Monday, January 23, 2012

Oscar Trivia/Black History

Who's going to be in the Hollywood Gold Rush?  We'll find out early tomorrow morning when the Academy Award nominations are announced.  It's expected that the sensational Viola Davis will be a Best Actress Oscar® nominee for The Help.  She'd better get that nomination if that Academy knows what's good for it!  I may have had problems with the movie but I had none with her honest-to-the-bone portrayal of the maid calling out years of racial degradation and humiliation to free her soul.
That nomination alone would be Oscar-history making for Ms. Davis.  It would make her the second African-American actress to have more than one nomination to her credit.  Viola's first was in the Best Supporting Actress category for her excellence as the complicated Catholic mother in Doubt opposite Meryl Streep as a strict, suspicious nun.  Streep is also expected to be in tomorrow's Best Actress quintet.
In Far From Heaven, that acclaimed 2002 Todd Haynes film about 1950s codes and values, she played a maid.  Not bluntly, extremely mistreated like the Southern maid in The Help, that character becomes almost invisible to the Connecticut couple played by Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid.  A different kind of humiliation and exclusion.  And a different Viola Davis performance.  Different and fine.
That nomination for The Help would tie Viola with Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg.  Goldberg is, as of now, the only Black actress with more than one Oscar nomination for acting to her credit.  Whoopi was a 1985 Best Actress contender for The Color Purple.
Whoopi told me director Jerry Zucker did not want her initially and wouldn't even let her audition for Ghost even though she had a Best Actress Oscar nomination on her resumé. He saw every other Black actress but her.  I think Zucker even let RuPaul screen test for the role of psychic Oda Mae.  But Patrick Swayze pulled his star weight and forced them to let Whoopi test.  She got the part, helped make Ghost a big box office hit and took home the Hollywood Gold as Best Supporting Actress of 1990.
That win made Whoopi Goldberg the second Black woman to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.  The first was Hattie McDaniel for 1939's Gone With The Wind.  Tomorrow morning, Viola Davis could share a sweet record with Whoopi Goldberg.  P.S.  I also think Mary J. Blige will get an Oscar nomination tomorrow.  For Best Song from The Help.  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this piece of history with of us. For those of us who have only followed the Oscars over the last 15 or so years, we only remember Halle Berry's emotional win which made it seem like she was the one and only Black woman who has ever taken home an Oscar. Her accomplishment is not to be diminished but enhanced by those who have gone before her.

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