1952 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®
This was the first year that the Academy Awards ceremony were televised (on March 19, 1953), on black and white NBC-TV, with Bob Hope as host (in Hollywood at the RKO Pantages Theater) and Conrad Nagel (in New York at the NBC International Theatre). It was the first ceremony to be held simultaneously in two locations. It resulted in the largest audience in commercial television history. Hollywood had to admit and succumb to the competing pressures from the burgeoning home entertainment medium. The show was telecast throughout the US and Canada.
The Best Picture Award was another surprise and is forever considered one of the Academy's worst choices for the top prize. 1952 has been considered one of the years in which the Academy blundered the greatest in its choice of Best Picture. The bloated, lumbering, melodramatic epic The Greatest Show on Earth was one of the Academy's biggest gaffes.
This year also marked the first time in Oscar's history that all of the top six prizes (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress) went to six different films. This would occur again in 1956, and then 49 years later in 2005.
Instead of going to the favored, critically-acclaimed, definitive and popular western High Noon, the top Oscar - in a major upset - went to the "P.T. Barnum of Hollywood," legendary director/producer Cecil B. De Mille's gaudy epic spectacular about the struggling Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Bailey Circus, The Greatest Show on Earth (with five nominations and two wins - Best Picture and Best Writing: Original Story). De Mille's cornball film chronicled the financial and personal problems (a romantic triangle) of the tough, three-ring circus manager (Charlton Heston in one of his earliest films), a beautiful, high-bar aerialist (Betty Hutton), a crippled trapeze artist/performer (Cornel Wilde), a clown (James Stewart), and others. This ponderous Best Picture is best known not for its acting (even though it was nominated and won for Best Original Story!) but for its spectacular train-wreck sequence.
The award, more than honoring the film, also saluted the film's producer, DeMille "the father (or founder) of Hollywood," with his only Best Picture Oscar - and his sole Best Director nomination. [Apologetically, in recognition of his outstanding years of producing and directing, De Mille received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award instead.] He was known for making the first feature-length movie in Hollywood, The Squaw Man (1914), and many other larger than life, 'cast of thousands' films in his past (including The Ten Commandments (1923), The Sign of the Cross (1932), Cleopatra (1934), Samson and Delilah (1949), and a second version of The Ten Commandments (1956), his last film). His The Greatest Show on Earth was one of the first Best Pictures that was a big-budget blockbuster with lots of special effects. The Academy felt obligated, presumably, to honor the great director as his career was coming to an end.
The four other Best Picture nominees were diverse:
It was his sixth nomination for which John Ford won his fourth Academy Award as Best Director for his epic romantic comedy The Quiet Man (1952). It was a record for the director (and for Academy history - the most Best Director wins for a film director), but it would be his last nomination and Oscar. [His earlier three Best Director wins were in 1935, 1940, and 1941. Ford lost the Best Director award for Stagecoach (1939) and the Best Picture award for The Long Voyage Home (1940). After his last win in 1952, he went on to direct more great western classics, including The Searchers (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Remarkably, John Ford never won an Oscar for his Westerns, the major core of his work.] DeMille was only nominated for director once - for this 1952-winning Best Picture, but he lost. [His films were nominated for Best Picture two other times - Cleopatra (1934) and The Ten Commandments (1956).]
Although it was defeated for the Best Picture award (with Stanley Kramer as producer), UA's High Noon managed to bring an Oscar statuette to mythic, small-town, retired Marshal Will Kane, played by fifty-one year-old Gary Cooper (it was his fifth and last career nomination - and his second Oscar win).
Marlon Brando again lost the Academy Award for Best Actor (a second consecutive nomination in a career total of eight nominations) in his title role performance as the Mexican peasant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in director Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata! (with five nominations and one win - Best Supporting Actor). [Brando had a third consecutive nomination in 1953 for Julius Caesar, and finally a winning nomination in 1954 for On The Waterfront (1954).]
