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1963 Oscar Flashback: Sidney, Cleopatra, Hud

Something is wrong with me. I miss the Oscars already even though I've just barely recovered from the March 2nd related exhaustion. (Nathaniel the Masochist) So the other day I got a little Oscar happy and was looking back at various years, so let's talk the 36th Academy Awards briefly. You in?

They were held exactly 50 years ago today. Tom Jones, just discussed by Andrew, won 1963's Best Picture and three other trophies but the evening is best remembered today for Sidney Poitier's historic win for Lilies of the Field.

Sidney was the first black actor to win in either leading category but it was 38 years before it happened again (with Halle & Denzel on the same night). Now of course it's a fairly regular occurrence in both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress... the other two categories not so much. 

Lots more photos and trivia after the jump...

Trivia Side Note: 1963 is the earliest year now with a surviving Best Actor winner. Poitier is now 87 and he's one of only 9 Best Actor nominees from the 60s who are still with us.

Anne Bancroft is so happy for him. Look at her fangirl jubilation after the speech. It was surely easy to get excited about him at the time both for the breakthrough game-changing and for his spirited performance in the endearing religious drama. 

As you know if you've been reading for a couple of years my favorite picture from 1963, and one of my favorite films of all time is Martin Ritt's Hud, which was not nominated for Best Picture. Weirdly it was one of the big winners of the night; Tom Jones & Hud split up the marquee categories with 4 and 3 wins respectively and Cleopatra & How the West Was Won warred over the technicals with 4 and 3 wins respectively. Hud was one of those lone director near misses that don't happen anymore in the days of the expanded best picture field. You know the type; they're just a bit too cool for the room. (Other stupendous Nathaniel-favorites that suffered that fate: They Shoot Horses Don't They and Thelma & Louise). I had forgotten that Patricia Neal wasn't there to accept Best Actress that night so when I was looking up acceptance speeches I was laughing about Annabella running too the stage to accept for her. That's practically a full sprint.

Imagine the face plant if JLaw attempted that today!

I wish it were easy to find photos of gowns to do fashion roundup from ancient Oscar years. Wouldn't that be fun? Since those things are hard to come by here are a few photos I found of Hollywood's High Holy Night 50 years ago today...

Here's Patricia Neal later with her Oscar... that baby there was just about to be born which is what kept her home on her big night.

Paul & Joanne - I'm not 100% sure this is from the Oscars (it might have been a different event (but it's the right time frame). The internet and photo archives only seem to have a lot of photos of Paul & Joanne in her winning year. 

Brandon de Wilde from Hud with the previous year's Best Supporting Actress winner Patty Duke

Steve McQueen

Best Actress nominee Natalie Wood (Love With the Proper Stranger)

Best Actress nominee Shirley Maclaine (Irma La Douce)

Rock Hudson

I think this was a magazine advertisement but i'm unclear on the source. It's delightfully cheesy


and more Anne Bancroft because she seemed so giddy that night...

And just for fun, my top ten (in progress) though really I'm only sure about the first three since the rest are vague memories from rentals in the 80s and Cleopatra is only really there because I just recently watched it given the 50th anniversary BluRay. It's dull for some stretches but Elizabeth Taylor gives gargantuan star mojo as ever. The film wouldn't have worked without a star of that magnitude so it's somewhat strange that of the 9 Oscar nominations (with 4 wins) there was no room for Taylor herself. Not that she didn't win gold; the historical epic made her the highest paid actress of all time... at the time.

highly subject to change 

  1. Hud  (Martin Ritt)
  2. (Federico Fellini)
  3. The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock)
  4. Lilies of the Field (Ralph Nelson)
  5. Charade (Stanley Donen)
  6. Love With the Proper Stranger (Robert Mulligan)
  7. Tom Jones (Tony Richardson)
  8. From Russia With Love (Terence Young)
  9. Cleopatra (Joseph Mankiewicz)
  10. Move Over Darling (Michael Gordon)

Key 1963 titles I need to see: Billy Liar, The L Shaped Room, America America, The Haunting, Irma La Douce, Knife in the Water, The V.I.P.s. (I have seen Irma La Douce but can remember nothing about it so when I see it it will surely be like the first time) and three foreign classics: The Leopard and Yesterday Today and Tomorrow (from Italy) and Contempt (France)

What are you favorites from 1963?

Exit Music: Here's the best song winner that year, sung by Andy Williams on the broadcast when Debbie Reynolds couldn't make it

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Reader Comments (32)

And I'd always thought that Patricia Neal didn't show up because she was in no way a leading actress in Hud. And that Sidney Poitier win is really nothing the Academy should be too proud of. They gave it to him 1. because they wanted to make history and 2. because they couldn't give it to the other nominees (Harrison in Cleopatra was merely in a supporting role and the other three - Newman in Hud, Harris in This Sporting Life and Finney in Tom Jones - were in bawdy roles). As far as Poitier's actual performance in Lilies Of The Field goes, this Best Actor win is nothing but a joke.
Be that as it may, my favorite film from 1963 is also Hud.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

what the hell are "girls with technical difficulties"?

