1969 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®
"MIDNIGHT COWBOY", "Anne of the Thousand Days", "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", "Hello, Dolly!", "Z"
JOHN WAYNE in "True Grit", Richard Burton in "Anne of the Thousand Days", Dustin Hoffman in "Midnight Cowboy", Peter O'Toole in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", Jon Voight in "Midnight Cowboy"
MAGGIE SMITH in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", Genevieve Bujold in "Anne of the Thousand Days", Jane Fonda in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", Liza Minnelli in "The Sterile Cuckoo", Jean Simmons in "The Happy Ending"
GIG YOUNG in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", Rupert Crosse in "The Reivers", Elliott Gould in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", Jack Nicholson in "Easy Rider", Anthony Quayle in "Anne of the Thousand Days"
GOLDIE HAWN in "Cactus Flower", Catherine Burns in "Last Summer", Dyan Cannon in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", Sylvia Miles in "Midnight Cowboy", Susannah York in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"
JOHN SCHLESINGER for "Midnight Cowboy", Costa-Gavras for "Z", George Roy Hill for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", Arthur Penn for "Alice's Restaurant", Sydney Pollack for "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?"
Although unlikely, it was interesting that nominations and awards were won by various kinds of 'Westerns' this year:
- a musical western - Paint Your Wagon
- a revisionist comedy western - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- archetypal western actor John Wayne's first Oscar-winning western - True Grit
- a violent western - The Wild Bunch
- an urban drama - Midnight Cowboy
It was also noteworthy that two major competitors this year, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Midnight Cowboy, were quintessential buddy films - although one reflected the dark side, while the other was light-hearted.
In the late 1960's, it was significant that the Academy Awards honored British film-maker John Schlesinger's seamy, hard-hitting film (with Nilsson singing "Everybody's Talkin'" on the enhanced music track) Midnight Cowboy as the Best Picture. It captured the graphic, lonely alienation of the hustler's world of New York's Times Square, and told a tale of a strange friendship between a would-be Texan stud (Jon Voight) and a sickly drifter (Dustin Hoffman).
The film was daring, scandalous, and shocking with its X-certificate for language and sex (not signifying pornography but an adults-only subject with no one under 16 admitted). [This was remarkable since the previous year's Oscar winner for Best Picture was the light-hearted musical Oliver! (1968).] It was the first and only X-rated Best Picture winner in Academy history (although it was re-rated in the next decade with an R rating.) Both lead actors were nominated for Best Actor - and both lost to John Wayne for True Grit.
From its seven nominations, the film won three awards (Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay by Waldo Salt), but was unable to win any of its three acting nominations. [Waldo Salt won the film's third Oscar for his witty screenplay that was adapted from James Leo Herlihy's novel.]
The other films in the same category covered a wide range of subjects:
- a historical drama/period piece by director Charles Jarrott about the affairs of amoral King Henry VIII (Richard Burton) who sets aside his wife for Anne Boleyn (Genevieve Bujold) - Anne of the Thousand Days (with ten nominations - more nominations than any other picture in 1969, but with only one win - Best Costume Design). [The film was produced by Hal Wallis, his 19th Best Picture nomination - a record.] Sixties' historical pageants of this sort (after the success of Becket (1964), A Man for All Seasons (1966), and The Lion in Winter (1968)) were beginning to lose their popularity and impact
- the popular buddy film and revisionist Western about two legendary outlaws by director George Roy Hill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, (with seven nominations and four wins, the most of all Best Picture nominees) - William Goldman's Best Original Screenplay, Conrad Hall's Cinematography, Burt Bacharach's Best Original Score, and Hal David's Best Song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head," a mix of entertaining music and comedic bank-robbing with two handsome male leads as the legendary outlaws
- the escapist musical and box-office failure - a re-creation of the popular Broadway show adapted from Thornton Wilder's play Matchmaker - with last year's Oscar-winner Barbra Streisand miscast in the un-nominated role of Dolly in director Gene Kelly's film, Hello, Dolly! (with seven nominations and three wins - Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Sound, and Best Musical Score)
- a tough political melodrama about the assassination of a 1960s Greek nationalist in director Costa-Gavras' French-Algerian co-produced thriller, Z (with five nominations and two wins - Best Film Editing and Best Foreign Language Film). [Z was the first film nominated as Best Foreign Language Film (1969) that also received a Best Picture nomination. It was also the second non-English language film to be nominated as Best Picture - the first was Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion (1938), over thirty years earlier.]
