Does Best Picture champ have to win an acting Oscar first?

There has been chatter that “American Hustle” could pull off an upset in the Best Picture race because it has wider support than the two frontrunners —  “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” — from the 1,176 members of the actors branch of the academy who represent about 20% of the overall 6,028 members. 

After all, the film is only the 15th ever to contend in all four acting categories. And of the 14 to have pulled off this four play, only two — “My Man Godfrey” (1936) and “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) — did not win at least one of these acting races. But just two of them — “Mrs. Miniver” (1942) and “From Here to Eternity” (1953) — won Best Picture with 11 of the others going down to defeat while “My Man Godfrey” was snubbed in that race. 

The most recent of those 14 came just last year when “American Hustle” helmer David O. Russell directed four of his “Silver Linings Playbook” cast to Oscar nominations, with Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress. However, the film was bested for the top prize by “Argo,” which had lost its only acting bid by supporting player Alan Arkin earlier in the evening.

Lawrence reunited with her “Silver Linings” co-star Bradley Cooper for “American Hustle” and both are nominated for their featured turns as are leads Christian Bale and Amy Adams. Of that quartet, Lawrence is the likeliest to win an Oscar as she is locked in a tight battle for Supporting Actress with Lupita Nyongo, one of three performers nominated from “12 Years a Slave.” 

The two actors nominated for “12 Years a Slave” — lead Chiwetel Ejiofor and featured player Michael Fassbender — are ranked third and second in their respective races. Likewise, “Gravity” leading lady Sandra Bullock is likely to lose Best Actress to Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”). 

But just how important is it that the Best Picture champ has picked up at least one acting prize earlier in the evening?  

Thirty-six of the 85 Best Picture winners to date (42%) did not win any acting awards, including two of the four films — “The Hurt Locker” (2009) and “Argo” (2012) — decided by preferential ballot under the newly expanded slate of nominees. 

Indeed, a dozen of the Best Picture winners did not even reap any acting nominations, although four of those date back to the first years of the Oscars, prior to the introduction of the supporting acting categories at the 9th awards in 1936. 

Below, a breakdown of the Best Picture winners that went without a performance prize by number of acting nominations. 

Five acting nominations (1)
1963: “Tom Jones” (Actor: Albert Finney; Supporting Actor: Hugh Griffiths; Supporting Actress: Diane Cilento, Edith Evans, Joyce Redman)

Four acting nominations (1)
1976: “Rocky” (Actor: Sylvester Stallone; Actress: Talia Shire; Supporting Actor: Burgess Meredith, Burt Young)

Three acting nominations (4)
1990: “Dances with Wolves” (Actor: Kevin Costner; Supporting Actor: Graham Greene; Supporting Actress: Mary McDonnell)
1960: “The Apartment” (Actor: Jack Lemmon; Actress: Shirley MacLaine; Supporting Actor: Jack Kruschen)
1940: “Rebecca” (Actor: Laurence Olivier; Actress: Joan Fontaine; Supporting Actress: Judith Anderson)
1935: “Mutiny on the Bounty” (Actor: Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone)

Two acting nominations (10) 
1998: “Titanic” (Actress: Kate Winslet; Supporting Actress: Gloria Stuart)
1993: “Schindler’s List” (Actor: Liam Neeson; Supporting Actor: Ralph Fiennes)
1986: “Platoon” (Supporting Actor: Tom Berenger, Willem Defoe)
1985: “Out of Africa” (Actress: Meryl Streep; Supporting Actor, Klaus Maria Brandauer)
1969: “Midnight Cowboy” (Actor: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight; Supporting Actress: Sylvia Miles)
1968: “Oliver!” (Actor: Ron Moody; Supporting Actor: Jack Wild)
1965: “The Sound of Music” (Actress: Julie Andrews; Supporting Actress: Peggy Wood)
1962: “Lawrence of Arabia” (Actor: Peter O’Toole; Supporting Actor: Omar Sharif)
1943: “Casablanca” (Actor: Humphrey Bogart; Supporting Actor: Claude Rains)
1930/31: “Cimarron” (Actor: Richard Dix; Actress: Irene Dunne)

One acting nomination (8) 
2012: “Argo” (Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin)
2009: “The Hurt Locker” (Actor: Jeremy Renner)
2006: “The Departed” (Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg)
2005: “Crash” (Supporting Actor: Matt Dillon)
1981: “Chariots of Fire” (Supporting Actor: Ian Holm)
1973: “The Sting” (Actor: Robert Redford)
1938: “You Can’t Take It With You” (Supporting Actress: Spring Byington)
1928/29: “The Broadway Melody” (Actress: Bessie Love)

Zero acting nominations (12)
2008: “Slumdog Millionaire”
2003: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
1995: “Braveheart”
1988: “The Last Emperor”
1958: “Gigi”
1956: “Around the World in 80 Days”
1952: “The Greatest Show on Earth”
1951: “An American in Paris”
1932/33: “Calvacade”
1931/32: “Grand Hotel”
1929/30: All Quiet on the Western Front”
1927/28: “Wings” 

What do you think is going to win Best Picture? 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. 

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