Oscar Best Actress and Supporting Actress Records, Trivia, Shockers

As we approach O-Day and the 95th Academy Awards on March 12, it’s always fun to go back and look at the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories and revel in some of the trivia and shockers that have gone down on the awards season’s biggest stage. This is the rare year when Meryl Streep isn’t in the running, as her 21 overall nominations in the acting categories are nearly double the number of her closest female pursuer, Katherine Hepburn, who has 12. However, Hepburn still holds the all-time Oscar record with four acting wins. Streep has a mere three.

Here are some other actress category factoids to chew on:

  • Should Cate Blanchett win Best Actress this year for her role in “TAR,” she would tie Streep, Ingrid Bergman and Frances McDormand for second place behind Hepburn among actresses with three triumphs apiece. All four of Hepburn’s wins and all three of McDormand’s are for lead actress.
  • After Streep and Hepburn, Bette Davis is in third place in overall actress nominations (all for lead in her case) with 10. With eight overall nominations for her acting, Blanchett is tied for fourth with Geraldine Page, Judi Dench and Glenn Close. Only Close has failed to win one.

  • Those with seven nominations each include Jane Fonda (two wins), Greer Garson (one win) and Kate Winslet (one win). Those with six are McDormand (three wins), Jessica Lange (two wins), Maggie Smith (two wins), Sissy Spacek (one), Ellen Burstyn (one), Vanessa Redgrave (one), Deborah Kerr (no wins), Amy Adams (none) and Thelma Ritter (none).
  • Seven women have won Oscars in both the lead and supporting categories: Streep, Bergman, Blanchett, Lange, Smith. Helen Hayes and Renee Zellweger. Only two women have won two Oscars in supporting: Shelley Winters and Dianne Wiest.
  • There have been 13 actresses with five Oscar nominations. They include Elizabeth Taylor (two wins), Olivia de Havilland (two wins), Norma Shearer (one win), Audrey Hepburn (one), Susan Hayward (one), Anne Bancroft (one), Shirley MacLaine (one), Susan Sarandon (one), Jennifer Jones (one), Nicole Kidman (one), Julianne Moore (one), Irene Dunne (none)and Michelle Williams (none, but with a chance for her first win this year).
  • Four women have been nominated twice and won both times: Helen Hayes, Luise Rainer, Vivien Leigh and Hilary Swank.
  • In Academy Awards history, 179 women have received at least two nominations.

Now let’s take a look at half-dozen of the shockers in the lead and supporting actress categories.

Shocker #1: Grace Kelly (“The Country Girl”) over Judy Garland (“A Star is Born”), Audrey Hepburn (“Sabrina), Jane Wyman (“Magnificent Obsession”) and Dorothy Dandridge (“Carmen Jones’) for Best Actress in 1955 – Everyone was ready for Garland’s sure-thing triumph. She’d been rushed to the hospital the day before to give birth to her son Joe Luft and emerged amazed when NBC built a tower for their TV cameras outside her rom, preparing for her live speech from maternity. Instead, in the shock of shocks, it went to Kelly for her work in a film today considered mediocre at best: “The Country Girl.” So much for Garland’s post-birth closeup.

Shocker #2: Barbra Streisand (“Funny Girl”) and Katharine Hepburn (“The Lion in Winter”) tie over Patricia Neal (“The Subject Was Roses”), Vanessa Redgrave (“Isadora”) and Joanne Woodward (“Rachel, Rachel”) for Best Actress in 1969 – It wasn’t so much shocking that Streisand or Hepburn took home the trophy; it was the fact they both did. The rare tie found both actresses pulling in 3,030 votes each – the first time it had happened in a principal Oscar category. It led at the start of her acceptance to Streisand’s uttering her now-famed quip while holding her trophy, “Hello gorgeous.”

Shocker #3: Beatrice Straight (“Network)” over Jane Alexander (“All the President’s Men”), Jodie Foster (“Taxi Driver”), Lee Grant (“Voyage of the Damned”) and Piper Laurie (“Carrie”) for Best Supporting Actress in 1977 – Those who like to use the term “short and sweet” surely had Straight’s performance in “Network” in mind. She won the Oscar despite being on screen for all of five minutes and 40 seconds, though it packed a wallop, moving powerfully through a range of emotions while addressing her philandering husband (played by William Holden). She beat some impressively stiff competition in Foster, Laurie, Alexander and Grant.

Shocker #4: Marisa Tomei (“My Cousin Vinny”) over Vanessa Redgrave (“Howard’s End”), Judy Davis (“Husbands and Wives”), Miranda Richardson (“Damage”) and Joan Plowright (“Enchanted April”) for Best Supporting Actress in 1993 – Tomei’s win was so controversial at the time, and remains so, that an urban legend has built up around it that purports presenter Jack Palance opened the envelope and read the wrong name by mistake. Supposedly, he was supposed to read Redgrave’s name. Snopes has refuted that, but  even 30 years later, it’s still astonishing to many that Tomei actually won out over such a stellar field representing such quality movies.

Shocker #5: Anna Paquin (“The Piano”) over Emma Thompson (“In the Name of the Father”), Holly Hunter (“The Firm”), Rosie Perez (“Fearless”) and Winona Ryder (“The Age of Innocence”) for Best Supporting Actress in 1994 – Seeing an 11-year-old standing on the stage holding an Academy Award proved the biggest shock. It wasn’t necessarily about whether Paquin deserved it. She was the second-youngest winner ever (only Tatum O’Neal was younger, winning at 10) and Ryder was a consensus pick after a\having already picked up the Golden Globe. It was a formidable collection of nominees, and in fact Hunter also won for “The Piano” (as lead). Sometimes, the Oscars are child’s play.

Shocker #6: Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) over Viola Davis (“The Help”), Michelle Williams (“My Week with Marilyn”), Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs”) and Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) for Lead Actress in 2012 – Yes, it was a little shocking that all-time acting nomination champ Streep nabbed the gold statue this time. Everyone was predicting Davis, who had already won the Critics Choice Award and SAG Award.  When Streep’s name was called, a collective gasp could be heard in the audience. But everyone recovered quickly to give Streep a standing ovation, with Davis among the first to stand.

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