1966 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 two major front-runners of 1966 were both adaptations of stage dramas: one British (but financed in Hollywood), and one American, each with serious plots.
One was the Best Picture winner of the year, director Fred Zinnemann's biopic of the last seven years in the life of Catholic Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield), the 16th century English Chancellor, when he battled in a moral tug-of-war against the will of heretical King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) over his 1529 divorce. It was based upon Robert Bolt's 1961 stage play A Man for All Seasons, but it was not the picture with the most nominations - it had only eight nominations. As it ended up, A Man for All Seasons won six Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design), one more than its closest contender.
The other contender was Mike Nichols' blistering and savage, taboo-breaking screen adaptation of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1962 Broadway drama Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with a grand total of thirteen nominations - the most-nominated picture of the year (a near-record!). All four members of its cast received nominations - one nominee in each of the four acting categories. Nichols' debut film won five Oscars (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best B/W Cinematography, Best B/W Art/Set Direction, and Best B/W Costume Design). Its win confirmed the end to Hollywood's Production Code.
The other three nominees for Best Picture included:
Three of the directors of the Best Picture nominees were denied Best Director nominations: Lewis Gilbert for Alfie, Robert Wise for The Sand Pebbles, and Norman Jewison for The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming. Mike Nichols, in his remarkable directorial debut, who brought together the controversial and unreliable husband/wife team of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (from the financially disastrous Cleopatra), was nominated for the profane play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. [Another famous future director, Francis Ford Coppola, was experiencing his debut year for You're A Big Boy Now (with only one nomination for Best Supporting Actress).]
Taking the places of the three displaced directors were:
Fred Zinnemann (who directed such classics as High Noon (1952) and The Nun's Story (1959)) won the Best Director Award for A Man for All Seasons - it was his second (and last) directorial Oscar (his first was for From Here to Eternity (1953) thirteen years earlier)).
The Best Actor category included one actor from each of the Best Picture nominees:
The winner in the category was distinguished English stage actor Paul Scofield (with his first of two career nominations - and his sole Oscar win) who re-created his original stage role as the principled, dignified, resistant Sir Thomas More who was beheaded by King Henry VIII when he stubbornly refused to compromise in A Man for All Seasons. In the film, More refused to endorse King Henry's royal divorce (and break with Rome) from his barren wife Catherine of Aragon and his subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn. [If Burton had won the category's Oscar, he could have boasted that he and his wife were the first husband-wife team in Academy Awards history to win the top two acting awards. And they would have won Oscars for playing the roles of a husband and wife! They appeared together in a total of eleven films - and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was their finest effort.]
The Best Actress Oscar was won by Elizabeth Taylor (with her fifth and final career nomination). It was her second Oscar for her role as the verbally-abusive, graying, foul-mouthed, troubled, sloppy and overweight, and shrewish wife Martha (the middle-aged daughter of a college president) in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
The other Best Actress nominees were from non-American, international films, with the additional twist of the Redgrave sisters competing against each other in two British films: [Note: The sisters were the first to be nominated simultaneously in 25 years, when two other sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia De Havilland were nominated for their films Suspicion (1941) and Hold Back the Dawn (1941).]
The supporting Actor and Actress nominees included the two other co-stars in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - one of whom won the award:
[This was only one of three instances when a film's entire cast had been nominated. The other instances were Sleuth (1972), with a cast of two - Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, and Give 'em Hell, Harry! (1975).]
The Best Supporting Actor award was presented to Walter Matthau (with his first of three career nominations - and his sole Oscar win) as shyster lawyer 'Whiplash' Willie Gingrich who takes advantage of his brother's (Jack Lemmon) supposed injuries in director Billy Wilder's witty satire The Fortune Cookie (with four nominations and one win - Best Supporting Actor). [Matthau's major acting performance was placed in the supportive category to help guarantee the win. The role teamed Matthau with Jack Lemmon, for the first time - it led to their re-teaming in The Odd Couple (1968).]
The following are the additional Best Supporting Actor nominees: actor/novelist/playwright Robert Shaw (with his sole nomination) for his role as virile young King Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons, Makoto (Mako) Iwamatsu (with his sole nomination) for his debut film role as coolie engine-room worker Po-Han, who is tortured and mercifully executed by co-star Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles, and James Mason (with his second of three unsuccessful career nominations) for his role as James Leamington - a wealthy older man in pursuit of his employee Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl. [Coincidentally, Mason had played a similar pursuit role in his un-nominated performance as Humbert Humbert in Kubrick's Lolita (1962).]
The four losing nominees in the Best Supporting Actress category included:
Director Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers (It.) was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film this year, but lost to A Man and a Woman (Fr.). Other nominees included Pharaoh (Pol.), Loves of a Blonde (1965, Czech.), and Three (1965, Yugo.). The Battle of Algiers was eligible for additional Oscar nominations during the 1968 awards season, receiving Best Director and Best Original Screenplay nominations.
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Another psychological thriller from Roman Polanski, Cul-de-Sac, was again denied nominations (similar to the previous year) in any of the awards categories. Sean Connery was un-nominated in A Fine Madness, and Anne Bancroft was worthy of a nomination for Seven Women.
Zero Mostel (who never received a nomination during his entire career) was un-nominated for his role as Pseudolus the slave in Richard Lester's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (with only one winning nomination for Best Score). His two cast-mates Phil Silvers and Jack Gilford were also un-nominated.
Ernest Lehman's script for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? might have won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, instead of the actual winner, Robert Bolt for A Man For All Seasons. [Lehman had written previously-nominated scripts for Sabrina (1954), North By Northwest (1959), and West Side Story (1961) - he never won an Oscar for his four career nominations.]
Eli Wallach was denied a nomination as crazed bounty hunter Tuco in Sergio Leone's spaghetti western The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (aka Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo), and Liv Ullman was also bypassed as ailing mute patient Elisabet Vogler in Ingmar Bergman's Swedish classic Persona.
One of the top grossing films of the year, director John Huston's religious epic The Bible - In the Beginning, had no nominations. And director/actor Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight (aka Falstaff) (nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes, and the winner of the 20th Anniversary Prize and the Technical Grand Prize) was omitted from recognition in numerous awards categories.