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Countdown to Oscar Highlights – Best Actress

March 2, 2010

Countdown to Oscar time.  These next few weeks I’d like to showcase some of the most incredible winners in various categories.  Today – Best Actress

Most Surprising Winner:  Jessica Lange – 1994 for Blue Sky

Total Nominations – 5 (six total – one for Best Supporting Actress)

Total wins – 1 (one win for Best Supporting for Tootsie)

In a year that was weak for female performances, no one expected Lange, who had been previously nominated for Frances, Music Box, Country and Sweet Dreams, to win in this particular year.  Although her performances in Frances and Sweet Dreams were perhaps more deserving, the dearth of memorable performances (other nominees included Winona Ryder in Little Women and Jodie Foster in Nell) worked in her favor.  Her one true challenger may have been Miranda Richardson as the long suffering Vivienne Haigh-Wood, wife of poet T.S. Eliot.  Richardson, to date,  has yet to win an Oscar despite many deserving performances.

The Icon: Vivien Leigh – 1939 for Gone With the Wind, 1951 for A Streetcar Named Desire

Total Nominations – 2

Total Wins – 2

Vivien Leigh, who charmed the world in Gone With the Wind, proved to be no one trick pony.  An equally accomplished stage actress, she channeled her talents into what would end up being her finest performance as the fragile yet endearing Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire.  Sadly, Leigh in her later years would succumb to bouts of mental illness and instability.  She will forever be immortalized onscreen as one of the most stunningly beautiful and complex stars in Hollywood history.

The Thoroughbred:  Katharine Hepburn –  1933 – Morning Glory, 1967 – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1968 The Lion in Winter, 1981 On Golden Pond

Total Nominations – 12

Total Wins – 4

The problem with Kate is that she’s so beloved as a legend that it is easy to forget how much Hollywood loathed her at various points in her career. Three out of her four wins came during her twilight years.  In between her ingenue days (Morning Glory) and her final great performance (On Golden Pond) was a career filled with remarkable roles that were at times acknowledged by the Academy (The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen) and other times curiously ignored (Bringing Up Baby, Little Women).    Still, she managed to triumph over them all in the end, becoming one of Hollywood’s most unusual actresses who didn’t fit the traditional mold of a beautiful star.

The Record Breaker: Meryl Streep – 1982 – Sophie’s Choice

Total Nominations – 13 (16 in all acting categories)

Wins – 1 (plus 1 for Best Supporting Actress)

If you look at the odds, Meryl isn’t doing very well.  Thirteen nominations and only one win – for shame!  In all seriousness, Meryl is perhaps the most versatile actress working today.  She becomes each character body and soul, regardless of appearance, age or background.   She’s amazing in epic dramas (Sophie’s Choice, Out of Africa), real life sob stories (A Cry in the Dark, Silkwood) and is even an endearing and charming comic (Postcards from the Edge).  She has yet another chance to win this year for her performance in Julie and Julia.  It’s probably a long shot, but in the end, does it really matter?  She’ll keep on churning out the performances regardless of the accolades she receives.


* Eleven women in Oscar’s history have won two Best Actress statues.  They are: Luise Rainer, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Vivien Leigh, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Glenda Jackson, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Jodie Foster and Hilary Swank.

* Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine are the only siblings to have won Academy Awards in the Best Actress category.

 * Cate Blanchett is the only actress to be nominated twice for the same role (Queen Elizabeth I), first for 1998’s Elizabeth and then again for 2007’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

* Halle Berry is the only African-American to win Best Actress.

* Jane Wyman, Marlee Matlin and Holly Hunter are the three Best Actress winners in the sound era who have won the award without speaking a single word of dialogue.

* Sophia Loren and Marion Cotillard are the only two winners of the award for a foreign film.

* Louise Ranier, Joan Fontaine and Olivia DeHaviland are the oldest currently living winners of the award.  Rainer is 100.

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