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Film Finders: Exploring Special Topics

Academy Awards: And the Oscar Goes To... (Spring 2016 Display)

Academy Awards: And the Oscar Goes To...

As the 88th Academy Awards ceremony approaches, the Film & Video Collection are spotlighting select recipients of the Academy Award for Best Picture. This award, considered most important by the Academy, represents the picture as a whole: directing, acting, writing, editing, musical composition and other efforts. Over the years, it has undergone several name changes including: Outstanding Picture; Outstanding Production; Outstanding Motion Picture and Best Motion Picture.

Since 1972 Best Picture is the final award presented at the ceremony. It is awarded to the film’s producers. There have been 528 films nominated for this award.


1939 - Gone With The Wind, DVD 190; HDDVD 36

Director: Victor Fleming. Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia De Havilland.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Selznick International Pictures) ; Best supporting actress (Hattie McDaniel) ; Best writing, screenplay (Sidney Howard) ; Best actress (Vivien Leigh) ; Best art direction (Lyle Wheeler) ; Best cinematography, color (Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan) ; Best director (Victor Fleming) ; Best film editing (Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom) ; Special Award (to William Cameron Menzies for outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood in the production of Gone with the Wind). Nominated for 14 awards, won 9.

Trivia: Gone With the Wind is the first color film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Clark Gable worked a total of 71 days and received over $120,000. In contrast, Vivien Leigh worked 125 days but only received $25,000.



1943 - Casablanca, DVD 393; DVD 727; HDDVD 26; HDDVD 161

Director: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture; Best Director (Michael Curtiz); Best Writing, Screenplay (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch). Nominated for 8 awards, won 3.

Trivia: Many of the actors who played the Nazis were in fact German Jews who had escaped from Nazi Germany. Ingrid Bergman's line, "Victor Laszlo is my husband, and was, even when I knew you in Paris," was almost cut from the film because during that time it was deemed inappropriate for a film to depict or suggest a woman romancing with another man if she were already married. It was pointed out that later in the film she explains that she had thought Laszlo was dead at the time, and the censors allowed the line to stay in. The letters of transit that motivate so many characters in the film did not exist in Vichy-controlled France - they are purely a plot device invented by the screenwriters. Playwright Joan Alison expected somebody to challenge her about the letters, but nobody ever did.



1957 - The Bridge on the River Kwai, DVD 3187; HDDVD 435

 Director: David Lean. Cast:  William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa.

               Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Sam Spiegel); Best Actor in a Leading Role (Alec Guinness); Best Director (David Lean); Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Pierre Boulle, Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson); Best Cinematography (Jack Hildyard); Best Film Editing (Peter Taylor); Best Music, Scoring (Malcolm Arnold).  Nominated for 8 awards, won 7.        

Trivia: In the scene when Colonel Nicholson emerges from the oven after several days confined there, Alec Guinness based his faltering walk on that of his son Matthew Guinness when he was recovering from polio. Guinness regarded this one tiny scene as some of the finest work he did throughout his entire career.



1961 - West Side Story, DVD 638; HDDVD 87         

 Directors: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins. Cast: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris.

Academy Awards received: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (George Chakiris); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Rita Moreno); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (Boris Leven, Victor A. Gangelin); Best Cinematography, Color (Daniel L. Fapp); Best Costume Design, Color (Irene Sharaff); Best Director (Robert Wise, Jerome Robbins); Best Film Editing (Thomas Stanford); Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture (Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal); Best Picture (Robert Wise); Best Sound (Fred Hynes, Gordon Sawyer). Nominated for 11 Oscars, winning 10, this film adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical.

Trivia: This was the first film to win a Best Director Oscar for two directors (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins). It would not happen again until 46 years later, when Joel Coen and Ethan Coen shared the award for No Country for Old Men (2007).  It was the second highest grossing film of 1961, coming in just behind 101 Dalmatians (1961). With its win of 10 Academy Awards, this became the biggest Oscar-winning musical of all time, beating the record Gigi (1958) set three years before with its nine Awards. Robert Wise's original choice to play Tony was Elvis Presley. Audrey Hepburn was offered the role of Maria. She turned it down, because she was pregnant with Sean H. Ferrer at the time.


1962 – Lawrence of Arabia, DVD 1301

            Director: David Lean. Cast: Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Sam Spiegel); Best Director (David Lean); Best Art Direction (John Box, John Stoll and Dario Simoni); Best Cinematography (Frederick A. Young); Best Substantially Original Score (Maurice Jarre); Best Film Editing (Anne V. Coates); Best Sound (John Cox).  Nominated for 10 awards, won 7.

            Trivia: Almost all movement in the film goes from left to right. David Lean said he did this to emphasize that the film was a journey. King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his Arab Legion as extras for the film, so most of the "soldiers" are played by real soldiers. Hussein frequently visited the sets and became enamored of a young British secretary, Antoinette Gardiner, who became his second wife in 1962. Their eldest son, Abdullah II King of Jordan, ascended to the throne in 1999.


