1964 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 Best Picture winner in 1964, Warner Bros.' and director George Cukor's My Fair Lady, was about the transformative training of a rough-speaking flower girl into a lady. The enchanting musical had run for many years on the stage (in both NYC and London). Rex Harrison was called upon to bring his marvelous characterization of perfectionist Svengali phonetics Professor Higgins to the screen.
My Fair Lady emerged as the overall winner with eight Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Musical Score, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Sound. It was Warner Bros.' first long-overdue Best Picture Oscar win since Casablanca (1943), 21 years earlier.
Its win involved an upset and turnaround, however. British-born unknown screen star Julie Andrews, long-time Broadway star in Lerner and Loewe's musical version of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, did not appear in the Warner Bros. film version. Andrews was replaced in the lead starring role of cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle by non-singing film star Audrey Hepburn (whose singing voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon - a voice also used for Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956) and for the un-nominated Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961)).
While Hepburn wasn't nominated for a Best Actress award for her role, Julie Andrews was cast in the title role (in her debut film) and nominated as Best Actress for Disney's live-action and cartoon blend and Robert Stevenson's director-nominated Mary Poppins, as a no-nonsense adventurous nanny. This popular film condensed several Poppins books by P. L. Travers and told the story of an English nanny who takes charge of the unsettled household of a proper London banker.
My Fair Lady experienced serious rivalry and contention with the sugary Mary Poppins. [Note: The two musicals nominated for Best Picture had ulie Andrews in common.] Each film had an impressive number of nominations: Mary Poppins had 13 and My Fair Lady had 12. Mary Poppins ended up with five Oscar wins: Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Song ("Chim, Chim Cher-ee"), Best Music Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects.
All five directors of the Best Picture nominees were also nominated as Best Director, the second time in Oscar history. (It also happened in 1957 and 1981.) The Oscar for Best Director (for My Fair Lady) was also a first-time, long-overdue win for veteran, 65 year-old film-maker George Cukor. [With his win, Cukor became the oldest person to receive a Best Director award up to that time. He has recently been surpassed by 69 year-old Roman Polanski's win for The Pianist (2002). In his prodigious career, often known as "a woman's director," Cukor had directed such outstanding films as A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Little Women (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Camille (1936), The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944), A Double Life (1947), Adam's Rib (1949), Born Yesterday (1950), and A Star Is Born (1954).]
The other directors nominated for exceptional films in 1964 included:
For the first time in Academy history, all four of the acting awards were won by non-American, foreign-born actors - three Britons (Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Peter Ustinov) and Russian-born actress Lila Kedrova (who lived in France). All five Best Actor nominees were born outside of the US (and four were British). [Note: This occurred a second time in 2007 when all four of the performance Oscar winners were non-Americans.]
The winner of the Best Actor award was Rex Harrison re-creating his Broadway role as crusty, crisp-speaking, and irascible linguistics Professor Henry Higgins who 'talk-sings' his way through musical numbers and lyrics in My Fair Lady. His goal in the film is to win the wager that he can turn Cockney guttersnipe flowergirl Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) into a lady. [This was Harrison's second and last Oscar nomination - he had been nominated the previous year for playing Caesar in Cleopatra. He had been in distinguished, yet un-nominated films including Major Barbara (1941), Blithe Spirit (1945), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), The Foxes of Harrow (1947), and Unfaithfully Yours (1948).] His win set the stage for his appearance as the kindly English veterinarian in Dr. Doolittle (1967).
Two of the Best Actor nominees were co-stars in an acting tour de force in Becket - they played life-long friends:
The other two Best Actor nominees were:
Ironically, Julie Andrews (Rex Harrison's 'fair lady' on Broadway for more than three years in a role she had originated on stage) won the Best Actress award in her debut film - in the title role of Mary Poppins as the 1910 magical, flying English nanny Mary (who travels through the air with an opened umbrella) from P. L. Travers' classic children's books. She performed her own songs in the film, in contrast to Hepburn's role in My Fair Lady. [It was Andrews' first nomination and sole win among three career nominations. She would be nominated the next year for playing another governess in The Sound of Music (1965), and later for Victor/Victoria (1982)].
