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The 33rd Academy Awards - 1961

Updated on December 4, 2013
tillsontitan profile image

Mary has been a movie fan since she was a little girl. She watched movies every night of the week on Million Dollar Theater..

John F. Kennedy

John & Jackie
John & Jackie | Source

The Sixties - New Cultures

  • The decade of "counterculture"
  • Pop music
  • Hippies
  • Women's rights
  • The Youth Culture
  • Baby Boomers became teenagers and young adults
  • The Space Age
  • Woodstock

We're in the Sixties Now!

If you''ve been following my hubs or if you've been following the Academy Awards, you know that the Awards are given to movies released in the prior year.

The 1961 Awards finally bring us to the nineteen-sixties. Said to be the decade when "we lost our innocence". The nineteen sixties were all about social change. John F. Kennedy and Camelot were in the public forefront. Martin Luther King, the Beatles, Viet Nam War protests, the civil rights movement, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, cultural changes in China, a man walking on the moon! What a decade.

Those of us who were teenagers in the Sixties will carry that decade with us always, whether we were hippies or protesters or part of the folk movement. It was a time not to be forgotten. Books have been written about the Sixties and numerous documentaries. There's even an official sixties website!

The Academy Awards

The thirty-three years of Academy Awards led to this year's Awards. Hosted by Bob Hope in Santa Monica, California, Hollywood faced the end of an era. Gary Cooper was given an honorary award but was too ill to attend the ceremony. The next day the world learned he had cancer. A month later, according to Wikipedia, he died.

The award winner for this year was the last time a black and white film won the Best Picture in a black and white film world. Schindler's List won in 1993 but was a specialty film done in black and white for impact while all other films were in color.

A publicity battle raged between John Wayne, for "The Swiss Family Robinson" and Chill Wills for "The Alamo". Neither film won Best Picture, in fact neither film won any awards.

The Apartment

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine
Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine | Source

The Apartment

The Apartment

Starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, The Apartment was nominated for ten awards and won five including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Film Editing and Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Black and White.

Centered around 'the apartment' Jack Lemmon loans to his unappreciative bosses the movie follows Lemmon and his own love life. The apartment is his way of keeping his job and hoping to climb the corporate ladder. All the while his neighbors think he is the ladies man in his apartment. The romantic interest, Shirley MacLaine, is involved with the married Personnel Director who has convinced Lemmon to let him use his apartment, bumping the other executives. In return he gives Lemmon tickets to the Broadway Show, "The Music Man". Lemmon gets up the courage to ask the elevator girl, Shirley MacLaine to go see the show with him but is stood up. She she meets the Personnel Director, Fred MacMurray, instead.

The New York Times called it "a gleeful, tender, and even sentimental film". If you haven't seen it, check it out to see what you think.

Burt Lancaster

A publicity still of Burt Lancaster in 1947.
A publicity still of Burt Lancaster in 1947. | Source

Elmer Gantry

Any film with Burt Lancaster is a powerful one. He is such a presence on screen and certainly the movie Elmer Gantry is no exception. An alcoholic, salesman, exceptional con men turned preacher. How's that for a part for Burt Lancaster? Well, that is exactly what Elmer Gantry is. Though the movie only covers a small part of the original 1927 novel "Elmer Gantry", it is certainly not lacking in story line or characters.

Enter, Sister Sharon Falconer, played by Jean Simmons, a revivalist preacher who Elmer is attracted to. He manages to become an intricate part of her roadshow. But life is not simple in this movie. Arthur Kennedy plays a newspaper man who feuds with Gantry and then there is a past love played by Shirley Jones, who is now a prostitute. Conflicts and blackmail arise with Lulu (the prostitute) but Sister Shriley's love prevails. What happens to Elmer when he loses Sister Sharon?

A film worth watching for Lancaster's performance and all the twists and turns.

Academy Award Nominations for 1961

Best Picture
Best Actor
Best Actress
The Apartment
Burt Lancaster - Elmer Gantry
Elizabeth Taylor - Butterfield 8
Elmer Gantry
Trevor Howard - Sons and Lovers
Greer Garson - Sunrise at Campobello
Sons and Lovers
Jack Lemmon - The Apartment
Deborah Kerr - The Sundowners
The Alamo
Laurence Olivier - The Entertainer
Shirley MacLaine - The Apartment
The Sundowners
Spencer Tracy - Inherit the Wind
Melina Mercouri - Never on Sunday
Not everyone wins an Academy Award, but certainly these are films worth watching!

