First there was Norma Shearer. She was followed by Bette Davis. Then there was Katharine Hepburn. Then came Meryl Streep. There. That’s the history of this category.

Of course there were others. Greer Garson was once nominated 5 straight years and 6 out 7, often competing against Bette Davis. Yet Best Actress never seems to have been as highly valued as Best Actor. The films are Best Picture nominees far less often and only occasionally does the Picture winner get an Actress nomination (and almost never wins). In fact there was a 33 year stretch (from 1942 to 1975) where the Best Picture didn’t win Best Actress (and only had 5 nominations). During that time the Best Picture won 15 Best Actors and had 25 nominations. Best Actress has a lower chance of being nominated with a Best Picture winner than Makeup (the only categories less likely than Actress to be nominated for a Best Picture winner are Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Song, Foreign Film and Animated Film (the last two have never been so)).

Best Actress is the most likely acting award to get a single nomination (20.6%, or about one a year) and 12 of those have won (another high percentage), though half of those wins were in the first decade.

Only 5 films have managed to get two nominations for Best Actress (All About Eve, Suddenly Last Summer, Turning Point, Terms of Endearment, Thelma and Louise) and only Terms managed to win.

And they never did give poor Deborah Kerr an Oscar.

Grades (28-69 only): Winners: A- / Nominations: B / Seen: 91.35% 95.19%

Honor Roll: none

Shame Roll: Coquette / Min and Bill / The Sin of Madelon Claudet

1927-28 AA: Janet Gaynor in Seventh Heaven / Street Angel / Sunrise

  • Louise Dresser in A Ship Comes In
  • Gloria Swanson in Sadie Thompson

me: Janet Gaynor in Sunrise (also for Seventh Heaven and Street Angel)

  • Maria Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Gloria Swanson in Sadie Thompson
  • Greta Garbo in Flesh and the Devil

1928-29 AA: Mary Pickford in Coquette

  • Bessie Love in Broadway Melody
  • Ruth Chatterton in Madame X
  • Betty Compson in The Barker
  • Jeanne Eagles in The Letter

me: Lilian Gish in The Wind

  • Mary Pickford in Coquette
  • Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box
  • Bessie Love in Broadway Melody

note:  Pickford was the first person to campaign for an Oscar.  In the second year of the awards, it was already apparent that it would be a big deal to win one.  Also in this year, Eagles became the first posthumous acting nominee.

1929-30 AA: Norma Shearer in The Divorcee

  • Norma Shearer in Their Own Desire (separate nomination)
  • Nancy Carroll in The Devil’s Holiday
  • Ruth Chatterton in Sarah and Son
  • Gretta Garbo in Anna Christie / Romance (nominated for both)
  • Gloria Swanson in The Trespasser

me: Gretta Garbo in Anna Christie  (also for Romance)

  • Norma Shearer in The Divorcee (also for Their Own Desire)
  • Mary Duncan in The City Girl

1930-31 AA: Marie Dressler in Min and Bill

  • Irene Dunne in Cimarron
  • Marlene Dietrich in Morocco
  • Ann Harding in Holiday
  • Norma Shearer in A Free Soul

me: Norma Shearer in A Free Soul

  • Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel
  • Marlene Dietrich in Morocco
  • Marie Dressler in Min and Bill
  • Corola Neher in The Three Penny Opera

1931-32 AA: Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet

  • Marie Dressler in Emma
  • Lynn Fontanne in The Guardsman

me: Marlene Dietrich in The Shanghai Express

  • Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel
  • Constance Bennett in What Price Hollywood
  • Helen Hayes in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (also for Arrowsmith)
  • Marie Dressler in Emma

1932-33 AA: Katharine Hepburn in Morning Glory

  • Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade
  • May Robson in Lady for a Day

me: Katharine Hepburn in Little Women (also for Morning Glory)

  • May Robson in Lady for a Day
  • Diana Wynyard in Cavalcade
  • Janet Gaynor for State Fair
  • Kay Francis for One-Way Passage
  • Helen Hayes in A Farewell to Arms
  • Norma Shearer in Smilin Through

note:  Robson came in second and Wynyard came in third.

1934 AA: Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night

  • Grace Moore in One Night of Love
  • Norma Shearer in The Barretts of Wimpole Street

me: Bette Davis in Of Human Bondage

  • Myrna Loy in The Thin Man
  • Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night
  • Norma Shearer in The Barretts of Wimpole Street
  • Ginger Rogers in The Gay Divorcee

note:  Of course, Davis was on loan from Warner Bros. for Of Human Bondage and Jack Warner told all his employees not to vote for her.  When she wasn’t nominated, such a stink was made that write-in votes were allowed and many people expected Davis to win (some sources also say that Loy’s snub was also part of the reason for write-ins).  Even with those write-in votes, Davis finished third, behind Colbert and Shearer.

