Can ‘The Help’ co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer make Oscars history?

Gold Derby’s Oscarologists are predicting that at least two of the women from “The Help” will be nominated this year — Viola Davis in the lead race and Octavia Spencer for her featured performance. This would mark only the third time in Oscar history that African American women have contended in both categories in the same year. 

Two years ago, Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique were both recognized for their roles in “Precious,” with Mo’Nique claiming victory in the supporting race while Sidibe lost Best Actress to Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”). In 1985, Whoopi Goldberg reaped a Best Actress bid for “The Color Purple” while her co-stars Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey contended in supporting. Goldberg lost to Geraldine Page (“The Trip to Bountiful”) while Angelica Huston (“Prizzi’s Honor”) claimed Best Supporting Actress. 


Unlike those pairings, both of “The Help” actresses are among the frontrunners. At 13 to 8, Davis is just ahead of Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) who is at 15 to 8 for Best Actress. And Spencer rules the Supporting race with even odds compared to 11 to 2 for Berenice Bojo (“The Artist”). 

Davis would be the ninth African American Best Actress nominee, following Dorothy Dandridge (“Carmen Jones,” 1954), Diana Ross (“Lady Sings the Blues,” 1972), Cicely Tyson (“Sounder,” 1972), Diahann Carroll (“Claudine,” 1974), Goldberg, Angela Bassett (“What’s Love Got to Do with It,” 1993), Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball,” 2001) who won, and Sidibe.

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African American women have contended 16 times for Best Supporting Actress with Hattie McDaniel (“Gone with the Wind,” 1939), Goldberg (“Ghost,” 1990), Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls,” 2006), and Mo’Nique prevailing. 

McDaniel was the first African American — male or female — to win an Academy Award. Berry thanked McDaniel during her emotional acceptance speech while Mo’Nique paid tribute to this pioneer by dressing in a similar fashion. Below, the touching video of McDaniel receiving her trophy more than seven decades ago.

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