1983 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®
Paramount Pictures' Terms of Endearment (with eleven nominations and five wins) was the emotionally-manipulative film about a Houston woman's (MacLaine) affair with an ex-astronaut (Nicholson) and her stubborn and exasperated struggles with her contentious daughter (Winger) over many years. Adapted from Larry McMurtry's novel, and director Brooks' feature film debut, it was a classic film that blended comedy and 'tearjerker' melodrama, similar to the Best Picture-win experienced by the family drama three years earlier, Ordinary People (1980).
It won most of the big awards in major categories in 1983: Best Picture/Director/Screenplay Adaptation (three Oscars all won by James L. Brooks), Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine) and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson).
The other four nominees for Best Picture included:
The Best Director winner was James L. Brooks for Terms of Endearment - his first Oscar win as Best Director. [It was an unprecedented win for Brooks - three Oscars for writing, producing, and directing the same film. A triple win had also occurred for Leo McCarey in 1944, Billy Wilder in 1960, Francis Ford Coppola in 1974, and would later occur for James Cameron in 1997. He also became the fourth director to win an Oscar for his first feature.]
Philip Kaufman (director of The Right Stuff) was omitted from the Best Picture-nominated directors competing for Best Director. So was Lawrence Kasdan as director for The Big Chill. In their places, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman was nominated as Best Director for Fanny and Alexander (with six nominations and four wins - Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography, Best Art/Set Direction, and Best Costume Design), the lush, turn-of-the-century tale of two Swedish children. And Mike Nichols (for his first film since 1975) was nominated for Silkwood (with five nominations and no wins), the story of the title character Karen Silkwood - a nuclear fuel plant worker and union activist. Australian director Bruce Beresford (with his sole career nomination) was nominated for his first American film Tender Mercies and Peter Yates, better known for the action film Bullitt (1968) or The Deep (1977), was nominated for The Dresser.
Among the Best Actor nominees, there were three British actors, one Scot actor, and one American actor. [Similar circumstances occurred during the 1992 ceremonies.] All five of the Best Actor nominees also played roles of alcoholics (of varying degrees).
The American nominee and winner was Robert Duvall (with his fourth nomination and his first Oscar win - previous nominations were in 1972, 1979, and 1980) as the ex-drinking, ex-country/western music star Mac Sledge who settles down on a Texas farm with Tess Harper and her son in Tender Mercies.
The British (and Scottish) Best Actor nominees included:
Shirley MacLaine won the Best Actress award (with her fifth nomination and first Oscar win - previous nominations were in 1958, 1960, 1963, and 1977) for her role as 50 year-old, widowed mother/grandmother, and daughter-hating Aurora Greenwood in the soap-opera-ish Terms of Endearment. Her co-star Debra Winger (with her second nomination) was also nominated as her terminally-ill daughter Emma Horton. As in the film's competition within their relationship, MacLaine won over her 'daughter'.
Other Best Actress nominees included:
Jack Nicholson (with his seventh nomination, third Best Supporting Actor nomination, and second Oscar win) was awarded the Best Supporting Actor award for his comic role as ex-astronaut Garrett Breedlove, a virile bachelor who successfully courts Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment. [Nicholson's win made him the first performer to win the Best Supporting Actor award following a Best Actor win in 1975. His win made him the third winner of both actor awards - the first two actors were Jack Lemmon (in 1955 and 1973) and Robert DeNiro (in 1974 and 1980). Both of them first won a Best Supporting Actor award and then a Best Actor award.] Nicholson had lost the Best Supporting Actor nomination two times before: two years previously for Reds (1981) and also 14 years previously for Easy Rider (1969).
Nicholson defeated the following Best Supporting Actor nominees:
The winner in the Best Supporting Actress category was a female in a male role - the diminutive, 4 foot, 9-inch Linda Hunt (with her first and only nomination and win) as Billy Kwan - an idealistic Chinese-Australian (Eurasian) dwarf/photographer-guide for journalist Mel Gibson in 1960s Indonesia in director Peter Weir's Australian film, The Year of Living Dangerously. Hunt's character was not transgender, just male. [Note: Her Oscar win was the first instance that an actress won an Oscar for playing a gender-switched role - a character of the opposite sex.]
