Academy Awards

Best Supporting Actor


Facts & Trivia
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Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Sections
Best Actor - Facts & Trivia | Best Supporting Actor - Facts & Trivia | Winners Chart

The Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards
Facts and Trivia

The Best Supporting Actor award should actually be titled "the best performance by an actor in a supporting role."

In 1936, the acting awards were expanded to start recognizing supporting roles. Best Supporting Actor Oscars are traditionally given to actors who stand out in small roles.

It is quite common that the Best Supporting Actor winner is either an older, established performer, or a young, inexperienced actor. Throughout Academy history, most of the winners in this category usually have no previous Oscar wins.

The Top Best Supporting Actor Winner:

Within five years, Walter Brennan won three Best Supporting Actor awards. He was the first and - to date - is the only performer to win three supporting awards (and within the shortest period of time - five years! And his three wins were in the category's first five years). Therefore, he was also the first to win three acting Oscars and the first Best Supporting Actor Oscar recipient.

The Top Best Supporting Actor
Oscar Winner
Best Supporting Actor Wins

Walter Brennan
4 career nominations
(4 B.S.A. noms),
3 wins
Come and Get It (1936)
Kentucky (1938)
The Westerner (1940)

Six other actors have received two Best Supporting Actor awards (among them is one performer who has won a consecutive statuette, Jason Robards).

Other Top Best Supporting Actor
Oscar Winners and Nominees
Best Supporting Actor Wins

Anthony Quinn
4 career nominations
(2 B.S.A. noms),
2 wins
Viva Zapata! (1952)
Lust for Life (1956)

Peter Ustinov
3 career nominations
(3 B.S.A. noms)
2 wins
Spartacus (1960)
Topkapi (1964)

Melvyn Douglas
3 career nominations
(2 B.S.A. noms),
2 wins
Hud (1963)
Being There (1979)

Jason Robards
3 career nominations
(3 B.S.A. noms),
2 wins
All the President's Men (1976)
Julia (1977)

Michael Caine
6 career nominations
(2 B.S.A. noms),
2 wins
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
The Cider House Rules (1999)

Christoph Waltz
2 career nominations
(2 B.S.A. noms),
2 wins
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Django Unchained (2012)

The Most Best Supporting Actor Nominations (and Wins):

Four actors have received four Best Supporting Actor nominations, although only two of them won subsequent awards. The two actors with the most Best Supporting Actor nominations (with no wins) include Arthur Kennedy and Claude Rains.

Actors with the most Best Supporting Actor nominations (in parentheses) include:

  • Walter Brennan (4) - with three wins (Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938), The Westerner (1940)); also nominated in 1941
  • Jack Nicholson (4) - with one win (Terms of Endearment (1983)); also nominated for Easy Rider (1969), Reds (1981), A Few Good Men (1992)
  • Arthur Kennedy (4) - no wins; nominated for Champion (1949), Trial (1955), Peyton Place (1957), Some Came Running (1958)
  • Claude Rains (4) - no wins; nominated for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Casablanca (1943), Mr. Skeffington (1944), Notorious (1946)

  • Peter Ustinov (3) - with two wins for Spartacus (1960) and Topkapi (1964); also nominated for Quo Vadis (1951)
  • Jason Robards (3) - with two wins for All the President's Men (1976) and Julia (1977); also nominated for Melvin and Howard (1980)
  • Charles Coburn (3) - with one win for The More the Merrier (1943); also nominated for The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) and The Green Years (1946)
  • Gig Young (3) - with one win for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969); also nominated for Come Fill the Cup (1951) and Teacher's Pet (1958)
  • Jack Palance (3) - with one win for City Slickers (1991); also nominated for Sudden Fear (1952) and Shane (1953)
  • Gene Hackman (3) - with one win for Unforgiven (1992); also nominated for Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and I Never Sang For My Father (1970)
  • Martin Landau (3) - with one win for Ed Wood (1994); also nominated for Tucker: the Man and His Dream (1988) and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
  • Charles Bickford (3) - no wins; nominated for The Song of Bernadette (1943), The Farmer's Daughter (1947), and Johnny Belinda (1948)
  • Jeff Bridges (3) - no wins; nominated for The Last Picture Show (1971), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), and The Contender (2000)
  • Robert Duvall (3) - no wins; nominated for The Godfather (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979), and A Civil Action (1998)
  • Al Pacino (3) - no wins; nominated for The Godfather (1972), Dick Tracy (1990), and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
  • Ed Harris (3) - no wins; nominated for Apollo 13 (1995), The Truman Show (1998), and The Hours (2002)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (3) - no wins; nominated for Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Doubt (2008), and The Master (2012)

Consecutive Best Supporting Actor-Winning Performers:

There is only one actor who has received two consecutive Best Supporting Actor Oscar statuette wins:

  • Jason Robards for All the President's Men (1976) and Julia (1977)

    No Best Supporting Actress has won two Academy Awards in a row.