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

par - not sure i understand the question

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The 60s are still my favourite movie decade (though it was a bumpy era for American cinema).

My 1963 top 10 would be

1. 8½
This is actually in my all-time top 5. One of the great works of art, period.

2. The Leopard
It would be difficult to make a bad film from such an elegant novel, but Visconti and his cinematographer Giuseppe Rotuno go above and beyond. That final third just has me perpetually gushing every time.

3. The Haunting
Whoda thunk it that the director of The Sound of Music had one of the all-time great horror films in him too?

4. Les Carabiniers
An odd, unfairly neglected piece of prickly genius from Godard.

5. The Silence
Bergman is to me as Jesus is to Christians. I wouldn't necessarily consider this among his definitive masterpieces but it's hypnotic throughout and features not only cinema's first truly great sex scene but also cinema's second truly great sex scene.

6. From Russia with Love
I can never decide if this or Goldfinger is my favourite Bond. Both are sublime.

7. Le Petit soldat
Another great Godard film.

8. Le Feu follet
Which was recently remade as Oslo 31. August. Malle's original is much richer and more emotionally vivid.

9. Bay of Angels
Jeanne Moreau at her Jeanne Moreau-est (with a peroxide wig to boot). I doubt any other film captured that Euro-casino sleaze-cool atmosphere quite as intoxicatingly as this one.

10. Muriel
Because a 60s top 10 without Alain Resnais would just feel empty. One of the great movie artists, and among the most innovative. And he was still working when he passed away earlier this year. He appears to have lived a full life and leaves behind a gargantuan legacy, but nonetheless, such a sad loss.

Also, I'd have Charade, Contempt, The Birds, and Hud as (very) honourable mentions.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Very good list Nathaniel!!! From the ones that you have on your "need to see" list, I think that definitely the most urgent is see the wonderful masterpieces America America and The Leopard, and after that Knife in the Water and Contempt, and then the rest.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

I like Patricia Neal in Hud, but I think Rachel Roberts should have won Best Actress for her heart-breaking performance, like she did the Bafta.

I also think that Paul Newman should of won for Hud. It's a shame that Brandon De Wilde didn't get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, although Melvyn Douglas is one of the best winners ever in the category. As you can tell, I also like Hud a lot.

My Top 5 films of 1963 in alphabetical order-

Le Feu Follet
The Birds
The Leopard

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobMiles

Contempt is top of my list.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

The Leopard is one of my ten favourite films of all time, and naturally my favourite of this year.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

Anne Bancroft is so happy for him. Look at her fangirl jubilation after the speech.

Julia Roberts declaring a love of her life when she read her campaigning for Washington payed off.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

1963 looks like an amazingly entertaining year, a banner year for light American comedies. It seems like everyone was making one, even John Wayne and Glenn Ford. From Beach Party and Gidget to Irma La Douce and Bye Bye Birdie, there seemed to be a whole set of craftspeople who could turn out quick clever narratives.

That's maybe why my Best Picture candidate, Charade, seemed like another entertaining comedy thriller, instead of another perfect movie by Stanley Donen, like Singing in the Rain. Cary Grant, as his Cary Grantiest, should have been nominated for Best Actor.

My favorites:
8 1/2
The Sword in the Stone
Hud (Martin Ritt should be more appreciated)
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
From Russia With Love
The Incredible Journey
Lilies of the Field
Jason and The Argonauts (Ray Harryhausen)
Move Over Darling (Doris Day, James Garner)

I have not yet seen: The Leopard (shocked that this got terrible reviews); The Servant (love Dirk Bogarde); High and Low (Kurosawa/Mifune); The Birds; Billy Liar; The Great Escape (surprised that wasn't a Best Picture favorite); 55 Days at Peking (Nicholas Ray); A New Kind of Love (Newman/Woodward, especially after that Cannes poster); The Ugly American (Marlon Brando); Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

To realize just how long ago 1963 was, consider that apparently nobody in The Butler even knew how to pronounce Sidney Poitier's name. It is NOT Sidney Port-ee-ay, it is Sidney P-wah-tee-ay. Shoddy research and disrespect.

Sidney Poitier is one of the few actors who can communicate pure joy on screen. As a top note, this gives him an enormous range of human expression. As a director, his movies were infused with kindness.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

How many of the so-called historic wins hold up well? Not this one, or Halle Berry's, and arguably Bigelow would have been better off winning for Zero Dark Thirty instead of The Hurt Locker, though the 2009 Best Director field was relatively weak.

