1971 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
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Academy Awards Summaries
Winners Charts:
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®

The winner is listed first, in CAPITAL letters.

Filmsite's Greatest Films of 1971

Best Picture


A Clockwork Orange (1971, UK)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

The Last Picture Show (1971)

Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)

GENE HACKMAN in "The French Connection", Peter Finch in "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", Walter Matthau in "Kotch", George C. Scott in "The Hospital", Topol in "Fiddler on the Roof"
JANE FONDA in "Klute", Julie Christie in "McCabe & Mrs. Miller", Glenda Jackson in "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", Vanessa Redgrave in "Mary, Queen of Scots", Janet Suzman in "Nicholas and Alexandra"
Supporting Actor:
BEN JOHNSON in "The Last Picture Show", Jeff Bridges in "The Last Picture Show", Leonard Frey in "Fiddler on the Roof", Richard Jaeckel in "Sometimes a Great Notion", Roy Scheider in "The French Connection"
Supporting Actress:
CLORIS LEACHMAN in "The Last Picture Show", Ann-Margret in "Carnal Knowledge", Ellen Burstyn in "The Last Picture Show", Barbara Harris in "Who is Harry Kellerman, and Why is He Saying These Terrible Things About Me?", Margaret Leighton in "The Go-Between"
WILLIAM FRIEDKIN for "The French Connection", Peter Bogdanovich for "The Last Picture Show", Norman Jewison for "Fiddler on the Roof", Stanley Kubrick for "A Clockwork Orange", John Schlesinger for "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"

'Old' and 'New' Hollywood clashed with two biggest rivals in the Best Picture competition:

  • director Norman Jewison's Fiddler on the Roof (with eight nominations and three wins - Best Cinematography (Oswald Morris), Best Sound, and Best Scoring (this was the first of numerous Oscar wins for film composer John Williams) - the lavish film adaptation of the long-running, hit Broadway musical was based on the Yiddish stories of Tevye the Dairyman, written by Sholem Aleichem

  • the other was the year's innovative Best Picture victor - The French Connection (with eight nominations and five wins), a semi-documentary film and exciting cops and drug dealers action thriller, based on two real-life New York narcotics squad officers (detectives Eddie 'Popeye' Egan and Sonny Grosso, portrayed by Hackman and Scheider), who seized a 120 lb., multi-million dollar shipment of smuggled heroin (from Marseilles to NYC) in 1961 in a transported car.

The winning film had more wins than any other picture of the year: Best Picture, Best Director (young 32 year old William Friedkin), Best Actor, Best Screenplay Adaptation (Ernest Tidyman), and Best Editing (Jerry Greenberg) for the memorable, nerve-wracking, edge-of-your-seat auto chase pursuit sequence through New York's busy city streets). Following after In the Heat of the Night (1967), it was only the second Best Picture in Academy history to showcase a police officer as its central character. And it was the first R-rated film to win Best Picture since the institution of the MPAA rating system.

The other three Best Picture nominees also displayed the rift between traditional and edgy pictures were:

  • Stanley Kubrick's stylized, provocatively-brilliant but ultra-violent black comedy A Clockwork Orange (with four nominations and no wins) set in Britain's near future - the originally X-rated adaptation of Anthony Burgess' controversial novel [the only other X-rated Best Picture nominee was Midnight Cowboy (1969)]
  • the overlong costume drama of the lives of the last Czar of Russia Nicholas and his wife and family in Nicholas and Alexandra (with six nominations and two wins - Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Costume Design) - its director Franklin J. Schaffner was NOT nominated as Best Director
  • emerging director Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show (with eight nominations and two wins - Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress), the excellent black and white film adaptation of Larry McMurtry's coming of age novel about the loss of innocence and a boy's rites of passage in a small, 1950s Texas town that is about to close its cinema

The Best Director award was presented to William Friedkin (with his first nomination and win) for his first major feature The French Connection - a tough, suspenseful crime film that preceded the similar cop film Dirty Harry by a few months.