The Best Director award went to British director John Schlesinger for Midnight Cowboy. Four years earlier, Schlesinger's Darling was also sexually permissive, with Julie Christie awarded Best Actress in the film as a hip model.
Other high-impact films with Best Director nominations included:
- Arthur Penn for Alice's Restaurant (the film's sole nomination), a 60's countercultural, hippie re-creation based upon folk singer Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant Massacre"
- Costa-Gavras for the political thriller Z, originally subtitled "The Anatomy of a Political Assassination" and based upon the 1963 real-life killing of a Greek liberal
- Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (with nine nominations, not including Best Picture, and one win - Best Supporting Actor), the Depression-Era tale based on Horace McCoy's novel, of the desperate, self-destructive contestants in the Aragon Ballroom six-day marathon dances of early 1930s Los Angeles - this film was conspicuously missing from the Best Picture nominees
- George Roy Hill for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The two co-stars of the Best Picture winner Midnight Cowboy were fellow nominees for Best Actor:
- Jon Voight (with his first nomination) as uneducated, wanna-be hustler/stud but naive blonde Texas boy Joe Buck who, after being influenced by radio and TV commercials, wants to pimp himself in the big city
- Dustin Hoffman (with his second nomination) as grimy, tubercular, gimp-gaited, sickly street-savvy Bronx hustler Enrico 'Ratso' Rizzo
The other two defeated Best Actor nominees were:
- Richard Burton (with his sixth of seven unsuccessful career nominations) was nominated for his role as boisterous King Henry VIII in Anne of the Thousand Days. [The character role of King Henry VIII has been nominated more than any other literary or historical figure - previously, Charles Laughton for The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), and Robert Shaw for A Man for All Seasons (1966).]
- Peter O'Toole (with his fourth of eight career nominations) was nominated for his playing of Arthur Chipping - the beloved schoolmaster in the title role of director Herbert Ross' directorial debut with the musical remake of the 1939 film classic, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (with two nominations and no wins), based upon James Hilton's novel about a kind English all-boys school teacher.
Sixty-two year-old John Wayne's 'sentimental' win of the Best Actor Oscar in 1969 (as a different kind of cowboy from the one in the Best Picture of the year) has generally been considered as a belated, long-overdue 'career' Oscar award or 'sentimental favorite' award. He was nominated (this was his second acting nomination, after being nominated as Best Actor for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)) and finally won for his 139th film, Henry Hathaway's True Grit, in a self-parodying role as the one-eyed (eye-patched), mean-tempered, hard-drinking, old US marshal named Rooster Cogburn who helps a young girl (Kim Darby) and a Texas ranger avenge the murder of the girl's father. [The film was remade in 2010 with Jeff Bridges in the starring role.]
[Six years later, Wayne reprised his character in the title role of the sequel Rooster Cogburn (1975). Wayne would eventually appear in 151 films in his career. And he had performed in some of the best films and roles ever created - without nominations and/or Oscars:
- The Ringo Kid in Stagecoach (1939)
- Tom Dunson in Red River (1948)
- Captain Nathan Brittles in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
- Sgt. John M. Stryker in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
- Sean Thornton in The Quiet Man (1952)
- Ethan Edwards in The Searchers (1956) - this was the film for which he should have won an Oscar!
- Tom Doniphon in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
But Wayne's only previous acting nomination was for his role in the war film The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). The Alamo (1960), in which Wayne served as producer, director, and actor - as Davy Crockett - received a Best Film nomination.]
British thespian Maggie Smith's Best Actress Award was won for the Ronald Neame-directed adaptation of Muriel Spark's novel/play, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in which she portrayed the title role of a 1930s elitist, spinsterish, but inspirational, free-thinking, and eccentric teacher at the conservative Edinburgh school for girls. [The win was her second nomination - her first was for her role in Othello (1965).]
Smith's dark-horse win defeated two other favorites and first-time nominees:
- Jane Fonda (with her first nomination) as penniless, resolute, suicidal dance contestant and would-be actress Gloria Beatty in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
- Liza Minnelli (with her first nomination in her adult screen debut) as Pookie Adams, an eccentric, neurotic, aggressive college student, in director Alan Pakula's debut film, the romantic comedy The Sterile Cuckoo (with two nominations and no wins)
- Genevieve Bujold (with her sole nomination in her first major Hollywood film) as Anne Boleyn - the ill-fated Anne whose days were numbered in Anne of the Thousand Days
- Jean Simmons (with her second and last unsuccessful nomination, following her loss for Hamlet (1948)) as Mary Wilson - an unhappily-married, unfulfilled woman who seeks to find herself in director Richard Brooks' The Happy Ending (with two nominations and no wins)
Gig Young (with his third career nomination - and sole Oscar win) won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role as "Yowsir"-yelling Rocky - the uncaring, dissipated, ruthless emcee/Master of ceremonies of the tragic dance marathons for desperate couples in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? [Young had already been nominated twice before for Come Fill the Cup (1951) and Teacher's Pet (1958).]