Paul Newman should have won, and their continuing refusal to reward him seems so embarrassing in retrospect.

My favorites from 1963 are Charade, Hud and 8 1/2.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne


You must be foreign because there's no way you'd confuse African-Americans' pronunciation of Poitier's name as a deliberate mispronunciation especially because in that community exclusive affects on a person's name is par the course.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I think that picture of Paul and Joanne is from 1958, when she won Best Actress for 'The Three Faces of Eve.' I remember that dress because she said she made it herself in a barn, causing Joan Crawford to say that she was setting the cause of Hollywood glamour back twenty years.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike

That's Sean Connery with Shirley MacLaine, isn't it?

Nathaniel, save "The Haunting" for Halloween. It's genuinely creepy without being over the top. ("But who was holding my hand?")

"Girls with Technical Difficulties" is from Gregory Peck's Best Actress Nominations list. Look how far away the cameras are from the Movie Stars. Not like that today. And who is Annabella?

Paul Newman in that photo... just WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Poitier should have won in '58 for "The Defiant Ones."

To me, this was the first of several times Paul Newman should have won Best Actor ( also in 1967 and 1982). His work in "Hud," remains one of my top 5 all time best performances by an Actor in a Leading Role. Only real competition came from Richard Harris in "This Sporting Life."

Best Actress would be Lesley Caron in "The L-Shaped Room." That was the first of the three great actress performances directed by Bryan Forbes that decade (also being robbed were Kim Stanley in "Séance on a Wet Afternoon," in '64 and Edith Evans in "The Whisperers," in 67. Who did Hollywood deem the best of those years? Andrews and Hepburn. Pure Hollywood candy corn. Hugely popular wins, but had the voting members been sent the now obligatory screener, things would have turned out differently. How many people actually went to a cinema during the voting period in those years to see those 3 performances?

Best Supporting Actor went to the most deserving: Melvyn Douglas in "Hud."

Lastly, we had 5 foreign born actresses in competition: Hollywood threw it at Margaret Rutherford, a splendid character actress but walking through "The VIP's" for a paycheck. The Academy once again missed its chance to award Edith Evans, who stole "Tom Jones," from the entire cast.

Of course I've commented before about the mistakes the Academy has made (the 1960's seem the worst decade of winners...), but I can't let a year that Evans was nominated go by without bringing up how she clearly outdid all of her competition. The one exception is 1964, which featured an all-worthy list of Supporting Actress nominees (still would have gone with Evan...)

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

That is definitely not Sean Connery, who looked much hotter (and taller) than that in 1964.

My top 20 of 1963, in no particular order:
Hud, 8½, The Birds, From Russia With Love, Billy Liar, The Haunting, Irma La Douce, Knife in the Water, Contempt, The Servant, The Great Escape, A New Kind of Love, How the West Was Won, Tom Jones, Charade, Shock Corridor, I Could Go On Singing, Love With the Proper Stranger, The Leopard, The List of Adrian Messenger

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

The photo of Woodward and Newman was taken in 1958, at the Oscars honouring the films of 1957.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

In fact, it's MacLaine's husband Steve Parker.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I must be the only one thinking that Natalie Wood gave the BA performance that year

You all seem to love the foreign actresses

Paul Newman was definitely robbed

Also Margaret Rutherford???? Joyce Redmond
Was tops

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRick

Having seen all of the nominees in the major categories, I'd give the wards like so:

Picture - How the West Was Won
Director - Martin Ritt - Hud
Actor - Rex Harrison - Cleopatra
Actress - Shirley MacLaine - Irma La Douce
Supporting Actor - Melvyn Douglas - Hud
Supporting Actress - Margaret Rutherford - The V.I.P.s
Original Screenplay - How the West Was Won
Adapted Screenplay - Hud
Editing - How the West Was Won
Cinematography (B&W) - Hud
Cinematography (Color) - How the West Was Won

But my Top 10 looks like this:
1. The Birds - one of my five favorite Hitchcocks
2. From Russia with Love - one of my five favorite Bonds
3. Contempt - my favorite Godard film and the book is great too!
4. How the West Was Won - one of the great Westerns with such a good cast
5. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World - another all star cast that makes this a must-see comedy
6. Hud - the acting is probably the best part of this great film. I recently read Pauline Kael's review and she was very much impressed. Her breakdown of the cattle slaughtering scene is interesting in that she talks about how her fellow critics back then misinterpreted it.
7. Cleopatra - I loved Rex Harrison and it's one of the better epics of the time even if it was a flop
8. Charade - Audrey Hepburn is always good and this is an exciting movie
9. The House Is Black - this documentary short film from Iran about a school for children suffering from leprosy was directed by Forugh Farrokhzad, a female poet, and it's stunning.
10. The Great Escape - exciting action with another huge cast

