Some Interesting Facts About Hollywood’s Biggest Night
By Nathan James
Tonight marks the 84th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, the big night when excellence in contemporary cinema is recognized before the world. While the stars of the silver screen get ready to walk the Red Carpet, let’s take a look at some interesting facts abd figures that have grown up around the coveted gold statuette over the years.
Did you know, for example, that the only silent movie ever to win a Best Picture Oscar was Wings, made in 1927, at the very first Oscar ceremony? So far has the filmmaker’s art come in the intervening time, that today, films made with the aid of computers are winning honors, as The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King did in 2003. It won 11 Oscars, one for each category in which it was nominated.
Actors live for that moment when their name is read aloud when the envelope is opened, but only one actor–Adrien Brody–won Best Actor despite being nominated beside four earlier Oscar winners, for 2003’s The Pianist. It must have been quite a shock for composer Irving Berlin when, as a presenter, he discovered his own name on the card in 1942 for White Christmas as Best Song. No other presenter in Academy Award history has ever had that experience. Winning Best Picture is a dream of all Hollywood, but only three films have ever won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Actress and Best Screenplay: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over The Cuckoo”s Nest (1975), and The Silence Of the Lambs (1991).
Family often matters at the Oscars, too. Joan Fontaine (Suspicion, 1941) and Olivia de Havilland (To Each His Own, 1951) are the only sisters to win Best Actress, and yet they weren’t on speaking terms with each other during that era. Dynasties occur in Oscar lore, too, as with the Hustons (Walter, John, and Anjelica), and the Coppolas (Carmine, Francis, and Sofia) are the only Hollywood families to have won Oscars for three generations. Nicholas Cage, incidentally, is Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew, and he, too won Best actor for Leaving Las Vegas in 1995! The only twins ever to win an Oscar were Julius and Philip Epstein for their work on 1943’s Casablanca.
Refusing an Oscar might be unthinkable, but two actors have actually done it: George C. Scott (Patton, 1970) and Marlon Brando (The Godfather, 1974). Brando shares the distinction of being one of only two actors from (1951-54) to be nominated four years in a row. The other actor is Al Pacino, who earned acting nominations from 1972-75. If you’ve directed yourself to an acting Oscar, you’re in a very exclusive club: only Laurence Olivier in 1948 (Hamlet) and Roberto Benigni fifty years later (Life Is Beautiful) have achieved this. Judi Dench (Shakespeare In Love, 1998) and Anthony Quinn (Lust For Life, 1956) both won Oscars for roles of less than ten minutes screen time, Maggie Smith is the only actress to win an actual Oscar for playing an Oscar nominee, in California Suite during 1978.
Finally, the only African-American actors to win Oscars are Hattie McDaniel (Gone With The Wind, 1939), Sidney Poitier (Lilies Of The Field, 1963), Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer And a Gentleman, 1982), Whoopi Goldberg (Ghost, 1990), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Jerry Maguire, 1996), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball, 2001), and Denzel Washington for Training Day in 2001. Just some delightful Oscar history to ponder while you enjoy the pomp and circumstance tonight!