The 63rd Academy Awards ceremony, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), took place on March 25, 1991, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles beginning at 6:00 p.m. PST / 9:00 p.m. EST. During the ceremony, Academy Awards (commonly referred to as the Oscars), were presented in 23 categories. The ceremony, which was televised in the United States on ABC, was produced by Gil Cates and directed by Jeff Margolis. Actor Billy Crystal hosted for the second consecutive year. Three weeks earlier in a ceremony held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California on March 2, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by host Geena Davis.
Dances with Wolves won seven awards including Best Picture. Other winners included Dick Tracy with three awards, Ghost with two awards, and American Dream, Creature Comforts, Cyrano de Bergerac, Days of Waiting, Goodfellas, The Hunt for Red October, Journey of Hope, The Lunch Date, Misery, Reversal of Fortune, and Total Recall with one. The telecast garnered nearly 43 million viewers in the United States.
The nominees for the 63rd Academy Awards were announced on February 13, 1991, at 5:38 a.m. PST (13:38 UTC) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California, by Karl Malden, president of the Academy, and actor Denzel Washington. Dances with Wolves led the nominations with twelve total; Dick Tracy and The Godfather Part III tied for second with seven each.
The winners were announced during the awards ceremony on March 25, 1991. Kevin Costner became the fifth person to earn the Best Director Award for his directorial debut and to earn nominations for Best Actor and Best Director for the same film. Best Supporting Actress winner Whoopi Goldberg was the second African American woman to win an award. Hattie McDaniel previously won in the same aforementioned category for Gone With the Wind.
Winners are listed first, highlighted in boldface and indicated with a double-dagger ().Academy Honorary Awards
"One of the genuine treasures of world cinema who, in a career rich with memorable performances, has added permanent luster to our art form."
"In recognition of her extraordinary qualities both on screen and off, with appreciation for a lifetime’s worth of indelible performances."
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck
Academy Special Achievement Award
Eric Brevig, Rob Bottin, Tim McGovern and Alex Funke
For the visual effects of Total Recall
The following individuals, listed in order of appearance, presented awards or performed musical numbers.
Riding on the critical praise from last year's ceremony, the Academy rehired former film producer and former Directors Guild of America president Gil Cates to oversee production of the Oscar ceremony for the second straight time. Two months before the awards gala, Cates selected actor and comedian Billy Crystal to host the show for the second consecutive year. In a statement released by AMPAS, Crystal joked, "It's a great honor, and I hope to bring the show in under nine hours."
As with the last year's theme of "Around the World in 3 1/2 Hours," Cates centered the show around a theme. He christened the ceremony with the theme "100 Years of Film" in celebration to the centennial of the development of both the kinetoscope by Thomas Edison and celluloid film by Eastman Kodak. In tandem with the theme, the show featured an ambitious opening segment. Actor Michael Caine introduced the segment live via satellite from the Salon Indien du Grand Café in Paris, where the short film L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat made its debut in 1895. After a brief clip of the film, the show cut back to the Shrine Auditorium stage where actress Jasmine Guy and other dancers performed whilst a montage of film clips were projected in the background. Filmmaker Chuck Workman filmed a vignettes featuring actors such as Sally Field, Andy García, and Anjelica Huston discussing the first movie he or she watched.
Several other people participated in the production of the ceremony. Film composer and musician Bill Conti served as musical director for the ceremony. Dancer Debbie Allen choreographed a dancer number showcasing the Best Original Score nominees. Despite losing eight members of her band in a plane crash, a visibly emotional Reba McEntire performed the Best Original Song nominee "I'm Checkin' Out" from the film Postcards from the Edge. At the beginning of the ceremony, wrangler Lisa Brown escorted host Crystal, and Beechnut, a horse that was prominently featured in the upcoming film City Slickers.
At the time of the nominations announcement on February 12, the combined gross of the five Best Picture nominees at the US box office was $458.2 million with an average of $41 million per film. Ghost was the highest earner among the Best Picture nominees with $213.5 million in domestic box office receipts. The film was followed by Dances with Wolves ($104.3 million), The Godfather Part III ($62.5 million), Goodfellas ($41 million), and finally Awakenings ($36.7 million).
Of the top 50 highest grossing films of the year, 51 nominations went to 12 films on the list. Only Ghost (2nd), Pretty Woman (3rd), Dances with Wolves (8th), Dick Tracy (9th), The Godfather Part III (17th), Goodfellas (30th) and Awakenings (34th) were nominated for Best Picture, directing, acting, or screenwriting. The other top 50 box office hits that earned the nominations were Home Alone (1st), The Hunt for Red October (5th), Total Recall (6th), Days of Thunder (12th), and Edward Scissorhands (22nd).
The show received a mixed reception from media publications. Some media outlets were more critical of the show. Rick DuBrow of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "It was a long day's journey into night for Oscar, one of the most effective sleeping pills of the year." He also added that while host Crystal started out strong, his jokes fell flat as the night progressed. The Washington Post television critic Tom Shales noted that Crystal, "followed many gags by instantly rating the reaction of the audience, as if it were up to them to please him instead of the other way around." In addition, he commented, "The Oscars seemed more of a fizzle than usual this year." Columnist Dan Craft of The Pantagraph remarked, "The Oscar show has become innocuously hip and yuppified. Kitsch and nostalgia have given way to efficiency and upward mobility. Everyone is tiresomely well-behaved and, worse, well-dressed." He also commented that host Crystal's insider showbiz jokes fell flat and were confusing to television audiences.
Other media outlets received the broadcast more positively. Columnist Harold Schindler of The Salt Lake Tribune wrote, "Billy Crystal kept things moving Monday night in such a manner that the extra quarter-hour was scarcely noticeable." He also said of the telecast's theme of film history, "The Academy used its film library to excellent advantage." Film critic Leonard Maltin remarked, "Emotions ran high and they gave us all a chance to feel vicariously what it might be like to win this kind of award...good guys finishing first and the part of Hollywood we like best, a happy ending." Orlando Sentinel film critic Jay Boyar complimented Crystal for invigorating the gala noting that his "clever remarks at the academy's 63rd annual awards presentation struck an entertaining balance between inside-Hollywood quips and general-audience jests."
The American telecast on ABC drew in an average of 42.7 million people over its length, which was a 6% increase from the previous year's ceremony. An estimated 76 million total viewers watched all or part of the awards. The show also drew higher Nielsen ratings compared to the previous ceremony with 28.4% of households watching over a 48 share. It was the most watched Oscars telecast since the 56th ceremony held in 1984.
In July 1991, the ceremony presentation received nine nominations at the 43rd Primetime Emmys. The following month, the ceremony won three of those nominations for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Program (Gil Cates), Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program (Billy Crystal), and Outstanding Writing for a Variety or Music Program (Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan, Billy Crystal, David Steinberg, Bruce Vilanch, and Robert Wuhl).