Oscar oddity: Hugging rookies, slapping veterans

If Lupita Nyongo (“12 Years a Slave”) or Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”) win an Oscar this Sunday, they’ll join an elite group of stars who not only struck gold for their first nomination, but for appearing in their first feature film.

That’s shocking when you think about it. How can Oscar voters be so cavalier about giving a rookie something denied four times to Julianne Moore and thrice to Johnny Depp? If the oddsmakers are right about this Sunday night, Leonardo DiCaprio and Amy Adams will be next, each losing Hollywood’s highest honor for a fifth time (one of Leo’s bids was for producing).

Ah, well, that’s showbiz where everybody loves a good Cinderella story. Hollywood is the fairy tale capital of the world, after all, and the Oscar ceremony is where the magic happens.  It’s where Anna Paquin, at mere age 11, received the supporting actress crown for her screen debut in “The Piano,” which later propelled her to superstar status in the “X-Men” films and the  “True Blood” TV series.

Other actresses who won for their first film roles:

Best Actress
Shirley Booth (“Come Back, Little Sheba,” 1952)
Julie Andrews (“Mary Poppins,” 1964)
Barbra Streisand (“Funny Girl,” 1968)
Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God,” 1986)

Best Supporting Actress
Gale Sondergaard (“Anthony Adverse,” 1936)
Katina Paxinou (“For Whom the Bell Tolls,” 1943)
Mercedes McCambridge (“All the King’s Men,” 1949)
Eva Marie Saint (“On the Waterfront,” 1954)
Jo Van Fleet (“East of Eden,” 1955)
Tatum O’Neal (“Paper Moon,” 1973)
Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls,” 2006)

For Streisand, the academy was so eager to anoint her that she was admitted as a member before her first movie was even released. It was obvious that she was about to break out big time thanks to the success of “Funny Girl” on Broadway, so the academy bent the rules to welcome her.

But – here’s the weird part – admitting Streisand so early meant she could vote for the Oscars that year. She ended up tying with Katharine Hepburn (“The Lion in Winter”). Assuming Babs voted for herself, she gave that Oscar to herself.

Strangely, Oscar voters are less welcoming to new male actors than female ones. Only three men have won for debut performances, all in the supporting category:

Harold Russell (“The Best Years of Our Lives,” 1946)
Timothy Hutton (“Ordinary People,” 1980)
Haing S. Ngor (“The Killing Fields,” 1984)

Who do you think is going to win Best Supporting Actress? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Come back and change your predictions as often as you like till Oscar night, March 2. 

One thought on “Oscar oddity: Hugging rookies, slapping veterans

  1. Fantastic research, keep it up!
    Also interesting is to compare with winners who are first time nominees.

    Well done Tom. Now where’s Tariq, I prefer your pairing, it’s as magically kinetic as Tracy and Hepburn….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *