The 56th Academy Awards were presented April 9, 1984 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. The ceremonies were presided over by Johnny Carson.
The Best Supporting Actress winner this year was unique. 4’9” Linda Hunt won the award for her role as Billy Kwan – a male Chinese-Australian photographer – in Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously, making her the first actor to win an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex.
Gordon Willis, a respected cinematographer most famous for his un-nominated work on The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, and Woody Allen's Manhattan, received his first Best Cinematography nomination for Zelig.
Joe I. Tompkins becomes the first African-American to be nominated in Best Costume Design.
James L. Brooks won three Academy Awards this year, winning as producer, director and writer of Best Picture winner Terms of Endearment. Of its other eight nominations (the movie led all nominees with 11), two were for Best Actress; Shirley MacLaine won over Debra Winger in that category. The movie won five Oscars, the fifth being Jack Nicholson's second career Oscar (he won for Best Supporting Actor).
This ceremony ended with Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli leading the crowd in "There's No Business Like Show Business" in tribute to Ethel Merman, who had died a month and a half before this Oscar ceremony. The performance occurred over the closing credits to the broadcast.
The Award for Best Makeup was not given this year.
While this year's ceremony was the first without the recitation of the Academy's voting procedure at the beginning of the telecast — it was moved to the end credits — those of the accounting firm Price Waterhouse who were responsible for tabulating the results and guarding their secrecy were still introduced.
Winners are listed first, highlighted in boldface and indicated with a double dagger ().Hal Roach
M. J. Frankovich
Return of the Jedi – Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston and Phil Tippett
The filmmakers and studio executives were very surprised by the five Academy Award nominations for Tender Mercies, which was released ten months before the nominations were announced and had received little campaigning. Universal Studios had already previously sold the video rights for Tender Mercies based on their lack of confidence in the film following poor test screenings; the studio was therefore unable to redistribute Tender Mercies after the Oscar nominations were announced, and cable companies ran the film on television one week before the Academy Award ceremony.
When screenwriter Horton Foote won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for To Kill a Mockingbird, he was not present at the 1963 ceremony to collect it because he did not believe he was going to win and did not attend. As a result, Foote made sure he was present for the ceremony when he was nominated for Tender Mercies; he won that Oscar as well, this time for Best Original Screenplay.
The following individuals, listed in order of appearance, presented awards or performed musical numbers.