Inherit the Wind

Henry Drummond with the Reverend Brown on the stand.
Henry Drummond with the Reverend Brown on the stand. | Source

Quotes From Inherit the Wind

  • Henry Drummond: Hornbeck, I'm getting tired of you. You never push a noun against a verb without trying to blow up something.
  • E. K. Hornbeck: We're growing a strange crop of agnostics this year.
  • Matthew Harrison Brady: Remember the wisdom of Solomon in the book of Proverbs. "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."
  • Henry Drummond: Ever been in love Hornbeck?
    E. K. Hornbeck: Only with the sound of my own words, thank God.
  • E. K. Hornbeck: [Cates rises as his girlfriend is called to testify] Sit down, Samson, you're about to get a haircut.
  • Matthew Harrison Brady: I am more interested in the 'Rock of Ages' than I am in the age of rocks.

Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind

Another movie based on a play but oh what a subject. The controversial "Scopes Monkey Trial" is the basis for this movie. The horror of teaching evolution mixed with McCarthyism. While critical of creationism the point is it is not an historically correct account. One of the writer's of the movie adaptation said, "we used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control [...] It's not about science versus religion. It's about the right to think." In researching this hub I also found on that the movie is based on an actual case in 1925. I'll leave it up to you truth or fiction. Whichever you decide there is no doubt that Darwin's theory of evolution has been a controversial one from the very start.

So, in spite of it all, the film seems to be about evolution versus creationism. A small town teacher in the south is brought to trial for teaching evolution in violation of a state law. The teacher, Betram Cates is played by Dick York. Spencer Tracy plays the defense attorney Henry Drummond patterned after Clarence Darrow. Frederick March plays the prosecuting attorney Matthew Harrison Brady patterned after William Jennings Bryant.

America was interested in this case and sent a reputed reporter, also a cynical one, from Baltimore. Gene Kelly plays that reporter, E.K. Hornbeck. The Rev. Brown who protests the godlessness of Cates is played by Claude Akins.

Watching the movie brings you into that overcrowded, overheated court room. Emotions run high throughout the entire movie and you can almost feel the heat. Adding to that heat is Cates "friend" and supporter, Rachel Brown. Yes, she's the daughter of the Rev. Brown. Conservative versus liberal, evolution versus creationism, small city versus the country, man versus society...they're all there!

I could go on but at this point I think it would be best to say, see the movie!

How do you feel about this year's Academy choices?

See results

A Great Year for Movies

Looking over the titles in the Academy Awards, this was a year of great movies. Have you seen "Sons and Lovers"? The great film adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's epic novel of the same name? Did you see Elizabeth Taylor drive her Sunbeam Alpine off a cliff on the New York State Thruway in "Butterfield 8"? There's a lot of good movies in this Academy Awards batch. I know you'll like many of them.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

"Bringing you movies that are part of your memories."


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    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Deb, always happy when I spark someone's interest to see the great films of the past. They were certainly well done.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I was just a kid in the 60's, but I sure know about some of these. As always, great work, and you sparked my interest to see the movies that I haven't.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Always happy to make someone smile!!

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have seen "The Apartment" and really liked it. I had forgotten all about this movie so seeing it here really makes makes me smile :) Voting up and sharing!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Weestro, glad I could open your eyes to more Jack Lemmon!

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 

      5 years ago from Virginia

      As someone who associates Jack Lemmon with Grumpy Old Men, I learned a lot here. Maybe I can catch some of these on TLC. Voted up and awesome!

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Thanks GTF, guess I gave you 'food for thought'!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      5 years ago

      Boy - I did not see too many of these films, but the Apartment is good. Can't go wrong with Jack Lemmon. Another interesting Oscars spotlight.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Pamela we must be close in age. I do remember an older aunt taking me to see "Never On Sunday" and not really understanding it at the time.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is very interesting and a walk down memory lane, although I was a young teen at the time. Many of the movies are such classic that I've seen them. Great review of 1961.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      PaisleeGal, definitely more controversial topics but still great movies. I agree the thirties were amazing!

      Home place I am glad I could bring back memories. The Awards were a big thing that everyone watched then.

      Faith it is always fun to look back in time, whether it is history or movies but we all no there will never be anything like the sixties. Thank you my friend for always reading my hubs and though this series takes me time to do I really enjoy doing it...sort of a labor of love. God bless.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Mary, I believe this is my favorite year, although I had just arrived into the world a year before but ... Jack Lemmon and Burt Lancaster, whew ... no complaining here!

      What a great introduction too ... of the sixties!

      Mary, your series is the best of the best here on HP, and I always look forward to the next year. You do a stellar job in compiling all of this information. Your hard work shows.

      Up and more and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      5 years ago from Hollister, MO

      We watched the awards show faithfully, every year, back then. I remember this one clearly, especially The Apartment and Elmer Gantry! Thanks for the memories! ;-)

    • PaisleeGal profile image

      Pat Materna 

      5 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      Mary, Thanks for a great review. These were some greats! But still can't compare the films in 1939. I always enjoy your articles about the Oscars.

      I was a teen in the 60's. We started seeing lots more controversial topics portrayed then.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      So glad I could bring it to your attention WND. Definitely a film to watch.

      Drbj, you are so right! The greats of our past. Appreciate your viewing.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      I think you have proven with this '61 Awards hub, Mary, that they really do not make movies like they used to. I saw everyone of the films you cited in the Awards section and they rate seeing over and over again.

      Who can forget Lancaster or Lennon or Tracy or March or all of the other marvelous actors in those films? And Melina Mercouri in 'Never on Sunday,' was a hoot! Thanks for this lovely deja vu, m'dear.

    • wetnosedogs profile image


      5 years ago from Alabama

      I somehow missed Inherit the Wind. How can that be? Spencer Tracy is fabulous. Thanks for bring it to my attention.

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      I am always happy to see you've been here to comment. Thank you for stopping by and happy too you enjoy my hubs.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The 33rd Academy Awards - 1961 interesting and informative and I enjoy reading your work. A well approached hub from the sixties

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      Frank, always great to see you. The Apartment was certainly a great film, Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine were wonerful!

      Dolores, welcome. So glad you enjoyed my hub. Who couldn't love Burt Lancaster.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      What a year for movies! The Apartment was a wonderful film but Inherit the Wind was a great one. Did you also know that Gene Kelly's role was based on the famous journalist H. L. Mencken? How this movie twists our hearts! (And I'm with Genna up there. Burt Lancaster was so handsome! I was so in love with him when I was a kid!)

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      again what a wonderful idea for hubs.. The Apartment happens to be one of my top five films of all time.. for got it was a nominated film.. thanks for the entertainment til.. you know how to keep me reading

    • tillsontitan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Craig 

      5 years ago from New York

      I am humbled by the response I get from this series and you Maria are the epitome! Of course it was a great year being the year you were born. THAT was the gift to the world in 1961, your birth! The movies were just the icing on the cake ;)

      Thank you Bill. I'm trying to pace myself to one Awards hub a month...that way I know I'll be around a while ;) Thank you for your support and yes, they were two wonderful movies on many levels.

      mylindaelliott, thank you for stopping by. It is always a treat to see the movies made the year we were born.

      Genna, have I thanked you for being such a wonderful fan and friend here? I couldn't open the sixties without JFK. I was one of those totally taken with him and his administration. A terrible time but a wonderful time. The movies were all great.

      Mary you sound like me, they don't make 'em like they used to!

      Bill you are right there with Mary. There seems that there was more substance then, especially with movies like "Elmer Gantry" and "Inherit the Wind"! Thanks Bill.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. Welcome back with this great series. I haven't seen all of these but did love "The Alamo" and "Butterfield 8". They sure don't make them like they used to. Voted up, shared, etc... Great job.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      They just don't make movies like this any more. I think I've seen all the winners of 1961; some really great movies. I still watch the oldies on Netflix. Great Hub. Voted UP and shared.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I know I’ve said this a million times, but I always look forward to these installments, Mary. And we are gifted with a photo of the absurdly handsome Burt Lancaster. Be still my heart. (I was born after my time. :-) ) An interesting pairing between Jones and Lancaster. I loved this film.

      I like how you introduced us to the 60’s with the poignant photo that marked the end of Camelot in ’63. The 60’s gave us the devastating assassinations of Jack, Martin and Bobbie; The British invasion of the Beatles; Nam, and more. It was a turbulent decade that culminated with “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” and Woodstock.

      “The Apartment” deserved the win and the accolades. Still, “Inherit the Wind” was, and always will be a classic, the controversy notwithstanding. What amazing, mesmerizing acting, Mary…one of March and Tracey's finest roles. (Another Tracey favorite of mine will be featured in your next installment. :-)) What a year for film!

      A wonderful presentation, Mary…always enjoyable and so well written. Thank you! Voted up and shared.

    • mylindaelliott profile image


      5 years ago from Louisiana

      This was the year I was born. I didn't see Elmer Gentry till much later. I always liked that one though.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Elmer Gantry and Inherit the Wind....two of the all-time great films ever made, and they had to battle each other. What a great year for movies and yes, I have seen them all.

      Good to see you back with another installment of this series. Well done Mary.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      5 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      OK I am blatantly showing some favoritism...but as the year " I arrived" on the scene...this is, without a doubt, the best year ever...just sayin!!

      Plus "33" was my brother's full back jersey number all through high school! Beautiful memories, Mary and by far, my favorite series on HP.

      Voted UP and UABI. Love, Maria


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