1935 AA: Bette Davis in Dangerous

  • Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams
  • Elisabeth Bergner in Escape Me Never
  • Claudette Colbert in Private Worlds
  • Miriam Hopkins in Becky Sharp
  • Merle Oberon in The Dark Angel

me: Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams

  • Bette Davis in Dangerous
  • Ginger Rogers in Top Hat
  • Merle Oberon in The Dark Angel
  • Greta Garbo in Anna Karenina

note:  The snub of Davis the year before lead to what is probably the first “make-up” Oscar.  As Hepburn gave what I think is the best performance and came in second, it probably robbed her of an early second Oscar.  Bergner came in third in a film I still haven’t been able to see.

1936 AA: Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld

  • Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey
  • Norma Shearer in Romeo and Juliet
  • Irene Dunne in Theodora Goes Wild
  • Gladys George in Valiant is the Word for Carrie

me: Bette Davis in The Petrified Forest

  • Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld
  • Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey
  • Norma Shearer in Romeo and Juliet
  • Jean Arthur in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

1937 AA: Luise Rainer in The Good Earth

  • Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth
  • Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born
  • Greta Garbo in Camille
  • Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas

me: Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born

  • Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth
  • Luise Rainer in The Good Earth
  • Katharine Hepburn in Stage Door
  • Ginger Rogers in Stage Door

note:  By winning two straight Oscars and being out of Hollywood within five years, Rainer is considered the first victim of the Oscar curse.

1938 AA: Bette Davis in Jezebel

  • Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion
  • Fay Bainter in White Banners
  • Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette
  • Margaret Sullavan in Three Comrades

me: Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion

  • Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby
  • Bette Davis in Jezebel
  • Margaret Sullavan in Three Comrades
  • Jean Arthur in You Can’t Take It With You

1939 AA: Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind

  • Bette Davis in Dark Victory
  • Irene Dunne in Love Affair
  • Greta Garbo in Ninotchka
  • Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips

me: Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind

  • Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz
  • Bette Davis in Dark Victory
  • Greta Garbo in Ninotchka
  • Jean Arthur in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

1940 AA: Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle

  • Joan Fontaine in Rebecca
  • Bette Davis in The Letter
  • Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story
  • Martha Scott in Our Town

me: Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story

  • Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday
  • Joan Fontaine in Rebecca
  • Bette Davis in The Letter
  • Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle

1941 AA: Joan Fontaine in Suspicion

  • Bette Davis in The Little Foxes
  • Greer Garson in Blossoms in the Dust
  • Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn
  • Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire

me: Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve (also for Ball of Fire)

  • Joan Fontaine in Suspicion
  • Bette Davis in The Little Foxes
  • Carole Lombard in Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  • Vivien Leigh in That Hamilton Woman

note:  Olivia de Havilland later won two Oscars, but her sister Joan beat her in their only head to head competition.

1942 AA: Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver

  • Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees
  • Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year
  • Bette Davis in Now, Voyager
  • Rosalind Russell in My Sister Eileen

me: Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver

  • Carole Lombard in To Be or Not to Be
  • Bette Davis in Now, Voyager
  • Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year
  • Teresa Wright in The Pride of the Yankees

1943 AA: Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette

  • Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier
  • Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Greer Garson in Madame Curie
  • Joan Fontaine in The Constant Nymph

me: Ingrid Bergman in For Whom the Bell Tolls (also for Casablanca)

  • Teresa Wright in Shadow of a Doubt
  • Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette
  • Bette Davis in Watch on the Rhine
  • Jean Arthur in The More the Merrier

1944 AA: Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

  • Claudette Colbert in Since You Went Away
  • Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity
  • Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington
  • Greer Garson in Mrs. Parkington

me: Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

  • Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity
  • Tallulah Bankhead in Lifeboat
  • Claudette Colbert in Since You Went Away
  • Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington

1945 AA: Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

  • Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s
  • Greer Garson in The Valley of Decision
  • Jennifer Jones in Love Letters
  • Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven

me: Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

  • Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not
  • Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven
  • Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound (also for The Bells of St. Mary’s)
  • Bette Davis in The Corn is Green

note:  Crawford went all out to try to win and then chickened out and claimed she was sick the night of the awards.  When she won, she immediately let reporters take pictures of her in bed.  Her competition included, amazingly enough, the three previous winners of the award.

