I’ve been kinda serious the past few posts so I’ve decided in honor of 2021’s Oscar pageant this coming Sunday let’s have some fun. Here are some of my favorite Oscar trivia questions. Go ahead and Google the answer if you want, but I promise you it’s more fun to just play along. No points given, none taken away. By the way, I’m going to use the generic term “actor” to mean both male and female actors.
First of all, a basic question. How long does a film have to be to be considered a feature (as opposed to a short subject) by the Academy?
40 minutes. I don’t know who came up with that, but I’d sure as hell be POed if I paid twelve bucks to see a feature that only lasted 40 minutes. On the other hand, if THE ENGLISH PATIENT had only been 40 minutes I might have liked it better. By the way, the shortest run time for a movie that won Best Picture is 91 minutes, MARTY.
From shortest to longest. What movie nominated for Best Picture had the longest title?
If you said BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTURE OF IGNORANCE) I’d give you half a point if we were keeping score. It’s the longest title for a movie that won Best Picture. But the longest title for a movie nominated goes to, of course how could you not get this, DR. STRANGELOVE OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB. Another Oscar fact about Strangelove, the man who played him, Peter Sellers, also played Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and President Merkin Muffly and thus is the only actor to be nominated for playing three roles in the same film.
Well then let’s get familial. What family has the most nominations for Oscars? I’m talking about a blood relationship, no married into the family, no in-laws, a direct blood relationship.
I know the impulse is to say the Fondas or the Hustons or the Coppolas, but the actual answer is the Newmans. And I ain’t talking about Paul. I’m talking about Alfred (45 nominations), his brothers Emil (1) and Lionel (11), his sons David (1) and Thomas (16) and his nephew Randy (22). That’s 96 nominations between them, all for musical scoring or original song. To put that into perspective including this year there have only been 93 Academy Award ceremonies. In this most unprecedented of years it is almost unprecedented that no Newman scored a nomination this year.
Staying in the family, what two couples won acting Oscars while married to one another?
The first was Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh, he for HAMLET and she for, no not GONE WITH THE WIND (they weren’t married yet) but for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. The second were those Newmans again! This time, yes, Paul for THE COLOR OF MONEY and Joanne Woodward for THE THREE FACES OF EVE. By the way, Vivian Leigh holds a distinction shared with Luise Rainer and Hilary Swank as the only actors to have a 1.000 Oscar batting average, two nominations, two wins. Sally Field used to be a fourth but she spiraled her average down to .667 by being nominated for Supporting Actress in LINCOLN and losing. But other than that how was the play Sally?
Speaking of multiples, who are the six actors to be nominated for playing the same character in two different movies?
Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley for GOING MY WAY and THE BELLS OF SAINT MARY’S, Al Pacino as Michael Corelone in THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER PART II, Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I in ELIZABETH and ELIZABETH THE GOLDEN AGE, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in ROCKY and CREED (bet that one you forgot about), Peter O’Toole as King Henry II in BECKET and THE LION IN WINTER and finally, holy crap it’s that Newman fellow again in THE HUSTLER and THE COLOR OF MONEY. Of the six the only winners were Newman for the sequel and Crosby for the original.
Staying with the idea of being nominated for playing the same character, who are the only actors to be nominated for playing the same character in the same film?
I love this question because most go straight to thinking of four actors when in fact it was actually only a total of three. In TITANIC Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart both played the female lead, Rose. In IRIS Judi Dench and, yes here’s where you went off the rails, Kate Winslet played the title character. I guess Peter Sellers wasn’t available.
Let’s stay with multiples for $500 Alex (RIP). There have been 12 EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) so far. But there have only been two PEGOT winners (adding the Pulitzer). Who are they?
It’s surprising the number of people who try to answer this question with actors. Um, the Pulitzer is a prize given to WRITERS. Sigh. Or they try to come up with prose writers and forget that composers are eligible as well. Anyway you might have gotten Richard Rodgers who won his Pulitzer for SOUTH PACIFIC. You might have forgotten that Mrs. Hamlisch’s little boy Marvin is the other one. He got his Pulitzer for A CHORUS LINE which is my winner for worst film adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize winning play. Speaking of the Pulitzer and the Oscar only two Pulitzer winners have also won the Oscar for Best Picture. YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU was the first and DRIVING MISS DAISY the second. Yeah I can’t believe DRIVING MISS DAISY won both either. Well it was the 80’s.
Crossovers are common. There have been many instances of actors winning Oscars for roles they first created on the stage. But back in the early days of TV stories often moved from the small to the big screen. Who are the only two actors to win an Oscar for a role they first created on TV?