1964 - My Fair Lady, DVD 13208; HDDVD 211

Director: George Cukor. Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Jack L. Warner); Best Director (George Cukor); Best Actor (Rex Harrison); Best Cinematography (Harry Stradling); Best Sound (George R. Groves) Best Original Music Score (André Previn); Best Art Direction (Gene Allen, Cecil Beaton, and George James Hopkins); Best Costume Design (Cecil Beaton). Nominated for 12 awards, won 8.

Trivia: Jack L. Warner paid $5.5 million for the film rights in February 1962. This would set a record for the amount of money paid for the film rights to any intellectual property, broken only in 1978 when Columbia paid $9.5 million for the film rights to Annie (1982). At $17 million, this was the most expensive Warner Brothers film produced at the time. Nevertheless, it went on to become one of the biggest grossing films of 1964.


1965 - The Sound of Music, DVD 2307

 Director: Robert Wise. Cast: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer Eleanor Parker, Richard Haydn, Peggy Wood.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Robert Wise); Best Director (Robert Wise); Best Sound Mixing (James Corcoran and Fred Hynes) Best Film Editing (William H. Reynolds); Best Music, Scoring of Music – Adaptation or Treatment (Irwin Kostal). Nominated for 10 awards, won 5.

Trivia: Nicholas Hammond, who played Friedrich, grew from 5-ft. 3-in. to 5-ft. 9-in. during the six months of shooting. Since Friedrich had to be shorter than Liesl but taller than Louisa, the growth spurt posed a continuity problem. At the start of the film, Hammond had lifts on his shoes; by the end, his shoes were off, and Carr had to stand on a box.

            The opening scene of Andrews twirling on the mountaintop may look effortless, but it was anything but. Not only was it raining and cold throughout production, the helicopter kept knocking Andrews over. “This was a jet helicopter,” she said. “And the down draft from those jets was so strong that every time … the helicopter circled around me and the down draft just flattened me into the grass. And I mean flattened. It was fine for a couple of takes, but after that you begin to get just a little bit angry… And I really tried. I mean, I braced myself, I thought, ‘It’s not going to get me this time.’ And every single time, I bit the dust.”


1976 - Rocky, DVD 6400

Director: John G. Avildsen. Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler); Best Director (John G. Avildsen); Best Film Editing (Richard Halsey and Scott Conrad). Nominated for 10 awards, won 3.

Trivia: This sleeper hit went on to become the highest grossing film of 1976 and winner of three Academy Awards. Stallone wrote the script's first draft in just three days, then refused to sell it unless he was cast in the lead role. Its writer and star, Sylvester Stallone, is currently nominated for Best Supporting Actor for reprising the role of Rocky Balboa in the 2015 movie Creed.       


1972 - The Godfather, DVD 425; DVD 13282; HDDVD 83

Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Albert S. Ruddy); Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando-refused); Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola).  Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, won 3.

            Trivia: In the film’s opening scene, Vito is famously seen holding a cat. Amazingly this was a stray - there was no cat in the original script. Francis Ford Coppola found it while walking through the lot at Paramount Studios and wrote it into the movie. Its ludicrously loud purring muffled some of Brando’s lines, which meant they had to be looped over.  The most complicated scene for special effects was the death of Sonny Corleone at the Jones Beach Causeway toll plaza. James Caan's suit was rigged with 127 pouches of fake blood that exploded.


1974 - The Godfather Part II, DVD 2843; DVD 13282; HDDVD 83

Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, John Cazale.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Francis Ford Coppola, Gray Frederickson, and Fred Roos); Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert De Niro); Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material (Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo);

Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Dean Tavoularis, Angelo P. Graham, and George R. Nelson). Nominated for 11 awards, won 6.

Trivia: The line in the film, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" was voted as the #58 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).  Robert De Niro spent four months learning to speak the Sicilian dialect in order to play Vito Corleone. Nearly all the dialogue that his character speaks in the film was in Sicilian. Originally, the actors in the flashback scenes wore pants with zippers. One of the musicians pointed out that the zipper had not been invented at that time, so some scenes had to be re-shot with button-fly trousers.


1982 - Gandhi, DVD 3952; HDDVD 249  

Director: Richard Attenborough. Cast: Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, John Mills, Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Richard Attenborough); Best Director (Richard Attenborough); Best Actor (Ben Kingsley); Best Writing: Original Screenplay (John Briley); Best Art Direction (Stuart Craig, Robert W. Laing, Michael Seirton); Best Cinematography (Billy Williams, Ronnie Taylor); Best Costume Design (John Mollo, Bhanu Athaiya); Best Film Editing (John Bloom). Nominated for 11, won 8.

Trivia: Gandhi's funeral scene employed 400,000 extras which makes it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest number of extras in one scene. This is a record that is likely to remain, as huge crowd scenes these days are largely done via CGI. The extras were not paid - they were all volunteers who came to honor the memory of Gandhi. This scene was shot on 31st January 1981, the 33rd anniversary of Gandhi's assassination, and employed 19 different cameras.


