With the potential Oscar success of this year’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” and “The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” we take a look at how other nautical films have fared with the Academy.
James Cameron’s “Titanic” (1997) holds the record for Oscar success among seafaring movies, earning best picture, director and nine other statuettes, tying it with 1959’s “Ben-Hur” for the most Academy Awards won. The garguantan blockbuster, however, isn’t the first film about the 1912 disaster to appear at Oscar’s party: In 1953, another “Titanic” — a Fox production starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck and Thelma Ritter — earned a writing Oscar. Five years later, a U.K. pic about the disaster, the acclaimed “A Night to Remember,” was surprisingly shut out of the awards.
The 1935 Oscars featured a nautical showdown for best pic, with Errol Flynn starrer “Captain Blood” facing off against Frank Lloyd’s “Mutiny on the Bounty.” “Mutiny” won the Oscar, though Lloyd lost to “The Informer’s” John Ford.
Victor Fleming’s “Captains Courageous,” an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling novel, earned a best pic nomination in 1936, and lead thesp Spencer Tracy, playing a Portuguese fisherman, won the first of two consecutive lead actor Oscars.
John Ford’s “The Long Voyage Home” (1940), about U.S. seamen (including John Wayne) on a transatlantic journey, landed six noms, including best picture. Ford received a directing nomination that year, but for his other ’40 release, “The Grapes of Wrath,” for which he won.
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” (1944), about a group of torpedo-attack survivors joined by a Nazi commander responsible for their ship’s sinking, earned three noms, including the second of the master’s five unsuccessful directing nominations.
John Huston’s “The African Queen” (1951) — not exactly a high-seas pic, but largely set on the titular craft on the rivers of the Dark Continent — won actor (Humphrey Bogart) and earned three other noms, including one for Huston, but was denied in the picture category.
Edward Dmytryk’s “The Caine Mutiny” (1954), an adaptation of the Herman Wouk tale of a U.S. Navy crew’s removal of the unstable Captain Queeg and the trial that follows, earned seven noms, including best pic, though Dmytryk was snubbed.
“Mister Roberts,” Warner’s shipbound WWII drama, directed by John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, was a best pic nominee for 1955, and the film won the supporting actor for Jack Lemmon. The helmers didn’t land in the directing race but the studio wound up with a helming nom for one of its other pics: “East of Eden’s” Elia Kazan.
Stanley Kramer’s “Ship of Fools” (1965), a multicharacter melodrama aboard a German luxury liner starring Lee Marvin and Vivien Leigh, earned eight noms, including picture, and won two Oscars for art direction and cinematography.
In 1972, Ronald Neame’s “The Poseidon Adventure” — one of the more notable pix of the ’70s disaster-genre wave — earned eight noms, winning the original song Oscar and a special achievement award for visual effects.
Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975), a good deal of which is spent aboard a small fishing trawler, earned four Oscar noms, winning film editing, score and sound, but missing on its best picture bid. Hindering the film’s chances was the fact that Spielberg was snubbed in his first shot at a directing Oscar — he alone among the helmers of the best picture nominees was passed over for a bid.
Wolfgang Petersen’s German U-Boat drama “Das Boot,” released in its home country in 1981 but a 1982 Oscar contender, earned six noms (at the time a record for a foreign-language pic), including a helming bid for Petersen — the first directing nom for a Teutonic pic. The WWII-era nail-biter, the most expensive German film made to date, managed to embrace an anti-war message even as it featured some of the most riveting, and claustrophobic, action footage yet seen on the bigscreen. As it turned out, “Das Boot” didn’t win a single award, losing to the year’s bigger titles, “Gandhi” and “E.T.”