Everything Oscars, from A to Z
Learn 26 fun facts about the Academy Awards that make the awards show so memorable
Learn 26 fun facts about the Academy Awards that make the awards show so memorable
The Artist became the first black-and-white film to win Best Picture since 1993's Schindler's List — and the first silent Best Film since 1927's Wings to win the night's biggest award. The odds were only slightly better for silent-screen performers: Jane Wyman (Johnny Belinda, 1948), John Mills (Ryan's Daughter, 1970), Holly Hunter (The Piano, 1993) and now, Jean Dujardin are just four performers in the Academy's 83-year history to have nabbed Oscar by keeping their mouths shut.
If you caught the Oscars between 1939 and 1977, chances are you got to watch legendary comedian Bob Hope as host. The acting partner to Bing Crosby in the Road to … movies and rallying force behind 199 USO shows helmed the ceremony a record 18 times. Hope never actually received a competitive Oscar — instead, the Academy presented him four honorary awards — which gave him the chance to joke in 1968: "Welcome to the Academy Awards, or as it's known at my house, Passover." Thanks for the memories, Bob!
When Hollywood's elite met for the post-ceremony Governors Ball, they were feted with fanfare by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who donned the Oscars toque for the 18th year in a row. In 2011, the extravagant banquet included 15 lbs. of edible gold dust, 10 lbs. of winter black truffles and 2,000 miso cones (used to make Puck's signature dish: smoked-salmon Oscars and spicy tuna tartare in sesame-miso cones). Best of all, every guest got his or her own Oscar — made of chocolate.
In 1986, Anjelica Huston earned a unique honor in Oscar history, becoming the only person to follow in both a parent's and grandparent's footsteps by winning an Academy Award. Grandpa Walter won Best Supporting Actor for Treasure of the Sierra Madre — which also earned Anjelica's father, John, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay trophies. Anjelica won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the Mafia-family comedy Prizzi's Honor — which happened to be directed by dear old dad.
Melissa Leo racked up an unfortunate first in 2011 when she became the only person in Oscars history to utter the F-word during an acceptance speech. The Best Supporting Actress winner for The Fighter later apologized backstage, saying, "I really don't mean to offend, and it's probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word." The censors would agree.
Since 2010, winners have had exactly 45 seconds to express their gratitude before the show's producers cut them off. There's even a timer on the center camera letting recipients know how much more time they have to gush. Previously, producers resorted to creative incentives to keep the show on time — in 2001, they even offered a high-def TV to whoever gave the shortest acceptance speech. That TV, by the way, went to Michael Dudok de Wit, winner for Best Animated Short Film, whose speech was 18 seconds long.
The classic Civil War melodrama made history when Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to be nominated for and win an Oscar in 1940. The film's lead, Vivien Leigh, also nabbed Best Actress, though during GWTW's difficult shoot, she swore she'd never make another movie again. Thankfully, the British star reneged on her promise to stay away from Hollywood and won yet another Best Actress award in 1952, for A Streetcar Named Desire.
The Academy Awards ceremony has been postponed only three times in history. The first was in 1938, due to flooding in L.A. Then, on April 8, 1968, the event was postponed out of respect for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who had just been assassinated and whose funeral was April 9. The last time was in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan was gravely injured in an assassination attempt.
Talk about Hollywood's Iron Lady! Meryl Streep is the most nominated actor in Oscars history — a whopping 17 times, beginning with 1978's The Deer Hunter and most recently for her 2011 The Iron Lady. And now she's won it three times — in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer, three years later for Sophie's Choice, and finally this year for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Of her latest win, Streep said, "When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, 'Oh no…her again.' But, whatever."
The 1990 Oscars show saw Driving Miss Daisy earn a number of distinctions — besides the Best Picture award. Star Jessica Tandy, who was nearly 81, became the oldest Best Actress nominee ever. And when she won the award, she became the Academy Awards's oldest winner in any competitive category — that is, until her record was toppled by 82-year-old Christopher Plummer this year. When the actor picked up a Best Supporting Actor for Beginners, he addressed his Oscar by saying, "You're only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?"
Having your first unscripted, televised kiss in front of millions isn't for the faint-hearted, but that doesn't seem to be an issue for Oscar winners in recent history. The smoochfest arguably began with Best Actor Adrien Brody's surprise six-second smack with presenter Halle Berry in 2003. The next year, Brody got a laugh by pulling out breath spray before handing Charlize Theron the Best Actress award. More recently, 2011 Oscars presenters Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin sealed their No Country for Old Men onstage reunion with a kiss.
The 2002 Academy Awards show was the longest in history, at a mind-numbing 4 hours and 28 minutes, but there were a number of groundbreaking reasons why. First, Woody Allen showed up for the first time ever, to introduce a 9/11-themed tribute to New York City. Second, Denzel Washington became the second African-American ever to win Best Actor (after Sidney Poitier's historic 1964 win for Lilies of the Field). And third, Halle Berry became the only African-American Best Actress winner in Oscars history.
Billy Crystal has hosted the Oscars nine times, second only to Bob Hope. Known for his elaborate best picture spoofs and song-and-dance numbers, Crystal is one of the Academy's favorite emcees. "Am doing the Oscars so the young woman in the pharmacy will stop asking my name when I pick up my prescriptions," Crystal Tweeted, confirming rumors he'd be hosting again. Chances are she knows it now, Billy.
Saying she was sick but actually fearing she'd lose out on an Oscar yet again, Joan Crawford begged off appearing at the 1946 Academy Awards despite being nominated for Best Actress for Mildred Pierce. She won the Oscar and received the award later that night — fully made up in bed, with photographers ready to capture the moment.
