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The 53rd Academy Awards (1981)

Held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Tuesday, March 31, 1981,
honoring movies released in 1980.

Best Actor Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull").

Best Actor Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull").

Best Picture

Ordinary People Full Image

"Ordinary People"

Wildwood Enterprises Inc. Production; Paramount.

Best Editor

Best Editor Thelma Schoonmaker ("Raging Bull") with presenters Richard Pryor and Jane Seymour. Full Image

Thelma Schoonmaker

Best Editor Thelma Schoonmaker ("Raging Bull") with presenters Richard Pryor and Jane Seymour.

Best Song

Best Song winners Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford ("Fame"). Full Image

Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford

Best Song winners Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford ("Fame").

The Year

  • Timothy Hutton
  • Sissy Spacek
  • Mary Steenburgen
  • Best Picture: "Ordinary People"
    • "Ordinary People" also won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton), Directing (Robert Redford), and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Alvin Sargent). (View Image)
  • The ceremony was postponed 24 hours because of an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
  • Three of the four acting awards went to performers who had portrayed real people: Robert De Niro as boxer Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull,” Sissy Spacek as country-western singer Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and Mary Steenburgen as Lynda Dummar, first wife of would-be Howard Hughes heir Melvin Dummar in “Melvin and Howard.”
  • Johnny Carson was the master of ceremonies for the third year in a row.
  • Irene Cara sang the two nominated songs from “Fame,” including the title song, which went on to become the winner.
  • Diana Ross’s date for the evening was Michael Jackson.
  • In January 1980, Nigel Short, at the age of 14, became the youngest chess player to be awarded the title International Master.
  • On February 13, 1980, the Winter Olympics opened in Lake Placid, New York.
    • On February 22, the United States hockey team defeated the Soviet team in the semifinal round. The game is remembered as the “Miracle on Ice.”
  • In April 1980, Iron Maiden released their self-titled debut album in the U.K.
  • In June 1980, CNN (Cable News Network), the world's first 24-hour television news network, made its debut.
  • In July 1980, AC/DC released their album “Back in Black.”
  • In August 1980, 10-week-old Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from a campsite at Ayers Rock in Australia.  Although Azaria’s mother, Lindy, claimed that her daughter had been taken by a dingo, she was convicted of murder in October 1982. New evidence supporting her claim was found, and she was freed in February 1986, with her conviction being overturned in September 1988. The 1988 film “A Cry in the Dark” was based on the case.
  • On November 4, 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter in the U.S. presidential election.
  • On November 21, 1980, 350 million people around the world tuned in to television's popular primetime drama "Dallas" to find out who shot J.R. Ewing.
  • On December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in New York City. Chapman had received an autograph from Lennon earlier in the day and voluntarily remained at the scene of the shooting until he was arrested by police.

Special Achievement Award

To Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren and Bruce Nicholson for Visual Effects, “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Honorary Award

To Henry Fonda, the consummate actor, in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures.

See all Nominees and Winners

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