Kirk Douglas (with his second of three unsuccessful career nominations) was also Best Actor-nominated for his role as Jonathan Shields, a ruthless Hollywood film producer in director Vincente Minnelli's The Bad and the Beautiful (with six nominations and five wins) told from the viewpoint of an actress, a writer, and a director. Douglas' nomination was the only one that the film didn't win. [Kirk Douglas' impressive acting career was nominated only three times - the other two were Champion (1949), and Lust for Life (1956), but he never won an Oscar.]
The other two Best Actor nominees were:
The Best Actress Award winner was Shirley Booth in her film debut (with her sole career nomination - and her only Oscar for a role she had played on Broadway) as the sloppy, waddling, worn-out, drab housewife Lola Delaney (of former alcoholic, middle-aged, frustrated, and weak-resolved husband Burt Lancaster) who mourns her lost dog Sheba in director Daniel Mann's film of marital tension from William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba (with three nominations and one win - Best Actress). [Booth's win marked the first time that an actress had ever won a Best Actress award in her first film.] It was the peak of Booth's acting career - she would appear in only four more lesser feature films, achieving more popularity in the title role on the TV comedy show Hazel in the early 60s.
The four other Best Actress nominees were:
Mexican-born Anthony Quinn (with his first of four career nominations - and first of two Best Supporting Oscars) won the Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance as Eufemio Zapata, Mexican revolutionary Zapata's (Marlon Brando) dissolute, betraying brother in Viva Zapata!.
Other Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
Gloria Grahame won the Best Supporting Actress Award (with her last career nomination and her sole Oscar win out of two career nominations) as Rosemary Bartlow - the strong-willed, seductive Southern belle wife of an abused novelist-screenwriter (Dick Powell) and an aspiring actress (molded by movie producer Kirk Douglas) in The Bad and the Beautiful - Grahame's first Oscar nomination was for Crossfire (1947). [She also had a role in this year's Best Picture, as the character of Angel.]
The other Best Supporting Actress nominees were:
This year's recipients of Honorary and Other Special Awards included producer/director Merian C. Cooper ("for his many innovations and contributions to the art of motion pictures"), noted for King Kong (1933), and silent era comedian Harold Lloyd ("master comedian and good citizen"), best known for Safety Last (1923) and The Freshman (1925).
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
It was a remarkable year for awards mistakes and films that should have been nominated, but weren't. For instance, what about two major MGM classics:
Two great Alec Guinness British comedies, The Man in the White Suit and The Lavender Hill Mob, were also un-nominated for Best Picture. [The Lavender Hill Mob, a film about a clever bank heist orchestrated by a timid bank clerk, did bring, however, a Best Actor nomination to Alec Guinness, and the film won the Best Writing (Story and Screenplay) Award.]
Also lacking were nominations in all (or nearly all) categories for Fritz Lang's third western Rancho Notorious, with Marlene Dietrich, and for George Cukor's romantic comedy Pat and Mike (with only one nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.
Lovely, young 23 year-old blonde actress Grace Kelly in her second screen role was not nominated for playing the pacifist Quaker wife of Best Actor-winning Gary Cooper in High Noon. And Jennifer Jones was unrecognized as a white-trash Carolina swamp girl in King Vidor's un-nominated film Ruby Gentry. Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers did not receive acting nominations for their roles as husband and wife in Howard Hawks' un-nominated screwball comedy Monkey Business.
The two main performers in John Ford's Irish film The Quiet Man (with seven nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Victor McLaglen), and two wins as noted above) should have been nominated, but were snubbed:
And the previous year's Best Actress Oscar winner Judy Holliday was denied a nomination for her role as Florence Keefer in George Cukor's comedy-drama about a troubled marriage, The Marrying Kind (with no nominations), which reunited her with the director and scriptwriters Gordon and Kanin (who had both contributed to her 1950 Oscar win in Born Yesterday).
Charles Chaplin was un-nominated as Best Actor in his last important film Limelight (1952), although he was co-awarded the film's sole Oscar nomination and win - for Best Original Dramatic Score 20 years into the future in 1972, when the film finally became eligible for Oscar consideration. It was Chaplin's ONLY competitive Academy Award win.