This year’s Academy Awards could be decided by a few votes among the Academy’s 9,000 or so members. No category is as down-to-the-wire as Best Actress, with experts making the case for any of the nominees to prevail, as four of the women have evenly split the precursor awards. TheWrap’s Steve Pond is forecasting Carey Mulligan of “Promising Young Woman” to win, but writes, “Does anybody have a four-sided coin I can flip?”In 1969, the Best Actress category was host to the most newsworthy tie vote in Oscar history, with two of the most famous performers of the twentieth century each winning the statuette. Here are the six times that ties have occurred since Oscar’s beginning. A seventh could be right on track for this year.
1932: Best ActorFredric March in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and Wallace Beery in “The Champ”The 5th Annual Academy Awards were the occasion of Oscar’s first tie, if you could call it that. Actress Norma Shearer presented Best Actor to Fredric March, star of the imaginative horror film “”Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” March accepted the prize, and then after “Grand Hotel” had won Best Picture, a vote-tabulator discovered that Wallace Beery had been only one vote behind March in the final tally. According to Academy rules of the time, that meant Beery deserved a statuette too. Thus, the star of the boxing redemption story “The Champ” became exactly that.
1950: Best Documentary (Short Subject)”A Chance to Live” and “So Much So Little”One was a part of “The March of Time” newsreel footage produced by Time Inc., and the second was an animated documentary made by Bugs Bunny creator Chuck Jones. The Oscar tie has been largely forgotten, and wasn’t even newsworthy at the time, yet Jones’s film was recently resurrected as a meme to comment on the most debated issue in American life. It’s an unambiguous rallying cry for universal health care.
1969: Best ActressKatharine Hepburn in “A Lion in Winter” and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl”Ingrid Bergman was tasked with presenting Best Actress in 1969, and the accounting firm employee who handed her the envelope told her, “Make sure you read everything.” Streisand, then 26, walked to the stage hand-in-hand with Hepburn’s director Anthony Harvey. (Hepburn was absent for all four of her career Best Actress wins.) An intriguing wrinkle to the story emerged in the days after the Oscar ceremony. Academy president Gregory Peck admitted that an exception had been made to grant Streisand membership in the Academy in 1968. Membership is based on one’s credits in the industry, though “Funny Girl” had been Streisand’s film debut. So assuming Streisand put a check next to her own name on her ballot, she was the one who cast the tie-causing vote.
1987: Best Documentary Feature”Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got” and “Down and Out in America”Nearly two decades later, Oprah Winfrey presided over the next Oscar tie, announcing the split between these two very different documentaries. “Artie Shaw” was about the famed jazz clarinetist, who had served and toured in the South Pacific during World War II, and “Down and Out” was a raw chronicle of poverty. The latter film was directed by actress Lee Grant, a four time Oscar nominee who had won Best Supporting Actress in 1976 for “Shampoo.” Still going in her mid-90s, Grant remains the only Oscar-winning actor to direct an Oscar-winning documentary.
1995: Best Short Film (Live Action)”Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Trevor”Two interesting footnotes from this 25-year-old tie still resonate today. The 23-minute “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life,” which starred 2019 Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) was directed by Peter Capaldi, who would become world famous later as the 12th incarnation of “Doctor Who.” And “Trevor,” also 23-minutes long, led in 1998 to the creation of The Trevor Project, now recognized as one of the leading LGBT organizations, focusing on suicide prevention among youth.
2013: Best Sound Editing”Zero Dark Thirty” and “Skyfall”The most recent tie was revealed by Mark Wahlberg and his animated bear costar Ted in the now-defunct category of Best Sound Editing. Beginning in 2021, the two achievements (sound design and sound editing) have been merged into one award. Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial “Zero Dark Thirty” scored its only Oscar from five nominations here, while “Skyfall” became the only James Bond movie to win multiple Oscars, after also netting the prize for Adele’s popular title song.
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