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20 Interesting Facts About the Oscars

In anticipation to the 91st Academy Awards ceremony, which will be held on February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, I thought I would write an article related to the most prestigious awards in the movie industry. So, here are 20 interesting facts about the Oscars.

1. An X-rated winner

Midnight Cowboy (1969), directed by John Schlesinger and starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, is the only X-rated film ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Producer John Hellman accepted the statuette at the 42nd Academy Awards ceremony, on April 7, 1970.
LEFT: British poster for Midnight Cowboy. RIGHT: John Hellman holding the Best Picture Oscar statuette at the 42nd Academy Awards ceremony.
Bonus fact: Midnight Cowboy was also the first gay-related movie to win Best Picture.

2. Posthumous nominations

James Dean is the only performer to receive two posthumous nominations in the Best Actor category: the first for East of Eden (1955), at the 28th Academy Awards on March 21, 1956; and the second for Giant (1956), at the ceremony held a year later, on March 27, 1957.
James Dean as Cal Trask in East of Eden (left) and as Jett Rink in Giant (right).

3. Reluctant winners

Three people have refused a competitive 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 role 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.
LEFT: Dudley Nichols. MIDDLE: George C. Scott as General George S. Patton in Patton. RIGHT: Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in The Godfather.

4. Youngest and oldest winners

Tatum O'Neal is, to date, 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 the age of 89, he received the statuette for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name (2017) at the 90th ceremony, on March 4, 2018. 
Tatum O'Neal and James Ivory holding their respective Oscar statuettes.
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, was named Best Director for Gigi (1958) at the 31st ceremony on April 6, 1959.
LEFT: Judy Garland and Mickey at the 12th Academy Awards. MIDDLE: Vincente Minnelli holding his Oscar with present Millie Perkins. RIGHT: Liza Minnelli with her Oscar.

6. Power to the women

Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman in history to receive the Oscar for Best Director, winning for The Hurt Locker (2009). She accomplished the feat at the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony, on March 7, 2010. As a producer on the film, she also won for Best Picture.
LEFT: Poster for The Hurt Locker. RIGHT: Kathryn Bigelow holding one of her Oscars.

7. A winner for playing a winner

At the 77th Academy Awards held on February 27, 2005, Cate Blanchett was named Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator (2004). This made her the first actress to win an Oscar for playing another Oscar recipient.
Cate Blanchett in The Aviator (left) and holding her Oscar (right).

8. The most nominated performer

Meryl Streep holds the record for the most Oscars 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 times: Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and Best Actress for both Sophie's Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011). 
Meryl Streep holding her three Oscars statuettes.
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 Suspicion (1941), and de Havilland won a few years later for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949).
Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland with their respective Oscars.

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 at the 81st ceremony on February 22, 2009, for his legendary performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008). Coincidentally, both actors were Australian.
LEFT: Peter Finch in Network. RIGHT: Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

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 we have seen, he famously declined the accept the award), while De Niro won for Best Supporting Actor.
LEFT: Marlon Brandon in The Godfather. RIGHT: Robert De Niro in The Godfather Part II.

12. The Big Five

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

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.
Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, Julius Caesar and On the Waterfront.

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 when Garland lost that he called it «the biggest robbery since Brinks.» 
LEFT: Maggie Smith holding her Oscar. RIGHT: Judy Garland in A Star is Born.

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 The Year Of Living Dangerously (1982), at the 56th Academy Awards ceremony held on April 9, 1984.
Linda Hunt with her Oscar and as her character in The Year of Living Dangerously.

16. The most successful films  

The three most successful films in Oscar 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.
Posters for Ben-Hur, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Bonus fact #1: Along with All About Eve (1950) and La La Land (2016), Titanic has earned the most nominations by single film (14 in total). Bonus fact #2: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the only film to have won every Oscar it was nominated for. 

17. The first African-American winner

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.
Hattie McDaniel with her Oscar and as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.

19. Wins in a foreign language

Sophia Loren was the first actress to win an Oscar for a non-English-speaking role. She received the statuette for Best Actress for Vittorio De Sica's Two Women (1961), performing in Italian. In turn, Robert De Niro was the first actor to win for performing in a language other than English. 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).
Sophia Loren and Robert De Niro with their Oscars. Loren did not attend the ceremony.

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. 
Katharine Hepburn and her Oscar-winning performances.
Bonus fact: Katharine Hepburn is one of only two actresses to have won two consecutive awards for Best Actress. The other is Louise Rainer, who received the Oscar for her performance The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937).

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.
LEFT: Laurence Olivier in Hamlet. RIGHT: Jane Wyman with Laurence Olivier, after he received his Oscars (Best Actor and Best Picture) in London.
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.


  1. What a lot of great facts! I know many people complain about the Oscars, and I agree with some of those complaints, but I still love it.

    By the way, I don't know if you're on Facebook, but Patricia Ward Kelly, Gene Kelly's widow, recently shared your YouTube video about Gene and thanked you for making it!

    1. Oh my God! Are you serious? I'm not on Facebook, so I didn't know about that. I'm genuinely flattered - first, that she would even take the time to watch it, and then that she shared it and even thanked me for it. That's amazing! You've just made my day by telling me that. :)

    2. Glad I could let you know! Since you're not on Facebook, here's what she said in its entirety:
      "Not a bad place to be - On Top of the World with Gene Kelly! Thank you #backtogoldendays for sharing!"

      Her post about your video also got over 200 likes, 22 shares, and 15 glowing comments! :)


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