Although Ned Beatty’s six-minute performance in “Network” is the shortest to ever be nominated for Best Supporting Actor, eight Best Supporting Actress nominees have boasted even lower screen times. While only 17 performances under 10 minutes have been recognized in the male category, there have been 36 on the female side, from the first ceremony to Laura Dern’s first supporting bid for “Wild” in 2015. Here is a list of the 10 shortest, which has remained unchanged since 1999 (and here are the 10 shortest winners):
10. Geraldine Page (“The Pope of Greenwich Village”)
6 minutes, 6 seconds (5.06% of the film)
Page’s seventh acting nomination and fourth in the supporting category came for her small role as Mrs. Ritter, the mother of a slain police officer. Though she created a memorable character, she lost to first-time nominee Peggy Ashcroft, whose performance in 1984’s “A Passage to India” clocks in at 32 minutes and 16 seconds. The loss made Page the female record holder for most acting nominations without a win, but she prevailed the very next year when she won Best Actress for “The Trip to Bountiful.”
9. Carolyn Jones (“The Bachelor Party”)
6 minutes, 1 second (6.46% of the film)
Following his 1956 Best Director win for “Marty,” Delbert Mann brought another one of his teleplays, “The Bachelor Party,” to the silver screen two years later. Mann was not recognized by Oscar voters again, but promising actress Jones was, receiving her only career nomination for her brief turn as a nameless party girl. Many of her character’s lines were rewritten at her request, and her delivery of them left a clear impression. Hers being the film’s only nomination serves as a testament to how interesting minor roles can sometimes outshine serviceable lead ones.
8. Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love”)
5 minutes, 52 seconds (4.75% of the film)
Dench’s second of seven Oscar nominations resulted in her only win, and an actor with less screen time has not won in the 20 years since. As Queen Elizabeth I, she triumphed over actresses with screen times ranging from 13 to 44 minutes, appearing in just three scenes and speaking less than 450 words. Her other nominated supporting performance in 2000’s “Chocolat” totals 13 minutes and 38 seconds, while each of her five Best Actress nominations came for roles with less than 56 minutes of screen time, giving her an overall average of 37 minutes and 42 seconds.
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7. Sylvia Miles (“Midnight Cowboy”)
5 minutes, 19 seconds (4.70% of the film)
Statistically, it is almost impossible for a performance to be Oscar-nominated if the actor exits the film before the end of its first quarter. The character either has to have a lasting effect on the rest of the story (like Howard Hughes, played by Jason Robards in “Melvin and Howard”) or be especially unforgettable, as was the case with Miles’s character, Cass. Her one scene in the 1969 Best Picture-winning film was memorable enough for Miles to earn her first nomination, thanks in large part to her over-the-top acting. She ended up losing the award to Goldie Hawn, whose 47-minute and 49-second performance in “Cactus Flower” was the 10th longest ever nominated in the category at the time.
6. Jane Alexander (“All the President’s Men”)
5 minutes, 9 seconds (3.73% of the film)
Alexander received her second of four nominations in 1977 for her portrayal of Judy Hoback, a bookkeeper who served and then helped take down President Richard Nixon. She only appears in two scenes in the third quarter of the film, primarily acting with Dustin Hoffman alone. While her short performance has been overshadowed by that of the year’s winner, Beatrice Straight (“Network”), it is only a few seconds longer and is shorter in terms of percentage. Her other nominated supporting performance in 1979’s “Kramer vs. Kramer” (also starring Hoffman) consists of only eight minutes and 58 seconds of screen time, ranking as the 22nd shortest in the category.
5. Beatrice Straight (“Network”)
5 minutes, 2 seconds (4.15% of the film)
From a lineup full of actresses (including Jane Alexander) with relatively small amounts of screen time and an average of under 12 minutes, Straight was victorious and established herself as the record holder for shortest Oscar-winning performance. As scorned wife Louise Schumacher, she is present in only three scenes and speaks less than 270 words, two-thirds of which are contained in a one-minute monologue. Though her win was a remarkable achievement, Alexander could have also broken the record, while Lee Grant (“Voyage of the Damned”) and Jodie Foster (“Taxi Driver”) could have each placed among the five winners in the category with the least screen time had either of them won.
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4. Maria Ouspenskaya (“Dodsworth”)
4 minutes, 56 seconds (4.89% of the film)
“Dodsworth” was one of the first three films to receive acting nominations in both a lead and a supporting category, and its nominated supporting performance has remained one of the shortest ever since. Ouspenskaya’s first feature film role as the disapproving Baroness von Obersdorf is confined to a single scene in the final quarter of the film, and she never shares the screen with Best Actor nominee Walter Huston. With a screen time of 13 minutes and 34 seconds, Gale Sondergaard was chosen as the first Best Supporting Actress recipient for her more broadly villainous performance in “Anthony Adverse.”
3. Claire Trevor (“Dead End”)
4 minutes, 22 seconds (4.76% of the film)
In 1938, Trevor became the second of only two actors to be recognized for a performance that is confined to just one scene with no time-advancing cuts, the first being Maria Ouspenskaya. Trevor’s brief portrayal of a sick prostitute in a scene shared with only Humphrey Bogart brought her her first of three nominations in the supporting category. She ultimately lost to Alice Brady, who appears in 21 minutes and 50 seconds of “In Old Chicago,” but won 11 years later for her 17 minutes and 12 seconds of screen time in “Key Largo,” in which she reunited with Bogart.
2. Ethel Barrymore (“The Paradine Case”)
3 minutes, 52 seconds (3.38% of the film)
Barrymore garnered her third of four nominations in this category for a performance over nine minutes shorter than her other three. With hers being the only nomination “The Paradine Case” received, she understandably lost to Celeste Holm for her 15-minute performance in Best Picture winner “Gentleman’s Agreement.” Though she played against type as timid wife Sophie Horfield, Barrymore’s performance is generally viewed as unimpressive and her nomination is often met with confusion. The explanation for it lies in the fact that the film was originally 18 minutes longer and reportedly included more screen time for Barrymore, but was cut soon after it screened for Oscar voters. As it stands, and as the general public has always seen, she is in only four sporadic scenes and speaks a total of 15 lines.
1. Hermione Baddeley (“Room at the Top”)
2 minutes, 19 seconds (1.98% of the film)
In the middle of her prolific career, Baddeley received a single nomination for what remains the shortest performance to be recognized in Oscar history. Her castmate, Simone Signoret, won the Best Actress award for her 38-minute and seven-second performance, which was the second shortest to win in the category at the time. Although Baddeley lost to Shelley Winters, who clocks in at 56 minutes and 16 seconds in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” she made the most of her minor role as Signoret’s character’s supportive friend. Across four short scenes, she displays a full range of emotions, from anxiety to rage to solemn grief. It is exactly the type of small but well-developed role that should be honored more often.
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