The other Best Actress nominees were:
Two co-stars in My Fair Lady were nominated for supporting acting roles:
The Best Supporting Actor award went to Peter Ustinov (his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar) in the sly crime caper-comedy by director Jules Dassin, Topkapi (the film's sole nomination). He played sniveling Arthur Simpson - a clumsy, dim-witted, small-time con-artist/snoop/tour guide afraid of his own shadow, hired by the Turkish police to report on the plans of jewel thieves - led by sexy Melina Mercouri - who are interested in the treasures of the fortified Topkapi Palace Museum. [Ustinov was nominated as Best Supporting Actor three times in his career - he earlier lost for Quo Vadis? (1951) and won for Spartacus (1960).]
The other supporting actor nominees were:
The Best Supporting Actress winner was French-Russian Lila Kedrova (with her sole nomination in her first English-language film) as aging, disreputable French courtesan Mme. Hortense facing destitution in Zorba the Greek.
The other supporting actress nominees were:
William Tuttle received the first Honorary Makeup award for 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. [It would be 17 years until the Academy would introduce a regular competitive category for such achievements.]
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
One of the most obvious, but explainable omissions in the nominees of the year was Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in the Oscar-sweeping My Fair Lady. For one thing, her singing performance was dubbed by Marni Nixon, and Hepburn's casting replaced Julie Andrews - the popular stage actress from the original play. And From Russia With Love (1963), (premiering in London in late 1963 but opening in the US in 1964) and one of the best in the James Bond series, was denied a nomination for its director Terence Young and for its lead action figure Sean Connery as agent 007. Director Guy Hamilton's Goldfinger won the Best Sound Effects Oscar for its sole nomination.
The Academy made some questionable choices in regards to another musical in 1964 - A Hard Day's Night, by denying Richard Lester a Best Director nomination, and instead presenting the film with a Best Story and Screenplay nomination (for Alun Owen) and a Best Score nomination (for George Martin). None of the Beatles' songs in the film were nominated ("And I Love Her", "Can't Buy Me Love", "I Should Have Known Better", "Tell Me Why", "This Boy" and "A Hard Day's Night"), and instead the Academy chose a group of mostly inferior songs for the category of Best Song: ("Dear Heart" from Dear Heart, "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte" from Hush...Hush Sweet Charlotte, "My Kind of Town" from Robin and the Seven Hoods, "Where Love Has Gone" from Where Love Has Gone, and the ultimate winner "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from Mary Poppins). - this winning song wasn't even the most memorable of the songs from that film -- that honor belonged to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius", generally considered the most representative song from the film. [The Beatles wouldn't win a Best Original Song Score Oscar until after their breakup, for Let It Be (1970).]
Although Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying... received five nominations (all unsuccessful), three of its best performances were un-nominated:
The four-time nominated Night of the Iguana lacked a Best Picture nomination, and there were two entirely overlooked films: Joseph Losey's ground-breaking film The Servant (with Dirk Bogarde as Hugo Barrett), and Blake Edwards' comedy A Shot in the Dark (with another memorable performance by Peter Sellers). Peter Sellers was also un-nominated for his role as the title character, an eccentric concert pianist, in The World of Henry Orient.
In addition, all of these performances were bypassed in 1964! - David Tomlinson as Mr. Banks in the oft-nominated Mary Poppins, Tony Randall's multi-faceted roles in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Joan Crawford as an aging, suspected ax-murderer in Strait-Jacket, Sean Connery as James Bond in the third film of the series - Goldfinger, Wilfrid Brambell as Paul McCartney's "clean old man" grandfather in A Hard Day's Night, and Peter Sellers as inept Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the first of Blake Edwards' highly successful series The Pink Panther.