51st Academy Awards

51st Academy Awards

Official poster
Date April 9, 1979
Site Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
Hosted by Johnny Carson
Produced by Jack Haley, Jr.
Directed by Marty Pasetta
Best Picture The Deer Hunter
Most awards The Deer Hunter (5)
Most nominations The Deer Hunter and Heaven Can Wait (9)
TV in the United States
Network ABC
Duration 3 hours, 25 minutes[1]
Ratings 46.3 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 on April 6, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by hosts Gregory Peck and Christopher Reeve.[6]

The Deer Hunter won five awards including Best Picture.[7] Other winners included Coming Home with three awards, Midnight Express with two awards, 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 ceremony, held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown Los Angeles, California, 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 that the segment be dropped from the ceremony, but it was kept intact after Haley threatened to leave his position as producer and pull Carson from emcee duties.[11]

It was 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.[13]

Winners and nominees

The nominees for the 51st Academy Awards were announced on February 20, 1979.[14] The Deer Hunter and Heaven Can Wait tied for the most nominations with nine each.[15] The winners were announced during the awards ceremony on April 9. 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.[16] Furthermore, Beatty was the first person since Orson Welles to earn acting, directing, producing, and screenwriting nominations in the same year.[17] 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.[18] Best Supporting Actress winner Maggie Smith became the only person to win an Oscar for playing an Oscar loser.[19]


Jon Voight, Best Actor winner
Jane Fonda, Best Actress winner
Christopher Walken, Best Supporting Actor winner

Winners are listed first, highlighted in boldface and indicated with a double dagger (double-dagger).[20]

Best Picture Best Director
Best Actor Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor Best Supporting Actress
Best Original Screenplay Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Foreign Language Film Best Costume Design
Best Documentary Feature Best Documentary Short
Best Live Action Short Best Animated Short
Best Original Score Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score
Best Original Song Best Sound Mixing
Best Art Direction Best Cinematography
Best Film Editing

Academy Honorary Awards

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

Special Achievement Award

Multiple nominations and awards

The following 14 films had multiple nominations:

Nomintations Film
9 The Deer Hunter
Heaven Can Wait
8 Coming Home
6 Midnight Express
5 Interiors
4 Days of Heaven
Same Time, Next Year
The Wiz
3 The Boys from Brazil
The Buddy Holly Story
California Suite
An Unmarried Woman
2 Autumn Sonata

The following three films received multiple awards.

Awards Film
5 The Deer Hunter
3 Coming Home
2 Midnight Express

Presenters and performers

The following individuals (in order of appearance) presented awards or performed musical numbers:[27]


Name Role
John HarlanJohn Harlan Announcer for the 51st Academy Awards
Koch, Howard W.Howard W. Koch (AMPAS President) Gave opening remarks welcoming guests to the awards ceremony
Williams, RobinRobin Williams Presenters of the Honorary Award to Walter Lantz
Woodpecker, WoodyWoody Woodpecker
Thomas, DannyDanny Thomas Explained the voting rules to the public
Cannon, DyanDyan Cannon Presenters of the award for Best Supporting Actor
Savalas, TellyTelly Savalas
Smith, MaggieMaggie Smith Presenters of the Scientific and Technical Awards
Stapleton, MaureenMaureen Stapleton
Benson, RobbyRobby Benson Presenters of the Short Subject Awards
Lynley, CarolCarol Lynley
Farrow, MiaMia Farrow Presenters of the Documentary Awards
Wolper, David L.David L. Wolper
Jones, ShirleyShirley Jones Presenters of the award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
Schroeder, RickyRicky Schroeder
Bolger, RayRay Bolger Presenters of the award for Best Costume Design
Haley, JackJack Haley
DeLuise, DomDom DeLuise Presenters of the award for Best Film Editing
Perrine, ValerieValerie Perrine
Martin, SteveSteve Martin Presenter of the award for Best Visual Effects
Kidder, MargotMargot Kidder Presenters of the Sound Awards
Reeve, ChristopherChristopher Reeve
Coburn, JamesJames Coburn Presenters of the award for Best Cinematography
Novak, KimKim Novak
Keeler, RubyRuby Keeler Presenters of the award for Best Original Song
Kristofferson, KrisKris Kristofferson
Williams, PaulPaul Williams Introducer to Sammy Davis Jr. and Steve Lawrence performance
Martin, DeanDean Martin Presenters of the Music Awards
Welch, RaquelRaquel Welch
Peck, GregoryGregory Peck Presenter of the Honorary Award to the Museum of Modern Art Department of Film
Brynner, YulYul Brynner Presenters of the award for Best Foreign Language Film
Wood, NatalieNatalie Wood
Burns, GeorgeGeorge Burns Presenters of the award for Best Supporting Actress
Shields, BrookeBrooke Shields
Bacall, LaurenLauren Bacall Presenters of the Writing Awards
Voight, JonJon Voight
Hepburn, AudreyAudrey Hepburn Presenter of the Honorary Award to King Vidor
Coppola, Francis FordFrancis Ford Coppola Presenters of the award for Best Director
MacGraw, AliAli MacGraw
Grant, CaryCary Grant Presenter of the Honorary Award to Laurence Olivier
Dreyfuss, RichardRichard Dreyfuss Presenters of the award for Best Actress
MacLaine, ShirleyShirley MacLaine
Valenti, JackJack Valenti Presenter of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Rogers, GingerGinger Rogers Presenters of the award for Best Actor
Ross, DianaDiana Ross
Wayne, JohnJohn Wayne Presenter of the award for Best Picture


