The average screen time for a Best Actress Oscar nominee is one hour, three minutes, and 28 seconds. Not surprisingly, over 45% of those who have contended for the award (and 47% of those who have won) have not even reached the one hour mark froo screen time. Here is a look at the category’s 10 shortest nominated performances, including four winners:
10. Frances McDormand (“Fargo”)
26 minutes, 29 seconds (27.01% of the film)
McDormand earned her first of two Best Actress Oscars in 1997 for playing the role of Marge Gunderson, a pleasant yet shrewd Minnesota police chief. Since she is absent from the first third of the film, her screen time is remarkably low, and even ranks 38 seconds below that of William H. Macy, her Best Supporting Actor-nominated castmate. To date, none of McDormand’s five Oscar-nominated performances have reached the one hour screen time mark.
9. Julie Christie (“McCabe & Mrs. Miller”)
25 minutes, 2 seconds (20.71% of the film)
After winning Best Actress for her 90-minute performance in “Darling,” Christie received her second nomination in the same category for a role nearly four times smaller. Although she shares equal billing with Warren Beatty and their characters are both included in the title, his screen time of one hour, eight minutes, and 43 seconds towers over hers. She lost to Jane Fonda, who gave the longest performance in the 1972 lineup by appearing in one hour, 20 minutes, and 53 seconds of “Klute.”
8. Nicole Kidman (“The Hours”)
23 minutes, 30 seconds (20.49% of the film)
In 2003, Kidman triumphed in this category for her portrayal of melancholic author Virginia Woolf. Her low screen time is a result of her only appearing in one of the film’s three interwoven parts, with Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep leading the other two. While the three of them have relatively equitable amounts of screen time and an average of 27 minutes and 54 seconds, Kidman has the lowest amount by over four minutes.
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7. Louise Fletcher (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”)
22 minutes, 37 seconds (16.96% of the film)
Fletcher received her only Oscar nomination and win in 1976 for creating the role of Nurse Mildred Ratched. Since then, she has held the record for shortest Best Actress-winning performance in terms of percentage, and holds the same record among the category’s nominees. Her film won in all five major Oscar categories, including Best Actor. Although she and Jack Nicholson were both classified as leads, his screen time surpasses hers by 51 minutes and 56 seconds.
6. Greer Garson (“Goodbye, Mr. Chips”)
21 minutes, 54 seconds (19.20% of the film)
Garson’s film debut resulted in her first of seven Best Actress nominations, and she clearly did not have to do much with the role of devoted wife Katherine Chipping to leave a lasting impression. In addition to not even appearing in 20% of the film, she has a late entrance and an early exit that confines her entire performance to the film’s middle third. She notably lost the award to Vivien Leigh, who, by having two hours, 23 minutes, and 32 seconds of screen time in “Gone with the Wind,” has held the record for longest Best Actress-winning performance for over 80 years.
5. Patricia Neal (“Hud”)
21 minutes, 51 seconds (19.58% of the film)
When Neal won for playing fatigued housekeeper Alma Brown in 1964, she broke the record for lowest screen time among lead acting winners, and her record remains intact nearly six decades later. Her category placement was a matter of slight contention at the time, and she received a supporting nomination at the Golden Globes, but it was generally agreed that she should be classified as a lead. She only appeared in 13 more theatrical films over the next 45 years, earning one more nomination in 1969 for “The Subject Was Roses.”
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4. Louise Dresser (“A Ship Comes In”)
21 minutes, 46 seconds (31.04% of the film)
Dresser’s performance as a European immigrant was one of the very first nominated for Best Actress and remains one of the shortest over 90 years later. All nine of the year’s nominated performances were from silent films, and Dresser stood out for having the least screen time of them all by 19 minutes and 19 seconds. The inaugural award went to Janet Gaynor for her performances in three different films: “7th Heaven” (59 minutes, 42 seconds), “Street Angel” (52 minutes, 59 seconds), and “Sunrise” (41 minutes, five seconds).
3. Deborah Kerr (“From Here to Eternity”)
20 minutes, 32 seconds (17.42% of the film)
Kerr’s second of six unsuccessful Oscar nominations came in 1954 for her role as unfaithful military wife Karen Holmes. Audrey Hepburn prevailed in this case for her debut performance in “Roman Holiday,” which amounts to one hour, 14 minutes, and 12 seconds of screen time. Kerr clocks in at only two minutes and seven seconds above her Best Supporting Actress-winning castmate, Donna Reed, with whom she only shares one scene. Frank Sinatra won the Best Supporting Actor award for the same film and only trails Kerr by 21 seconds.
2. Geraldine Page (“Interiors”)
20 minutes, 30 seconds (22.34% of the film)
In 1979, Page earned her third of four lead acting nominations for playing Eve, a woefully depressed woman whose condition worsens when her husband suggests they separate. Five of the year’s supporting nominees boasted higher screen time amounts than Page, including the two winners (Maggie Smith, “California Suite” and Christopher Walken, “The Deer Hunter”). Page lost in her category to Jane Fonda, who earned her second win for her one-hour, 13-minute, and 20-second performance in “Coming Home.”
1. Eleanor Parker (“Detective Story”)
20 minutes, 10 seconds (19.53% of the film)
Parker garnered three Best Actress nominations in a span of five years, with the second resulting from her brief portrayal of secretive police wife Mary McLeod. She never won the award, and lost in this instance to Vivien Leigh, whose one hour, 33 minutes, and four seconds of screen time in “A Streetcar Named Desire” earned her a second win. Parker has held the record for shortest nominated performance in the category since 1952, and over two thirds of all nominated supporting performances have surpassed her screen time.
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