Dianne Wiest won the Best Supporting Actress award on Monday night for her role in "Bullets Over Broadway" and Martin Landau won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in "Ed Wood."
Among other early winners at the 67th Academy Awards presentation at the Shrine Auditorium were "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" for costume design and "Ed Wood" for makeup.
Security was airtight around the ceremony, but that didn't keep the crowds of screaming fans away. More than a thousand people--many of whom camped out overnight on the sidewalk outside the concert hall--gathered in bleachers to cheer the arrival of bejeweled starlets and tuxedoed leading men in stretch limousines.
Onlookers screamed in delight at the sight of their favorite stars, and dozens of TV camera crews scrambled to interview the top nominees as they strolled up the red carpet.
In an ego-driven town where many live by the motto "you are what you wear," Oscar night is always a time to show off the most elegant, the most expensive and sometimes the most ridiculous in the latest fashions.
"I just love this dress," gushed supporting actress nominee Jennifer Tilly, wearing a skin-tight sparkling black gown, her wrists draped in diamonds. "It's like a Barbie doll dress. It's just sort of glamorous, I think."
Among the most heralded early arrivals were John Travolta, nominated for Best Actor for "Pulp Fiction," and Martin Landau, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for "Ed Wood."
Movie fans were not disappointed with their close-up view." If you're going to do this at all, it's important to get a front-row seat," said Tina Hernandez, a Southern California resident who has made watching the stars' arrival an annual ritual for the past 12 years.
When the curtain rose at 6 p.m. on the presentation, with first-time host David Letterman kicking off the festivities, an estimated 1 billion people in nearly 100 countries were watching.
Oddsmakers and Hollywood insiders favored the feel-good box office hit "Forrest Gump" to dominate the awards. The tale of a kindhearted simpleton and his brushes with fame went into Monday night with 13 nominations, the most since the 1966 classic drama "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and only one shy of the record 14 collected by "All About Eve" in 1950.
But it still faced stiff competition from "Pulp Fiction," Quentin Tarantino's violent satire of the drug underworld.
Tom Hanks, last year's Best Actor winner, led the pack again this year with a shot at becoming the first leading man to take back-to-back Best Actor statuettes since Spencer Tracy, who won for "Captains Courageous" in 1937 and "Boys Town" in 1938.
But Hanks was only narrowly favored over John Travolta ("Pulp Fiction"), who is making a comeback after years in the Hollywood wilderness, and Paul Newman ("Nobody's Fool"), who always carries clout with Oscar voters.
In the Best Actress category, Jessica Lange ("Blue Sky") and Jodie Foster ("Nell") were in a close race, with oddsmakers saying Lange could pick up enough sentimental votes to push her over the top.
So powerful is Oscar's hold on the masses that ABC has been able to command more than $700,000 for each 30-second commercial spot. It is the world's biggest annual TV event, surpassed only once every four years by the World Cup soccer tournament.
* OSCAR COVERAGE: Related Academy Awards pictures and stories. F1.