1984 - Amadeus, DVD 6827; HDDVD 143

Director: Miloš Forman. Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Simon Callow, Roy Dotrice, Elizabeth Berridge, Christine Ebersole, Jeffrey Jones.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (producer, Saul Zaentz); Best Director (Miloš Forman); Best Actor in a Leading Role (F. Murray Abraham); Best Adapted Screenplay (Peter Shaffer); Best Art Direction (Karel Černý and Patrizia von Brandenstein); Best Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk); Best Makeup (Dick Smith and Paul LeBlanc); Best Sound Mixing (Mark Berger, Thomas Scott, Todd Boekelheide and Christopher Newman).  Nominated for 11 awards, won 8.

            Trivia: Only four sets needed to be built: Salieri's hospital room, Mozart's apartment, a staircase, and the vaudeville theater. All other locations were found locally.  F. Murray Abraham learned to read and conduct music for his role.  Throughout the entire film, all German (even those in the operas) is translated to English. All Italian is left as Italian. This was done to help viewers better immerse themselves in the time that was Classical Era Austria.


1994 - Forrest Gump, DVD 1127; HDDVD 44

Director: Robert Zemeckis. Cast: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Wendy Finerman, Steve Starkey, and Steve Tisch); Best Actor (Tom Hanks); Best Director (Robert Zemeckis); Best Film Editing (Arthur Schmidt) Best Visual Effects (Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Allen Hall and Stephen Rosenbaum); Best Adapted Screenplay (Eric Roth). Nominated for 13 awards, won 6.

Trivia: The line, "My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump," was ad libbed by Tom Hanks while filming the scene and director Robert Zemeckis liked it so much that he decided to keep it in.  With every transition of Forrest's age, one thing remains the same - in the first scene of each transition he wears a blue plaid shirt.


1997 - Titanic, DVD 2734; HDDVD 175

Director: James Cameron.  Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Gloria Stuart, Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher, Victor Garber.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (James Cameron and Jon Landau); Best Director  (James Cameron); Best Original Song: "My Heart Will Go On" (James Horner and Will Jennings); Best Original Dramatic Score (James Horner); Best Sound Effects Editing (Tom Bellfort and Christopher Boyes); Best Sound (Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers and Mark Ulano); Best Art Direction (Peter Lamont and Michael D. Ford); Best Cinematography (Russell Carpenter); Best Costume Design (Deborah Lynn Scott); Best Film Editing (Conrad Buff, James Cameron and Richard A. Harris); Best Visual Effects (Robert Legato, Mark A. Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher and Michael Kanfer). Nominated for 14 Academy Awards, won 11.

Trivia: Titanic was the first film to be released on video while it was still being shown in theaters. The film was originally called “Planet Ice”. In the scene where the water comes crashing into the Grand Staircase room, the film makers only had one shot at it because the entire set and furnishings were going to be destroyed.


2013 - 12 Years A Slave, DVD 14170; HDDVD 300

Director: Steve McQueen. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, and Anthony Katagas); Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o); Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley). Nominated for 9 awards, won 3.

Trivia: The tree where Solomon sees several men being lynched was actually used for lynching and is surrounded by the graves of murdered slaves. On location shooting in Louisiana took only 35 days with one camera, which prompted amazed laughter from an audience of Directors Guild peers, including interviewer Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, for the startlingly efficient direction of Steve McQueen.


2003 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, DVD 1119; HDDVD 72

Director: Peter Jackson. Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis, Sean Bean.

Academy Awards received: Best Picture (Peter Jackson, Barrie Osborne and Fran Walsh); Best Director (Peter Jackson); Best Adapted Screenplay (Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson); Best Costume Design (Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor); Best Art Direction (Dan Hennah, Alan Lee and Grant Major); Best Film Editing (Jamie Selkirk) ; Best Makeup (Peter King and Richard Taylor); Best Original Score (Howard Shore); Best Original Song: "Into the West" (Fran Walsh, Howard Shore and Annie Lennox); Best Sound Mixing (Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, and Hammond Peek); Best Visual Effects (Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, and Alex Funke). Nominated for 11 Academy Awards, won 11.

Trivia: To get enough extras for the Battle at the Black Gate, a few hundred members of the New Zealand army were brought in. They apparently were so enthusiastic during the battle scenes that they kept breaking the wooden swords and spears they were given. A normal major motion picture averages about 200 effects shots. This film had 1488.  Each of the cast members was given a gift on their last day of shooting, usually a prop that was significant to their roles. Miranda Otto received one of Eowyn's dresses and her sword, Liv Tyler received Arwen's "dying dress", and Orlando Bloom received one of Legolas' bows.


The “Oscar” Statuette          

Its official name is the Academy Award of Merit, but we know it better as “Oscar.” How it got the nickname is up for debate, but the popular theory is that when Academy Award librarian and future Director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick first saw the statue in 1931, she said that it looked like her Uncle Oscar. Oscar stands 13½ inches tall and weighs in at 8½ pounds. It stands upon a film reel that features five spokes, signifying the five original branches of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers.

Trivia: To prevent information identifying the winners from being leaked, Oscar statuettes presented at the ceremony have blank baseplates. Since 2010, winners have had the option of having engraved nameplates applied to their statuettes at an inscription-processing station at the Governor's Ball, a party held immediately after the award ceremony.