August 1, 2021

Oscars: All about the curse that ended up shaping Hollywood.

On February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel made its entry into the history of The Oscar Awards. The 46-year-old actress, who had played a shrewd Mammy in gone With the Wind (1939), became the first interpreter of color to win a statuette.

Vivien Leigh Y Hattie McDaniel on Gone with the Wind (1939)

© Silver Screen Collection

In his acceptance speech by Best Supporting ActressHe said: “I will always have to keep it in mind for everything that I propose from now on.” But that achievement, which should open the doors to a new stage in his career – in which he would get better roles, better pay and greater artistic freedom – was rather an end.

Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American actress to win an Oscar in 1940.

© Bettmann

In the months that followed, McDaniel he had to undertake a tour across the country to bring his film character to the stage, in half-filled rooms. The actress continued to star in subordinate roles, of which 74 were maid, without receiving any recognition of weight, until the studies that hired her stopped doing it. Referring to his award, he said in 1944: “It is as if he had done something wrong.”

History of marginalization in Hollywood

McDaniel wasn’t the only victim of the Oscar curse – that personal and professional decline that usually plagues the actors who managed to win an Academy Award – but meets the characteristics of those who have been most affected: she is a woman, she is black, and had passed 40 in an industry that idolizes youth. Many of her contemporaries have complained of being similarly marginalized, including Louise Rainer, the German-American star commonly regarded as the first. victim of the Oscar curse after having won the Best Actress award twice in a row, for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The good land (1937).

Moving into the next century we see that little or nothing has changed. While several Oscar-winning actors have become undisputed stars – Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro -, their award-winning female counterparts alongside them have fallen into oblivion: Eileen Heckart, Louise Fletcher, Lee Grant.

During all this time, the curse of the oscar They have wanted to attribute a lot of explanations: greater scrutiny, high expectations, the risk of not being anything other than that iconic role and the perception that talent has reached its maximum level. But for women and other marginalized groups there is also the feeling that the industry seeks to slow down the trajectories, to stop encouraging artistic and financial demands.

“After Hattie’s achievement, the sentiment was, ‘Don’t think you’re going to get the same as your peers,'” says Mo’Nique, who took the award to Best Supporting Actress with Precious (2009) on the 70th anniversary of MacDaniel’s triumph. “As for me, fewer proposals came to me after the reward. Before the 2010 Oscars, people said, ‘He will never win, because he is not going with the flow.’ They wanted me to show how excited I was. You had to attend dinners, go to parties, always smile and pray that they liked you. “

Mo’Nique he won Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for its role in Precious (2009).

© Michael Caulfield

Having rejected the campaign, but won anyway, it ended up being vetoed by the industry, he says. “Not only am I a woman, but I am also black and fat. The sentiment was: ‘How dare you attract attention? You should settle for being invited. ‘”

Mo’Nique on Precious (2009).

© Lee Daniels/Kobal/Shutterstock

Razzies Awards, age and discontent

Few women of color have been awarded since. In 90 years, only nine have won a Oscar for Best Supporting Actress or Best Actress (Halle Berry being the only one to have taken the latter in 2001 for The past condemns us). Berry then starred 007: Another day to die (2002), but his career sank when he received a Razzie for Catwoman (2004).

Halle berry received the Academy Award for Best Actress for his participation in the film The Past Condemns Us (2001).

© Getty Images

It was not the only one; Kim Basinger won an Oscar for Naked angels (1997) and a Razzie by Fifty shades darker (2017).

Kim Basinger he won Best Supporting Actress award in 1998 for his role in L.A Confidential.

© Ron Galella

Sandra Bullock received an Oscar for A possible dream (2009) and a Razzie by Crazy obsession (2009) the same year. It should be noted that both Basinger and Bullock were over 40 when they received the Oscars – an age that still today is synonymous with retirement for Hollywood women.

Sandra Bullock was the worthy of Oscar for Best Actress for its role in The Blind Side (2009).

