canceled his remaining three performances at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. A spokesman for the singer said he was 'too overcome by the shocking situation even to talk about it.'
Best actress nominee Goldie Hawn called on 'all people regardless of their political persuasions to pray for the man and also mankind.'
'I wasn't shocked, which is shocking in itself,' said Shirley MacLaine, a liberal activist devoted to causes opposed to Reagan's conservative philosophy.
'I feel the way Walter Cronkite did a few minutes ago when he said from Moscow on TV that he does not know how to answer questions about what kind of a democracy this society is that allows this to happen.'
'I am profoundly shocked,' said Peter O'Toole, another best actor nominee.
Among the sightseers gathered outside the Music Center to gawk at the arriving movie stars, most were understanding. But some expressed bitterness that the show was canceled after they skipped school or work to wait all day in the sunshine.
'I don't blame them for postponing it,' said a middle-aged woman from North Carolina who asked not to be identified.
'It would certainly be a little untimely in light of the shooting ... We thank God Mr. Reagan is alive. It's really unreal what's happening to America.'
'I think most people have to agree' with the postponement, said Art Wisener, 22. 'I'd feel funny if I were sitting in the Hall tonight watching someone get an Oscar while our president was trying to stay alive.'
'They did the right thing,' said Holly Landers, 26, of San Bernardino, who traveled 65 miles to see the stars.
'You get thinking this is real important, to watch all the stars and everything. But it's not important at all, really. Reagan is important.'
Others were disgruntled.
'Reagan's a bad guy,' one spectator told a reporter. 'If he dies, what are they going to do, cancel it again? We prefer the show to Reagan.'
'I think it's inconsiderate,' said Laura Collinson, 15, of Garden Grove. 'Life goes on. I had to take off school for this.'