7/16/20: A Bit Of Trivia About Best Pictures Oscar Winners

By Fred Muenz

Shortly after its creation in 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to institute annual awards for outstanding achievements in moviemaking. Cedric Gibbons, art director of MGM Studios, designed a statuette of a knight standing on a reel of film, gripping a crusader’s sword. Sculptor George Stanley then transformed the design into the familiar 13-1/2” tall, 8-1/2-pound gold-plated, solid bronze statuette we now know. Officially called the Academy Award of Merit, the statuette is better known as Oscar, a nickname known as early as 1934. Here are some interesting facts about some of the Best Picture winners:

  • WINGS (1927). Named the first Best Picture, there was no ceremony and no award, since the familiar Oscar statuette had not yet been created.
  • THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929). The first sound picture to win an Academy Award was distributed as a silent film, as most theaters were not yet equipped for sound.
  • ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930). German theaters showing the film were attacked by Nazis. The film was not shown again in Germany until 1956.
  • CIMMERON (1931). The land rush scene required 5,000 extras, 28 cameramen, 27 camera assistants and 6 still photographers.
  • IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934). Star Claudette Colbert said that she thought this was the worst film she ever appeared in.
  • MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935). The only film ever to have three nominations for best actor. None won.
  • THE LIFE OF EMIL ZOLA (1937). The first film to receive ten Academy Award nominations.
  • GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). For the world premier in Atlanta, the names of the black actors were purposely omitted from the program. Ticket prices soared to 40 times their normal rate.
  • REBECCA (1940). Producer David O. Selznick and director Alfred Hitchcock clashed so often that Selznick was banned from the set during shooting.
  • CASABLANCA (1942). In 1980, the script, with title and character names changed, was distributed to film makers and professional script readers who rejected it as having “too much dialogue” and “not enough sex”.
  • GOING MY WAY (1944). The only film to have the same actor, Barry Fitzgerald, nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.
  • THE LOST WEEKEND (1945). In accepting his Best Actor Oscar, Ray Milland walked on stage, accepted the Oscar, and walked off, saying nothing.
  • THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946). Harold Russell is still the only actor to win two Oscars for the same role. Frederic March’s name was spelled wrong in the credits.
  • GENTLEMEN’S AGREEMENT (1947). After the film’s release, U.S. Congressman John Rankin of Mississippi, a notorious segregationist and Anti-Semite, slurred Jews in a vicious speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. Rankin served in Congress from 1921 until 1952, when his district was reapportioned out of existence.
  • AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951). The 17-minute long song and dance number capping off the film took a month to film and cost the studio $500,000.
  • FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953). The famous kissing scene on the beach between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr was all the more realistic because the two were romantically involved at the time.
  • AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956). The cast and crew travelled over 4,000,000 miles and worked with 68,894 extras in 13 countries.
  • BEN-HUR (1959). During the famous chariot race, the crew shot 263 feet of film for every foot used.
  • LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962). Peter O’Toole was thrown from a camel and nearly killed during a battle scene, something which also happened to the real T.E. Lawrence.
  • TOM JONES (1963). This was the last movie watched by John F. Kennedy.
  • MY FAIR LADY (1964). Rex Harrison wore a microphone in his necktie which picked up the sound of passing police cars.
  • IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967). Due to racial tensions in Mississippi, the film was actually shot in and around Sparta, Illinois. To keep their breath from showing in the cool autumn air, the actors sucked on ice cubes and spit them out when the director yelled “action”. The name of the town in the script was changed to Sparta to match the filming location.
  • MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969). The only X-rated film to win Best Picture. The rating was changed to R in 1971.
  • THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971). The extended car chase sequence included an unscripted crash.
  • THE GODFATHER (1972). The studio tried numerous times to replace director Francis Ford Coppola during the shooting of the film.
  • THE GODFATHER: PART II (1974). To get a feel for the role, Robert De Niro lived in Sicily for three months and learned to speak Sicilian.
  • KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979). The scene in which Dustin Hoffman throws a wine glass at Meryl Streep was not in the script. Meryl Streep’s terrified response was genuine.
  • ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980). When director Robert Redford called to offer the lead role to Richard Dreyfuss, he was told “I can’t talk to you right now, I’m having a nervous breakdown”. Donald Sutherland got the role.
  • PLATOON (1986). Charlie Sheen nearly fell out of a helicopter but was hauled back in by actor Keith David.
  • RAIN MAN (1988). Dustin Hoffman was originally supposed to play the brother but switched roles after hearing a blind savant with cerebral palsy play concertos by ear.
  • DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990). The charging buffalo was actually running to get his favorite treat, Oreo cookies.
  • BRAVEHEART (1995). Several battle scenes had to be reshot when it was discovered that some of the “warriors” had forgotten to remove their sunglasses and wristwatches. This movie is said to be the least accurate historical film ever made.
  • SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998). Gwyneth Paltrow took the script from friend Winona Ryder’s desk and auditioned for the part behind Ryder’s back. The two have not been friends since.
  • GLADIATOR (2000). During filming, Russell Crowe suffered a broken bone in his foot, a cracked hip bone, popped bicep tendons, a gash in his face and the loss of feeling in the forefinger of his right hand.
  • THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003). The only film in Academy Award history to win all 11 of its Oscar nominations.
  • THE DEPARTED (2006). This film was a remake of a Chinese action flick.
  • NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007). In the film, a character refers to a dope dealer who killed a judge the year before. It was a real event, and the convicted killer was the father of actor Woody Harrelson.
  • THE ARTIST (2011). The only silent film to be named Best Picture since Wings (1927).
  • 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013). The tree used in the lynching scene was the actual tree used for real lynching’s.
  • MOONLIGHT (2016). The Academy Award ceremony was marred by the announcement of the wrong film as Best Picture winner.



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