1959 Oscars 31st Academy Awards


1959 Oscars 31st Academy Awards

  • Winners Announced: April 6, 1959
  • Venue: Pantages Theatre, Hollywood, California
  • Hosts: Jerry Lewis, Mort Sahl, Tony Randall, Bob Hope, David Niven, Laurence Olivier
  • Eligibility Year: 1958

Major Wins:

  • Gigi swept the board with 9 Oscars, including Best Picture.
  • Susan Hayward took home Best Actress for I Want to Live!.
  • David Niven claimed Best Actor for Separate Tables.

Directing & Screenplay:

  • Vincente Minnelli won Best Director for Gigi.
  • Best Original Screenplay went to The Defiant Ones.

Additional Info:

  • Burl Ives won Best Supporting Actor for The Big Country.
  • Wendy Hiller was awarded Best Supporting Actress for Separate Tables.


  • This ceremony had a host ensemble that was as illustrious as it was diverse, from comedian Jerry Lewis to the legendary Laurence Olivier.
  • The film Gigi set a new record at the time, winning all 9 of its nominated categories.
  • Susan Hayward’s portrayal in I Want to Live! was based on the true story of Barbara Graham, a woman executed in the gas chamber.
  • Gigi earned nine nominations, winning all nine.
  • Cuts were made to make the ceremony shorter, which ended up 20 minutes too short.
  • Jerry Lewis ad-libbed for most of the end of the show.

