1968 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®
This year was the first in which the telecast on television was beamed worldwide - to 37 nations. (By the mid-1990s, the show would be telecast to over 100 countries.)
It was also an astonishing year when Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist was made into a big-budget musical film version, Oliver! by director Sir Carol Reed and the bloated musical won the Best Picture award without winning any other acting awards. The two front-runners for the Best Picture award, The Lion in Winter and Funny Girl, apparently canceled each other out, and handed the top award to the major upset winner Oliver! It held two other distinctions:
The American-financed British film was about an innocent, nine year-old hungry, runaway orphan in 19th century London who must join a gang of young lowlife pickpockets. From its eleven nominations, the film won only five awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Musical Score, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Sound) and a sixth Honorary Technical Award for Onna White's choreography. The two musicals, Oliver! and Funny Girl (a superior musical), garnered 19 nominations between them. [The Academy had also previously honored only one other musical film with this kind of award - Jerome Robbins for West Side Story (1961). This was the last Best Picture win for a musical until 34 years later, when Rob Marshall's Chicago (2002) won the top prize.]
Its competition consisted of three costume films with period sets:
The fifth Best Picture nominee was the small, less splashy psychological drama or "women's picture," Paul Newman's directorial debut film in an independent production, Rachel, Rachel, with his wife Joanne Woodward in the lead role as a Connecticut small-town sexually-repressed schoolteacher/spinster.
Two directors were denied Best Director nominations (even though they had Best Picture nominations) - Paul Newman for Rachel, Rachel, and accomplished director William Wyler for Funny Girl. They were replaced by Stanley Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey (with four nominations and only one win - Best Special Visual Effects, the only Oscar won by Kubrick in his entire career!) about a mysterious black monolith and a space trip to Jupiter from Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Sentinel, and Gillo Pontecorvo for the serious documentary-style film about guerrilla war between Algerian revolutionaries and the French in The Battle of Algiers. [The neo-realistic foreign film had already been nominated in 1966 for Best Foreign Language Film, and won the Best Film award at the 1966 Venice Film Festival.]
The Best Director Oscar went to British film director Carol Reed (with his sole Oscar win) for Oliver! [Reed was better known for his great films of the late 1940s, but never won for any of them, so maybe the Academy was making amends for its historical oversights. Reed's films included: Odd Man Out (1947) (with only one nomination for Best Film Editing) and his Best Director-nominated The Third Man (1949), considered in the 1950 awards. He was also nominated as Best Director for The Fallen Idol (1949). His witty political satire Our Man in Havana (1960) lacked nominations of any kind.]
One of the biggest surprises of the year (and Oscar history) was Cliff Robertson's (with his sole career nomination - and only Oscar) Oscar win in the Best Actor category for his role in the profound 'sleeper' film, Charly (the film's sole nomination) - adapted from a short story titled Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes. The award-winning actor portrayed Charly Gordon - a mentally-retarded, thirty year-old bakery worker who was suddenly (but temporarily) transformed (as in the Pygmalion stories) into a genius by radical, experimental brain surgery and then tragically regressed.
The year's Best Actor award had appeared as a three-way race between Alan Bates, Alan Arkin, and Peter O'Toole (who should have won):
The greatest shock of the year was that two actresses in the Best Actress category won the award with an unprecedented exact tie - the only one in the Best Actress category in Academy history! [There had been a similar tie in the Best Actor category in 1931/2 between Fredric March (for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931/2)) and Wallace Beery (for The Champ (1931/2)), but it was a nominal tie. Beery was unofficially one vote short of the vote for March.] The winners to share the Oscar were:
The other three Best Actress nominees were:
In the Best Supporting Actor category, Jack Albertson (with his sole career nomination) won as Patricia Neal's frustrated husband Jack Cleary, the father of returning World War II veteran Timmy (Martin Sheen) in The Subject Was Roses. He was reprising his role (as was Sheen) from the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1964 play.
The other four Best Supporting Actor competitors were:
Aging, seventy-two year-old versatile actress Ruth Gordon (with her second and last career nomination - and her sole Oscar win) took the Best Supporting Actress award for her eccentric role as Minnie Castevet, one of Rosemary's eccentric, devil-worshipping, next-door neighbors who promotes Mia Farrow's delivery of Satan's son in director Roman Polanski's first American film, Rosemary's Baby (with two nominations and one win - Best Supporting Actress).
The other four Best Supporting Actress nominees were:
The Best Foreign Film was Sergei Bondarchuk's 7 and a half hour epic War and Peace (aka Voyna i Mir) - originally, it lasted 507 minutes until being trimmed down for American audiences at nearly seven hours. Its award made it the longest film to ever win an Oscar. [The film was parodied in Woody Allen's Love and Death (1975).]
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
The films that didn't receive major nominations in 1968 are now considered the films that uniquely defined their times. For example, writer/director Stanley Kubrick's great revolutionary science fiction masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was not nominated for Best Picture and received only one award - Best Special Visual Effects - from its four nominations (other nominations were Best Original Story and Screenplay, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Director!). The Academy members presumably didn't recognize or realize the outstandingly superior, too-believable makeup in the opening scenes of 2001, that included both human actors with life-like masks and infant chimpanzees!
Other films slighted in the Best Picture category this year included:
The title roles in two cop films were un-nominated: Steve McQueen as a San Francisco homicide detective in Peter Yates' Bullitt, and Richard Widmark as Detective Daniel Madigan in Don Siegel's Madigan. And Tuesday Weld's performance was likewise un-nominated - as a pretty, calculating, amoral killer Sue Ann Stepanek in Noel Black's low-budget black comedy-thriller Pretty Poison (with no nominations), with co-stars Anthony Perkins as an unstable, recently paroled lumber company worker, and Beverly Garland as her strict mother.
Eli Wallach was also unrecognized for his performance as Tuco - a Mexican bandit in Sergio Leone's definitive, violent 'spaghetti' Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (with no nominations). The memorable musical score by Ennio Morricone was also bypassed. Finally, Nino Rota's recognizable and popular score for Romeo and Juliet was also not nominated. And there was no nomination for Zero Mostel's Max Bialystock (arguably his best-known role) in The Producers.