The Oscars is the American film industry’s awards ceremony run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It’s the night of nights for those working in the film and cinema industries, and those that have been awarded one of those iconic little gold statues have their name placed among the world’s best directors, writers, actors, designers and technicians. We take a look at the Hungarian films, and the people of Hungarian origin, that have won or been nominated for this most prestigious of film accolades.
As far as Oscar winning Hungarian films are concerned, there has been just one Hungarian feature film – Mephisto – which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1981. Mephisto was directed by István Szabó whose films were nominated on three other occasions as well. Yet, many mightn’t know that in that same year The Fly by Hungarian Ferenc Rófusz was chosen as the Best Animated Short Film. You can view The Fly here:
Countless people of Hungarian origin have also won the film industry’s top prize. Hungarian film director Mihály Kertész (Michael Curtiz) was chose as Best Director in 1943 for his direction of Casablanca (a film that also won Best Picture). The musical compositions of Miklós Rózsa won him an Oscar in 1945 for Spellbound, in 1942 for A Double Life and in 1959 for Ben Hur. Another Hungarian-born great in the film industry – who also won three Oscars in his lifetime – was Wilhelm Sándorházi (William S. Darling). He won in the category of Best Art Direction for three films: Cavalcade in 1933, The Song of Bernadette in 1943 and Anna and the King of Siam in 1946.
In 1937 Géza Herczeg won the Academy Award for Best Writing and Screenplay for The Life of Emile Zola. Another winner of Hungarian origin is set designer Alexander Trauner (Sándor Trau in Hungarian) who won the Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black and White Oscar for The Apartment. While another set designer Joseph Kish won in the same category for the film Ship of Fools in 1966. Interestingly, another Hungarian also won an Oscar for his role in the creation of Ship of Fools; the Best Cinematography Oscar went to Ernest Laszlo. Another Hungarian cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond, won the Oscar in 1978 for his role in creating Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In 1986 Zoltan Elek won the Best Makeup Academy Award for Mask.
Pal George (originally György Pál Marczincsák) and Adolph Zukor (founder of Paramount Pictures) won an Academy Honorary Award respectively in 1944 and 1949 for their achievements not covered by the usual competitive Academy Awards. Hungarian director, George Cukor, won the Academy Award for Best Director for his direction of My Fair Lady. He also helped create success in others; directing the performances of many others who were honoured by Academy Award wins. Gerard Schurmann who had Hungarian origins on his mother’s side, was an Oscar winning composer for his work on Lawrence of Arabia and Exodus. Vincent Korda won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction for The Thief of Baghdad and was nominated for three other statues. While not winning an Academy Award himself, the film of Sir Alexander Korda, The Private Life of Henry VIII, was the first non-Hollywood film to win an Academy Award.
Hungarian-born Paul Lukas (Pál Lukács) won the Best Actor Oscar for his role playing the main character in Watch on the Rhine. Actor Adrien Brody who is of Hungarian descent on his mother’s side won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Pianist. Rachel Weisz who is Hungarian on her father’s side won the Best Supporting Actress accolade for her role in The Constant Gardener. Highly renowned actor, Paul Newman, who also has some Hungarian origins, won and was nominated for several Oscars. He won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Color of Money. He also gained eight other nominations for his acting roles, while Rachel, Rachel – a film he directed and produced – was also nominated for the Best Picture award. Goldie Hawn, whose parents have Hungarian links, also won and was nominated for these prestigious awards; she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Cactus Flower, while she was also nominated for the Best Actress prize for her part in Private Benjamin.
While these films might not have taken home the main award, they were still nominated – which is something to be proud of in itself. Aside from Mephisto (which won the Award), Hungarian films have been nominated seven times in the category of Best Foreign Language Film:
Hanussen (1988) – István Szabó Colonel Redl (1985) – István Szabó Job’s Revolt (1983) – Imre Gyöngyössy and Barna Kabay Confidence (1980) – István Szabó Hungarians (1978) – Zoltán Fábri Cats’ Play (1974) – Károly Makk The Boys of Paul Street (1968) – Zoltán Fábri
People of Hungarian origin have also been nominated numerous times for their behind-the-scenes work. And even though they may not have won, just being nominated is quite a feat in this competitive industry. Among these Miklós Rózsa,Pal George, William S. Darling and Ernest Laszlo were all nominated on several occasions aside from their aforementioned wins. VilmosZsigmond, who we also wrote about earlier in the winners section, was also nominated for an Academy Award for The Deer Hunter (1978) and The River (1984). Other Oscar nominated people of Hungarian descent include producer Joseph Pasternak, Best Writer nominated André de Toth, director and producer Frank Darabont who scored nominations for The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, cinematographer and director Lajos Koltai, and Best Writer nominated Menyhert Lengyel.
Stars of the silver screen who have some kind of Hungarian origin that were recognised via Oscar nominations include actor Tony Curtis who was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Defiant Ones; and Joaquin Phoenix, whose mother has links to Hungary, who was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Gladiator, Best Actor for Walk The Line, and for Best Actor for The Master.
Géza M. Tóth‘s animated film, Maestro, was also nominated for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar in 2007. You can see it here:
If you know of any more people of Hungarian origin who have won or been nominated for an Oscar – feel free to let us know in the comments section below.