Actors Winning at Least One Statuette in Both the Lead and Supporting Categories:

Six actors have won acting awards in both the lead and supporting categories:

Victor McLaglen was the first performer to be nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar (for The Quiet Man (1952)) after having already won the Lead Performance Oscar for The Informer (1935).

Posthumous Winner:

The only actor to win a posthumous acting Oscar in a supporting role was Australian actor Heath Ledger for his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). He was the second actor to win a posthumous acting Oscar - the first was Peter Finch, who won Best Actor for his role as Howard Beale in Network (1976).

Multiple Nominations:

No single performer has ever won two performing awards in the same year. There have been a total of eleven performers who are double nominees - that means that they have received two acting nominations in the same year. Three were actors and eight were actresses (wins are marked with *). (See the Best Supporting Actress section for eight actresses who have duplicated the feat.) Of the 11 performers (actors and actresses) who've been recognized with nods for two performances in the same year, seven of them ended up winning one of the trophies.

Double nominees usually win in one category (i.e., double nominees Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx won as Best Actor, and Fitzgerald won as Best Supporting Actor - see below).

In only one case, an actor (Barry Fitzgerald) was simultaneously nominated in two performance categories for the same film. [The Academy would prevent this in future years by not allowing a double nomination for the same performance.] He was the only actor simultaneously nominated in both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor categories for the same film and performance:

  • Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor* for Going My Way (1944)

In a few instances, actors have been nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for different films in the same year. The two male actors who accomplished this feat were Al Pacino, and Jamie Foxx. Al Pacino was the first actor to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in two different roles. And Jamie Foxx was the only African-American performer to have two Oscar nominations in one year:

  • Al Pacino (Best Actor for Scent of a Woman (1992)* and Best Supporting Actor for Glengarry Glen Ross (1992))
  • Jamie Foxx (Best Actor for Ray (2004)* and Best Supporting Actor for Collateral (2004))

Multiple Wins for the Same Character:

The only actor to win two Academy Award Oscars for the same performance or role:

  • Harold Russell received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a double-amputee veteran returning from WWII in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - his debut film
  • Russell received an additional Special Honorary Oscar for the same performance "for bringing hope and courage to fellow veterans"

The only time two actors have won Oscars playing the same character (Don Vito Corleone) in different films:

Refusal to Accept Nomination:

George C. Scott in his third screen appearance in The Hustler (1961) received his second supporting nomination in 1962 - after his first nomination received in 1960 for Anatomy of a Murder (1959). (His first film was The Hanging Tree (1959).) He became the first actor to decline his Oscar nomination - in protest of fellow actors' practice of campaigning for awards, calling the awards demeaning and self-serving. When Scott received another Oscar nomination (and won) as Best Actor for Patton (1970), he declined to accept the nomination and the award, because he did not feel himself to be in any competition with other actors, calling it a "meat parade."

Film Debut Nominees/Winners of Best Supporting Actor Oscars:

Only three actors have won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for their debut performance (in a feature film), while others received a nomination for a substantial role in a film debut (a sampling):

  • John Garfield in Four Daughters (1938) (nomination)
  • Robert Morley in Marie Antoinette (1938) (nomination)
  • Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon (1941) (nomination)
  • John Dall in The Corn is Green (1945) (nomination)
  • (1) Harold Russell in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) (win)
  • Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death (1947) (nomination)
  • Jose Ferrer in Joan of Arc (1948) (nomination)
  • Don Murray in Bus Stop (1956) (nomination)
  • Jason Miller in The Exorcist (1973) (nomination)
  • Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Turning Point (1977) (nomination)
  • (2) Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People (1980) (win)
  • (3) Haing S. Ngor in The Killing Fields (1984) (win)
  • John Malkovich in Places in the Heart (1984) (nomination)
  • Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game (1992) (nomination)
  • Edward Norton in Primal Fear (1996) (nomination)
  • Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips (2013) (nomination)

Films With the Most Best Supporting Actor Nominees:

Three films have had three nominees for Best Supporting Actor:

African-American (or Black) Notables:

