Robert Opel streaks the Oscars behind cohost David Niven in Los Angeles on April 2, 1974. (Associated Press)

In the long history of Oscar ceremonies, few matched the craziness, drama and poignancy of the 46th Academy Awards, which took place almost 40 years ago on April 2, 1974, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

That ceremony, hosted by writer-director John Huston, singer-actress Diana Ross, and actors Burt Reynolds and David Niven, featured a streaker who ran across the stage; a legendary comedian receiving a special award; a multiple Oscar-winning actress (who was ceremony-shy) make her only appearance at the Academy Awards, while another famous actress, who was dying of cancer, made her final bow.

And youth was served, as a 10-year-old actress became the youngest to win a competitive Oscar while a composer a few months shy of his 30th birthday won all three music awards.

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When it comes to the nominated films, there are interesting parallels between the 1974 awards show and this year's version, which will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

Alfonso Cuarón's stranded-in-space thriller "Gravity" and David O. Russell's ABSCAM-inspired con comedy "American Hustle" are going into the ceremony Sunday evening at the Dolby Theatre with 10 nominations each.

Forty years ago, the classic con comedy "The Sting" and the devil-possession horror film "The Exorcist" arrived at the ceremony on as the front-runners, also with 10 nods apiece.

The academy chose the lighthearted "The Sting," directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, as best picture. The film earned seven Academy Awards, including film, director and original screenplay, while The Exorcist" earned just two — for adapted screenplay and sound mixing.

This year's best picture winner, though, is too close to call, with "Gravity," "Hustle" and "12 Years a Slave," nominated for nine Academy Awards, in a near dead heat for the top prize.

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Here's a look back at some of the highlights of the 1974 show:

A streaker's "shortcomings"

Forty years ago streaking became a huge fad across the nation, especially at college campuses, where students would toss their clothes and run naked. So naturally streaking went prime time on the Oscars.

When Niven was about to announce Elizabeth Taylor as the best picture presenter, a man named Robert Opel ran across the Chandler stage in the full Monty, flashing more than a peace sign. The unflappable, amused Niven quipped: "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?" Five years later, Opel was found murdered in San Francisco.

Hepburn brings down the house

By 1974, Katharine Hepburn had won three lead actress Academy Awards, for 1933's "Morning Glory," 1967's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and 1968's "The Lion in Winter" and had been nominated for several other Oscars. But she notoriously avoided the ceremony until 1974 when she shocked the audience as she walked out in a pantsuit and clogs to present the Irving G. Thalberg Award to her friend, producer Lawrence Weingarten.

"I'm so glad no one called out, 'It's about time,'" said Hepburn.  "I'm living proof someone can wait 41 years to be unselfish."

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Hayward's swan song

Susan Hayward, who won the lead actress Oscar for 1958's "I Want to Live!," presented the lead actress Oscar with Charlton Heston to no-show Glenda Jackson for "A Touch of Class." Frail but still radiant in a red wig and glitzy Nolan Miller gown, Hayward, who was losing her battle with brain cancer, received a warm ovation from the audience. She died the following March at age 57.