1946 AA: Olivia de Havilland in To Each His Own

  • Jane Wyman in The Yearling
  • Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter
  • Jennifer Jones in Duel in the Sun
  • Rosalind Russell in Sister Kenny

me: Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter

  • Ingrid Bergman in Notorious
  • Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Anna Magnani in Open City
  • Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep

1947 AA: Loretta Young in The Farmer’s Daughter

  • Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman’s Agreement
  • Joan Crawford in Possessed
  • Susan Hayward in Smash Up – The Story of a Woman
  • Rosalind Russell in Mourning Becomes Electra

me: Deborah Kerr in I See a Dark Stranger (also for Black Narcissus)

  • Celia Johnson in This Happy Breed
  • Wendy Hiller in I Know Where I’m Going
  • Kim Hunter in Stairway to Heaven
  • Dorothy McGuire in Gentleman’s Agreement

note:  One of the years that frustrates me the most.  Deborah Kerr wasn’t even nominated for either of her great performances and Loretta Young won for probably the weakest performance in any of the acting categories.

1948 AA: Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda

  • Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit
  • Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc
  • Irene Dunne in I Remember Mama
  • Barbara Stanwyck in Sorry, Wrong Number

me: Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda

  • Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit
  • Orane Demazis in Fanny
  • Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc
  • Edwige Feuillere in The Eagle Has Two Heads
  • Katharine Hepburn in State of the Union

1949 AA: Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress

  • Jeanne Crain in Pinky
  • Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart
  • Deborah Kerr in Edward My Son
  • Loretta Young in Come to the Stable

me: Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress

  • Sheila Sim in A Canterbury Tale
  • Susan Hayward in My Foolish Heart
  • Jeanne Crain in A Letter to Three Wives
  • Ann Sothern in A Letter to Three Wives

1950 AA: Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday

  • Anne Baxter in All About Eve
  • Bette Davis in All About Eve
  • Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard
  • Eleanor Parker in Caged

me: Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard

  • Bette Davis in All About Eve
  • Anne Baxter in All About Eve
  • Anna Magnani in Amore
  • Eleanor Parker in Caged

note:  AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!  Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis give maybe the two best performances in this category ever and they both lose to a solid, but not great performance from Judy Holliday.  Anne Baxter gives the best performance to come in third on my list.  Pretty much the same as the other categories for 1950.

1951 AA: Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire

  • Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun
  • Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen
  • Eleanor Parker in Detective Story
  • Jane Wyman in The Blue Veil

me: Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire

  • Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen
  • Shelley Winters in A Place in the Sun
  • Eleanor Parker in Detective Story
  • Leslie Caron in An American in Paris

note:  The Blue Veil is the only film nominated for Best Actress since 1938 that I still haven’t seen.

1952 AA: Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba

  • Joan Crawford in Sudden Fear
  • Bette Davis in The Star
  • Julie Harris in The Member of the Wedding
  • Susan Hayward in With a Song in My Heart

me: Anita Bjork in Miss Julie

  • Shirley Booth in Come Back, Little Sheba
  • Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful
  • Simone Signoret in Casque d’Or
  • Julie Harris in The Member of the Wedding

1953 AA: Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

  • Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity
  • Leslie Caron in Lili
  • Ava Gardner in Mogambo
  • Maggie McNamara in The Moon is Blue

me: Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday

  • Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity
  • Maggie McNamara in The Moon is Blue
  • Jean Simmons in The Actress
  • Leslie Caron in Lili

1954 AA: Grace Kelly in The Country Girl

  • Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones
  • Judy Garland in A Star is Born
  • Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
  • Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession

me: Grace Kelly in The Country Girl

  • Judy Garland in A Star is Born
  • Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
  • Brenda de Banzie in Hobson’s Choice
  • Maj-Britt Nilsson in Summer Interlude

1955 AA: Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo

  • Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
  • Susan Hayward in I’ll Cry Tomorrow
  • Katharine Hepburn in Summertime
  • Eleanor Parker in Interrupted Melody

me: Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo

  • Katharine Hepburn in Summertime
  • Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief
  • Shirley MacLaine in The Trouble with Harry
  • Deborah Kerr in The End of the Affair

1956 AA: Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia

  • Deborah Kerr in The King and I
  • Katharine Hepburn in The Rainmaker
  • Carroll Baker in Baby Doll
  • Nancy Kelly in The Bad Seed

me: Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia

  • Harriet Andersson in Sawdust and Tinsel
  • Deborah Kerr in The King and I
  • Carroll Baker in Baby Doll
  • Giuleta Masina in La Strada

1957 AA: Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve

  • Lana Turner in Peyton Place
  • Deborah Kerr in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
  • Anna Magnani in Wild is the Wind
  • Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree Country

me: Eva Dahlbeck in Smiles of a Summer Night

  • Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve
  • Giuletta Masina in Nights of Cabiria
  • Anna Magnani in Wild is the Wind
  • Eva Marie Saint in A Hatful of Rain

1958 AA: Susan Hayward in I Want to Live!

  • Deborah Kerr in Separate Tables
  • Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame
  • Shirley MacLaine in Some Came Running

me: Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

  • Deborah Kerr in Separate Tables
  • Simone Signoret in The Crucible
  • Shirley MacLaine in Some Came Running
  • Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame

note:  Hayward either took this Oscar from Taylor (thus causing her makeup Oscar two years later) or took it from Kerr.  Given that Taylor’s makeup Oscar either robbed Kerr of ever winning or made MacLaine wait 23 years, that’s a lot of screwing up to give Hayward what essentially was a career Oscar.

1959 AA: Simone Signoret in Room at the Top

  • Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story
  • Doris Day in Pillow Talk
  • Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer
  • Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer

me: Simone Signoret in Room at the Top

  • Ingrid Thulin in Wild Strawberries (also for The Magician)
  • Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer
  • Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot
  • Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story

1960 AA: Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8

  • Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment
  • Deborah Kerr in The Sundowners
  • Greer Garson in Sunrise at Campobello
  • Melina Mercouri in Never on Sunday

me: Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment

  • Tatyana Samojlova in The Cranes are Flying
  • Joanne Woodward in The Fugitive Kind
  • Deborah Kerr in The Sundowners
  • Martine Carol in Lola Montes

note:  MacLaine is quoted as saying “I lost to a tracheotomy.”  She is correct.

1961 AA: Sophia Loren in Two Women

  • Piper Laurie in The Hustler
  • Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Geraldine Page in Summer and Smoke
  • Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass

me: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  • Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass
  • Shirley MacLaine in The Children’s Hour
  • Marlene Dietrich in Judgment at Nuremberg
  • Piper Laurie in The Hustler

1962 AA: Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker

  • Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • Katharine Hepburn in Long Day’s Journey Into Night
  • Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth
  • Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses

me: Harriet Andersson in Through a Glass Darkly

  • Katharine Hepburn in Long Day’s Journey Into Night
  • Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker
  • Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth
  • Shirley Jones in The Music Man

note:  Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman would finally break through in the seventies with Oscar nominations from Bergman films.  But there were many great performances over the years that got missed.

1963 AA: Patricia Neal in Hud

  • Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room
  • Shirley MacLaine in Irma La Douce
  • Rachel Roberts in This Sporting Life
  • Natalie Wood in Love with the Proper Stranger

me: Patricia Neal in Hud

  • Ingrid Thulin in Winter Light
  • Natalie Wood in Love with the Proper Stranger
  • Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room
  • Jolanta Umecka in Knife in the Water

1964 AA: Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

  • Anne Bancroft in The Pumpkin Eater
  • Sophia Loren in Marriage Italian Style
  • Debbie Reynolds in The Unsinkable Molly Brown
  • Kim Stanley in Seance on a Wet Afternoon

me: Anne Bancroft in The Pumpkin Eater

  • Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins (also for The Americanization of Emily)
  • Ingrid Thulin in The Silence
  • Deborah Kerr in The Night of the Iguana (also for The Chalk Garden)
  • Ava Gardner in The Night of the Iguana

1965 AA: Julie Christie in Darling

  • Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music
  • Samantha Eggar in The Collector
  • Elizabeth Hartman in A Patch of Blue
  • Simone Signoret in Ship of Fools

me: Julie Christie in Darling

  • Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion
  • Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music
  • Samantha Eggar in The Collector
  • Monica Vitti in Red Desert

1966 AA: Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

  • Anouk Aimee in A Man and a Woman
  • Ida Kaminska in The Shop on Main Street
  • Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl
  • Vanessa Redgrave in Morgan!

me: Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

  • Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl
  • Vanessa Redgrave in Morgan!
  • Anouk Aimee in A Man and a Woman
  • Nina Pens Rode in Gertrud

1967 AA: Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

  • Anne Bancroft in The Graduate
  • Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde
  • Dame Edith Evans in The Whisperers
  • Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark

me: Anne Bancroft in The Graduate

  • Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde
  • Liv Ullmann in Persona
  • Dame Edith Evans in The Whisperers
  • Audrey Hepburn in Two for the Road

1968 AA: Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter

  • Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (also won)
  • Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel
  • Patricia Neal in The Subject Was Roses
  • Vanessa Redgrave in Isadora

me: Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter

  • Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl
  • Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby
  • Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour
  • Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel

1969 AA: Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  • Genevieve Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days
  • Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
  • Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo
  • Jean Simmons in The Happy Ending

me: Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

  • Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Liza Minnelli in The Sterile Cuckoo
  • Genevieve Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days
  • Ingrid Thulin in The Rite
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