I always considered The Pink Panther to be a 1964 film or else it would make my list.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

goran -- i LOVE Bay of Angels but it came out in the US in '64 so i have to count it then. (which is also true of Pink Panther but i'd forgotten so i removed it from the post)

April 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Not again. Cleopatra was not a flop, it was the highest grossing film of 1963. Nevertheless, the actual budget for the film made it a rather unique box office failure: an extremely successful film that just couldn't break even.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

willy -- yeah, sort of. i have an old box "box office champs" that came out in like 1990 before the internet took over everything about box office reportage but of course back then numbers weren't tracked as obsessively so some movies are "undetermined" and Cleopatra is one of the big hits (though they acknowledge that it nearly bankrupted the studio)

unfortunately the book mixes up years (if something came out late the previous year it's box office figures are reported from the year the money was made so each year is a mix of two years)... which i think fudges the numbers if some of the money is one year and some is the next but if you get rid of the year confusion and trust them, it suggests these 63 releases were the top ten

5. THE V.I.P.s

which leaves THE BIRDS and HUD as hits but not huge hits as they're just outside the top ten

April 13, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

"Not again. Cleopatra was not a flop, it was the highest grossing film of 1963. Nevertheless, the actual budget for the film made it a rather unique box office failure: an extremely successful film that just couldn't break even."

How would you define "flop"? Because I thought a film that couldn't make back it's production cost was actually the standard definition of the word.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

The success of How The West Was Won had definitely already begun in late 1962, but outside of the US. So who knows what to think of the "fudged" numbers? In any case, the word "flop" does not evoke the image of a film the whole world ran to see, and I think that we can safely assume that Cleopatra at least came close to that no matter if it ultimately made more or less money than It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. (And I for one doubt that the latter beat Cleopatra outside of the States.) One way or the other, Twentieth Century Fox deserved to go bankrupt for not shutting down a troubled production before the budget really exploded.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

So "Cleopatra" was the "Waterworld" of it's time? 175 Million Budget making 264 Million Dollars, worldwide, per Box Office Mojo.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

I think that Waterworld did significantly better outside of the States (which is probably not true for Cleopatra) and that it wasn't the highest grossing film of its year (1995). Both are however the most expensive films of their time who had trouble to break even.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

Nobody's mentioned "Toys in the Attic", but I think both Geraldine Page and Wendy Hiller should have been nominated in their respective categories for that one.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterhcu

So many wonderful moments! While Sidney Poitier's performance is a good one, Albert Finney, Richard Harris and Paul Newman's were all stronger. They all had richer characters to play though. I would have gone with Newman as the winner but Finney is a very close second.

Patricia Neal gave the best performance of ANY actress in '63 but Alma is a supporting role. Of the other four my preference is Natalie in Perfect Stranger but Leslie Caron was very fine in L-Shaped Room.

I love the 60's looks! Both Anne Bancroft and Neile Adams McQueen have those wonderful mountainous beehives and Shirley's hair is like its own planet. Natalie's look however is timeless, she could walk down a red carpet today without changing a thing.

Forever 1267-Annabella was a French film star who had a brief American film career and was the first Mrs. Tyrone Power.

That picture of Paul and Joanne is definitely from around the early 60's. She has the same hairdo she wore in The Stripper which she inherited on Marilyn Monroe's death and that came out in '63. When she won for 3 Faces of Eve her hair was long and pulled back into a chignon.

I love that clip of Andy Williams and the color contrasts of the entire set piece. He looks very dapper and the background integrates so well creating a great overall effect. He's so relaxed with the camera, during the musical refrain the camera stays on him for what seems an uncomfortable amount of time and he just stares right into it totally unaffected. Doubtful in this day and age of endless cuts that either a cameraman nor a performer could or would do the same.

My top 10 of '63 more or less in order:

How the West Was Won
I Could Go On Singing
The Prize
The Birds
The V.I.P.S.
Love With the Proper Stranger
The Courtship of Eddie's Father
The Thrill of It All
The Ballad of the Running Man

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Natalie Wood looks so contemporary -- I could easily see her being a star today.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I need to watch The Leopard. It's been sitting on my shelf for months now but every time I try to watch it I can never finish! It's not boring, but you definitely have to be in a particular mood to watch it, especially when you don't speak Italian. Contempt is another than I'll be watching soon, I'm not sure I quite *get* Godard yet, but Weekend and especially Vivre Sa Vie have encouraged me to keep going through his filmography.

And since I haven't seen anywhere near enough of that year's films to make a top ten, I'll just say that 8 1/2, Charade, and The Birds all have a special place in my heart and. I'm not as high on The Haunting as most people, but it's definitely worth watching.

April 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

You had me at Anne Bancroft. You had me at Anne Bancroft.

April 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

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