1961 Oscars 33rd Academy Awards

1961 Oscars 33rd Academy Awards

Winners Announced: April 17, 1961
Held at: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California
Host: Bob Hope
Eligibility Year: 1960

Cinematic Highlights and Achievements

  • The Apartment Dominates: Billy Wilder’s The Apartment swept the Oscars with five wins, including Best Picture and Best Director. The wins extended to its stars, Jack Lemmon for Best Actor and Shirley MacLaine for Best Actress.
  • Elizabeth Taylor’s Emotional Win: Elizabeth Taylor took home Best Actress for her role in Butterfield 8, just after recovering from a near-fatal illness.
  • Historic Score: Breakfast at Tiffany’s left its mark with “Moon River” by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer winning Best Original Song.
  • Breakthrough in Art Direction: Spartacus clinched Best Art Direction for a color film, showcasing the technical mastery of the historical drama genre.


  • Gary Cooper’s Farewell: James Stewart accepted an honorary Oscar for Cooper’s lifetime contributions to film.
  • Bob Hope, the Perennial Host: This year marked Bob Hope’s 11th time as the Oscars host, adding another milestone to his record.
  • Foreign Film Milestone: Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring won Best Foreign Language Film, Sweden’s third win in the category.
  • First Live Broadcast in Color: The Oscars ceremony was broadcast live in full color, a first for the ceremony.
  • Red Carpet Debut: 1961 the red carpet was introduced, becoming a lasting tradition.
  • The Apartment was the last black-and-white film to win Best Picture until Schindler’s List in 1993.
  • Take our 1961 Quiz!