The first was Maximilian Schell as Hans Rolfe in JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG. Originally it was an episode of the program PLAYHOUSE 90. Only Schell and one other actor were kept on when it was transferred to film, Werner Klemperer. Yup Colonel Klink himself. The other step up winner was Cliff Robertson as Charlie Gordon in CHARLY. Originally a TV special called The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon, Robertson was so in love with the character that he personally bought the film rights to the story so no one else could play the part in a film. Well love for the character and the fact he got screwed out of playing his lead role in THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES in the film version.
So now let’s go the other way. Who is the only actor to win an Oscar for a role they later on won a Tony for?
I did this one special for El Grand Hefe de First Draft, Adrastos. Lila Kedrova won the 1964 Best Supporting Actress Oscar as Madame Hortense in ZORBA THE GREEK, and 20 years later won a Tony for the same role in the musical Zorba. Zorba himself, Anthony Quinn was nominated for both the film and stage versions but lost both. Must have been because he wasn’t really Greek, but he did win Oscars for playing a Mexican (VIVA ZAPATA) and a Frenchman (LUST FOR LIFE).
What Oscar winner had to wait 37 years to finally be handed an actual Oscar statuette?
It was not until 1936 that the Academy decided to start awarding actors for playing supporting roles. The two winners for each year until 1942 didn’t receive the gold statue but rather a wooden plaque. Chintzy yeah. The winner of the first Best Supporting Actress award was Gale Sondergaard for ANTHONY ADVERSE. It was also her first film appearance. You’re probably saying to yourself, who the hell is Gale Sondergaard I’ve never heard of her. Well she actually had quite a career from 1936 to 1949 appearing in many films and actually being nominated again in the supporting category in 1946. And now welcome to the dark side of Hollywood. In 1949 she was one of the first Hollywood artists to be blacklisted for alleged Communist sympathies. Actually she didn’t have sympathies, she was a committed Communist. At any rate she didn’t return to the film industry until 1969. Meanwhile, back in the early 1950’s the Academy started to replace those wooden plaques with actual Oscars. Every winner got their replacement statue except for Ms. Sondergaard. Apparently even a ten foot pole wouldn’t have been enough to hand her what she had rightfully earned. It was not until 1973 while she was working on a TV movie called THE CAT PEOPLE that the then president of the Screen Actors Guild walked onto the set and handed her her Oscar. Ironically that was soon to be president of the NRA Charlton Heston.
Delays delays delays. What movie won an Oscar twenty years after it premiered?
OK, this needs a bit of explanation. Up until just a few years ago a film was only eligible if it played for seven consecutive days in Los Angeles. That’s why you saw the end of the year rush of Oscar hopefuls do “limited releases” (i.e. New York and Los Angeles) in the week between Christmas and New Years then a more general release to the rest of the country after the nominations were announced. In 1952 Charlie Chaplin released LIMELIGHT, but no theater in LA would book it because of Chaplin’s alleged ties to the Communist Party (see previous question). Yeah, even the greatest film comedian wasn’t immune to that particular American madness. In 1972 the film finally was shown in LA. Some members of the music wing of the Academy saw a chance and got enough of their fellows to get Chaplin and his collaborators on the film score Ray Rasch, and Larry Russell nominated for Best Original Dramatic Score. Now honestly, in 1972 if you were a voter and saw Charlie Chaplin’s name on the ballot how could you not vote for him? The trio won the award, but unfortunately none were able to show up at the ceremony. Chaplin was too ill. Rasch and Russell were dead. The 1972 Original Score category also is unique in that one of the nominations had to be rescinded. Nina Rota had been nominated for THE GODFATHER but after the nominations came out it was discovered that the most famous piece of music from the film, The Godfather Waltz, had previously been used by Rota in the 1958 Italian film FORTUNELLA. You can hear it in this clip, pretty obvious. Hey at least he didn’t wake up with a horse’s head in his bed.
The answer to this question depends on one of the outcomes of this coming Sunday night. What actor has been nominated the most times without winning?
Officially it’s Peter O’Toole, nominated nine times but never winning. When the Academy wanted to give him an honorary Oscar for his body of work he almost turned it down, saying those awards only go to people whose career is over, that he was “still in the game”. He only showed up when they said we’re giving you the award whether you show up or not and if you don’t you’ll look like an ass. Of course he got revenge of a sort four years later when he got nominated again for Best Actor for VENUS.
The reason this all might change is that this Sunday Glenn Close will be up for Supporting Actress in HILLBILLY ELEGY. It is her ninth nomination tying her with O’Toole if she loses. If she gets off the schnid and wins I hope she takes two of her 45 seconds on stage to acknowledge Peter.
On that note, I wish the best of luck to any of this year’s nominees who happen to be reading this and for all others I hope you win your Oscar pool.