The 33rd Academy Awards, honoring the best in film for 1960, were held on April 17, 1961, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California. They were hosted by Bob Hope. This was the first ceremony to be aired on ABC television, which has aired the Academy Awards ever since (save for the mid-1970s, when they were aired on NBC for the first time since the previous year.)
The Apartment marked the last black and white film to win Best Picture during the era when use of black and white film was still common, as well as the last until 1993 when Schindler's List won.
Gary Cooper was selected by the Academy Board of Governors to be the year's recipient of the Academy Honorary Award "for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry." Cooper was too ill to attend the ceremony, though his condition was not publicly disclosed, save for his family and close friends. Naturally, Cooper chose his close friend James Stewart to accept the Honorary Oscar on his behalf. Stewart's emotional speech hinted that something was seriously wrong, and the next day newspapers ran the headline, "Gary Cooper has cancer." One month later, on May 13, 1961, six days after his 60th birthday, Cooper died.
Young and rising star Hayley Mills was selected by the Academy Board of Governors to be the year's recipient of the Academy Juvenile Award for her breakthrough performance in Walt Disney's production of Pollyanna. Mills became the very last recipient of the award, as the Academy retired the award afterwards. From 1963 onward, juvenile actors can officially compete in competitive acting awards with their adult counterparts.
Despite receiving mixed-to-negative critical reception and poor box office receipts, The Alamo was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Its successful bid for Oscar nominations over such films like Psycho and Spartacus was largely due to intense lobbying by the film's lead actor, producer, and director John Wayne. The film is thought to have been denied awards because Academy voters were alienated by an overblown publicity campaign by Wayne, particularly one Variety ad claiming that the film's cast was praying harder for Chill Wills to win his award than the defenders of the Alamo prayed for their lives before the battle. The ad, placed by Wills, reportedly angered Wayne, who took out an ad of his own deploring Wills' tastelessness. In response to Wills' ad, claiming that all the voters were his "Alamo Cousins," Groucho Marx took out a small ad which simply said, "Dear Mr. Wills, I am delighted to be your cousin, but I voted for Sal Mineo," (Wills' rival nominee for Exodus).