Jeff Wells floated an interesting theory over at Hollywood-Elsewhere about how Best Actress might be Jennifer Lawrence’s to lose if certain factors fall into place. The thing holding her back is that she’s recently won. That’s why Julianne Moore can’t really pull off a win for Freeheld — she pulled out the stops to win last year but back-to-back Oscar wins are extremely rare for actresses. It’s only happened twice in all of Oscar history and one of those times was Katharine Hepburn who broke all of the rules anyway. Before anything is seen and the dog and pony show starts properly, the idea is that there are already strong contenders in films seen (Carol, MacBeth, Sicario, Grandma, Mad Max: Fury Road, Clouds of Sils Maria) and films unseen (Joy, Room, Suffragette). If this turns out to be the case, and these are the main contenders we’re looking at, Best Actress won’t be as nail-biting as Best Actor.
Let’s take a quick look at the actresses who won back-to-back Oscars and those who’ve won two or more.
- In 1936, Louise Rainer won for The Great Ziegfeld, beating Carole Lombard for My Man Godfrey, Norma Shearer for Romeo.
- In 1937, Louise Rainer won for The Good Earth, beating Greta Garbo for Camille, Barbara Stanwyck for Stella Dallas, Irene Dunne for the Awful Truth and Janet Gaynor for A Star is Born.
- In 1967, Katharine Hepburn won for Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner. She beat Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, Anne Bancroft for The Graduate and Audrey Hepburn for Wait Until Dark.
- In 1968, Hepburn again won — tying with Barbra Streisand who won for Funny Girl.
So you can see how rare it is for any actress to win back to back. Almost impossible. The performance would have to be outside the box brilliant, unlike anything that ever gets made today.
Only one actress has won 4 lead Oscars – Katharine Hepburn.
No actress has ever won 3 lead Oscars
12 actresses have won 2 lead Oscars
|Ingrid Bergman – won for Gaslight, and then again for Anastasia.|
|Bette Davis – Jezebel and Dangerous|
|Olivia de Havilland – To Each his Own and The Heiress|
|Sally Field – Norma Rae and Places in the Heart|
|Jane Fonda – Klute and Coming Home|
|Jodie Foster – The Accused and Silence of the Lambs|
|Glenda Jackson – Women in Love and A Touch of Class|
|Vivien Leigh – Gone with the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire|
|Luise Rainer – The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth|
|Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady|
|Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby|
|Elizabeth Taylor – Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf|
Do any of these second wins seem like stronger performances than their first? Clearly, Meryl Streep’ problem all of these years has been topping Sophie’s Choice which remains one of the greatest performances ever by anyone. They finally gave her a second Oscar for The Iron Lady.
This year, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, and Julianne Moore will all be looking to get into this elite club of two-time winners. Those who haven’t yet won for their work would include Brie Larson, Emily Blunt, and Carey Mulligan who will either be ready to have her baby or will already have had her baby by the time the awards roll around. If she skips the dog and pony show that might set her back …the Edward Norton complaint is valid but it’s sort of like saying Bernie Sanders can compete with no PAC money.
No one has any idea how Joy will go. David O. Russell has a really good history when it comes to getting nominated in the first place. He’s finally put his good luck charm in the lead. He’s great with actors usually and this could prove to be quite something, an opportunity to see what Lawrence can really do when she’s has the opportunity.