Five Special Oscar Moments

Defining the awards in five easy pieces...

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.

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.

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.

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”.


This feature is included on courtesy of our sister magazine, DVD Review.


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