Other Best Supporting Actor nominees included:
- Anthony Quayle (with his sole career nomination) as Cardinal Wolsey in Anne of the Thousand Days
- newcomer Jack Nicholson (with his first nomination) as George Hanson in one of the best youth-oriented, low-budget, counter-cultural films of the late 1960s - a middle-class, alcoholic lawyer who joins Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda (as two motorcycling hippies) on a cross-country journey in co-writer/director Hopper's debut film, Easy Rider (with two nominations and no wins)
- Elliott Gould (with his sole nomination) as conservative Ted Henderson - one member of the swinging, spouse-swapping married couples in California in director Paul Mazursky's debut film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (with four nominations and no wins)
- Rupert Crosse (with his sole nomination) as Ned McClaslin - a black servant (and Steve McQueen's sidekick) who rides in a stolen car from small-town Mississippi to Memphis in 1905 in the adapted William Faulkner tale directed by Mark Rydell - The Reivers (with two nominations and no wins). [Rupert Crosse was the first black actor to be given a Best Supporting Actor nomination. He was only the second black performer to receive an acting nomination in either category - the first was Sidney Poitier.]
The Best Supporting Actress award was presented to Goldie Hawn (with her first nomination - and sole Oscar win) for her role as Toni Simmons - the infatuated mistress/girlfriend (of dentist Walter Matthau) in director Gene Saks' Cactus Flower (the film's sole nomination).
[The role was Hawn's first major screen role (and second film) following star appearances as a giggly and dumb, body-painted, bikini-clad, go-go blonde on late 60's TV's Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. With her win, she became the first actress to win a Best Supporting Oscar while simultaneously starring in a TV-sitcom.]
Her fellow Best Supporting Actress nominees included:
- Dyan Cannon (with her first of two unsuccessful career nominations) as Alice (Gould's wife) in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
- Sylvia Miles (with her first of two unsuccessful nominations for brief cameo roles) as Cass - a wily hooker who out-hustles $20 from Joe Buck for taxi cab fare in Midnight Cowboy
- Susannah York (with her sole nomination) as hopeful Jean Harlow-starlet Alice - another of the broken-down dance contestants in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
- Catherine Burns (with her sole nomination) as Rhoda - a slightly plump, homely teen who tragically comes of age during a summer vacation on the white sands of Fire Island, NY in director Frank Perry's dark film Last Summer (the film's sole nomination)
Debonair leading man Cary Grant was presented with this year's Special Honorary Oscar award, for "his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues." Grant had only been nominated twice (and never won an Oscar) in his entire career, uncharacteristically for dramas, as Best Actor for Penny Serenade (1941) and for None But the Lonely Heart (1944), but he was best-known for his screwball comedies, including Topper (1937), The Awful Truth (1937), Holiday (1938), Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and My Favorite Wife (1940), for other Hitchcock collaborations, including Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959), and for the romantic melodrama An Affair to Remember (1957).
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Two westerns were entirely neglected by the Academy in 1969 for Best Picture and Best Director:
- Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (with only two nominations - Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Score)
- Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968, It.) (with no nominations)
Although Easy Rider received two nominations (that both lost), Best Adapted Screenplay (Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Terry Southern) and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson), it should also have been nominated for Best Picture for its influential role and landmark place in cinematic history.
And Haskell Wexler's semi-documentary political film Medium Cool lacked nominations in all categories. Although Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? received a remarkable nine nominations, one of them wasn't Best Picture. It became the first (and only) film to receive the most nominations ever (9) without being nominated for Best Picture.
Neither Paul Newman nor Robert Redford (in their first teaming together) received Best Actor nominations as the title characters in the box-office success, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Shirley Knight and James Caan were both ignored for their performances in Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People: Knight as Natalie Ravenna - an on-the-road pregnant housewife, and Caan as brain-damaged ex-football player 'Killer' Jimmie Kilgannon. And ex-model Ali McGraw was unnominated for her role as Jewish princess Brenda in Goodbye, Columbus (with only one nomination - Best Adapted Screenplay).