1934: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT
The clean sweep is born as Frank Capra’s romantic comedy becomes the first movie to win the top five Oscars: Picture, Director, Actor (Clark Gable), Actress (Claudette Colbert) and Screenplay (Robert Riskin). It was poetic justice for Capra, as a year earlier he had prematurely stepped up to accept the Best Director gong for Lady For A Day. In fact, it went to Frank Lloyd for Cavalcade.
1940: HATTIE McDANIEL
At 45, the Gone With The Wind actress becomes the first African-American to win an Oscar. In so doing, the former band singer also becomes the first person of colour to attend the ceremony as a guest, rather than as a servant. Her role as Mammy was later dismissed as a coarse racial stereotype, but McDaniel didn’t care: “I’d rather play a maid than be one,” she said.
1953: FIRST TELECAST
The awards are televised in the US for the first time, attracting the largest audience in American commercial TV’s rather short history. Bob Hope co-presents the ceremony with Conrad Nagel and is duly rewarded with a special gong “for his contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion-picture industry and his devotion to the American premise”. Yuck.
John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy becomes the first (and to date only) X-rated movie to win the Best Picture Oscar, ushering in a new era of sexual permissiveness and candour. Subsequent ceremonies see the likes of A Clockwork Orange, Lenny and Five Easy Pieces up for the same award – although Deep Throat and Debbie Does Dallas unaccountably miss out.
2002: HALLE BERRY
Sixty years after Hattie McDaniel’s triumph, the Monster’s Ball star finally breaks the Academy’s last taboo by becoming the first black woman to win the Best Actress award. A good night for race relations sees Denzel Washington named Best Actor for Training Day and Sidney Poitier receive an honorary statuette “for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence”.