© Jason Merritt

Historic wins, mediocre repercussions

Marlee Matlin, for its part, is not so convinced that it is a curse. In 1987, see took the Oscar for I will love you in silence (1986), and remains, three decades later, the only deaf performer with a statuette.

Marlee Matlin became the first deaf woman to win an Oscar in 1986 for his work in I will love you in silence.

© Snap/Shutterstock

A landmark achievement that spawned only a handful of roles for the big screen. “I do not subscribe to those interpretations,” he tells us in an email, talking about the Oscar curse. “If so, I would have given up on the day [el crítico de cine] Rex Reed wrote that they gave it to me out of pity, or when New York Magazine ruled that I would not go back to work because I did not ‘know how to speak.

Marlee Matlin on I will love you in silence (1986).

© Snap Stills/Shutterstock

Despite the difficulties he has had to face, Matlin believes that the notion of Oscar curse. “I have not stopped working,” he adds. “I may not have had the same opportunities to act in big, flashy productions, but it seems to me that it is due more to Hollywood’s inability to look beyond the stereotypes with which deaf actors are labeled. After all, , my award had the impact that I hoped it would: show the world that deaf people can achieve any goal, including winning a Oscar.”

The end of the Oscar curse

In recent years, the curse seems to be dissipating. Octavia Spencer, who became known for taking the award for Best Supporting Actress for Crossing stories (2011), saw his career skyrocket upon recognition. He has garnered critical acclaim for his performance in Fruitvale Station (2013), was nominated for a new Oscar for her performance in Hidden talents (2016) and The shape of water (2017) and was an executive producer on the Best Picture winning film, Green Book (2018). In fact, she is also the first black actress to be nominated for a Oscar after having previously won one.

Octavia Spencer, winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for The Help in 2012.

© Kevin Winter

The winners who followed Spencer in the Best Supporting Actress category – Anne Hathaway, Lupita Nyong’o, Patricia Arquette, Alicia Vikander, Viola Davis, Allison Janney – have managed just as well, with appearances in the monumental films of Marvel (Black Panther, 2018), powerful dramas (Widows, 2018) and prestigious television fictions (Fuga de Dannemora, 2018). Meanwhile, Regina King, who took home an award for If the colony spoke (2018), starred Watchmen (2019) and is currently directing his first feature film, One Night in Miami.

When it comes to the success of the Best Actress winners during the same period, the statistics are even more promising. Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone have all received Oscar nominations following their recent triumphs. Both Lawrence and Stone were also named the highest paid actresses in Hollywood (in 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively).

Jennifer Lawrence, award winner Oscar for Best Actress for its role in Silver Linings Playbook (2013).

© Christopher Polk

The statuette to Frances McDormand for her performance in Three ads for a crime (2017) had a particular impact, arriving 21 years after having taken the same category for Fargo (1996).

Frances McDormand he won Oscar for Best Actress in 2018 for the movie Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.

© MARK RALSTON

How the 2020 winners could change the future

Could 2020 officially end the curse? Possibly, especially if the current favorite Renée Zellweger wins the Best Actress award for her role in Judy (2019). After being awarded as Best Supporting Actress for Regreso a Cold Mountain (2013), his career has stalled, so he did not shoot for six years. The return of Zellweger would have a high symbolic value as a change in Hollywood’s attitude towards its previous spoiled women. The same goes for Charlize Theron, who will compete for Best Actress for The scandal (2019), 16 years after winning with Monster (2003) and 14 years after his nomination for Cold land (2005).

Renée Zellweger, nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the film Judy.

© Kevin Winter

Has Mo’Nique noticed this change? “Honestly, my thing has never been to follow the Oscar“, she replies.” When I saw the ceremony when I was little, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, and that’s why I wasn’t too interested. They have put it into our heads that Oscar they are everything in an acting career. As long as we continue to see it as a holy grail, it will continue to have the same effects, but the truth is that it is just a trophy. “

Any advice for those who are about to win? “This is your journey,” he says. “Enjoy it your way, because you don’t want to reach your destination and find that you actually let someone else take your place.”

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