There have been seventeen nominations for black performers as Best Supporting Actor (with only four winners), divided amongst 14 different performers:

#
Best Supporting Actor Nominee
Film
1
Rupert Crosse The Reivers (1969)
2
Howard E. Rollins Ragtime (1981)
3
Louis Gossett, Jr. An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) (win)
4
Adolph Caesar A Soldier's Story (1984)
5
Denzel Washington Cry Freedom (1987)
6
Denzel Washington Glory (1989) (win)
7
Morgan Freeman Street Smart (1989)
8
Morgan Freeman Million Dollar Baby (2004) (win)
9
Jaye Davidson The Crying Game (1992)
10
Samuel L. Jackson Pulp Fiction (1994)
11
Cuba Gooding, Jr. Jerry Maguire (1996) (win)
12
Michael Clarke Duncan The Green Mile (1999)
13
Djimon Hounsou (Beninese-American) In America (2003)
14
Djimon Hounsou (Beninese-American) Blood Diamond (2006)
15
Jamie Foxx Collateral (2004)
16
Eddie Murphy Dreamgirls (2006)
17
Barkhad Abdi Captain Phillips (2013)

Only ten black performers have won the Oscar in the supporting category (four Best Supporting Actor, six Best Supporting Actress). Only four black actors have won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar:

  • Louis Gossett, Jr. for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)
  • Denzel Washington for Glory (1989)
  • Cuba Gooding, Jr. for Jerry Maguire (1996)
  • Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Only fifteen awards have been won by African-Americans (or blacks) in both lead and supporting categories (four Best Actor, one Best Actress, four Best Supporting Actor, and six Best Supporting Actress).

Jamie Foxx also set a record for being the first black to debut as a nominee in two categories in the same year, lead and supporting, for Ray (2004) and Collateral (2004). Morgan Freeman's Best Supporting Actor win for Million Dollar Baby (2004), paired with Foxx's Best Actor win for Ray (2004), was the first time that African-American actors won in their respective categories in the same year.

Latino, Asian and Other Ethnic-Minority (Non-English) Performers:

There have only been a few Best Supporting Actor Oscar wins by ethnic/other minority (non-English) performers, or by actors in foreign-language performances:

  • Austrian-born Christoph Waltz won his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Django Unchained (2012)
  • Austrian-born Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds (2009) - his performance was in German and French as well as English
  • Spanish-born actor Javier Bardem won Best Supporting Actor for No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Puerto Rican Benicio Del Toro won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Traffic (2000) - a primarily non-English (Spanish) language role
  • Cambodian native Haing S. Ngor won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in The Killing Fields (1984) - he was the first Asian performer to win this Oscar
  • Robert DeNiro won the Best Supporting Oscar for The Godfather, Part II (1974) in which he spoke Sicilian
  • Mexican-born Anthony Quinn won two Best Supporting Actor Oscars - for Viva Zapata! (1952) and Lust for Life (1956) - he was the first Mexican to win an Academy Award Oscar

Notable ethnic/minority performance nominations for Best Supporting Actor include:

  • Somali-born Barkhad Abdi was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Captain Phillips (2013) - he became the first Somali actor to ever receive an Oscar nomination
  • Djimon Hounsou was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Blood Diamond (2006)
  • Beninese-American Djimon Hounsou was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for In America (2003) - he was one of the first African-born actors nominated for an acting Oscar
  • Puerto Rican-born Benicio Del Toro was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for 21 Grams (2003)
  • Japanese actor Ken Watanabe was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for The Last Samurai (2003)
  • Ben Kingsley was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Sexy Beast (2001)
  • Australian actor Geoffrey Rush was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Shakespeare in Love (1998) and The King's Speech (2010)
  • Ben Kingsley (with half-Indian (birth name Krishna Bhanji) and half-English descent) was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Bugsy (1991)
  • Cuban-born Andy Garcia was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather, Part III (1990)
  • Native-American (Lakota Sioux) actor Graham Greene (from Canada) was nominated for his Best Supporting Actor role in Dances With Wolves (1990)
  • Japanese actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for The Karate Kid (1984)
  • Native-American Chief Dan George was nominated as Best Supporting Actor in Little Big Man (1970) - he was the first Native-American to receive an Oscar nomination
  • Japansese actor Makoto Iwamatsu was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for The Sand Pebbles (1966)
  • Egypt-born Omar Sharif was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • Japanese native Sessue Hayakawa was nominated for his Best Supporting Actor role as a Japanese POW camp commander in The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957)
  • White performer Jeff Chandler was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for playing the role of Apache chief Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950)
  • South African-born Cecil Kellaway was nominated twice for Best Supporting Actor: for Luck of the Irish (1948) and for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
  • Puerto Rican-born Jose Ferrer was nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Joan of Arc (1948)

