‘A Star Is Born’: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga to make Oscar history?

Over the 90-years of Oscar history, seven films have scored wins in both Best Actor and Best Actress on the big night. This year could see, for the first time in more than two decades, an eighth join this exclusive group of Oscar favorites.

A Star Is Born” proved the toast of the Telluride, Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, earning critical raves that favorably compared it to the three prior eponymous films, from 1937, 1954 and 1976. Stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga have been lauded for their turns in the film and now lead in Gold Derby’s odds in Best Actor and Best Actress.

With Fredric March and Janet Gaynor earning Oscar nominations for the 1937 original and James Mason and Judy Garland having garnered recognition for the 1954 musical remake, Cooper and Gaga are well-positioned to at least score nominations for the latest version. Should both prevail, “A Star Is Born” will join that elite handful of films that scored not just one but both leading Oscars for acting.

At the 7th Academy Awards ceremony, “It Happened One Night” (1934) was the first film to achieve this feat, not only winning Best Actor (Clark Gable) and Best Actress (Claudette Colbert) but also Best Picture, Best Director (Frank Capra) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Riskin) to boot – the so-called “Big Five” categories at the Oscars. For both Gable and Colbert, “It Happened One Night” delivered their lone career Oscar wins, though both would earn a pair of nominations each for future performances.

Remarkably, it would take more than four decades for another film to win both leading acting categories. That second picture to pull it off was “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), which too scored the Big Five – Best Picture, Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben). For Nicholson, this was a long overdue victory – he was on his fifth Oscar nomination, without having previously won. He would go on to earn another seven nominations over his storied career, including an additional two wins. For Fletcher, her iconic turn as Nurse Mildred Ratched would prove her one career Oscar nomination and win.

The following year, stars Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway made “Network” (1976) the third film to garner both Best Actor and Best Actress. While the picture didn’t quite pull off the Big Five, it did also triumph in Best Supporting Actress (Beatrice Straight) and Best Original Screenplay (Paddy Chayefsky). Finch, who died of a heart attack two months prior to the Oscar telecast, was the first posthumous winner in an acting category. “Network” marked the sole Oscar win of Finch’s career, as it did Dunaway’s. Following Best Actress bids for “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) and “Chinatown” (1974), she has not been nominated since.

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In 1978, while Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” scored honors in Best Picture and Best Director, “Coming Home” headliners Jon Voight and Jane Fonda were triumphant in Best Actor and Best Actress. The film also took honors in Best Original Screenplay (Nancy Dowd, Robert C. Jones and Waldo Salt). “Coming Home” marked Voight’s second appearance at the Oscars. He would go on to earn an additional pair of nominations later in his career. As for Fonda, this victory was her second win in Best Actress, having prevailed earlier in the decade with “Klute” (1971). To date, Fonda has amassed seven Oscar nominations.

The following decade saw another Fonda, Jane’s father Henry, triumph. Fonda, who previously earned a Best Actor nomination for “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940) and a Best Picture bid for producing “12 Angry Men” (1957), at last achieved Oscar glory with his turn in “On Golden Pond” (1981). Joining him with a Best Actress win was co-star Katharine Hepburn, at that point on her 12th Oscar nomination and fourth record win. Neither actor would make another appearance at the Oscars. “On Golden Pond” was also triumphant in Best Adapted Screenplay (Ernest Thompson).

In 1991, 16 years after “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” achieved this feat, “The Silence of the Lambs” was the third film to win the Big Five Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). Hopkins’ chilling turn as Dr. Hannibal Lecter marked his first appearance at the Oscars. He has since earned another three nominations, though no wins. For Foster, “The Silence of the Lambs” marked her second Best Actress Oscar win, having won for “The Accused” (1988) in the prior decade. She has also earned nominations in Best Supporting Actress for “Taxi Driver” (1976) and, most recently, “Nell” (1994).

“A Star Is Born,” should it indeed deliver Oscars for Cooper and Gaga, will mark the first film to win both Best Actor and Best Actress since “As Good As It Gets” (1997) brought home prizes for stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. The James L. Brooks comedy marks the lone picture to date to win these two awards and nothing else on Oscar night. The film delivered Nicholson’s third and most recent Oscar victory. For Hunt, “As Good As It Gets” marked her first and, to date, only Oscar win. She was later again nominated, this time in Best Supporting Actress, for “The Sessions” (2012).

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