Although his film was not nominated for Best Picture, British director John Schlesinger was nominated as Best Director for his dramatic, sexually-oriented adult drama Sunday, Bloody Sunday (with four nominations and no wins) about an unusual menage a trois between a homosexual, a heterosexual woman, and a bi-sexual artist (the object of the other two's desire). And Peter Bogdanovich was nominated for his deft direction of the episodic story The Last Picture Show (his second feature) - it was probably his finest directorial effort throughout his entire career. Norman Jewison was nominated for his effort in bringing the musical Fiddler on the Roof from Broadway to the screen, and master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's graphic, sci-fi cult film A Clockwork Orange was dazzlingly unsettling - but unforgettable.

Gene Hackman (with his third career nomination) won the coveted Best Actor award (his first Oscar) for his star-making role as obsessed, foul-mouthed, violent, short-tempered, bigoted, hard-nosed, dedicated, and world-weary undercover narcotics cop Jimmy Doyle (alias 'Popeye'). [Hackman had been twice-nominated in the past as Best Supporting Actor (for Bonnie And Clyde (1967) and the previous year for I Never Sang For My Father (1970)).]

Other Best Actor nominees included:

  • Brit-born Peter Finch (with the first of two career nominations - he won Best Actor for Network (1976)) as Dr. Daniel Hirsh - a middle-aged, homosexual doctor involved in a three-sided love story in the British film Sunday, Bloody Sunday
  • George C. Scott (with his fourth career nomination) as Dr. Herbert Bock - an embittered chief surgeon in a New York medical center in the black comedy and expose The Hospital (with two nominations and one win - Best Screenplay) with Paddy Chayefsky's Oscar-winning screenplay
  • Topol (with his sole career nomination) as Teyve - the proud Jewish father and zesty, likeable milkman who clings to the old ways in Fiddler on the Roof
  • Walter Matthau (with his second of three career nominations - he previously won Best Supporting Actor for The Fortune Cookie (1966)) as Joseph P. Kotcher - a feisty senior citizen in Kotch (with four nominations and no wins) - Jack Lemmon's sole directorial effort and debut film.

Anti-Vietnam War activist Jane Fonda (with her second career nomination and first Oscar win) won the Best Actress award for her performance not as Klute (that was the name of the private detective played by Donald Sutherland who hunts down a deviant killer) but as Bree Daniels, a classy, highly-paid, cynical, sexually-disturbed and threatened call-girl stalking victim in Alan Pakula's stylized 70s film noir Klute. Jane Fonda was the first of the famous Fonda movie family to win an Oscar!

Fonda, the only American actress in the race, defeated fellow nominees, all foreign-born competitors, including:

  • Julie Christie (with her second career nomination following her Best Actress win for Darling (1965)) as Mrs. Constance Miller - an opium-smoking brothel madam and McCabe's business partner in McCabe & Mrs. Miller (the film's sole nomination) - Robert Altman's bleak, deglamourized western set at the turn-of-the-century Northwest
  • Glenda Jackson (with her second consecutive nomination after a win in the previous year) as Alex Greville - a heterosexual divorced woman involved in a complicated set of relationships in Sunday, Bloody Sunday
  • Vanessa Redgrave (with her third of six career nominations) in the title role as the headstrong Catholic queen in director Charles Jarrott's Mary, Queen of Scots (with five nominations and no wins)
  • Janet Suzman (with her sole career nomination) as the Russian Czar's wife - Empress Alexandra in director Franklin J. Schaffner's Nicholas and Alexandra (with six nominations and two wins - Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Costume Design)

There were a total of four nominees (two were victors) in the supporting acting categories from Bogdanovich's film The Last Picture Show:

  • Ben Johnson (with his sole career nomination and sole Oscar win) who was a former rodeo star and veteran Western actor from director/mentor John Ford's stock company, won the Best Supporting Actor award as ex-cowboy Sam the Lion, the philosophical owner of the decrepit movie theater/cafe/pool hall in the bleak, declining 50s northwestern (fictional) Texas town of Anarene
  • Cloris Leachman (with her sole career nomination and sole Oscar win) won the Best Supporting Actress award as Ruth Popper - the lonely and neglected, sexually-deprived, aging wife of the football-basketball coach who beds high school senior Sonny (Timothy Bottoms)
  • Jeff Bridges (with his first career nomination) as Sonny's friend Duane Jackson
  • Ellen Burstyn (with her first of six career nominations - her only supporting nomination) as Lois Farrow, the mother of Duane's spoiled and rich girlfriend Jacy (Cybill Shepherd)

The other nominees in the Supporting Actor category included:

  • Roy Scheider (with his first of two unsuccessful career nominations) as Buddy Russo - Hackman's New York detective partner in The French Connection
  • Leonard Frey (with his sole nomination) as Motel the tailor who is seeking a wife in Fiddler on the Roof
  • Richard Jaeckel (with his sole nomination) as Joe Ben Stamper (Paul Newman's brother) who is pinned in the water by a fallen tree in director/star Paul Newman's film of Ken Kesey's novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (with two nominations and no wins)

The remaining nominees in the Supporting Actress category included:

  • Margaret Leighton (with her sole nomination) as Mrs. Maudsley (Julie Christie's mother) who disapproves of the surreptitious tryst in Joseph Losey's The Go-Between (the film's sole nomination)
  • one-time sex symbol Ann-Margret (with her first of two unsuccessful career nominations) in a serious actress role as sexy, vulnerable, contemptible mistress Bobbie (Jack Nicholson's companion) in Mike Nichols' Carnal Knowledge (the film's sole nomination)
  • Barbara Harris (with her sole nomination) as Allison - an aspiring singer (co-star Dustin Hoffman's girlfriend) in Who is Harry Kellerman, and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? [The film has the remarkable distinction of having the longest title of any nominated film in Academy history.]

Best Song award winner Isaac Hayes, for Shaft, was the first African-American to win in that category.

82 year-old legend Charles Chaplin, with his trademark hat and cane, received an Honorary Oscar, after an over 20-year, self-imposed exile in Europe (Switzerland). It was awarded for "the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century." He received a record 12-minute long standing ovation. In his entire career, he had only received six Academy Award nominations: Best Actor and Best Director (Comedy) for The Circus (1927/8), Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay for The Great Dictator (1940), Best Original Screenplay for Monsieur Verdoux (1947), and his only win, Best Score for Limelight (1972). His best films in the sound era were neglected: City Lights (1931) and Modern Times (1936).

Oscar Snubs and Omissions:

Other equally-impressive films not nominated for Best Picture included director John Schlesinger's Sunday, Bloody Sunday, director Alan J. Pakula's crime thriller Klute, and director Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie as John McCabe and Constance Miller respectively.

At least three films were completely devoid of nominations: director Don Siegel's Dirty Harry with Clint Eastwood as the definitive vigilante cop Harry Callahan, Roman Polanski's Macbeth, and Nicolas Roeg's provocative drama Walkabout with Jenny Agutter as the coming-of-age 'Girl' in the Australian outback. In her own self-directed tale, A New Leaf, about a near-sighted heiress pursued by a gold-digging Walter Matthau, Elaine May was denied an acting nomination.

Malcolm McDowell, the brilliant main character, juvenile delinquent, Beethoven-loving, aversion-therapy patient Alex in Kubrick's ultra-violent A Clockwork Orange was not nominated, nor was Jack Nicholson for his role as misogynistic Jonathan in director Mike Nichols' Carnal Knowledge (with only one unsuccessful nomination), nor was Jessica Walter as psychopathic fan Evelyn Draper in director/actor Clint Eastwood's Play Misty For Me (without any nominations), nor was Ruth Gordon as free-spirited, eccentric, death-obsessed 79 year-old Maude in director Hal Ashby's Harold and Maude. Cybill Shepherd was denied a nominated as the flirtatious Jacy in The Last Picture Show, as was Susan George as Dustin Hoffman's conflicted wife in Straw Dogs.

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