Movie studios produced a number of great films in the 1960s. Many of them, including “Psycho,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “The Sound of Music,” are included in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best movies of all time. The 1960s also represented a coming of age for a new generation of movie stars like Barbra Streisand and Sidney Poitier. At the same time, veteran celebrities, such as Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn, continued to work their magic. The Academy Awards in the 1960s helped to celebrate Hollywood’s achievements, while also highlighting the accomplishments of its stars-both young and old.
Here are five of the Academy Awards’ most memorable moments from the 1960s.
“Ben Hur” Breaks a Record (1960)
MGM spent what was at that time a record breaking $15 million to make “Ben Hur.” The studio’s risky investment paid off. The movie broke box office records when it was released in 1959. Director William Wyler’s epic masterpiece also broke records at the Academy Awards in 1960, when it won more Oscars (11) than any other film up to that point.
Sidney Poitier Makes History (1964)
In the 1960s, African Americans and other minority groups finally started to make significant inroads in their fight for equal rights. Sidney Poitier was both a beneficiary of these changes and one of its champions. During the 1960s, he starred in movies, such as “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” which upended racial stereotypes. In 1964, he became the first African American man, and only the second black actor, to win an Oscar when he nabbed the Best Picture award for his role in “Lillies of the Field.”
A Surprise for Bob Hope (1966)
Bob Hope, who was born in 1903, was already a showbiz legend when he hosted the 1966 Academy Awards. The actor had enjoyed success in a variety of different mediums, including radio, television, and on the stage. Hope was in the process of wrapping up The Oscars-the show was down to its final award-when the Academy’s president, Arthur Freed, surprised Hope by giving him an award for his “unique and distinguished service” to the film industry and “to the Academy.” Hope was thrown off guard for a moment, but he recovered quickly and managed to voice his thanks by way of a couple of good one-liners.
A Tie for the Best Actress Oscar (1969)
The audience waited in anticipation as Ingrid Bergman opened the envelope, containing the name of the Best Actress Oscar winner. Both Bergman and the audience were shocked to learn that Barbra Streisand (“Funny Girl”) and Katharine Hepburn (“The Lion in Winter”) had tied for the award. The Academy voters could not decide between the 26-year old Streisand, who represented the new generation of movie stars, and the 61-year old Hepburn, the aged veteran.
The Academy Awards Show Is Broadcast around the World (1969)
During the 1960s advances in TV technology changed people’s viewing experiences forever. At the beginning of the decade, TV networks were still broadcasting a lot of their shows in black and white. By 1967 they were transmitting most of their televised material in color. At the same time, the TV conglomerates began to develop satellite networks, which allowed them to quickly transmit telecasts across the globe. The Academy Awards were on the forefront of these changes. For the first time in 1969, television viewers from around the world (in 37 countries) could watch a live presentation of The Oscars.
The author is a freelance writer and has a B.A. in History from Roanoke College. He enjoys watching both classic movies and new films.