Until the 8th Academy Awards ceremony (1935), nominations for the Best Actress award were intended to include all actresses, whether the performance was in either a leading or supporting role. At the 9th Academy Awards ceremony (1936), however, the Best Supporting Actress category was specifically introduced as a distinct award following complaints that the single Best Actress category necessarily favored leading performers with the most screen time. Nonetheless, May Robson had received a Best Actress nomination (Lady for a Day, 1933) for her performance in a clear supporting role. Currently, Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, and Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role constitute the four Academy Awards of Merit for acting annually presented by AMPAS.
|superlative||Best Actress||Best Supporting Actress||Overall|
|Actress with Most Awards||Katharine Hepburn||4||Shelley Winters and Dianne Wiest||2||Katharine Hepburn||4|
|Actress with Most Nominations||Katharine Hepburn||12||Thelma Ritter||6||Meryl Streep||14|
|Actress with Most Nominations|
(without ever winning)
|Deborah Kerr||6||Thelma Ritter||6||Deborah Kerr and Thelma Ritter||6|
|Film with Most Nominations||All About Eve; Suddenly, Last Summer;|
The Turning Point; Terms of Endearment;
and Thelma & Louise
|2||Tom Jones||3||All About Eve||4|
|Oldest Winner||Jessica Tandy||80||Peggy Ashcroft||77||Jessica Tandy||80|
|Oldest Nominee||Jessica Tandy||80||Gloria Stuart||87||Gloria Stuart||87|
|Youngest Winner||Marlee Matlin||21||Tatum O'Neal||10||Tatum O'Neal||10|
|Youngest Nominee||Keisha Castle-Hughes||13||Tatum O'Neal||10||Tatum O'Neal||10|
The only actresses to have won the award twice are: Shelley Winters, in 1959 and 1965 (she was also nominated in 1972, in addition to receiving a nomination for lead actress in 1951); and Dianne Wiest, in 1986 and 1994 (she was also nominated in 1989).
Thelma Ritter had six nominations, more than any other actress. As she never won the award, she also holds the record for the number of unsuccessful nominations. Thelma Ritter is also the only actress with nominations in four successive years (1950-1953). Glenn Close was nominated three years consecutively (1982-1984).
Actresses with four nominations are: Ethel Barrymore, Agnes Moorehead, Lee Grant, Maureen Stapleton, Geraldine Page, and Dame Maggie Smith. All of Agnes Moorehead's and Geraldine Page's nominations were unsuccessful (but Page did win a Best Actress award); each of the others won once (with Smith also having previously won a Best Actress award).
Those with three nominations are: Anne Revere, Celeste Holm, Claire Trevor, Angela Lansbury, Shelley Winters, Glenn Close, Diane Ladd, Dianne Wiest, Meryl Streep, Frances McDormand, and Cate Blanchett. Lansbury, Close, Ladd, and McDormand have never won a Best Supporting Actress award (but McDormand did win a Best Actress award).
Hattie McDaniel was the first African American, Miyoshi Umeki the first (and only) Asian, Rita Moreno the first (and only) Puerto Rican and Hispanic, Brenda Fricker the first (and only) Irish, Catherine Zeta-Jones the first (and only) Welsh, and Cate Blanchett the first (and only) Australian to win Best Supporting Actress.
Only three actresses have received Best Supporting Actress nominations for non-speaking roles: Patty Duke won the award for The Miracle Worker in 1962, Samantha Morton was nominated for Sweet and Lowdown in 1999, and Rinko Kikuchi was nominated for Babel in 2006. Both Morton and Kikuchi performed their roles without speaking a word, while Duke had no dialogue whatsoever other than grunts and screams.
The earliest nominee in this category who is still alive is Olivia de Havilland (1939) followed by Jennifer Jones (1944) and Angela Lansbury (1944). The earliest winner in this category who is still alive is Celeste Holm (1947) followed by Eva Marie Saint (1954).
The only actor to win an Oscar for playing a real-life Oscar winner is Cate Blanchett. She won Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. (Many actresses have played fictional Oscar winners.)
There have been no posthumous nominations for this award.
Beginning with the 1943 awards, winners in the supporting acting categories were awarded Oscar statuettes similar to those awarded to winners in all other categories, including the leading acting categories. Prior to this, however, winners in the supporting acting categories were awarded plaques.
At the 37th Academy Awards (1964), for the first time in history, all four of the top acting honors were awarded to non-Americans: Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, Peter Ustinov, and Lila Kedrova. This occurred for the second time at the 80th Academy Awards (2007), when all four acting categories were similarly represented: Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Javier Bardem, and Tilda Swinton.
Interview: Robert Osborne discusses the manipulation of the best supporting actress category of the Academy Awards
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