Name Role Performed
Elliot, JackJack Elliot Musical arrangers Orchestral
Ferguson, AllynAllyn Ferguson
Newton-John, OliviaOlivia Newton-John Performer "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (from Grease)
Olivor, JaneJane Olivor Performers "The Last Time I Felt Like This" (from Same Time, Next Year)
Mathis, JohnnyJohnny Mathis
Summer, DonnaDonna Summer Performer "Last Dance" (from Thank God It's Friday)
Boone, DebbyDebby Boone Performer "When You're Loved" (from The Magic of Lassie)
Manilow, BarryBarry Manilow Performer "Ready to Take a Chance Again" (from Foul Play)
Davis Jr., SammySammy Davis Jr. Performers "Not Even Nominated (Oscar's Only Human)"
Lawrence, SteveSteve Lawrence
Academy Awards Orchestra, Academy Awards Orchestra Performers "That's Entertainment!" (instrumental)

See also


  1. Osborne 2013, p. 252
  2. "Top-10 Most Watched Academy Awards Broadcasts". Nielsen N.V. February 18, 2009. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  3. "New shows disappointing". Boca Raton News. South Florida Media Company. April 20, 1979. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  4. "War Film, Comedy Head List". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Cowles Publishing Company. April 6, 1979. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  5. Smith, Liz (October 8, 1978). "Frank won't sing without G notes". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  6. "Past Scientific & Technical Awards Ceremonies". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. AMPAS. 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. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  8. Thomas, Bob (April 9, 1979). "Oscar Show-A Thankless Chore". Ludington Daily News. Shoreline Media. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  9. Osborne 2008, p. 413
  10. Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 560
  11. Pond 2005, p. 29
  12. Davis 1998, p. 320
  13. Davis 1996, p. 323
  14. "The Deer Hunter, Heaven Can Wait top honors Oscar nominees listed". The Globe and Mail. Phillip Crawley. February 21, 1979. p. P11.
  15. Grant, Lee (February 21, 1979). "Two War Films on Oscar Ballot". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. p. D1.
  16. Kinn & Piazza 2002, p. 215
  17. Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 1129
  18. Holden 1993, p. 619
  19. Holden 1993, p. 622
  20. "The 51st Academy Awards (1979) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Retrieved October 31, 2011.
  21. "Academy plans special honors for 4-old timers". Eugene Register-Guard. Guard Publishing Co. February 9, 1979. Retrieved August 25, 2015.
  22. "Olivier, Lantz to get Special Oscars". Beaver County Times. Calkins Media. February 13, 1979. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  23. Scott, Vernon (February 21, 1979). "'Heaven' and 'Deer Hunter' head list of Oscar hopefuls". Lodi News-Sentinel. Marty Weybret. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  24. Kinn & Piazza 2002, p. 217
  25. Schreger, Charles (February 10, 1979). "'Close Encounters' - Take Two". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. p. B5.
  26. Franks 2005, p. 246
  27. Wiley & Bona 1996, p. 562


  • Franks, Don (2005), Entertainment Awards: A Music, Cinema, Theatre and Broadcasting Guide, 1928 through 2003 (3rd ed.), Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-1579123963 
  • Holden, Anthony (1993), Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards, New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0671701291 
  • Kinn, Gail; Piazza, Jim (2002), The Academy Awards: The Complete Unofficial History, New York, United States: Workman Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1579123963 
  • Osborne, Robert (2013). 85 Years of the Oscar: The Complete History of the Academy Awards. New York, United States: Abbeville Publishing Group. ISBN 0-7892-1142-4. 
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