Today for the International Women's History Centennial, a few "firsts" in movies. Add some in the comments if you want! I was 2/3rds done with this when I spotted Cinematical's "women in cinematic history but I wanted to make this a little more "first"y and loopier and obviously a bit more awardsy in nature since we play it like that.
First movie star: That's "The Biograph Girl" Florence Lawrence OR...
First "Oprah" i.e. first woman in entertainment to basic control the universe: Mary Pickford was, like Florence Lawrence, famous by sight before actor names went in credits. Pickford was also known as "America's Sweetheart" a title that the media has virtually never tired of passing on down to newish popular actresses ever since. Mary was one of the founders of AMPAS and a studio founder too. She also commanded astronomical wealth. In a time when average US incomes were somewhere around $3,000ish, she was pulling in $10,000 a week plus a $300,000 annual bonus plushad her own production company plus co-founded movie studios and AMPAS. One can only imagine...
First woman to direct a full length feature: Lois Weber for The Merchant of Venice (1914)
First woman to go nude in a motion picture: Audrey Munson in The Inspiration (1915) playing an artist's model. She did it for the art, you see!
First woman to win an Oscar: Janet Gaynor, Best Actress on May 16th, 1929. She was a new 22 year old sensation, beating out veteran movie queen Gloria Swanson establishing Hollywood's voting preferences for the Best Actress category for the next 82 years! Gloria declined her invitation to pick up "honorable mention." I'm not begrudging Gaynor her statue -- she's pretty terrific in her 1929 trio Seventh Heaven, Sunrise and Street Angel but I'm just saying... ;)
Gaynor also held the status of "youngest best actress winner" for five decades until newbie Marlee Matlin won at 21 for Children of a Lesser God in early 1987 triumphing over seasoned movie queen Kathleen Turner.
First woman to receive a "special" Oscar: Shirley Temple, miniature superstar in 1934. It was a miniature Oscar. No child star has ever rivalled her popularity since. She was the #1 box office attraction for years.
First Oscar win for Katharine Hepburn: Morning Glory March 16th, 1934. She'd go on to 3 more wins making her the numero uno Oscar Actress
First woman to win Best Supporting Actress Oscar: Gale Sondergaard for Anthony Adverse (1936)
First woman to win Back-to-Back Best Actress Oscars: Luise Rainer (The Good Earth and The Great Ziegfeld). Katharine Hepburn later repeated the trick in the 1960s. Luise is currently the oldest living Oscar winner.
First marriage for Zsa Zsa Gabor: 1937. She's still ahead of Liz Taylor by one (9:8) for the title of Most Married Hollywood Actress
First actress to become an elected US official: Helen Galaghan, the wife of Oscar winner Melyvn Douglas (and stepgrandmother to Ileanna Douglas) played the dangerous title character in scifi cult classic SHE (1935) see my review. In the 40s she served in the Congress for California and gave Richard Nixon that derogatory nickname that stuck "Tricky Dick" but her political career was destroyed during the McCarthy era witchhunts. A more recent example of an actress going into politics: two time Best Actress Oscar winner Glenda Jackson gave up the movies and became a Member of Parliament in Britain.
First winner of Cannes Best Actress: Michèle Morgan for Jean Delannoy's La Symphonie Pastorale (1946). She played a blind girl whose sight is miraculously restored but which destroys her happiness.
First woman to receive an honorary regular-sized Oscar: Greta Garbo in 1954. Yep, after 20 or so men had been given one. After another 15 or so men were given non-competitive statues the next woman was Onna White for choreographing Oliver! (1968).
The ratio continues this way: 1970s men: 14; women: 3; 1980s men: 8; women: 1; 1990s men: 9;women: 3; 2000s men 12: women: 1; This year men: 3; women: 0; What the hell is AMPAS's problem with women, exactly?
First woman to win Best Actress for her debut performance: Shirley Booth for Come Back Little Sheba (1952). She only made 3 more features and was largely a stage and TV star. She remains the only woman in her fifties to ever win Best Actress. She's one of 12 women to have won Oscars for their debuts on the big screen. Only two men have ever managed that feat, Dr Haing S Ngor for The Killing Fields and Harold Russell for The Best Years of Our Lives, both wins often associated with their non-acting backstories. (The reason men rarely win or even get nominated for their debuts -- the ratio is crazy to compare -- has to do, obviously, with Oscar's whole thing of valuing men for their experience and longevity and valuing women for... other reasons.)
