Barbara Walters marks lifetime achievement of red-carpet chats

Grande dame of Oscars night curtain-raiser bows out after three decades

The first tears of Oscar night were shed while the biggest names in Hollywood were still tripping down a crowded red carpet yesterday evening, as nominees Sandra Bullock and Mo'Nique helped say goodbye to one of the event's biggest stars.

Barbara Walters, the grande dame of American broadcasting and a fixture at the Academy Awards now for almost three decades, bade an emotional farewell to viewers, confirming that the televised curtain-raiser she hosted before this year's event would be her last.

For 29 years, the 80-year-old presenter's interviews with leading nominees, and other Hollywood figures, have been aired immediately before the big event. They are now considered as much a part of Oscar tradition as laughing at the excesses of pretentious celebrities, or taking part in an office sweepstake.

But these days, Walters has decided, "there are so many entertainment programs and the stars are on almost everything," that she's decided to call it quits.

It's increasingly difficult to find new questions for a star, she says, "when they've already done 20 programmes."

The final "Barbara Walters Oscar Special" featured interviews with Bullock and Mo'Nique, both heavy favourites to win Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at the awards ceremony, which began in the early hours of this morning, after The Independent had gone to print. Bullock earlier completed the first half of what would be an historic double on Saturday night, picking up a Razzie Award for the dubious distinction of being 2009's "worst actress". She turned-up in person to pick up the gong, for All About Steve, thanking judges for "ruining my career with a very bad decision".

The final Walters show also featured a nostalgic round-up of the 93 celebrity interviews that have featured on the ABC programme over the years, including her rare audience with Bette Davis, two years before the screen heroine's death, and one with Oprah Winfrey, who sparked ridicule by declaring that she was "born for greatness."

The farewell added to the sense of history about last night's 82nd Academy Awards, which were presented by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin and were widely expected to bring viewers a selection of groundbreaking "firsts". Kathryn Bigelow arrived at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood as a long odds-on favourite to become the first-ever female winner of the Best Director award.

Her former husband, James Cameron, was also up for the title, and was hoping his blockbuster, Avatar, could beat out Bigelow's Iraq war film, The Hurt Locker, for the Best Picture title. It would be the first-ever science fiction film to win the night's star prize.

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