This article marks Part 4 of the Gold Derby series reflecting on films that contended for the Big Five Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted). With “A Star Is Born” this year on the cusp of joining this exclusive group of Oscar favorites, join us as we look back at the 43 extraordinary pictures that earned Academy Awards nominations in each of the Big Five categories, including the following six films that took home a trio of prizes among the top races.
With a total of 13 nominations, the most of any Oscar contender that year, “From Here to Eternity” (1953) towered over the 26th Academy Awards. At the ceremony, the Fred Zinnemann film dominated, earning eight prizes, including three in the Big Five categories. It earned Best Picture, plus Best Director honors for Zinnemann and Best Adapted Screenplay (Daniel Taradash). While Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed triumphed in Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively, leads Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr did not prevail, as Best Actor and Best Actress went to William Holden (“Stalag 17”) and Audrey Hepburn (“Roman Holiday”). Additional wins for the film arrived in Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.
Also leading the pack in its year was “The Apartment” (1960), which scored 10 nominations, including bids across the Big Five. The Billy Wilder comedy triumphed in Best Picture and Best Director, with Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond scoring honors in Best Original Screenplay. Like “From Here to Eternity,” it struck out in Best Actor and Best Actress, with nominees Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine defeated by Burt Lancaster (“Elmer Gantry”) and Elizabeth Taylor (“BUtterfield 8”). The picture also earned a pair of prizes in Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing.
Sidney Lumet’s “Network” (1976) was also the recipient of 10 nominations but, unlike “From Here to Eternity” and “The Apartment,” proved unsuccessful in Best Picture and Best Director. While those awards went to “Rocky” and director John G. Avildsen, “Network” did prevail in Best Actor (Peter Finch), Best Actress (Faye Dunaway) and Best Original Screenplay (Paddy Chayefsky). With Beatrice Straight earning Best Supporting Actress honors, “Network” became the second film, alongside “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), to secure three acting Oscars.
Two years later, Hal Ashby’s “Coming Home” (1978) repeated the performance of “Network” by also garnering Best Actor (Jon Voight), Best Actress (Jane Fonda) and Best Original Screenplay (Nancy Dowd, Robert C. Jones and Waldo Salt) trophies. Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” secured five wins, including Best Picture and Best Director.
In 1981, Best Picture front-runners “On Golden Pond” and “Reds” watched in awe as “Chariots of Fire” pulled off the upset for the top prize. The former did, however, have much to celebrate, as leads Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn claimed victory, as did scribe Ernest Thompson in Best Adapted Screenplay. Director Mark Rydell was topped by Warren Beatty (“Reds”).
Most recently, it was Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) taking home three of the Big Five prizes. The film earned Best Picture and Best Director, plus a second career Best Actress trophy for Hilary Swank. Eastwood was no match, however, for winner Jamie Foxx (“Ray”) in Best Actor, while screenwriter Paul Haggis was topped by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (“Sideways”) in Best Original Screenplay. Also scoring a prize for “Million Dollar Baby” was Morgan Freeman in Best Supporting Actor.