First black woman nominated for best Actress: Dorothy Dandridge for the musical Carmen Jones (1954)
First savvy woman to popularize the dread "DeGlam" Oscar trick: Grace Kelly for The Country Girl (1954) in which a lesser performance beats a miraculous one (Judy Garland, A Star is Born) because the lesser one features a great beauty pretending to be plain... ACTING!
First (and most) pregnant Oscar winner: Eva Marie Saint for On the Waterfront in April 1955 who said
I may have the baby right here!
She gave birth two days later by some accounts. Other sources say two weeks.
First (and only) Asian woman to win an acting Oscar: Miyoshi Umeki for Best Supporting Actress for Sayonara (1957)
First women on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: Joanne Woodward (aka Mrs Paul Newman) in September 1958 is the most famous of the first batch of 8 recipients barring Burt Lancaster. Two other actresses represented that day were from silent films: Olive Borden and Louise Fazenda. The myth that Woodward received the first star ever, is according to Wikipedia, because she was the first celeb to have her photograph taken with her star. That's now the only way it ever happens, as a big photo op.
First woman to win the "Triple Crown" of acting, Emmy/Tony/Oscar: Ingrid Bergman completed the feat in 1960 with an Emmy but the Oscars were first (and last) in her career. She won three, second only to Katharine Hepburn.
First woman to be paid $1 million for a single film: Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963). Despite the film being a huge flop on a cost-to-gross ratio, she actually earned $7 million all told due to various contractual bits and bobs.
First woman to win the EGOT: Barbra Streisand completed the quad by 1970... though some claim she's not a true EGOT'er since the Tony was a non-competitive prize. If you don't count Babs the first woman to achieve showbiz's Holy Quad is Helen Hayes who had all four by 1976. Rita Moreno was the first (and only) Hispanic woman to do it the following year.
First woman to win an Oscar and an Emmy in the same year: Liza Minnelli for Cabaret (1972) and Liza with a Z (1972). For what it's worth LIZA WITH A Z is an absolute must-have on DVD. It is amazeballs.
First woman to win Best Picture at the Oscars: Julia Phillips for The Sting (1973). She later wrote the very bitchy tell-all Hollywood bestseller "You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again"
First woman nominated for Best Director at the Oscars: Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1976). She was nominated against luminaries like Ingmar Bergman, Alan J Pakula and Sidney Lumet. Rocky's John G Avildsen won the Oscar.
First woman to say "no" to Warren Beatty: I'm joking. He can't have never been turned down given how often he made advances but the legend holds that he did ask Julie Christie to marry him and she refused.
First Meryl Streep Oscar Nomination: The Deer Hunter (1978). She'd go on to a total of 16 making her the most nominated actor, male or female, in Oscar history.
First actress on a US postage stamp: I believe it's Ethel Barrymore in 1982. Some sources online say Grace Kelly in 1993 but maybe they mean a solo stamp. Ethel shared hers with two other members of the Barrymore dynasty.
First actress to create a fitness empire: Jane Fonda. Workout Starring Jane Fonda is still the best selling fitness video of all time. She was 45 when she made it.
First (and only) back-to-back Best Actress Cannes winner: Barbara Hershey for Shy People (1987) and A World Apart (1988), both of which are little seen now which is a real shame. At least she's back in the public eye a bit with Black Swan.
First woman to direct a blockbuster: Penny Marshall, former television star (Laverne & Shirley), directed Big (1988). It wasn't even her only blockbuster. A League of Their Own later crossed the $100 million mark in the 90s.
First African American woman to direct a movie that won general theatrical release: Julie Dash had a success d'estime with Daughters of the Dust (1991)
First woman to get properly laid by Brad Pitt onscreen: Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise (1991)
First African American woman to win Best Actress: Halle Berry in Monster's Ball on March 24th, 2002.
First American woman nominated for Best Director: Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003)
First (and only) female winner of Oscar's Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker on March 7th, 2010.
Firsts we're still waiting for...
- a woman to direct a Pixar movie
- a woman to be nominated for Cinematography at the Oscars
- an out gay woman being nominated for an acting Oscar. It's pretty empy on the male side as well though as least we've had Sir Ian McKellen.
- an Asian woman to win Best Actress. Only one has even been nominated (Merle Oberon who hid her ancestry for years back when racism was a much bigger problem that it is now)