1961 Oscar Nominees and Winners

Best Motion Picture:
The Apartment – Billy Wilder, producer (WINNER)
The Alamo – John Wayne, producer
Elmer Gantry – Bernard Smith, producer
Sons and Lovers – Jerry Wald, producer
The Sundowners – Fred Zinnemann, producer
Best Director:
Billy Wilder – The Apartment (WINNER)
Jules Dassin – Never on Sunday
Alfred Hitchcock – Psycho
Jack Cardiff – Sons and Lovers
Fred Zinnemann – The Sundowners
Best Actor:
Burt Lancaster – Elmer Gantry as Elmer Gantry (WINNER)
Trevor Howard – Sons and Lovers as Walter Morel
Jack Lemmon – The Apartment as Calvin Clifford “Bud” Baxter
Laurence Olivier – The Entertainer as Archie Rice
Spencer Tracy – Inherit The Wind as Henry Drummond
Best Actress:
Elizabeth Taylor – Butterfield 8 as Gloria Wandrous (WINNER)
Greer Garson – Sunrise at Campobello as Eleanor Roosevelt
Deborah Kerr – The Sundowners as Ida Carmody
Shirley MacLaine – The Apartment as Fran Kubelik
Melina Mercouri – Never on Sunday as Ilya
Best Supporting Actor:
Peter Ustinov – Spartacus as Batiatus (WINNER)
Peter Falk – Murder, Inc. as Abe “Kid Twist” Reles
Jack Kruschen – The Apartment as Dr. Dreyfuss
Sal Mineo – Exodus as Dov Landau
Chill Wills – The Alamo as Beekeeper
Best Supporting Actress:
Shirley Jones – Elmer Gantry as Lulu Bains (WINNER)
Glynis Johns – The Sundowners as Mrs. Firth
Shirley Knight – The Dark at the Top of the Stairs as Reenie Flood
Janet Leigh – Psycho as Marion Crane
Mary Ure – Sons and Lovers as Clara Dawes
Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen:
The Apartment – Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond (WINNER)
The Angry Silence – Richard Gregson, Michael Craig and Bryan Forbes
The Facts of Life – Melvin Frank and Norman Panama
Hiroshima, My Love – Marguerite Duras
Never on Sunday – Jules Dassin
Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium:
Elmer Gantry – Richard Brooks based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis (WINNER)
Inherit the Wind – Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith based on the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Sons and Lovers – Gavin Lambert and T. E. B. Clarke based on the novel by D. H. Lawrence
The Sundowners – Isobel Lennart based on the novel by Jon Cleary
Tunes of Glory – James Kennaway based on his novel
Best Foreign Language Film:
The Virgin Spring (Sweden) (WINNER)
Kapo (Italy)
Macario (Mexico)
The Ninth Circle (Yugoslavia)
La Vérité (France)
Best Documentary Feature:
The Horse with the Flying Tail (WINNER)
Rebel in Paradise
Best Documentary Short Subject:
Giuseppina (WINNER)
Beyond Silence
A City Called Copenhagen
George Grosz’ Interregnum
Best Live Action Short Subject:
Day of the Painter (WINNER)
The Creation of Woman
Islands of the Sea
A Sport Is Born
Best Short Subjects – Cartoons:
Munro (WINNER)
Goliath II
High Note
Mouse and Garden
A Place in the Sun
Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture:
Exodus – Ernest Gold (WINNER)
The Alamo – Dimitri Tiomkin
Elmer Gantry – André Previn
The Magnificent Seven – Elmer Bernstein
Spartacus – Alex North
Best Scoring of a Musical Picture:
Song Without End – Morris Stoloff and Harry Sukman (WINNER)
Bells Are Ringing – André Previn
Can-Can – Nelson Riddle
Let’s Make Love – Lionel Newman and Earle H. Hagen
Pepe – Johnny Green
Best Song:
“Never on Sunday” from Never on Sunday – Music and Lyrics by Manos Hatzidakis (WINNER)
“The Second Time Around” from High Time – Music by Jimmy Van Heusen and Lyrics by Sammy Cahn
“Faraway Part of Town” from Pepe – Music by André Previn; Lyrics by Dory Previn
“The Green Leaves of Summer” from The Alamo – Music by Dimitri Tiomkin; Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
“The Facts of Life” from The Facts of Life – Music and Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Best Sound:
The Alamo – Gordon E. Sawyer and Fred Hynes (WINNER)
The Apartment – Gordon E. Sawyer
Cimarron – Franklin Milton
Pepe – Charles Rice
Sunrise at Campobello – George Groves
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White:
The Apartment – Art Direction: Alexandre Trauner; Set Decoration: Edward G. Boyle (WINNER)
The Facts of Life – Art Direction: Joseph McMillan Johnson and Kenneth A. Reid; Set Decoration: Ross Dowd
Psycho – Art Direction: Joseph Hurley and Robert Clatworthy; Set Decoration: George Milo
Sons and Lovers – Art Direction: Thomas N. Morahan; Set Decoration: Lionel Couch
Visit to a Small Planet – Art Direction: Hal Pereira and Walter Tyler; Set Decoration: Samuel M. Comer and Arthur Krams
Best Art Direction, Color:
Spartacus – Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen and Eric Orbom (posthumous award); Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron (WINNER)
Cimarron – Art Direction: George Davis and Addison Hehr; Set Decoration: Henry Grace, Hugh Hunt and Otto Siegel
It Started in Naples – Art Direction: Hal Pereira and Roland Anderson; Set Decoration: Samuel M. Comer and Arrigo Breschi
Pepe – Art Direction: Ted Haworth; Set Decoration: William Kiernan
Sunrise at Campobello – Art Direction: Edward Carrere; Set Decoration: George James Hopkins
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White:
Sons and Lovers – Freddie Francis (WINNER)
The Apartment – Joseph LaShelle
The Facts of Life – Charles Lang
Inherit the Wind – Ernest Laszlo
Psycho – John L. Russell
Best Cinematography, Color:
Spartacus – Russell Metty (WINNER)
The Alamo – William H. Clothier
BUtterfield 8 – Joseph Ruttenberg and Charles Harten
Exodus – Sam Leavitt
Pepe – Joseph MacDonald
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White:
The Facts of Life – Edith Head and Edward Stevenson (WINNER)
Never on Sunday – Deni Vachlioti
The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond – Howard Shoup
Seven Thieves – Bill Thomas
The Virgin Spring – Marik Vos
Best Costume Design, Color:
Spartacus – Bill Thomas and Valles (WINNER)
Can-Can – Irene Sharaff
Midnight Lace – Irene Lentz
Pepe – Edith Head
Sunrise at Campobello – Marjorie Best
Best Film Editing:
The Apartment – Daniel Mandell (WINNER)
The Alamo – Stuart Gilmore
Inherit the Wind – Frederic Knudtson
Pepe – Viola Lawrence and Al Clark
Spartacus – Robert Lawrence
Best Special Effects:
The Time Machine – Gene Warren and Tim Baar (WINNER)
The Last Voyage – Augie Lohman
Academy Honorary Awards:
Gary Cooper “for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry.”

Stan Laurel “for his creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy.”

Academy Juvenile Award:
Hayley Mills
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award:
Sol Lesser
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