March 30, 1992: The Night The Silence of the Lambs Made Oscar History 

I remember going to the movies to see The Silence of the Lambs like it was yesterday. 
A month (or so) before the filmed opened, I had seen Jodie Foster in The Accused one night on HBO. The film earned her her first Best Actress Oscar. 

A couple weeks after I watched it, I saw a commercial for The Silence of the Lambs, and I was trying to think of who the dark haired woman in the movie was. They showed a close-up of her face, and in my head I said, “That’s Jodie Foster from The Accused!”

The Silence of the Lambs opened theatrically February 14, 1991. Two days later, I went with my sister and two other friends to see it, and I still remember seeing the title of the film on a marquee over the door of the theater. 

Watching the film for the first time has stayed with me for 26 years. 

At the time, I didn’t follow movie award shows closely, but on January 18, 1992, I watched the Golden Globe Awards for the first time. The film received five nominations, and earned one for Jodie Foster as Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. 

On Sunday, March 29, 1992, I was looking through the Sunday paper’s “Showtime” TV listings, and noticed a section talking about the Oscars that were to take place the next day. It had nominees listed for Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, with critics picking their favorites to win in each category. The Silence of the Lambs was their favorite in each category, but they said the Academy would probably give the award to other nominees. 

I asked if I could watch the ceremony Monday night, and was told that I could even though it was a school night.

For the next few years, Oscar night was the only night of the school year that I was allowed to stay up late on a school night. 

So, on Monday, March 30, 1992 I watched the Oscars for the first time. Seeing Billy Crystal being wheeled out onstage wearing Hannibal Lecter’s mask was awesome. After watching Jack Palance (City Slickers) and Mercedes Ruehl (The Fisher King) win in the supporting categories, it was almost time to get to the good stuff. 

The Silence of the Lambs went into the ceremony with seven nominations. It lost Best Sound to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Best Film Editing to JFK.

The film quickly rebounded, when Ted Tally won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

After that, Kathy Bates (the previous year’s Best Actress winner) presented the Best Actor Oscar to Anthony Hopkins. I remember squeezing my mother’s hand right before his name was announced. His performance as Hannibal Lecter is the second shortest performance (David Niven win for Separate Tables is the shortest) to win for Best Actor. 

The next win for the film was for Jodie Foster as Best Actress. It was her second win in three years. She also became the second actress (Luise Rainer was the first) to win two Oscars before the age of 30.

The film went on to win the last two awards of the night, Best Director (Jonathan Demme) and Best Picture. It became the third film in Oscar history (It Happened One Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest were the first two) to win the “Big Five Academy Awards” for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay.


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