Monday, 4 February 2019

20 Interesting Facts About the Oscars

In anteciptation to the 91st Academy Awards ceremony, which will be held on February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, I am writing a series of articles related to the most prestigious awards in the movie industry. To start things off, I bring you 20 interesting facts about the Oscars. Well, at least I think they are interesting.

#1: An X-rated winner 
Midnight Cowboy (1969), starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, is the only X-rated film ever to win Best Picture. Producer John Hellman accepted the statuette at the 42nd Academy Awards ceremony, on April 7, 1970. Bonus fact: Midnight Cowboy was also the first gay-related movie to be named Best Picture.

#2: Posthumous nominations 
James Dean is the only performer to receive two posthumous nominations in the Best Actor category. The first one was for Elia Kazan's East of Eden (1955), at the 28th Academy Awards on March 21, 1956, and the second for George Stevens' Giant (1956) at the ceremony held a year later, on March 27, 1957.

#3: Reluctant winners 
Three people have refused an Oscar. The very first person to do so was Dudley Nichols, who won Best Adapted Screenplay for The Informer (1935). He actually boycotted the awards ceremony because of ongoing conflicts between the Academy and the Writers' Guild. George C. Scott won Best Actor for his performance in Patton (1970), but also rejected the honor, stating that the awards ceremony was a «two-hour meat parade.»

Perhaps the most notable of these reluctant winners is Marlon Brando, who refused the Oscar for Best Actor for his iconic performance as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972). Apparently, he turned down the statuette as a protest against the discrimination faced by Native Americans in Hollywood films. He sent Marie Cruz (known as Sacheen Littlefeather), an actress and activist for Native American rights, to decline the award in his place and deliver a speech raising awareness to the cause. She had planned to read a 15-page speech written by Brando himself, but was told she had only 60 seconds to speak or else she would be removed from the stage. During her speech, the audience was divided between boos and cheers. At the press conference, Littlefeather read the speech that Brando had prepared, and The New York Times published the full text the following day.

#4: Youngest and oldest winners 
Tatum O'Neal is the youngest Oscar winner (in a competitive category). She won Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon (1973) at the 46th Academy Awards ceremony, on April 2, 1974. She was just ten years old at the time. In turn, James Ivory is the oldest Academy Award winner. At age 89, he received the statuette for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name (2017) at the 90th ceremony, on March, 2018.

Bonus fact: If we consider both competitive and honorary Oscars, Shirley Temple is the actual youngest winner. At the age of six, she was presented with an Academy Juvenile Award at the 7th ceremony on February 27, 1935, «in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934.»

#5: Keeping it in the family
After winning Best Actress for Bob Fosse's Cabaret (1972), Liza Minnelli became the only Academy Award recipient whose parents were Oscar winners too. Her mother, Judy Garland, was bestowed with a special Academy Juvenile Award in 1939 for her «outstanding performance as a screen juvenile during the past year.» Her father, Vincente Minnelli, won Best Director for Gigi (1958) at the 31st ceremony on April 6, 1959.

#6: Power to the women
Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman in history to receive the Best Director award, for helming the war thriller The Hurt Locker (2009). She accomplished the feat at the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony, on March 7, 2010. Bonus fact: The Hurt Locker is also the first film by a female director to win Best Picture.

#7: A winner for playing a winner 
At the 77th Academy Awards ceremony held on February 27, 2005, Cate Blanchett was named Best Supporting Actress for her extraordinary performance as Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's biopic The Aviator (2004). This made her the first actress to win an Oscar for playing another Oscar recipient.

#8: The most nominated performer 
Meryl Streep holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations received by any actor (male or female), having been nominated a total of 21 times (seventeen for Best Actress and four for Best Supporting Actress). She has won three of those awards: Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and Best Actress for both Sophie's Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011). Bonus fact: Walt Disney is the most nominated person ever and also won more Oscars than anyone else. He was nominated for 59 awards, winning 22. 

#9: Sisters for the win
Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland are the only siblings to have won lead acting awards, as well as the only pair of sisters to have Oscars. Fontaine won first, for Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941), and de Havilland won a few years later for Mitchell Leisen's To Each His Own (1946) and William Wyler's The Heiress (1949).

#10: Posthumous winners
Peter Finch and Heath Ledger are the only actors to be honored with an Oscar posthumously. Finch won Best Actor at the 49th Academy Awards ceremony, on March 28, 1977, for playing troubled news anchor Howard Beale in Network (1976). Ledger was named Best Supporting Actor for his legendary performance as The Joker in Chrisopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) at the 81st ceremony, on February 22, 2009.

#11: Two winners, one role
Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors to have received an Oscar for playing the same character, that of Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), respectively. Brando won in the Best Actor category (as you know, he declined it), while De Niro won for Best Supporting Actor.

#12: The Big Five
So far, only three films have won in all of the «Big Five» categories: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The «Big Five» categories are: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay (original or adapted).

#13: Consecutive nominations
Marlon Brando holds the record for the most acting nominations in a row, with four consecutive nods for Best Actor early in his career: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1953) and On the Waterfront (1954), the latter of which he won (he did not decline that one).

#14: Life (almost) imitates art
Maggie Smith is the only person to win an Academy Award for playing a failed Oscar nominee, receiving the statuette for Best Supporting Actress for California Suite (1978) at the 51st ceremony on April 9, 1979. Meanwhile, Judy Garland missed out on a Best Actress award for playing Oscar winner Vicki Lester in A Star Is Born (1954). Groucho Marx was so outraged that he called it «the biggest robbery since Brinks.»

#15: A female winner for playing a man
Linda Hunt is the only actress to have received an Oscar for playing a character of the opposite sex. She won Best Supporting Actress for her role as a male dwarf photographer in Peter Weir's The Year Of Living Dangerously (1982), at the 56th Academy Awards ceremony held on April 9, 1984.

#16: The most successful films
The three most successful films in Academy Award history are Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), with each taking home 11 statuettes. Bonus fact #1: Along with All About Eve (1950) and La La Land (2016), Titanic has received the most nominations by single film, with a total of 14. Bonus fact #2: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King holds the record for the largest sweep in Oscar history, as it is the only film to have won every award for which it was nominated.

#17: The first African-American winners
Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American performer to win an Academy Award, when she was named Best Supporting Actress for her iconic role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939). Because she was black, she and her escort were required to sit at a segregated table for two at the far wall of the Coconut Grove Restaurant of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where the 12th Oscar ceremony took place on February 19, 1940.

Bonus fact: At the 36th Academy Awards held on April 13, 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actor, for his influencial performance in Lilies of the Field (1963).

#18: Wins in a foreign language
Sophia Loren was the first actress to win an Oscar for a non-English-speaking performance. She received the statuette for Best Actress for Vittorio De Sica's Two Women (1961), performing in Italian. Loren was too nervous to attend the ceremony, so she stayed in Rome and Greer Garson accepted the award on her behalf. In turn, Robert De Niro was the first actor to win for performing in a language other than English. As we have seen, he was named Best Supporting Actor for playing young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974), in which he spoke several Sicilian dialects (although he did deliver a few lines in English).

#19: All hail Queen Katharine
Katharine Hepburn holds the record for the most Academy Awards won by a single actor (male or female), taking home the statuette for Best Actress for four films: Morning Glory (1933), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981). She never once attended an Oscar ceremony to accept an award. She did, however, make an exclusive appearance at the 46th ceremony on April 2, 1974 to present the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to MGM producer Lawrence Weingarten.

Bonus fact #1: Katharine Hepburn and Luise Rainer are the only actresses to have won two consecutive awards for Best Actress: Hepburn for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) and The Lion in Winter (1968); Rainer for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937). Bonus fact #2: Two actors have won two consecutive Best Actor awards: Hepburn's longtime partner Spencer Tracy, for Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938); and Tom Hanks, for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994).

#20: British film invasion
Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948) was the first British film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, receiving the coveted statuette at the 21st Oscar ceremony on March 24, 1949. Bonus fact #1: Olivier received the award for Best Actor for the same film, making him the only actor to win an Oscar for a Shakespearean role. Bonus fact #2: Hamlet is the only film in which the leading actor has directed himself to an Oscar-winning performance.

And there you have it, folks 20 interesting facts about the Academy Awards.
I hope you had fun reading these and stay tuned for future Oscar-related articles.