Everything you ever wanted to know about Oscars

March 31, 1992|By Susan King | Susan King,Los Angeles Times

Jeanne Eagles, a nominee for best actress in 1928-1929 for "The Letter," was the first posthumous acting nominee. She died in 1929 from a heroin overdose. Sidney Howard was the first posthumous Oscar winner when he received the screenplay award for 1939's "Gone With the Wind." He died when he was run over by his tractor on his Massachusetts farm.

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Hal Mohr, who won the cinematography award for 1935's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," was the first and last write-in winner.

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Harry Warren and Al Dubin's "Lullaby of Broadway" from "Gold Diggers of 1935" became the first best song winner. It won over Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" from "Top Hat" and Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh's "Lovely to Look At" from "Roberta."

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With the 1936 Oscars, the academy introduced the categories for best supporting actor and actress. Walter Brennan won his first of three for "Come and Get It," and Gale Sondergaard, who was later blacklisted, won for "Anthony Adverse."

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Though Bob Hope has always complained he's never received an Oscar, the academy has bestowed several honors upon him over the years, including a silver plaque in 1941 for his "unselfish services to the motion picture industry"; a 1944 award for "his many services to the academy" and a lifetime membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; an honorary 1952 Oscar for his "contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and his devotion to the American premise"; 1959's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award; and a 1965 honorary award in the form of a gold medal for "unique and distinguished service to our industry and the academy."

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Greer Garson, who won best actress for 1942's "Mrs. Miniver," married actor Richard Ney, nine years her junior, who played her son in the film.

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Leo McCarey was the first person to win both a writing and directing Oscar -- he won those honors for 1944's "Going My Way." He had previously won best director for 1937's "The Awful Truth."

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World War II veteran and double amputee Harold Russell won two Oscars for 1946's "The Best Years of Our Lives," receiving best supporting actor for his film debut and a special award for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans." Mr. Russell didn't make another film until 1980's "Inside Moves."

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Dorothy Dandridge was the first black to be nominated for best actress for 1954's "Carmen Jones." Grace Kelly won that year for "The Country Girl."

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Federico Fellini's 1956 classic "La Strada" won the first award for best foreign-language film.

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Also in 1956, the academy instituted a clause that no one could be nominated for an Oscar if he or she had admitted Communist Party membership and had not renounced that membership, or if he or she had refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities or had refused to respond to a subpoena from the committee.

Ironically, blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, under the pen name Robert Rich, won the Oscar that year for best motion picture story for "The Brave One." When Rich-Trumbo was a no-show at the Oscars, Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hooper said, "Who the hell is Robert Rich and why are we giving him an Oscar?"

Two years later, the clause was dropped.

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Billy Wilder set a new precedent when he won three Oscars -- for best director, screenplay and film -- for 1960's "The Apartment."

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Jean Renoir's anti-war drama "Grand Illusion" was nominated for best picture of 1938 -- the first foreign-language film to receive a best picture nomination. Costa-Gavras' 1969 French political thriller, "Z," was the first film to be nominated for both best picture and best foreign-language film. It won the latter award.

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The Oscars were telecast for the first time on March 19, 1953, on NBC from the Pantages in Hollywood and the NBC Century Theater in New York. Ronald Reagan was the announcer in Los Angeles. Bob Hope (Hollywood) and Conrad Nagel (New York) were the hosts.

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Elizabeth Taylor received her first Oscar for her performance as a call girl in the 1960 drama, "Butterfield 8." Supposedly, she hated the film so much that when she saw it in a projection room she threw her shoes at the screen. She later said she had never watched the film all the way through.

Ms. Taylor's appearance at the Oscar ceremony was worthy of an Oscar itself. Still frail from a near-fatal bout of pneumonia and recovering from a tracheotomy, Ms. Taylor accepted her Oscar, walked off the stage and fainted in a backstage bathroom.

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The most emotional moment that night of April 17, 1961, occurred when the academy bestowed an honorary Oscar upon two-time Oscar-winner Gary Cooper for "his memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry." Rumors had been circulating around Hollywood that Cooper was ill, but no one knew the severity until pal James Stewart tearfully accepted the Oscar on Coop's behalf. Cooper died of cancer a month later.

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