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The 54th Academy Awards Memorable Moments

54th Oscars

Best Picture: Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire also won Academy Awards for Costume Design (Milena Canonero), Music – Original Score (Vangelis), and Writing – Screenplay written directly for the screen (Colin Welland).

Katharine Hepburn became the first performer to win a fourth Academy Award, this time for On Golden Pond.

Henry Fonda won his first competitive Oscar for Best Actor for On Golden Pond.

For only the fifth time in Academy history, the Best Actor and Best Actress winners performed in the same movie (On Golden Pond).

Johnny Carson was the master of ceremonies. 

For the first time, there was a competitive category for Makeup. Rick Baker won for An American Werewolf in London. 

Bette Midler and Barbara Stanwyck provided two of the evening’s most memorable moments.

Midler, who presented the Original Song award, made some outrageous off-the-cuff remarks.

Stanwyck spoke from the heart when she accepted an Honorary Award for her “superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting.” She received the evening’s only standing ovation.

In February 1981, Rupert Murdoch bought The Times, The Sunday Times and three sister weekly publications for $28 million.

On March 6, 1981, Walter Cronkite signed off for the final time after almost 20 years as anchor of the “CBS Evening News.”

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan, Press Secretary James Brady and two others were shot and wounded by John Hinckley Jr. At the hospital, Reagan told his wife, Nancy, “Honey, I forgot to duck.”

On May 6, 1981, Jerry Seinfeld made the first of his 33 appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

On May 13, 1981, convicted Turkish killer Mehmet Ali Agca, who had escaped from prison, attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in Rome.

In May 1981, a jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selected Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

In July 1981, President Reagan nominated the first woman to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor.

On July 29, 1981, 750 million television viewers around the world tuned in to witness the marriage of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

On August 1, 1981, MTV (Music Television) debuted.

On September 19, 1981, Simon and Garfunkel, who had broken up in 1972, performed a free concert in New York’s Central Park in front of approximately 400,000 people.

On November 29, 1981, actress Natalie Wood drowned in a boating accident near California’s Santa Catalina Island. She was 43 years old.

On December 28, 1981, America’s first test-tube baby, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, was born in Virginia.

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

To Danny Kaye.

Honorary Award

To Barbara Stanwyck for superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting.

Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award

To Albert R. Broccoli.