Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

The Politics of the Oscars

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, and Lincoln, a movie about an Illinois politician has been nominated in 12 categories, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. 

    We thought we’d take a look at how political movies have fared in the past. Since democracy is a recent innovation in human history, we included kings and queens as political figures. Only three movies about politics have won Best Picture, and two of those -- The Last Emperor and The King’s Speech -- were about monarchs. The third, Gandhi, was about a political activist who never held office.
    Daniel Day-Lewis is a 1-50 favorite to win Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. Day-Lewis is the second actor nominated for playing Lincoln, after Raymond Massey (who played Lincoln before he was president). He’s the fourth actor nominated for playing an American president. Alexander Knox played Woodrow Wilson, and Frank Langella played Richard Nixon.
    The only peformer to win for playing an elected official is Meryl Streep, who portrayed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
    Here’s a rundown of how movies about politics have fared at the Oscars.
    BEST PICTURE
    WON:
    Gandhi 1982
    The Last Emperor 1987
    The King’s Speech 2010
    NOMINATED:
    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
    The Great Dictator 1940
    Wilson 1944
    Julius Caesar 1953
    The Lion in Winter 1968
    Anne of the Thousand Days 1969
    Nicholas and Alexandra 1971
    All the President’s Men 1976
    Reds 1981
    JFK 1991
    The Queen 2006
    Frost/Nixon 2008
    Lincoln 2012
    BEST ACTOR
    WON:
    Charles Laughton, King Henry VIII, The Private Life of Henry VIII 1932/33
    Ben Kingsley, Mohandas Gandhi, Gandhi 1982
    Colin Firth, King George VI, The King’s Speech 2010
    NOMINATED:
    James Stewart, Sen. Jefferson Smith, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
    Charlie Chaplin, Adenoid Hynkel, The Great Dictator 1940
    Raymond Massey, Abraham Lincoln, Abe Lincoln in Illinois 1940
    Alexander Knox, President Woodrow Wilson, Wilson 1944
    Laurence Olivier, King Henry V, Henry V 1946
    Marlon Brando, Mark Antony, Julius Caesar 1953
    Laurence Olivier, King Richard III, Richard III 1956
    Peter O’Toole, King Henry II, Becket 1964
    Peter O’Toole, King Henry II, The Lion in Winter 1968
    Kenneth Branagh, King Henry V, Henry V 1989
    Richard Burton, King Henry VIII, Anne of the Thousand Days 1969
    Frank Langella, former President Richard Nixon, Frost/Nixon 2008
    BEST ACTRESS
    WON:
    Helen Mirren, Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen 2006
    Meryl Streep, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady 2010
    NOMINATED
    Norma Shearer, Queen Marie Antoinette, Marie Antoinette 1938
    Genevieve Bujold, Anne Boleyn, Anne of the Thousand Days 1969
    Vanessa Redgrave Mary, Queen Mary, Mary, Queen of Scots 1971
    Janet Suzman, Empress Alexandra, Nicholas and Alexandra 1971
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
    NOMINATED
    Robert Morley, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette 1938
    Basil Rathbone, King Louis XI, If I Were King 1938
    Harry Carey, President of the Senate, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
    Claude Rains, Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
    Jack Oakie, Benzini Napaloni, The Great Dictator 1940
    John Ireland, Jack Burden, All the King’s Men 1949
    Robert Shaw, King Henry VIII, A Man for All Seasons 1966
    Jeff Bridges, President Jackson Evans, The Contender 2000
    Alan Alda, Sen. Owen Brewster, The Aviator 2004
    Tommy Lee Jones, Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, Lincoln 2012
    WON
    Jason Robards, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, All the President's Men 1976
    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
    WON:
    Maureen Stapleton, Emma Goldman, Reds 1981
    Judi Dench, Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare in Love 1998
    NOMINATED:
    Sally Field, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Lincoln 2012