The other four Best Supporting Actress nominees were:
Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Another collaboration between director Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro (their fifth) - the satirical black comedy The King of Comedy about obsession and celebrity culture - was denied nominations in every category and was a tremendous box-office failure. Robert De Niro as aspiring, oddball, would-be comedian Rupert Pupkin, Jerry Lewis as kidnapped Johnny Carson-like talk-show host Jerry Langford, and Sandra Bernhard (in her film debut) as Masha were neglected in the nominations, as was Paul D. Zimmerman's screenplay. Another glaring omission was the complete lack of nominations for the sequel Psycho II, featuring an under-rated, return performance by Anthony Perkins.
Director Philip Kaufman wasn't even nominated for his visually-inspiring, dazzling Best-Picture nominee The Right Stuff, nor was Ed Harris for his performance as heroic American astronaut John Glenn. Bob Clark's popular holiday film, A Christmas Story, was completely ignored. Director/writer Bob Fosse's Star 80, his last film and the true story of the murder of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten (Mariel Hemingway) by her estranged, obsessed husband Paul Snider (Eric Roberts), lacked any Academy Awards nominations, although Roberts was nominated for a Golden Globe, and the film was placed on film critic Gene Siskel's 10-Best list for the year.
And producer/star/director Barbra Streisand was snubbed for her directorial debut effort in the musical opus Yentl (with five nominations and one win - for Best Original Song Score), a film without Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director nominations. Charges of sexism were brought against the Academy and the Hollywood film factory. [Seven years later, Streisand's film The Prince of Tides (1991) likewise received seven nominations (with no wins) - and again bypassed Streisand for a Best Director nomination.]
David Cronenberg's horror-thriller The Dead Zone from a Stephen King story was notable for its un-nominated performance of Christopher Walken as psychic Johnny Smith, and for lacking a nomination for Michael Kamen's score. Bill Forsyth's whimsical British film Local Hero with Burt Lancaster as Texas oil industrialist Happer was another un-nominated film. Jeremy Irons wasn't nominated for his role as Jerry in Harold Pinter's nominated screenplay about a seven year adulterous affair (shown in flashback) titled Betrayal, nor was Anthony Perkins for his reprised role as a 'sane' Norman Bates in Psycho II, nor was Charles Martin Smith for his performance as lone, white wolf-studying Arctic Yukon biologist in Carroll Ballard's cinematographically-beautiful Never Cry Wolf, nor was director/producer/actor Clint Eastwood in his fourth Dirty Harry role in Sudden Impact (with no nominations) - famous for his line: "Go ahead, make my day."
Actresses who were nudged out of the acting nominations were Rosanna Arquette as a 60s New Jersey Jewish girl in writer/director John Sayles' Baby, It's You, Bonnie Bedalia as drag-racing champion Shirley Muldowney in Heart Like A Wheel, Barbara Hershey as the sexual victim of an unseen entity in director Sidney Furie's The Entity, and Barbra Streisand as the title character in Yentl - a Jewish girl masquerading as a boy. Michelle Pfeiffer was not nominated for her role as the trophy wife of drug lord Al Pacino in Scarface, and Louise Fletcher was ignored for her performance as a chain-smoking, work-addicted scientist in Brainstorm.
Famed cinematographer Gordon Willis finally received his first Best Cinematography nomination this year for Woody Allen's Zelig. [He was cinematographer for the first two Godfather films and Allen's Best Picture-winning Annie Hall (1977). Although nominated a second time for The Godfather, Part III (1990), he never won.]
Director Godfrey Reggio's debut film, the experimental, feature-length, ecology-minded visual documentary Koyaanisqatsi (with no nominations) - meaning "life out of balance," was overlooked for a Best Original Score nomination (for Philip Glass' musical score), and a Best Film Editing nomination for cinematographer Ron Fricke.