By Larry Dabrow
Much of the excitement regarding last year's Academy Awards had to do with Kathryn Bigelow's win for Best Director, which marked the first time a female director has received the coveted award. However, many "firsts" have occurred over the 80-plus years the award ceremony has been held. As you prepare for this year's Oscar ceremony, take a look at 10 other notable Academy Award milestones.
First Film to Win the "Big Five" Awards: 1934
It Happened One Night
The awards generally perceived as having the most prestige are Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay (original or adapted). Somewhat amazingly, it took a mere five years of award bestowing before It Happened One Night became the first film to claim them all. It hasn't happened too often since then, though. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ran the table back in 1975, while The Silence of the Lambs did the same in 1991. Photo by Jerry Murbach via DoctorMacro1.info.
First Child Winner: 1934
Most self-appointed Oscar historians point to Tatum O'Neal as the youngest Academy Award nominee and winner; she was only a few months past 10 years of age when she received the Best Supporting Actress statuette for her performance alongside dad Ryan in Paper Moon. However, O'Neal was nearly four years older than the youngest honoree: the esteemed Shirley Temple, who received one of those honorary/overall achievement/special awards way back in 1934 at the ripe old age of 6. Photo by Getty Images.
First Winner to Refuse Award: 1935
Dudley Nichols, Best Writing (Screenplay) for The Informer
Nichols had a beef with the Writer's Guild, or the Academy's treatment of the Writer's Guild, or something. His conduct-simply boycotting the entire affair-looks almost gracious in comparison to other refusers. George C. Scott turned down the Best Actor trophy for Patton in 1970, describing the Oscars (quite accurately, in retrospect) as "a g----- meat parade." Two years later, Marlon Brando not only refused his award-Best Actor for The Godfather-but sent Sacheen Littlefeather to read a statement on his behalf (see: 10 Worst Award Acceptance Speeches for details). Photo by Getty Images.
First Postponement of the Ceremony: 1938
Most people think the Oscars date is as inextricably etched in stone as, say, Thanksgiving. However, it has been rescheduled three times over the course of its 80-odd years: first by a week in 1938, owing to local flooding; again by two days in 1968, in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination; and a third time in 1981, by 24 hours, following the attempt on President Reagan's life. Photo by Getty Images.
First Black Academy Award Winner: 1939
Hattie McDaniel, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Gone with the Wind
While Halle Berry received a huge amount of attention when she became the first black Best Actress (in 2001, for Monster's Ball), McDaniel deserves more credit than she commonly receives for having been the ultimate forerunner. Not only was she the first black woman to win an acting award, but she was also the first black person, male or female, to receive a nomination in any category. Photo by Getty Images.
First Time the Winners Were Kept Top Secret: 1941
The first round of Oscar winners was announced way in advance-a whopping three months before the first Academy Awards ceremony in May 1929. After that, an embargoed list of winners was given to newspapers for publication at 11 p.m. on the night of the ceremony-until the Los Angeles Times ruined it for everyone by publishing the winners in advance. As a result, the Academy transitioned over to its accountant-verified, secret-sealed-envelope ways in 1941. Photo by Getty Images.
First Five-Film Best Picture Field: 1944
As much as Oscar purists have been howling about last year's decision to expand the Best Picture field from five movies to 10-they view it as a ploy to drive up TV ratings by including higher-grossing flicks-this represents a drop from the previous high. In 1934 and 1935, the Best Picture category boasted a whopping 12 nominees; from 1936 through 1943, it featured 10. The final winner in that previous 10-nominee era? Casablanca. Photo courtesy of MovieGoods.com.
First Academy Awards Television Broadcast: 1953
Given how the Oscars telecast routinely attracts over 30 million viewers in various countries, territories and unaffiliated municipalities, it's easy to forget that, for the first 24 years of their life, there was no telecast at all. That changed in 1953, however, and Oscar night was forever altered in 1966 when the proceedings were finally aired in color. Early viewers couldn't recognize the Red Carpet as red, for heck's sake. Think about that the next time you're cracking wise about a half-intelligible Billy Bush interview during the pre-show ceremonies. Photo by George Marks/Getty Images.
First X-Rated Film to Win an Award: 1969
By today's standards, Midnight Cowboy's depiction of male hustling would barely rate an R. Upon its initial release, however, the film was slapped with a box-office-killing X rating. Nonetheless, Midnight Cowboy was rightly recognized by the Academy as the year's finest, even before some selective cuts earned it the elusive R rating. Two years later, A Clockwork Orange became the next-and last-X-rated film to earn a nomination. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertaiment.
First Actor to Win an Award for Playing the Opposite Sex: 1983
Linda Hunt, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for The Year of Living Dangerously
Hunt was a relative novice when, at age 38, she appeared as Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously: That film represented only her second big-screen credit. Nonetheless, she made it count, claiming the Oscar for her gender-bending performance as the Chinese-Australian photographer. Photo courtesy of MGM/UA Entertainment
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