1959 Oscar Nominees and Winners

Best Motion Picture:
Gigi – Arthur Freed, producer (WINNER)
Auntie Mame – Jack L. Warner, producer
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Lawrence Weingarten, producer
The Defiant Ones – Stanley Kramer, producer
Separate Tables – Harold Hecht, producer
Best Director:
Vincente Minnelli – Gigi (WINNER)
Richard Brooks – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Stanley Kramer – The Defiant Ones
Robert Wise – I Want to Live!
Mark Robson – The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
Best Actor:
David Niven – Separate Tables as Major David Angus Pollock (WINNER)
Tony Curtis – The Defiant Ones as John “Joker” Jackson
Paul Newman – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Brick Pollitt
Sidney Poitier – The Defiant Ones as Noah Cullen
Spencer Tracy – The Old Man and the Sea as The Old Man
Best Actress:
Susan Hayward – I Want to Live! as Barbara Graham (WINNER)
Deborah Kerr – Separate Tables as Sibyl Railton-Bell
Shirley MacLaine – Some Came Running as Ginny Moorehead
Rosalind Russell – Auntie Mame as Mame Dennis
Elizabeth Taylor – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as Margaret “Maggie the Cat” Pollitt
Best Supporting Actor:
Burl Ives – The Big Country as Rufus Hannassey (WINNER)
Theodore Bikel – The Defiant Ones as Sheriff Max Muller
Lee J. Cobb – The Brothers Karamazov as Fyodor Karamazov
Arthur Kennedy – Some Came Running as Frank Hirsh
Gig Young – Teacher’s Pet as Dr. Hugo Pine
Best Supporting Actress:
Wendy Hiller – Separate Tables as Pat Cooper (WINNER)
Peggy Cass – Auntie Mame as Agnes Gooch
Martha Hyer – Some Came Running as Gwen French
Maureen Stapleton – Lonelyhearts as Fay Doyle
Cara Williams – The Defiant Ones as Billy’s mother
Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen:
The Defiant Ones – Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith (WINNER)
The Goddess – Paddy Chayefsky
Houseboat – Melville Shavelson and Jack Rose
The Sheepman – William Bowers and James Edward Grant
Teacher’s Pet – Fay Kanin and Michael Kanin
Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium:
Gigi – Alan Jay Lerner from Gigi by Colette (WINNER)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Richard Brooks and James Poe from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
The Horse’s Mouth – Alec Guinness from The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary
I Want to Live! – Don Mankiewicz and Nelson Gidding from writings by Ed Montgomery and Barbara Graham
Separate Tables – John Gay and Terence Rattigan from Separate Tables by Terence Rattigan
Best Foreign Language Film:
My Uncle (France) (WINNER)
Arms and the Man (Germany)
Big Deal on Madonna Street (Italy)
The Road a Year Long (Yugoslavia)
La venganza (Spain)
Best Documentary Feature:
White Wilderness – Ben Sharpsteen (WINNER)
Antarctic Crossing
The Hidden World
Psychiatric Nursing
Best Documentary Short Subject:
Ama Girls – Ben Sharpsteen (WINNER)
Employees Only
Journey into Spring
The Living Stone
Best Live Action Short Subject:
Grand Canyon – Walt Disney (WINNER)
Journey into Spring – Ian Ferguson
The Kiss – John Hayes
Snows of Aorangi – New Zealand Screen Board
T Is for Tumbleweed – James A. Lebenthal
Best Short Subject – Cartoons:
Knighty Knight Bugs – John W. Burton (WINNER)
Paul Bunyan – Walt Disney
Sidney’s Family Tree – William M. Weiss
Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture:
The Old Man and the Sea – Dimitri Tiomkin (WINNER)
The Big Country – Jerome Moross
Separate Tables – David Raksin
White Wilderness – Oliver Wallace
The Young Lions – Hugo Friedhofer
Best Scoring of a Musical Picture:
Gigi – André Previn (WINNER)
The Bolshoi Ballet – Yuri Faier and G. Rozhdestvensky
Damn Yankees! – Ray Heindorf
Mardi Gras – Lionel Newman
South Pacific – Alfred Newman and Ken Darby
Best Song:
“Gigi” from Gigi – Music by Frederick Loewe; Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner (WINNER)
“Almost In Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)” from Houseboat – Music and Lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
“A Certain Smile” from A Certain Smile – Music by Sammy Fain; Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
“To Love and Be Loved” from Some Came Running – Music by Jimmy Van Heusen; Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
“A Very Precious Love” from Marjorie Morningstar – Music by Sammy Fain; Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
Best Sound:
South Pacific – Fred Hynes (WINNER)
I Want to Live! – Gordon E. Sawyer
A Time to Love and a Time to Die – Leslie I. Carey
Vertigo – George Dutton
The Young Lions – Carlton W. Faulkner
Best Art Direction:
Gigi – Art Direction: William A. Horning (posthumous award) and E. Preston Ames; Set Decoration: Henry Grace and F. Keogh Gleason (WINNER)
Auntie Mame – Art Direction: Malcolm Bert; Set Decoration: George James Hopkins
Bell, Book and Candle – Art Direction: Cary Odell; Set Decoration: Louis Diage
A Certain Smile – Art Direction: Lyle R. Wheeler and John DeCuir; Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott and Paul S. Fox
Vertigo – Art Direction: Hal Pereira and Henry Bumstead; Set Decoration: Samuel M. Comer and Frank R. McKelvy
Best Costume Design:
Gigi – Cecil Beaton (WINNER)
Bell, Book and Candle – Jean Louis
The Buccaneer – Ralph Jester, Edith Head and John Jensen
A Certain Smile – Charles LeMaire and Mary Wills
Some Came Running – Walter Plunkett
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White:
The Defiant Ones – Sam Leavitt (WINNER)
Desire Under the Elms – Daniel L. Fapp
I Want to Live! – Lionel Lindon
Separate Tables – Charles Lang
The Young Lions – Joseph MacDonald
Best Cinematography, Color:
Gigi – Joseph Ruttenberg (WINNER)
Auntie Mame – Harry Stradling, Sr.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – William Daniels
The Old Man and the Sea – James Wong Howe
South Pacific – Leon Shamroy
Best Film Editing:
Gigi – Adrienne Fazan (WINNER)
Auntie Mame – William Ziegler
Cowboy – William Lyon and Al Clark
The Defiant Ones – Frederic Knudtson
I Want to Live! – William Hornbeck
Best Special Effects:
tom thumb – Tom Howard (WINNER)
Torpedo Run – Visual Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie; Audible Effects: Harold Humbrock
Academy Honorary Award:
Maurice Chevalier “for his contributions to the world of entertainment for more than half a century.”
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award:
Jack L. Warner
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