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®
"FROM HERE TO ETERNITY", "Julius Caesar", "The Robe", "Roman Holiday", "Shane"
WILLIAM HOLDEN in "Stalag 17", Marlon Brando in "Julius Caesar", Richard Burton in "The Robe", Montgomery Clift in "From Here to Eternity", Burt Lancaster in "From Here to Eternity"
AUDREY HEPBURN in "Roman Holiday", Leslie Caron in "Lili", Ava Gardner in "Mogambo", Deborah Kerr in "From Here to Eternity", Maggie McNamara in "The Moon is Blue"
FRANK SINATRA in "From Here to Eternity", Eddie Albert in "Roman Holiday", Brandon de Wilde in "Shane", Jack Palance in "Shane", Robert Strauss in "Stalag 17"
DONNA REED in "From Here to Eternity", Grace Kelly in "Mogambo", Geraldine Page in "Hondo", Marjorie Rambeau in "Torch Song", Thelma Ritter in "Pickup on South Street"
FRED ZINNEMANN for "From Here to Eternity", George Stevens for "Shane", Charles Walters for "Lili", Billy Wilder for "Stalag 17", William Wyler for "Roman Holiday"
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:
- director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's and MGM's film version of Shakespeare's tragedy, Julius Caesar (with five nominations and one win - Best B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration)
- Fox's Biblical tale by director Henry Koster, The Robe (with five nominations and two wins - Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Color Costume Design) - the first film released in wide-screen CinemaScope (probably the reason for the Color awards) about the life and religious awakening of a drunken Roman centurion who wins the robe of the crucified Christ in a dice game
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:
- Burt Lancaster (with his first of four career nominations) as virile but human Sergeant Milton Warden (who has an affair with the Captain's wife on a beach in Hawaii)
- Montgomery Clift (with his third of four unsuccessful career nominations) as defiant, introspective boxer/bugler Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt. His stubborn refusal to fight in the boxing ring for his unit's team angers his superiors and leads to further conflict. As competitors for the same award, they probably split the vote among themselves and gave the win to Holden
The other two nominees for Best Actor were:
- Marlon Brando (with his third consecutive Best Actor nomination) as Marc Antony in Julius Caesar - although it was really a supporting role
- Richard Burton (with his second of seven unsuccessful career nominations) as Roman tribune Marcellus Gallio in The Robe
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:
- the strikingly-beautiful Ava Gardner (with her sole career nomination) as showgirl Eloise 'Honey Bear' Kelly with safari leader (Clark Gable) in director John Ford's Mogambo (with two nominations and no wins) about a steamy love triangle in a Kenyan game reserve - a remake of Jean Harlow's role in Red Dust (1932))
- charming French actress Leslie Caron (with her first of two unsuccessful nominations) (she had debuted as a teenager in the Best Picture film of 1951, An American In Paris (1951)) as Lili Daurier - the puppet-entranced orphan in the title role in director Charles Walters' musical romance Lili (with six nominations and one win - Best Score)
- Maggie McNamara (with her sole career nomination for her film debut) as virgin Patty O'Neill in Otto Preminger's then-shocking, historically-important film The Moon is Blue (with three nominations and no wins)
- ladylike Deborah Kerr (with her second of six unsuccessful career nominations) playing against type as Captain Holmes' sex-starved, frustrated, hot-blooded, adulterous wife Karen in From Here to Eternity (1953). Kerr's most famous (notorious) scene was the erotic, love-making beach scene in the foaming surf (daring for its time) with tough sergeant co-star Burt Lancaster. [Deborah Kerr was nominated a total of six times in her film career, but never won an Oscar!]
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:
- Brandon de Wilde (with his sole career nomination) as the wide-eyed young rancher's son named Joey Starrett (who cries out to his hero: 'Shane...come back...!')
- Jack Palance (with his second consecutive nomination of three career nominations) as the villainous hired gunfighter Jack Wilson [Palance would have to wait another 38 years until his third nomination (and win) for his role as the tough trail boss in City Slickers (1991).]
The other Best Supporting Actor nominees were:
- Robert Strauss (with his sole career nomination) as the clowning, Betty Grable-fantasizing POW 'Animal' Stosh in Stalag 17
- Eddie Albert (with his first of two unsuccessful career nominations) as photographer Irving Radovich in Roman Holiday
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:
- Grace Kelly (with her first of two career nominations) as prim, repressed, but horny Linda Nordley in Mogambo
- Geraldine Page (with her first of eight career nominations in her first starring film role) as rancher's wife Angie Lowe in director John Farrow's John Wayne western Hondo (the film's sole nomination)
- Marjorie Rambeau (with her second and last unsuccessful career nomination) as Mrs. Stewart (Joan Crawford's mother) in director Charles Walters' musical melodrama Torch Song (the film's sole nomination)
- Thelma Ritter (with her fourth of six unsuccessful nominations) as NY waterfront informer Moe in director Samuel Fuller's crime thriller 'B' film Pickup on South Street (the film's sole nomination)
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.