51st Academy Awards

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51st Academy Awards
Official poster for the 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 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, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by hosts Gregory Peck and Christopher Reeve.[6]

The Deer Hunter won five awards at the main awards ceremony, including Best Picture.[7] Other winners included Coming Home with three awards, Midnight Express with two, 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 telecast was watched by 46.3 million viewers and earned a 34.6 Nielsen rating in the United States.[2][3]


The ceremony, held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown Los Angeles, 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 the segment and urged that it be dropped from the ceremony, but it was kept after Haley threatened to leave his position as producer and pull Carson from emcee duties.[11]

It is 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.[12][13] This was also the final public appearance for Jack Haley, the father of producerJack Haley Jr., who presented the Best Costume Design with his Wizard of Oz co-star Ray Bolger.[14]

Winners and nominees[edit]

The nominees for the 51st Academy Awards were announced on February 20, 1979, by Academy president Howard W. Koch and actress Susan Blakely.[15][16] The Deer Hunter and Heaven Can Wait tied for the most nominations with nine each.[17] The winners were announced during the awards ceremony on April 9.[18] 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.[19] Furthermore, Beatty was the first person to earn acting, directing, producing, and screenwriting nominations for the same film. While Orson Welles had previously achieved the same feat for Citizen Kane, rules at the time determined that the studio releasing the film, as opposed to the individual producers, were the official nominees for Best Picture.[20] 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.[21] Best Supporting Actress winner Maggie Smith became the only person to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar loser in California Suite.[22]


Photo of Michael Cimino in 2003
Michael Cimino, Best Picture co-winner and Best Director winner
Photo of Jon Vought in 2012
Jon Voight, Best Actor winner
Photo of Jane Fonda in 2014
Jane Fonda, Best Actress winner
Photo of Christopher Walken in 2009
Christopher Walken, Best Supporting Actor winner
Photo of Maggie Smith in 2007
Maggie Smith, Best Supporting Actress winner
Photo of Oliver Stone in 2016
Oliver Stone, Best Adapted Screenplay winner
Photo of Taylor Hackford in 2013
Taylor Hackford, Best Live Action Short Film winner
Photo of Giorgio Moroder in 2007
Giorgio Moroder, Best Original Score winner
Photo of Paul Jabara in 1972
Paul Jabara, Best Original Song winner

Winners are listed first, highlighted in boldface and indicated with a double dagger (double-dagger).[23]

Academy Honorary Awards[edit]

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award[edit]

The award recognizes individuals whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the motion picture industry.[28]

Special Achievement Award[edit]

Multiple nominations and awards[edit]

Presenters and performers[edit]

The following individuals (in order of appearance) presented awards or performed musical numbers:[31]


Name(s) Role
John Harlan Announcer 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 Thomas Explained 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 Martin Presenter 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 Williams Introducer to Sammy Davis Jr. and Steve Lawrence performance
Dean Martin
Raquel Welch
Presenters of the Music Awards
Gregory Peck Presenter 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 Hepburn Presenter of the Honorary Award to King Vidor
Francis Ford Coppola
Ali MacGraw
Presenters of the award for Best Director
Cary Grant Presenter of the Honorary Award to Laurence Olivier
Richard Dreyfuss
Shirley MacLaine
Presenters of the award for Best Actress
Jack Valenti Presenter of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Ginger Rogers
Diana Ross
Presenters of the award for Best Actor
John Wayne Presenter of the award for Best Picture


Name Role Performed
Jack Elliot Musical arrangers Orchestral
Allyn Ferguson
Olivia Newton-John Performer "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (from Grease)
Jane Olivor Performers "The Last Time I Felt Like This" (from Same Time, Next Year)
Johnny Mathis
Donna Summer Performer "Last Dance" (from Thank God It's Friday)
Debby Boone Performer "When You're Loved" (from The Magic of Lassie)
Barry Manilow Performer "Ready to Take a Chance Again" (from Foul Play)
Sammy Davis Jr. Performers "Not Even Nominated (Oscar's Only Human)"
Steve Lawrence
Academy Awards Orchestra Performers "That's Entertainment!" (instrumental)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Osborne 2013, p. 252
  2. ^ a b "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. ^ a b "New shows disappointing". Boca Raton News. April 20, 1979. Retrieved August 25, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
  4. ^ "War Film, Comedy Head List". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Cowles Publishing Company. April 6, 1979. p. 7. Retrieved August 24, 2015 – via Google News Archive.
  5. ^ "Frank Won't Sing Without G Notes". Chicago Tribune. October 3, 1978. p. 136.
  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 – via Google News Archive.
  9. ^ Osborne 2013, p. 413
  10. ^ Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 560
  11. ^ Pond 2005, p. 29
  12. ^ a b Osborne 2013, p. 251
  13. ^ Hammond, Pete (July 3, 2016). "How Michael Cimino's 'The Deer Hunter' Pioneered The Modern Day Oscar Campaign – And Won". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 19, 2021.
  14. ^ Smith, J.Y. (June 7, 1979). "Jack Haley Dies, Was Tin Man in 'The Wizard of Oz'". The Washington Post.
  15. ^ Thomas, Bob (February 21, 1979). "1978 Oscar nominees announced". San Bernardino Sun. p. C1.
  16. ^ "The Deer Hunter, Heaven Can Wait top honors Oscar nominees listed". The Globe and Mail. February 21, 1979. p. P11.
  17. ^ Grant, Lee (February 21, 1979). "Two War Films on Oscar Ballot". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  18. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (April 11, 1979). "2 Vietnam Films Cast Aside Ghosts on Way to Oscars". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  19. ^ Kinn & Piazza 2002, p. 215
  20. ^ Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 1129
  21. ^ Osborne 2013, p. 423
  22. ^ Osborne 2013, p. 423
  23. ^ "The 51st Academy Awards (1979) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Retrieved October 31, 2011.
  24. ^ "Academy Awards Acceptance Speech Database". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  25. ^ "Animator Walter Lantz, Creator of Woody Woodpecker, Is Dead". The Buffalo News. March 23, 1994. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  26. ^ Thomas, David (Winter 2011). "The Man Who Would Be King". DGA Quarterly. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  27. ^ Kinn & Piazza 2002, p. 217
  28. ^ "Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  29. ^ Schreger, Charles (February 10, 1979). "'Close Encounters' - Take Two". Los Angeles Times. p. B5.
  30. ^ Franks 2005, p. 246
  31. ^ Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 562