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®
"THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH", "High Noon", "Ivanhoe", "Moulin Rouge", "The Quiet Man"
GARY COOPER in "High Noon", Marlon Brando in "Viva Zapata!", Kirk Douglas in "The Bad and the Beautiful", Jose Ferrer in "Moulin Rouge", Alec Guinness in "The Lavender Hill Mob"
SHIRLEY BOOTH in "Come Back, Little Sheba", Joan Crawford in "Sudden Fear", Bette Davis in "The Star", Julie Harris in "The Member of the Wedding", Susan Hayward in "With a Song in My Heart"
ANTHONY QUINN in "Viva Zapata!", Richard Burton in "My Cousin Rachel", Arthur Hunnicutt in "The Big Sky", Victor McLaglen in "The Quiet Man", Jack Palance in "Sudden Fear"
GLORIA GRAHAME in "The Bad and the Beautiful", Jean Hagen in "Singin' In The Rain", Colette Marchand in "Moulin Rouge", Terry Moore in "Come Back, Little Sheba", Thelma RItter in "With a Song in My Heart"
JOHN FORD for "The Quiet Man", Cecil B. DeMille for "The Greatest Show On Earth", John Huston for "Moulin Rouge", Joseph L. Mankiewicz for "Five Fingers", Fred Zinnemann for "High Noon"
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:
- the front-runner - the taut, gripping Western showdown about a Hadleyville town marshal who faces four professional killers in director Fred Zinnemann's character study High Noon (with six nominations and four wins - Best Actor, Best Song - Dimitri Tiomkin's "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'", Best Dramatic Score, and Best Film Editing). The Academy followed its familiar pattern of snubbing western genre films by denying the Best Picture Oscar to a western. [Very few westerns have ever been nominated for Best Picture. By century's end, only three have won the top award, Cimarron (1930/31), Dances With Wolves (1990), and Unforgiven (1992).]
- the portrait of the life of dwarfish, impressionistic artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in director John Huston's Moulin Rouge (with seven nominations and two wins - Best Color Art Direction and Set Decoration, and Best Color Costume Design)
- Sir Walter Scott's chivalrous romance novel lavishly adapted for the screen in director Richard Thorpe's Ivanhoe (with three nominations and no wins)
- John Ford's Irish romantic comedy The Quiet Man (with seven nominations and two wins - Best Director and Best Color Cinematography) about an American ex-boxer (John Wayne) who returns to his childhood Irish town of Innisfree and attempts to romance a spirited Irish lass (Maureen O'Hara)
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:
- Jose Ferrer (with his third and last career nomination - and his second Best Actor nomination) as the physically stunted, cynical artist of 19th century Montmartre named Toulouse-Lautrec in writer/director John Huston's Moulin Rouge
- British actor Alec Guinness (with his first of four career acting nominations) as unsuspected, prim bank teller/mastermind robber Henry Holland who melts down gold bank bars into miniature Eiffel Tower paperweights in director Charles Crichton's UK comedy film The Lavender Hill Mob (with two nominations and one win - Best Story and Screenplay)
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:
- Joan Crawford (with her third and last career nomination) as successful playwright/heiress Myra Hudson in director David Miller's suspense thriller Sudden Fear (with four nominations and no wins)
- Julie Harris (with her sole career nomination) recreating her Broadway role as twelve year-old Frankie Adams growing up in 1945 Georgia in director Fred Zinnemann's version of Carson McCullers' play, The Member of the Wedding (the film's sole nomination)
- Bette Davis (with her ninth career nomination) as former Oscar-winning actress Margaret Elliot in pathetic decline in director Stuart Heisler's The Star (the film's sole nomination)
- Susan Hayward (with her fourth of five career nominations) as Jane Froman (the real-life Froman provided the actual singing in the film) in director Walter Lang's With a Song in My Heart (with five nominations and one win - Best Musical Score) about a crippled WWII troop singer/entertainer who survived an airplane-crash during a USO tour; songs included "Get Happy"
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:
- Jack Palance as a charming but lethal actor Lester Blaine who romances Joan Crawford for her money in Sudden Fear. [It was the first of three career nominations for Palance. He was also nominated for playing a mean gunslinger in Shane (1953) and won for City Slickers (1991), a record 38 years later.]
- Richard Burton in his American film debut (with his first of seven unsuccessful nominations ) as young aristocrat Philip Ashley obsessed with widowed Olivia de Havilland in director Henry Koster's melodramatic My Cousin Rachel (with four nominations and no wins)
- Arthur Hunnicutt (with his sole career nomination) as 1830 Missouri keelboater Uncle Zeb in director Howard Hawks' The Big Sky (with two nominations and no wins)
- Victor McLaglen (with his second and last career nomination) for his role as bully Red Will Danaher (Maureen O'Hara's brother) in The Quiet Man. [McLaglen was the first winner in the Best Actor category (in 1935) that was later nominated in a Best Supporting Actor category.]
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:
- Jean Hagen (with her sole career nomination) as blonde, squeaky-voiced, silent-turned-'talkie' film star Lina Lamont in the great film musical Singin' In The Rain - a stellar performance that should have won the Oscar!
- Colette Marchand (with her sole nomination) as streetwalker Marie Charlet (Toulouse-Lautrec's mistress) in Moulin Rouge
- Terry Moore (with her sole nomination) as room-renting student Marie Buckholder in Come Back, Little Sheba
- Thelma Ritter (with her third of six unsuccessful career nominations) as nurse Clancy (for crippled Susan Hayward) in With a Song in My Heart
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:
- the top backstage musical by co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, Singin' In The Rain, which only received two nominations (for Best Supporting Actress (Jean Hagen) and Best Musical Score (for Lennie Hayton)) - and no awards! (A Best Musical Score award was taken away by perennial Oscar winner Alfred Newman for the competing With a Song in My Heart.) And where were nominations for Gene Kelly (as silent film star Don Lockwood, with his memorable splashing in the rain segment), Debbie Reynolds (as Kelly's love-interest), or the inimitable Donald O'Connor? And why did Jean Hagen's vibrant performance lose? By contrast, in the previous year, MGM's An American in Paris (1951) received critical acclaim, commercial success and six Oscars, with star and choreographer Gene Kelly receiving an Honorary Award
- and the melodramatic Hollywood satire, MGM's The Bad and the Beautiful which won a record five Oscars (Best Supporting Actress, Best Writing: Screenplay, Best Black and White Cinematography, Best Black and White Art/Set Direction, and Best Black and White Costume Design) was also not nominated for Best Picture. [The film received the most Oscar wins of any film without receiving a Best Picture nomination. It was supplanted by the very inferior Best Picture nominee by MGM, Ivanhoe, with Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Fontaine.]
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:
- John Wayne, in one of the finest roles of his career, as American ex-boxer Sean Thornton
- red-haired Maureen O'Hara (who never received a nomination!) as the fiesty, temperamental and spirited Mary Kate Danaher
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.