On this day, April 17th 1961 the 33rd Annual Academy Awards were held. It was hosted by Bob Hope and held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, CA.
Gary Cooper was too ill to attend the ceremony, so his close friend James Stewart accepted the Honorary Oscar on his behalf. Stewart’s emotional speech hinted that something was seriously wrong, and the next day newspapers ran the headline, “Gary Cooper has cancer.” One month later, on May 13, 1961, six days after his 60th birthday, Cooper died.
Despite receiving mixed-to-negative reception and bombing at the box office, “The Alamo” received several Oscar nominations over better-regarded and prestigious films “Psycho” “Spartacus” and “Swiss Family Robinson” was largely due to intense lobbying by the film’s lead actor, producer, and director John Wayne. The film is thought to have been denied awards because Academy voters were alienated by an overblown publicity campaign by Wayne, particularly one Variety ad claiming that the film’s cast was praying harder for Chill Wills to win his award than the defenders of the Alamo prayed for their lives before the battle. The ad, placed by Wills, reportedly angered Wayne, who took out an ad of his own deploring Wills’ tastelessness. In response to Wills’ ad, claiming that all the voters were his “Alamo Cousins,” Groucho Marx took out a small ad which simply said, “Dear Mr. Wills, I am delighted to be your cousin, but I voted for Sal Mineo,” (Wills’ rival nominee forExodus).
Performers of the nominated songs included:
- The Brothers Four (“The Green Leaves of Summer” from The Alamo)
- Connie Francis (“Never on Sunday” from Never on Sunday)
- The Hi-Lo’s (“The Facts of Life” from The Facts of Life)
- Jane Morgan (“The Second Time Around” from High Time)
- Sarah Vaughan (“The Faraway Part of Town” from Pepe)
Other notable winner included:
BEST ACTRESS…Elizabeth Taylor for “Butterfield 8″…”I was the slut of all time!” declares Elizabeth Taylor in the role for which she won her first Academy Award®.
BEST ACTOR…Burt Lancaster for “Elmer Gantry”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR AND ACTRESS…Peter Ustanov “Spartacus” and Shirley Jones “Elmer Gantry” ( yes, the future, wholesome mom on 1970s TV series “The Partridge Family” — won an Oscar as a call year the same year as Elizabeth Taylor was hailed for “BUtterfield 8.” Jones played Lulu Baines, who turned to prostitution after her affair with this movie’s title character (Burt Lancaster), a fast-talking salesman-turned-preacher.
BEST DIRECTOR…Billy Wilder “The Apartment”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3LXBaO0nh8