Oscars: Debut actresses do well

Feb. 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

In this undated film publicity image released by Paramount Pictures, Jeff Bridges, left, and Hailee Steinfeld are shown in a scene from 'True Grit.' —AP Photo/Paramount Pictures

BY DAVID GERMAIN / Associated Press

LOS ANGELES >> The Academy Awards have been kind to actresses making their big-screen debuts. But men in debut performances? Not so much.

With her supporting-actress nomination for the Western “True Grit,” 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld is the 73rd first-time performer to compete for an Oscar in the show’s 83-year history.

Fifty-year-old veteran Melissa Leo is considered the favorite to win supporting actress for “The Fighter.” But Steinfeld is nominated in the category that has been especially competitive for beginners — and for child actors.

Of the 72 previous Hollywood novices nominated for Oscars, 31 were up for supporting actress. Eight won, including Jennifer Hudson for 2006’s “Dreamgirls,” Eva Marie Saint for 1954’s “On the Waterfront” and Jo Van Fleet for 1955’s “East of Eden.”

Two first-timers who won supporting actress were even younger than Steinfeld — 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal for 1973’s “Paper Moon” and 11-year-old Anna Paquin for 1993’s “The Piano.” The only other child actor to win an Oscar, 16-year-old Patty Duke, also earned it in the supporting-actress category, for 1962’s “The Miracle Worker.”

Men in debut roles have earned 22 nominations for supporting actor, but only one took the Oscar, Haing S. Ngor for 1984’s “The Killing Fields” (that was a fruitful year for male big-screen debuts; along with Ngor, two others were nominated for supporting actor, Adolph Caesar in “A Soldier’s Story” and John Malkovich in “Places in the Heart”).

Sixteen lead actresses picked up Oscar nominations for their first films, most recently, Gabourey Sidibe a year ago for “Precious.” Four first-timers won best-actress Oscars: Marlee Matlin for 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God,” Barbra Streisand for 1968’s “Funny Girl,” Julie Andrews for 1964’s “Mary Poppins” and Shirley Booth for 1952’s “Come Back, Little Sheba.”

Best-actor nominations have been hard to come by for men in their first big-screen jobs. Only three have been nominated: Lawrence Tibbett for 1930’s “The Rogue Song,” Orson Welles for 1941’s “Citizen Kane” and Montgomery Clift for 1948’s “The Search.” All three lost.

With “Citizen Kane,” Welles also was the first of 21 first-time filmmakers to earn best-director nominations (he lost that one, too, though he did win for original screenplay).

Six first-time filmmakers won the best-directing Oscar, including Robert Redford for 1980’s “Ordinary People” and Kevin Costner for 1990’s “Dances With Wolves.”

Among other supporting players earning Oscar nominations for their first time on screen are Oprah Winfrey (1985’s “The Color Purple”), Glenn Close (1982’s “The World According to Garp”), Edward Norton (1996’s “Primal Fear”), Mikhail Baryshnikov (1977’s “The Turning Point”), Lily Tomlin (1975’s “Nashville”), Angela Lansbury (1944’s “Gaslight”) and Sydney Greenstreet (1941’s “The Maltese Falcon”).

Other best-actress nominees for debut roles include Catalina Sandino Moreno (2004’s “Maria Full of Grace”), Keisha Castle-Hughes (2003’s “Whale Rider”), Emily Watson (1996’s “Breaking the Waves”), Julie Walters (1983’s “Educating Rita”), Martha Scott (1940’s “Our Town”) and Greer Garson (1939’s “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”).




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