Actresses in Oscar’s Best Picture Winners
As a follow-up to my related essay on lead actors there have been several actresses who have appeared in more than one movie that has won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences highest award (e.g. the Best Picture Oscar) but Meryl Streep is the only one to have acted in back-to-back winners (The Deer Hunter (1978) Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)). Ms. Streep has thus far appeared in a total of three Academy Award winning Best Pictures (including Out of Africa (1985)) a distinction she shares with three other actresses:
- Shirley MacLaine (Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) The Apartment (1960) Terms of Endearment (1983))
- Talia Shire (The Godfather (1972) The Godfather: Part II (1974) Rocky (1976))
- Diane Keaton (The Godfather (1972) The Godfather: Part II (1974) Annie Hall (1977))
* Special consideration could be given to singer Marni Nixon who dubbed Natalie Wood’s voice in West Side Story (1961) and Audrey Hepburn’s voice in My Fair Lady (1964) and also played Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music (1965).
If Babel (2006) wins this year’s Best Picture Oscar Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)) will join this list of actresses who have appeared in TWO Academy Award Best Picture winners:
- Character actress Spring Byington appeared in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and You Can’t Take It with You (1938)
- Myrna Loy played Billy Burke in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and Fredric March’s wife in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
- Gladys Cooper was in Rebecca (1940) and played Rex Harrison’s mother in My Fair Lady (1964)
- Anna Lee appeared in How Green Was My Valley (1941) and played Sister Margaretta in The Sound of Music (1965)
- Teresa Wright won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in her second film as the daughter-in-law of Greer Garson’s Mrs. Miniver (1942) and played Myrna Loy’s daughter in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
- Cathy O’Donnell’s first credited role was playing disabled veteran Homer Parrish’s gal in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946); her last credited role was Tirzah in Ben-Hur (1959)
- Celeste Holm had supporting roles in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and All About Eve (1950)
- Leslie Caron had leading roles in An American in Paris (1951) and as Gigi (1958)
- Character actress Hermione Gingold was also in Gigi (1958) and had earlier appeared in Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)
- Brit Susannah York played key roles in her country’s Tom Jones (1963) and A Man for All Seasons (1966)
- and Frances Fisher appeared in Unforgiven (1992) and Titanic (1997)
** Character actress Norma Varden may have appeared (uncredited) in Casablanca (1942); she played the von Trapp’s housekeeper Frau Schmidt in The Sound of Music (1965).
Also noteworthy sisters Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave each appeared in one Best Picture winner the former made her screen debut in Tom Jones (1963) and the latter played Ann Boleyn in A Man for All Seasons (1966) equaling a feat first established by sisters Olivia de Havilland (Gone With the Wind (1939)) and Joan Fontaine (Rebecca (1940)).
Some TCM favorites that have appeared in ONE of the Academy’s Best Picture winners include: Irene Dunne (Cimarron (1931)) Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford in Grand Hotel (1932) Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night (1934)) Jean Arthur (You Can’t Take It with You (1938)) Maureen O’Hara (How Green Was My Valley (1941)) Greer Garson as Mrs. Miniver (1942) Ingrid Bergman (Casablanca (1942)) Jean Simmons (Hamlet (1948)) Bette Davis Anne Baxter Marilyn Monroe and Thelma Ritter in All About Eve (1950) Betty Hutton and Gloria Grahame in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed in From Here to Eternity (1953) Marlene Dietrich (Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)) and Audrey Hepburn as My Fair Lady (1964).
Not surprisingly though some of the best known actresses from the studio era never appeared in an Oscar winning Best Picture including: Lauren Bacall Ava Gardner Judy Garland Katharine Hepburn Grace Kelly Carole Lombard Ginger Rogers Barbara Stanwyck and Elizabeth Taylor. Many actresses who appear frequently on TCM could also be added to this list including: June Allyson Eve Arden Doris Day Jean Harlow Susan Hayward Rita Hayworth Judy Holliday Miriam Hopkins Jennifer Jones Sofia Loren Rosalind Russell Norma Shearer Ann Sheridan Gene Tierney Claire Trevor Lana Turner Shelley Winters and Loretta Young.
© 2007 Turner Classic Movies – this article originally appeared on TCM’s official blog