Shortest and Other Oddities:

The shortest performance time to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar was for Anthony Quinn for about nine minutes as Paul Gaugin in Lust for Life (1956). [The shortest performance to win an Oscar ever was in the Best Supporting Actress category: Beatrice Straight won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for less than eight minutes of screen time in Network (1976), with only 8 speaking parts (of approx. 260 words). (Runner up: Judi Dench for about ten minutes of screen time as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love (1998), with 14 speaking parts (of approx. 446 words).)]

The only diminutive dwarf actor ever nominated for Best Supporting Actor:

  • Michael Dunn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Ship of Fools (1965)

The only Best Supporting Actor winner (and male actor) for a mute performance (in the sound era):

  • John Mills for his performance as the town idiot Michael in Ryan's Daughter (1970)

Gig Young (with real-name Byron Barr) was the only Oscar winner, Best Supporting Actor for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), who adopted his screen name from the role he played in The Gay Sisters (1942) as "Gig Young".

Jason Robards has the record for the most Oscar-nominated roles as historical personages:

  • Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in All The President's Men (1976)
  • Author Dashiell Hammett in Julia (1977)
  • Howard Hughes in Melvin and Howard (1980)

Related Oscar Winners and Nominees: Siblings

The first - and only - brother and sister to win acting Oscars were:

  • Lionel Barrymore, who won the Best Actor award for A Free Soul (1930/31), and Ethel Barrymore who won the Best Supporting Actress award for None But the Lonely Heart (1944)
    (Note: Famous brother John Barrymore was never nominated, nor has descendant Drew Barrymore (yet).)

Other brother-sister acting nominees include:

  • Jane Fonda (nominated seven times with two Best Actress wins), and Peter Fonda as Best Actor for Ulee's Gold (1997)
  • Eric Roberts as Best Supporting Actor for Runaway Train (1985), and Julia Roberts (nominated three times with one Best Actress win)
  • Warren Beatty (nominated four times for Best Actor with no wins), and Shirley MacLaine (nominated five times with one Best Actress win)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal as Best Supporting Actor for Brokeback Mountain (2005), and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Best Supporting Actress for Crazy Heart (2009)

The only brothers nominated for acting Oscars were:

  • River Phoenix as Best Supporting Actor for Running on Empty (1988), and Joaquin Phoenix as Best Supporting Actor for Gladiator (2000)

Two pairs of sisters have competed against each other (when nominated simultaneously) for the same Best Actress award:

  • Joan Fontaine in Suspicion (1941) defeated sister Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn (1941); de Havilland later won two Best Actress Oscars for her roles in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949)
  • Vanessa Redgrave for Morgan (1966) vs. Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl (1966) - both lost to Elizabeth Taylor

The only other sisters to have received acting Oscar nominations (supporting in this case):

  • Meg Tilly for Agnes of God (1985) and Jennifer Tilly for Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

Three Generations:

1948's Oscar-winning director John Huston directed both his father (Walter Huston) to a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and his daughter (Anjelica) to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in respectively, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) and Prizzi's Honor (1985) 37 years later. [Huston won two Oscars for writing and directing the 1948 film.] This remarkable feat made the Hustons the first family with three generations of Oscar winners - Huston became the only director to have directed both his father and daughter to Oscar victories. Since Huston also received an acting nomination (supporting) for The Cardinal (1963), the Hustons are the only grandfather-father-daughter acting nominees in Oscar history.

In addition, this made the Hustons the only grandfather-granddaughter ever to win Academy Awards:

  • Walter Huston, Best Supporting Actor winner for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) (directed by his son John Huston)
  • Anjelica Huston, Best Supporting Actress winner for Prizzi's Honor (1985) (directed by her father John Huston)

A win for Sofia Coppola for Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation (2003) made her part of the second family of three-generation Oscar winners (her father is a five-time winner and her grandfather, Carmine Coppola, won for musical score on The Godfather Part II (1974)). Further connections can be made for the Coppolas - the only father-daughter-nephew grouping to win Oscars:

  • Francis Ford Coppola, Best Director winner for The Godfather Part II (1974)
  • Sofia Coppola, Best Original Screenplay winner for Lost in Translation (2003)
  • Nicolas Cage, Best Actor winner for Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Cast Nominations:

Fifteen films have received nominations in all four acting categories. With his two films in 2012 and 2013, director David O. Russell was the first director to helm two movies (back to back too) that both achieved this feat:

Three films have had the entire cast nominated for awards:

  • Sleuth (1972), with Best Actor nominations for Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier
  • Give 'Em Hell, Harry! (1975), with a Best Actor nomination for James Whitmore
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), with various nominations for all four cast members, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, and Sandy Dennis

Youngest and Oldest Best Supporting Actors: Nominees and Winners

Note: The calculated time is from date of birth to the date of either (1) the nominations announcement, or (2) the date of the awards ceremony.

Youngest Best Supporting Actor Nominee
Youngest Best Supporting Actor Winner
Oldest Best Supporting Actor Nominee
Oldest Best Supporting Actor Winner
       
8 years (and 276 days)
Justin Henry for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
20 years (and 227 days)
Timothy Hutton for Ordinary People (1980)
82 years (and 339 days)
Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild (2007)
82 years (and 75 days)
Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2011)

Runner-Ups:
11 years (and 311 days)
Haley Joel Osment for The Sixth Sense (1999)

11 years (and 312 days)
Brandon de Wilde for Shane (1953)

16 years (and 147 days)
Jack Wild for Oliver! (1968)

17 years (and 39 days)
Sal Mineo for Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

18 years (and 176 days)
River Phoenix for Running on Empty (1988)

19 years (and 90 days)
Leonardo DiCaprio for What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

20 years (and 185 days)
Timothy Hutton for Ordinary People (1980)

22 years (and 48 days)
Sal Mineo for Exodus (1960)

22 years (and 80 days)
Jeff Bridges for The Last Picture Show (1971)

Runner-Ups:
27 years (and 205 days)
George Chakiris for West Side Story (1961)

29 years (and 81 days)
Cuba Gooding, Jr. for Jerry Maguire (1996)

29 years (and 324 days)
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight (2008)

31 years (and 42 days)
Jack Lemmon for Mister Roberts (1955)

31 years (and 234 days)
Robert De Niro for The Godfather, Part II (1974)

32 years (and 81 days)
Van Heflin for Johnny Eager (1942)

33 years (and 58 days)
Harold Russell for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

34 years (and 34 days)
Benicio del Toro for Traffic (2000)

35 years (and 88 days)
Denzel Washington for Glory (1989)

Runner-Ups:
[Note: There were two 82 year-old BSA nominees in 2011.]

82 years (and 289 days)
Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

82 years (and 49 days)
Ralph Richardson for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
[Note: He died October 10, 1983; the date of the nomination announcement was February 6, 1985.]

82 years (and 42 days)
Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2011)

80 years (and 51 days)
Christopher Plummer for The Last Station (2009)

80 years (and 28 days)
George Burns for The Sunshine Boys (1975)

78 years (and 326 days)
Melvyn Douglas for Being There (1979)


78 years (and 290 days)
Alan Arkin for Argo (2012)

78 years (and 16 days)
Paul Newman for Road to Perdition (2002)

77 years (and 303 days)
John Gielgud for Arthur (1981)

Runner-Ups:
80 years (and 69 days)
George Burns for The Sunshine Boys (1975)

79 years (and 9 days)
Melvyn Douglas for Being There (1979)

77 years (and 349 days)
John Gielgud for Arthur (1981)

77 years (and 297 days)
Don Ameche for Cocoon (1985)

73 years (and 41 days)
Jack Palance for City Slickers (1991)

72 years (and 336 days)
Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine (2006)


72 years (and 268 days)
Edmund Gwenn for Miracle on 34th Street (1947)


71 years (and 192 days)
John Houseman for The Paper Chase (1973)


70 years (and 202 days)
James Coburn for Affliction (1998)

[Note: Burns was about seven months younger than 80 year-old Jessica Tandy, who was the oldest winner of any acting award, for Driving Miss Daisy (1989).]

Six years (and 310 days) Shirley Temple was the youngest performer to win an Academy Award when she won an unofficial honorary 'juvenile' Academy Award statuette in 1934, presented on February 27, 1935.

94 years (and 341 days) Eli Wallach was the oldest male performer to receive an honorary statuette in 2010, presented on November 13, 2010.

85 years (and 215 days) Myrna Loy was the oldest female performer to receive an honorary statuette in 1990, presented on March 25, 1991.



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