At this time a mere 60 years ago, the world was anticipating the Academy Awards for films released in 1961. The awards that year were memorable for many reasons. Held in Santa Monica, California on April 9, 1962 with Bob Hope as the master of ceremonies, the big winner of the evening was West Side Story.
West Side Story won awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Actor in a Supporting Role, Color Art Direction-Set Decoration, Directing, Color Cinematography, Film Editing, Music – Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Sound.
Other winners that night included:
Best Directing: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, West Side Story
Best Actress: Sophia Loren, Two Women
Best Actor: Maximillian Schell, Judgment at Nuremberg
Best Supporting Actress: Rita Moreno, West Side Story
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: George Chakris, West Side Story
Original Song: Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer for Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Nominees that night reads like a who’s who of big-name stars of the time. Best Actor nominees included Charles Boyer (Fanny), Paul Newman (The Hustler), Spencer Tracy (Judgment at Nuremberg) and Stuart Whitman (The Mark).
Best Actress nominees included Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Piper Laurie (The Hustler), Geraldine Page (Summer and Smoke) and Natalie Wood (Splendor in the Grass).
Run through the various categories of nominations that year and you’ll find movie classics for boomers, including West Side Story, Splendor in the Grass, Judgment at Nuremberg, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Hustler, The Absent-Minded Professor (nominated in three categories, including Best Special Effects), Flower Drum Song, La Dolce Vita, Pocketful of Miracles, The Guns of Navarone, El Cid, Fanny and Town Without Pity. If boomers don’t recall the movie, they’ll remember the title song. Town Without Pity was recorded that same year by Gene Pitney, and it became his first hit.
Mister Boomer recalls seeing only one of the major category winners at a drive-in theater with his family: The Hustler with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. Years later he saw most of the others on TV. He particularly remembers The Guns of Navarone, Judgment at Nuremberg, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and El Cid. Of course, his family only had a black and white television, so he had no idea if any of the films were in color.
Here we are 60 years later, and nominated for Best Picture, and other nominations, is West Side Story, the remake by Steven Spielberg. It did not win Best Picture against a host of strong contenders, but ironically enough, Ariana DeBose became only the second Latina to win a Oscar. She won for Best Supporting Actress for the role of Anita in West Side Story, 60 years after the first Latina won the same award for the same movie: Rita Moreno was awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in West Side Story in 1962!
What memories do you have of the 1962 Academy Awards, and the 1961 movies it featured, boomers?