1953 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®
All of the big winners in this year of 1953 were black-and-white films. The big winner was Fred Zinnemann's eight-Oscar winning From Here to Eternity (with thirteen nominations and eight awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay (Daniel Taradash), Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey), Best Sound, and Best Film Editing). All five of its major actors and actresses were nominated, with secondary players Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra taking home the Oscars.
The candid film was based on James Jones' controversial, best-selling novel about Army life on an Hawaiian (Oahu) military base just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack and World War II, to illustrate the conflict between an individualistic private (Montgomery Clift) and rigid institutional authority (exemplified by the Army). Its achievement of eight awards matched the all-time record held by Gone With The Wind (1939). The record would be tied again the following year by Elia Kazan's On The Waterfront (1954).
[Other films that have won eight Oscars include: My Fair Lady (1964), Cabaret (1972), Gandhi (1982), and Amadeus (1984). The eight-Oscar record was broken in 1958 by Gigi with nine awards. Other nine-Oscar winners include: The Last Emperor (1987), and The English Patient (1996). In 1959, Ben-Hur (1959) would shatter the present record with eleven Oscars, not again matched until Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). In between, West Side Story (1961) won ten Oscars.]
The competition in the Best Film category included director George Stevens' classic western about a retired gunslinger who helps a homesteading family - Shane (with six nominations and one win - Best Color Cinematography) - a film victimized by the Academy's anti-western bias. In an ironic twist, this year's Best Picture and Best Director victor Fred Zinnemann could commiserate with George Stevens, because of the prejudice his own western High Noon (1952) had received the previous year from the Academy.
Another Best Film nominee was William Wyler's delightful, elegant, fairy-tale romance between a bored European princess (Hepburn) and an American reporter (Peck) that was shot on location - Roman Holiday (with ten nominations and three wins - Best Actress, Best Writing: Original Story, and Best B/W Costume Design). Two other films were Roman historical-epics:
William Holden (with his second of three career nominations - and sole Oscar win) was the Best Actor winner with his portrayal of the selfish, cynical, scheming Sgt. Sefton in a German WWII POW camp, suspected of being an informer in Billy Wilder's black comedy/drama Stalag 17 (with three nominations and one win - Best Actor). This was another WWII-based film that dominated the awards in this year. [Holden's other two nominations were for his superior work as screenwriter/gigolo in Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Network (1976).]
Two co-stars were both nominated for the Best Actor Award for their performances in From Here to Eternity:
The other two nominees for Best Actor were:
Irresistible elfin, gamine actress Audrey Hepburn (with her first of five career nominations - and her sole Oscar win) won the Best Actress Oscar (in her seventh film but first American film and first starring role) as the touring European Princess Ann who flees incognito in the Italian capital, escapes protocol, and during her light-hearted adventure finds love with an American newspaperman (Gregory Peck) in the fairy-tale story, Roman Holiday . [She was nominated a total of five times in her career - also for Sabrina (1954), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), The Nun's Story (1959), and Wait Until Dark (1967).]
Hepburn's competitors for Best Actress included:
Non-singing Frank Sinatra (with his first of two career nominations - and his sole Oscar win) was nominated and won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a wisecracking, cocky young Italian-American soldier Private Angelo Maggio and the punished victim of sadistic, Italian-hating Sergeant "Fatso" Judson (Ernest Borgnine). [Sinatra was nominated only one other time - and lost - for his performance as an ex-junkie in producer/director Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1955).]
Two co-stars of Shane were nominated in the same category:
The other Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
In the Best Picture-winning film with a setting of pre-war Honolulu, wholesome actress/ingenue Donna Reed (with her sole career nomination - and Oscar win) won the Best Supporting Actress award for another against-type performance, as dark-haired, working girl/nightclub singer "hostess" (or prostitute) (Alma) Lorene at the New Congress Club in an affair with soldier/bugler Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity (1953). [Her Oscar nomination and win were the only ones in her entire film career. Later, she would go on to play the clean-cut star of the popular TV show The Donna Reed Show.]
The other four Best Supporting Actress competitors were:
The film Titanic, the pre-cursor to the mega-blockbuster and award-winning Titanic (1997), came away with two nominations (Best Art Direction and Best Screenplay), and won the Oscar for the latter (for Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, and Richard Breen).
Walt Disney achieved a milestone in the 1954 awards ceremony - as the individual with the most Oscar wins (4) in a single year. He won the award in four awards categories: Best Cartoon Short Subject: Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953), Best Documentary Short Subject: The Alaskan Eskimo (1953), Best Documentary Feature: The Living Desert (1953), and Best Two-Reel Short Subject: Bear Country (1953).
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Alan Ladd, portraying the title role as a shy drifter and gunslinger in Shane, probably his finest career performance, was not nominated as Best Actor, nor was Jean Arthur nominated as Marion Starrett, a homesteader's wife with a never-acknowledged love for Shane. Alongside nominee Marlon Brando should have been Shakespearean actor John Gielgud who played the role of Cassius in Julius Caesar.
Many other potential Best Actress nominees were also ignored: Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in director Howard Hawks' un-nominated musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Doris Day as the title character in Calamity Jane, and Gloria Grahame as gangster moll Debby Marsh whose face is disfigured by scalding hot coffee thrown by Lee Marvin in director Fritz Lang's violent, un-nominated film The Big Heat. Another Anthony Mann/James Stewart collaborative western The Naked Spur, probably their best, received only one nomination - for Best Original Screenplay.