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365 Days of Oscar: All Hail “The Apartment”

Sixty-three years ago today, the 33rd Academy Awards were held, hosted by Bob Hope at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This was the first ceremony to be aired on ABC television, which has aired the Academy Awards ever since (except between 1971 and 1975, when they were aired on NBC for the first time since the previous year), and it was also the first year a red carpet lined the walk into the theater.

Billy Wilder’s The Apartment won Best Picture, the last black-and-white film to do so until Schindler’s List and The Artist at the 66th and 84th Academy Awards, respectively. Elizabeth Taylor, who had a near-fatal bout with pneumonia a short time before the ceremony, was viewed as having received her Oscar out of sympathy rather than for her performance in Butterfield 8. Shirley McLaine, a Best Actress nominee for The Apartment, was said to have lamented, “I lost to a tracheotomy!”

 

Gary Cooper was selected by the Academy Board of Governors to receive an Academy Honorary Award “for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry”. Cooper was too ill to attend the ceremony, though his condition was not publicly disclosed; James Stewart, a close friend of Cooper, accepted the Oscar on his behalf. Stewart’s emotional speech hinted that something was seriously wrong, and the following day newspapers ran the headline, “Gary Cooper has cancer.” Cooper died less than four weeks later.

Rising star Hayley Mills was selected by the Academy Board of Governors as the year’s recipient of the Academy Juvenile Award for her breakthrough and acclaimed performance in Walt Disney’s Pollyanna. She was the last recipient of the award; going forward, juvenile actors could officially compete in competitive categories.

This article is part of a special year-long series of anecdotes, reflections and thoughts about the Academy Awards.