10 Facts about Academy Award Winning Music

10 Facts about Academy Award Winning Music

1. Dmitri Shostakovich and Duke Ellington were both nominated the same year but lost to the arrangers of West Side Story.

"Gee Officer Krupke" scene from West Side Story

Both musicians were nominated for Best Score of a Musical Picture in 1961, at the height of their careers, but their scores were beaten out by the enormously popular hit musical West Side Story.


2. John Williams has more Oscar nominations than just about anyone.

John Williams composed the music for Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and many more film classics.

So far Williams has won five Oscars, but, more impressively, he’s been nominated 50 times in the past six decades. In fact, the only person who had more nominations than him was Walt Disney with 59 total nominations.

3. In 2015, Ennio Morricone became the oldest Oscar winner in history.

In 2015 Ennio Morricone won an Oscar for the Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight at the age of 87. Morricone is famous for his seminal Spaghetti Western scores and was nominated for them several times, although 2015 was the first time he took home the award.

4. Aaron Copland: All-American Composer, Oscar winner.

Aaron Copland, noted American composer, won an Academy Award for The Heiress (1949)
Copland is widely regarded as the creator of the American sound in classical music; his many works evoke American imagery and the pioneer spirit that drove our ancestors to explore and settle the continent. Not only was Copland a monumental figure of the classical music world, he also lent his talent to the world of film, earning three nominations for Best Original Score and finally winning the award on his fourth nomination for the score of The Heiress in 1949.

5. Victor Young never lived to see his Oscar win.

The film composer Victor Young was one of the most nominated musicians in early Oscar history, often earning multiple nominations each year. After 20 unsuccessful nominations, Young eventually won for his original score for the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days, although he died before the awards ceremony and was given the award posthumously.

 6. Barbra Streisand is the only person to win Oscars for both acting and songwriting.


Streisand’s talent is well documented; she has been a towering figure in the industry for decades. So far she is the only entertainer to be awarded an Oscar for Best Actress, for Funny Girl (1968), and for Best Original Song, for the “Love Theme (Evergreen)” from A Star is Born (1976).

7. Bob Dylan is the only person to win an Oscar for Best Original Song as well as a Nobel Prize.

Young Bob Dylan playing guitar and singing.

Dylan won the Oscar in 2000 for the song “Things Have Changed” in the movie Wonder Boys, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature just last year making him the first person to ever hold both awards. The only other person to win both an Oscar (in any category) and a Nobel Prize is the author George Bernard Shaw who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his 1938 film Pygmalion.

8. Up until 1938, no individual composers were nominated for Best Original Score.

Before the late 30s, movie studios hired a team of musicians to write the scores for all the pictures they produced. The first Oscar for Best Original Score was awarded in 1938 to Erich Wolfgang Korngold for the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood.


9. Winning Best Original Score is often an indicator for which film will win Best Picture.

Twenty-four out of the 81 Best Picture winners since the Academy began awarding Best Original Score have also won for Best Score. In addition, the movies that win Best Original Score are almost always nominated for Best Picture as well, earning a nomination for the award roughly 80% of the time. Here is a chronological list of all the movies that have won both awards: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Around the World in 80 Days (1956), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Gigi (1958), Ben-Hur (1959), West Side Story (1961), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Tom Jones (1963), My Fair Lady (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), Oliver! (1968), The Sting (1973), The Godfather Part II (1974), Chariots of Fire (1981), Out of Africa (1985), The Last Emperor (1987), Dances with Wolves (1990), Schindler’s List (1993), The English Patient (1996), Titanic (1997), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), The Artist (2011).

10. The Academy has withdrawn a nomination for Best Original Score only once.

Nino Rota and colleagues

When they found out that Nino Rota had repurposed music from his earlier score from the 1958 film Fortunella for the score for The Godfather, the Academy withdrew his nomination for Best Original Score and instead nominated John Addison’s score from the movie Sleuth.

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