15 Firsts In Academy Award History That Everyone Needs To Know About
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15 Firsts In Academy Award History That Everyone Needs To Know About

Avatar of Hugo Marquez

By: Hugo Marquez

January 24, 2019

Movies 15 Firsts In Academy Award History That Everyone Needs To Know About
Avatar of Hugo Marquez

By: Hugo Marquez

January 24, 2019

From the first African-American to the first female director to have won an Academy Award, these have been historical moments during Hollywood’s most star-studded night.


Since 1929, when the first Academy Awards were held, Hollywood’s most important night has had a lot of firsts. Though criticized for their self-congratulatory nature and their highly exclusive and even discriminatory choices, the Oscars are the ultimate recognition in the film industry. That is why it's so important when the Academy recognizes the talent and hard work of those who make the magic of entertainment happen. With that in mind, here are 15 moments that marked milestones in the Academy Awards' 91 years of history:

15 firsts in academy award historical moments oscars to know

1 - The Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1938) becomes the very first film in a foreign language (French) to be nominated for the biggest prize of the night: Best Picture. To this day, no film in a foreign language has won this award.

2 - Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an award at the Oscars. She earned the coveted statuette for her supporting role in Gone With The Wind (1940). 

3 - In 1942, Bette Davis becomes the first female President of the Academy. She would resign after only two months, since her ideas for change were highly opposed by the Academy (although the same ideas would be implemented a few years later).

4 - José Ferrer becomes the first Latin American actor to win an Oscar for actor in a leading role (Cyrano de Bergerac, 1950). Later on, Anthony Quinn became the most awarded Latino actor with two Oscars for supporting roles. Currently, though, Emmanuel Lubezki is the most awarded Latin American, with four Oscars for cinematography. 

5 - In 1954, Katy Jurado becomes the first Latin American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for her supporting role in Broken Lance (1954). Six years later, Rita Moreno would become the first Latin American actress to win in this category for West Side Story (1961).

15 firsts in academy award historical moments oscars to know

6 - At the awards' 26th edition in 1953, the Oscars are broadcasted in North America and the UK, with an estimated 24 million people watching Hollywood’s most epic night. Their historic views record happened in 1998 with 57.3 million viewers.

7 - In 1957, Japanese actress Miyoshi Umeki wins the Oscar for her supporting role in Sayonara. She was the first actress born in Asia to win an Academy Award.

15 firsts in academy award historical moments oscars to know

8 - 1964, Sidney Poitier becomes the first African-American actor to win an Oscar for acting in a leading role (Lilies Of The Field, 1963). 37 years later, Halle Berry would become the first African-American actress to be awarded for a leading role (Monster’s Ball, 2001). No other non-white actress has won in this category ever since.

9 - Back in 1973, Tatum O’Neal became the youngest actress to be nominated and awarded for Best Supporting Actress (Paper Moon). Years later, Quvenzhané Wallis would become, at 7 years old, the youngest nominee in history, for Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012).

10 - Josh Schlesinger becomes the first openly gay man to win an Academy Award (Best Director for Midnight Cowboy, 1970).

11 - 1982, Katharine Hepburn becomes the most awarded actor in the history of the Oscars. With four statuettes (all of them for Best Actress in a Leading Role), Hepburn’s record has remained unbeaten. She never accepted a single one of her awards.
15 firsts in academy award historical moments oscars to know

12 - Charlize Theron becomes the first actress from Africa (South Africa) to win an Oscar for Best Actress in a leading role for Monster (2003). She would later on be joined by Lupita Nyong’o (Nigeria), who received the award for Supporting Actress for her performance in 12 Years A Slave (2013).

13 - In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first and only female director in the history of the Academy Awards to win the Oscar for achieving in directing for The Hurt Locker (2008). Until now, only 5 women (Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow, and Greta Gerwig) have been nominated for the coveted prize. 

14 -In 2018, A Fantastic Woman (2017) becomes the first movie with a transgender main character and actress to win an Academy Award. Daniela Vega is also the first trans woman to present an award at the ceremony, and Yance Ford became the first transgender filmmaker to be nominated for an Oscar (producing and directing Strong Island, 2017). They are now members of the Academy.

15 firsts in academy award historical moments oscars to know

15 - In 2019, Yalitza Aparicio becomes the first indigenous woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Cuaron's celebrated film, Roma (2018). She is also the fourth Latin American and second Mexican actress to be nominated for a leading role.

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