Oscar Legacy
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The 51st Academy Awards (1979)

Held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Monday, April 9, 1979,
honoring movies released in 1978.

Best Director Michael Cimino directing Robert De Niro in a scene from Best Picture winner "The Deer Hunter"

Best Director Michael Cimino directing Robert De Niro in Best Picture winner "The Deer Hunter."

Best Picture

Rocky Full Image

"The Deer Hunter"

EMI Films/Michael Cimino Film Production; Universal.

Best Cinematography

Best Cinematography winner Nestor Almendros ("Days of Heaven"). Full Image

Nester Almendros

Best Cinematography winner Nestor Almendros ("Days of Heaven").

Best Actor and Actress

Best Actor Jon Voight and Best  Actress Jane Fonda "Coming Home." Full Image

Jon Voight and Jane Fonda

Best Actor Jon Voight and Best Actress Jane Fonda "Coming Home."

The Year

  • Jane Fonda
  • Christopher Walken
  • Sir Laurence Olivier
  • Best Picture: "The Deer Hunter"
    • "The Deer Hunter" also won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), Directing (Michael Cimino), Film Editing (Peter Zinner), and Sound (Richard Portman, William McCaughey, Aaron Rochin, and Darin Knight). (View Image)
  • Laurence Olivier and John Wayne each made a special appearance at the Awards ceremony and each brought the audience to its feet.
    • John Wayne presented the Best Picture award. He had recently had two major surgeries and did not appear well.  He passed away on June 11, 1979, just under two months later.
  • Prior to the presentations, the police had to deal with demonstrators who objected to “The Deer Hunter” as a “racist” film and as a “fantasy picturization” of the Vietnam cause. According to accounts in the Los Angeles Times, 13 arrests were made.
  • Johnny Carson was the master of ceremonies. This was his first appearance on an Oscar telecast.
  • Warren Beatty was nominated in four separate categories: Best Actor, Directing (with Buck Henry), Adapted Screenplay (with Elaine May), and as producer of Best Picture nominee “Heaven Can Wait.”
  • For the first time in Academy history, the five nominated songs were sung by the singers who performed them in the films.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. and Steve Lawrence performed a number built around songs through the years that were never nominated for an Oscar.
  • On February 15, 1978, serial killer Ted Bundy was captured for the final time in Pensacola, Florida. He had escaped from prison in Colorado twice during the previous year and murdered his final three victims while fleeing from the law in Florida.
  • In March 1978, Charlie Chaplin’s body was stolen from a Swiss cemetery. His remains were found in May near Lake Geneva.
  • On May 5, 1978, Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds collected his 3,000th career hit. He became the 13th major league player to reach the goal and did it faster than any of his predecessors.
  • On June 15, 1978, King Hussein of Jordan married Lisa Halaby, who took the name Queen Noor. Noor was the first American to become an Arab royal.
  • On June 19, 1978, the “Garfield” comic strip made its debut in 41 U.S. newspapers.
  • On July 26, 1978, Louise Brown, the first “test-tube baby,” was born in Oldham, England.
  • In August 1978, Pope John Paul I succeeded Pope Paul VI, becoming the 263rd Pope. He died after only 33 days of papacy.
  • On September 17, 1978, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords, laying the groundwork for a permanent peace agreement between Egypt and Israel after three decades of hostilities.
  • In October 1978, Pope John Paul II succeeded Pope John Paul I, becoming the 264th Pope. He was the first Polish Pope in the history of the papacy.
  • In November 1978, more than 900 followers of Peoples Temple cult leader Jim Jones died in a mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana.
  • On November 27, 1978, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White.

Special Achievement Award

To Les Bowie, Colin Chilvers, Denys Coop, Roy Field, Derek Meddings and Zoran Perisic for Visual Effects, “Superman.”

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

To Leo Jaffe.

Honorary Award

To Walter Lantz for bringing joy and laughter to every part of the world through his unique animated motion pictures.

Honorary Award

To The Museum of Modern Art Department of Film for the contribution it has made to the public’s perception of movies as an art form.

Honorary Award

To Laurence Olivier for the full body of his work, for the unique achievements of his entire career and his lifetime of contribution to the art of film.

Honorary Award

To King Vidor for his incomparable achievements as a cinematic creator and innovator.

See all Nominees and Winners

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