An Oscar statuette weighs 8 1/2 lbs. and is made of a pewter alloy coated in 24-karat gold. And if Oscar could talk, he'd probably want to toast "Da Bears" with a can of Old Style beer — the statuette has been produced in Chicago since 1983. The highest price ever paid for an Oscar: $1,542,500 for Gone with the Wind star Vivien Leigh's Best Actress award. The buyer? The King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Each Oscar, however, costs about $500 to make.
Probably the single most-referenced scandal in Oscars history, Marlon Brando's boycott of the 1973 ceremony saw the legendary actor skip out on receiving the Best Actor trophy for The Godfather. Instead, he sent Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who dressed in Apache garb and improvised a statement denouncing Hollywood's portrayal of American Indians. After she was whisked off stage, the Academy instituted a rule forbidding winners from sending proxies to accept their Oscars.
It's good to play the queen, as Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) and Helen Mirren (The Queen) can attest. Curiously, though, Cate Blanchett, who holds the honor of being the only woman ever nominated twice for playing the same person, never won as Queen Elizabeth I. Blanchett lost her first bid to Gwyneth Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love, the same movie that saw Judi Dench win Best Supporting Actress for playing Queen Elizabeth I. Confused? It gets worse: When Blanchett finally did win, it was as Best Supporting Actress for portraying none other than Katharine Hepburn!
For many, the best part of the Oscars is the night's worst dressed. The most memorable recent fashion misstep came courtesy of Björk's swan dress in 2001. Before the Icelandic singer laid a proverbial bad egg, there was the ever-reliable Cher, whose 1987 Road Warrior-meets-Vegas showgirl getup had jaws agape. Two years later, some wondered whether Demi Moore had come straight from the Tour de France and thrown her grandmother's curtains over a pair of cycling shorts — her self-designed creation landed her on many all-time worst Oscar fashions lists.
Hollywood isn't always one big happy family — especially when Oscar is at stake. In 1942, sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland were both nominated for Best Actress, and when Fontaine won (for Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion), she allegedly refused to accept big sister Olivia's congratulations. The feud — which reportedly started because their mother favored de Havilland — only grew worse over the decades. When mom died, de Havilland supposedly didn't call Fontaine to let her know — she instead sent a telegram, which Fontaine got two weeks later.
Twenty-two performers can boast of having won the acting Triple Crown — an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony. But the number of EGOTs — those people who've won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy — is even smaller: 14. And if you weed out those with honorary awards (Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, James Earl Jones); daytime, not prime-time, Emmys (Whoopi Goldberg); and those who aren't performers (like Whoopi again, who earned her Tony as a co-producer), you have an elite of four: Helen Hayes, John Gielgud, Rita Moreno and Audrey Hepburn.
One of the wackiest Oscars red-carpet moments took place in 2000, when South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker donned ensembles inspired by Jennifer Lopez's plunging Versace Grammys dress and Gwyneth Paltrow's pink Ralph Lauren Oscars gown. Years later, the pair admitted they'd almost backed out and changed into tuxes they'd brought just in case — but went ahead with the drag routine after dropping acid before the ceremony.
Forget the acting awards — the biggest contest at the Oscars is arguably which designer gets to dress the contenders. And when it comes to Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominees, the clear winners are Italian designers like Giorgio Armani (think Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith in 2002), Valentino (Julia Roberts in 2000; Cate Blanchett in 2005), Versace (Angelina Jolie in 2000), and Gucci (Charlize Theron in 2004). But Armani swears it isn't an Italian thing: "It's an international moment of bonding," he said.
Whoopi Goldberg got the final Oscars of the 20th century off to a raucous start by appearing on stage in whiteface, a red wig and full-on period costume as Shakespeare in Love's Queen Elizabeth I. The self-proclaimed "African queen" also assumed several other guises that night, including a '50s housewife (a shout-out to Pleasantville), a glam-rocker (Velvet Goldmine) and a bewhiskered 16th-century courtier (Elizabeth). Playing along, presenter Chris Rock "mistakenly" called Goldberg Oprah Winfrey — whom, yes, Goldberg also mimicked in a dress from Beloved.
In 1970, Midnight Cowboy, starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, became the only X-rated movie to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Strangely enough, the previous year, the musical Oliver! had become the only G-rated film to ever win the same honor. The only other X-rated movie to be nominated came two years after Midnight Cowboy's groundbreaking win — legendary director Stanley Kubrick's violent, dystopic vision, A Clockwork Orange.
Shirley Temple holds the Academy's record for being the youngest recipient of an Oscar — an honorary one called a Juvenile Oscar, in this case. She was 6 when she was given the 7-inch, half-sized statuette in 1935. The last non-adult to get a pint-size Oscar was 12-year-old Hayley Mills, who earned a special award in 1961 for Pollyanna. By the time Tatum O'Neal became the youngest person to win a competitive Oscar 13 years later — as Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon — she received a full-size trophy.
Chicago was 2003's big winner, but the musical didn't get there without some shuffling of its Z-named leading ladies. Catherine Zeta-Jones was originally set to play aspiring actress-turned-murderess Roxie Hart until she found out she wouldn't get to sing one of her favorite songs, "All That Jazz." So she took the role of prison queen Velma Kelly, while Renée Zellweger became Roxie. Zeta-Jones won Best Supporting Actress for her role, while Zellweger was nominated for but ultimately lost Best Actress. But Zellweger picked up a Best Supporting Actress the next year for her performance in Cold Mountain.