1962 Oscars flashback: When ‘West Side Story’ swept and Sophia Loren made history

Everything old is new again. Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed remake of “West Side Story” has garnered seven Oscar nominations. That haul is impressive but pales next to that of the 1961 original which reaped a whopping 11 bids. Not surprisingly, it was the big winner at the 34th annual Oscars. These took place at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on April 9, 1962 with Bob Hope hosting.

The Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins adaptation of the Leonard BernsteinStephen Sondheim landmark Broadway musical waltzed away with 10 wins including Best Picture, Director (shared for the first time) and for supporting players Rita Moreno and George Chakiris.

Robbins also received an honorary Oscar that night for his “brilliant achievement in the art of choreography on film.” Ironically, Robbins had received his walking papers from his directing duties 45 days into production. Wise told me in a 2002 L.A. Times interview that the production was behind schedule and over-budget. “The company was very unhappy. They attributed the fact that they were was over schedule and budget to [Robbins] and they insisted he leave the film.”

Not only did Wise and Robbins made Oscar history, so did Sophia Loren. The Italian superstar became the first to win an acting Oscar for a foreign language performance. Loren received her only competitive Oscar for her harrowing performance in Vittorio De Sica’s “Two Women.” (This year, Penelope Cruz is nominated for Best Actress for Pedro Almovodar’s  Spanish-language drama, “Parallel Mothers.”)

Best actor winner Maximilian Schell for “Judgement at Nuremberg” was the first to win an Oscar for reprising a role that he had done on television. The Austrian-actor had starred in the 1959 “Playhouse 90” live presentation of “Judgement at Nuremberg.”

George C. Scott, nominated for supporting actor for “The Hustler,” informed the academy he wanted his name removed from the ballot. It wasn’t. And nine years later, he won and refused the Best Actor Oscar for “Patton.”

One film that should have been on list of Best Picture nominees was Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” which had won the Palme d’or at Cannes.  (This influential masterpiece was just released by Paramount on Blu-Ray in a stunning 4K digital restoration; time has only made the drama more powerful.) The three-hour drama, which chronicles a week in the life of a womanizing tabloid reporter (Marcello Mastroianni)  picked up four Oscar nominations including two for Fellini (directing and writing, which he shared with three other scribes).

Fellini had contended at the 19th annual Oscar for co-writing Roberto Rossellini’s masterwork, “Rome, Open City.” His “La Strada” won the first Foreign Language Feature Oscar at the 29th ceremony and the following year, his “The Night of Cabiria,” which was the basis of the Broadway musical “Sweet Charity,” repeated in this race. His Best Director nomination marked the first time a filmmaker was nominated for a foreign language production. This year, Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi is nominated for director and writing the Best Picture nominee “Drive My Car.”“La Dolce Vita” won Best Black-and-White Costume Design for Piero Gheradi.

Writing awards 60 years ago went to Abby Mann for his adaptation of “Judgement at Nuremberg” and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Inge (“Picnic”) for his first film script, “Splendor in the Grass.”

Though it didn’t win any Oscars, Disney’s blockbuster comedy “’The Absent-Minded Professor” received nominations for black-and-white cinematography, black-and-white art direction and special effects. Another big Disney hit, “The Parent Trap” picked up nominations for sound and film editing and the Mouse House’s musical “Babes in Toyland” also was nominated for color costume design and scoring of a musical picture.

Henry Mancini won two Oscars for music score of a dramatic or comedy picture for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and for composing with lyricist Johnny Mercer, the film’s beloved “Moon River.”

And Ingmar Bergman’s “Through a Glass Darkly” won the foreign language film Oscar.

Stanley Kramer, the director of “Judgement at Nuremberg,” earned the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award and writer/director George Seaton, best known for 1947’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Presenters included Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Richard Chamberlain, Cyd Charisse and her husband Tony Martin, Joan Crawford, Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Burt Lancaster, Debbie Reynolds, Shirley Jones and Rosalind Russell. Then-ingenue Ann-Margret received a lot of her attention for her performance of the Oscar-nominated tune “Bachelor in Paradise.”

But someone who wasn’t even invited to the Oscars also made headlines. Professional “gate-crasher” Stan Berman somehow eluded 125 police to walk on stage to hand a shocked Hope, who always joked that Oscar night was known as “Passover” in his house, his own handmade Academy Award.

PREDICT the 2022 Oscar winners through March 27

Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?

More News from GoldDerby