Over the course of Oscar history, a dozen women have won the Best Actress Oscar despite being the sole nominee from their films – among them are the likes of Bette Davis (“Dangerous”), Joanne Woodward (“The Two Faces of Eve”) and, more recently, Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”). This year, Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) and Ruth Negga (“Loving”) hope to become the 13th leading lady to prevail for a picture that does not have any other Academy Awards nominations.
Such a feat, is far less prevalent over in Best Actor. Of the leading men who have taken home this Oscar, a mere five have won as the only representation from their film on awards night. This year, one long-shot contender – Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) – is hoping to emerge that sixth winner.
The very first Best Actor honoree at the Oscars hailed from a film with no other nominations. Emil Jannings, the only German actor to date to garner this prize, was recognized for two pictures at the 1st Annual Academy Awards – “The Last Command” (1928) and “The Way of All Flesh” (1927). While the former was also up for the prize in Best Original Story, the latter picture was exclusively recognized for Jannings’ turn as a suicidal bank clerk. Sadly, “The Way of All Flesh” is a lost film and his is the only Oscar-winning performance in history not to be preserved.
More than two decades later, Jose Ferrer became the first Latino actor to take home an Oscar when he prevailed for his memorable turn as the title character in “Cyrano de Bergerac” (1950). Ferrer had previously, in 1947, won a Tony Award for his stage turn as Cyrano. Ferrer, a newcomer to the silver screen, defeated Hollywood heavyweights James Stewart (“Harvey”), Spencer Tracy (“Father of the Bride”) and William Holden (“Sunset Boulevard”).
In 1968, Cliff Robertson claimed the Best Actor prize for his performance as the intellectually disabled Charly Gordon in “Charly,” the film adaptation of Daniel Keyes’ much-celebrated 1966 novel “Flowers for Algernon.” Robertson’s victory over the likes of Peter O’Toole (“The Lion in Winter”) and Alan Arkin (“The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”) was the subject of some controversy at the time, with academy members voicing their concerns to the press about the actor’s aggressive self-promotion during that awards season.
In 1987, it was Michael Douglas’ iconic turn as ruthless Wall Street titan Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” that became the fourth Best Actor winner without another bid for the film. This marked the actor’s second career Oscar, having prevailed in 1975 for producing Best Picture winner “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
More recently, Forest Whitaker all but swept the 2006 awards season for his chilling portrayal of dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland.” Whitaker faced three other actors who were also the sole Oscar recognition for their respective films – Ryan Gosling (“Half Nelson”), Will Smith (“The Pursuit of Happyness”) and, in his final Oscar bid, Peter O’Toole (“Venus”).
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