51st Academy Awards

The 51st Academy Awards ceremony, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored films released in 1978 and took place on April 9, 1979, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles beginning at 7:00 p.m. PST / 10:00 p.m. EST. During the ceremony, AMPAS presented Academy Awards (commonly referred to as Oscars) in 22 categories. The ceremony, televised in the United States by ABC, was produced by Jack Haley Jr. and directed by Marty Pasetta.[4] Comedian and talk show host Johnny Carson hosted the show for the first time.[5] Three days earlier in a ceremony held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on April 6, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by hosts Gregory Peck and Christopher Reeve.[6]

51st Academy Awards
Official poster
DateApril 9, 1979
SiteDorothy Chandler Pavilion
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Hosted byJohnny Carson
Produced byJack Haley Jr.
Directed byMarty Pasetta
Best PictureThe Deer Hunter
Most awardsThe Deer Hunter (5)
Most nominationsThe Deer Hunter and Heaven Can Wait (9)
TV in the United States
Duration3 hours, 25 minutes[1]
Ratings46.3 million[2]
34.6 (Nielsen ratings)[3]

The Deer Hunter won five awards including Best Picture.[7] Other winners included Coming Home with three awards, Midnight Express with two awards, and The Buddy Holly Story, California Suite, Days of Heaven, Death on the Nile, The Flight of the Gossamer Condor, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, Heaven Can Wait, Scared Straight!, Special Delivery, Superman, Teenage Father and Thank God It's Friday with one.


The ceremony, held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown Los Angeles, California, was hosted by late night talk host Johnny Carson for the first time.[8] Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson served as musical directors for the telecast.[9] Singers Sammy Davis Jr. and Steve Lawrence performed a medley called "Oscar's Only Human" which was composed of movie songs that were not nominated for Best Original Song.[10] Initially the Academy's music branch protested that the segment be dropped from the ceremony, but it was kept intact after Haley threatened to leave his position as producer and pull Carson from emcee duties.[11]

It was also remembered for being the final public appearance of Oscar-winning actor John Wayne, where he was given a standing ovation before presenting the award for Best Picture.[12] On June 11, two months after the ceremony, he died from complications from stomach cancer at age 72.[13] This was also the final public appearance for Jack Haley, presenter of the Best Costume Design with his Wizard of Oz co-star Ray Bolger as well as the father of the producer, as he died on June 6 of that year.

Winners and nominees

The nominees for the 51st Academy Awards were announced on February 20, 1979.[14] The Deer Hunter and Heaven Can Wait tied for the most nominations with nine each.[15] The winners were announced during the awards ceremony on April 9. Best Director nominees Warren Beatty and Buck Henry became the second pair of directors nominated in that category for the same film; Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise had won for co-directing 1961's West Side Story.[16] Furthermore, Beatty was the first person since Orson Welles to earn acting, directing, producing, and screenwriting nominations in the same year.[17] With Jon Voight and Jane Fonda's respective wins in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, Coming Home was the fourth film to win both lead acting awards.[18] Best Supporting Actress winner Maggie Smith became the only person to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar loser.[19]


Winners are listed first, highlighted in boldface and indicated with a double dagger ().[20]

Best Picture Best Director
Best Actor Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor Best Supporting Actress
Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
Best Foreign Language Film Best Documentary Feature
Best Documentary Short Subject Best Live Action Short Film
Best Animated Short Film Best Original Score
Best Adaptation Score Best Original Song
Best Sound Best Costume Design
Best Art Direction Best Cinematography
Best Film Editing

Academy Honorary Awards

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

Special Achievement Award

Multiple nominations and awards

Presenters and performers

The following individuals (in order of appearance) presented awards or performed musical numbers:[27]


John HarlanAnnouncer for the 51st Academy Awards
Howard W. Koch (AMPAS President)Gave opening remarks welcoming guests to the awards ceremony
Robin Williams
Woody Woodpecker
Presenters of the Honorary Award to Walter Lantz
Danny ThomasExplained the voting rules to the public
Dyan Cannon
Telly Savalas
Presenters of the award for Best Supporting Actor
Maggie Smith
Maureen Stapleton
Presenters of the Scientific and Technical Awards
Robby Benson
Carol Lynley
Presenters of the Short Subject Awards
Mia Farrow
David L. Wolper
Presenters of the Documentary Awards
Shirley Jones
Ricky Schroder
Presenters of the award for Best Art Direction
Ray Bolger
Jack Haley
Presenters of the award for Best Costume Design
Dom DeLuise
Valerie Perrine
Presenters of the award for Best Film Editing
Steve MartinPresenter of the award for Best Visual Effects
Margot Kidder
Christopher Reeve
Presenters of the award for Best Sound
James Coburn
Kim Novak
Presenters of the award for Best Cinematography
Ruby Keeler
Kris Kristofferson
Presenters of the award for Best Original Song
Paul WilliamsIntroducer to Sammy Davis Jr. and Steve Lawrence performance
Dean Martin
Raquel Welch
Presenters of the Music Awards
Gregory PeckPresenter of the Honorary Award to the Museum of Modern Art Department of Film
Yul Brynner
Natalie Wood
Presenters of the award for Best Foreign Language Film
George Burns
Brooke Shields
Presenters of the award for Best Supporting Actress
Lauren Bacall
Jon Voight
Presenters of the Writing Awards
Audrey HepburnPresenter of the Honorary Award to King Vidor
Francis Ford Coppola
Ali MacGraw
Presenters of the award for Best Director
Cary GrantPresenter of the Honorary Award to Laurence Olivier
Richard Dreyfuss
Shirley MacLaine
Presenters of the award for Best Actress
Jack ValentiPresenter of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Ginger Rogers
Diana Ross
Presenters of the award for Best Actor
John WaynePresenter of the award for Best Picture


Jack ElliotMusical arrangersOrchestral
Allyn Ferguson
Olivia Newton-JohnPerformer"Hopelessly Devoted to You" (from Grease)
Jane OlivorPerformers"The Last Time I Felt Like This" (from Same Time, Next Year)
Johnny Mathis
Donna SummerPerformer"Last Dance" (from Thank God It's Friday)
Debby BoonePerformer"When You're Loved" (from The Magic of Lassie)
Barry ManilowPerformer"Ready to Take a Chance Again" (from Foul Play)
Sammy Davis Jr.Performers"Not Even Nominated (Oscar's Only Human)"
Steve Lawrence
Academy Awards OrchestraPerformers"That's Entertainment!" (instrumental)

See also


  1. Osborne 2013, p. 252
  2. "Top-10 Most Watched Academy Awards Broadcasts". Nielsen N.V. February 18, 2009. Archived from the original on January 27, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  3. "New shows disappointing". Boca Raton News. April 20, 1979. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  4. "War Film, Comedy Head List". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Cowles Publishing Company. April 6, 1979. p. 7. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  5. Smith, Liz (October 8, 1978). "Frank won't sing without G notes". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  6. "Past Scientific & Technical Awards Ceremonies". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on February 13, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  7. Siskel, Gene (April 10, 1979). "Oscars to Fonda, Voight, 'Hunter'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  8. Thomas, Bob (April 9, 1979). "Oscar Show-A Thankless Chore". Ludington Daily News. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  9. Osborne 2008, p. 413
  10. Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 560
  11. Pond 2005, p. 29
  12. Davis 1998, p. 320
  13. Davis 1996, p. 323
  14. "The Deer Hunter, Heaven Can Wait top honors Oscar nominees listed". The Globe and Mail. February 21, 1979. p. P11.
  15. Grant, Lee (February 21, 1979). "Two War Films on Oscar Ballot". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  16. Kinn & Piazza 2002, p. 215
  17. Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 1129
  18. Holden 1993, p. 619
  19. Holden 1993, p. 622
  20. "The 51st Academy Awards (1979) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Retrieved October 31, 2011.
  21. "Academy plans special honors for 4-old timers". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. February 9, 1979. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  22. "Olivier, Lantz to get Special Oscars". Beaver County Times. February 13, 1979. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  23. Scott, Vernon (February 21, 1979). "'Heaven' and 'Deer Hunter' head list of Oscar hopefuls". Lodi News-Sentinel. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  24. Kinn & Piazza 2002, p. 217
  25. Schreger, Charles (February 10, 1979). "'Close Encounters' - Take Two". Los Angeles Times. p. B5.
  26. Franks 2005, p. 246
  27. Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 562


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