A posthumous Oscar is the dead man’s Oscar. Dictionary.com defines posthumous as: “arising, occurring, or continuing after one's death.” The Oscars are the most prestigious award anyone in the Hollywood business can receive. Sadly, Hollywood doesn’t like to hug the dead. With less than a handful of nominations for a posthumous Oscar, it may be the rarest award a deceased person has ever won.
It is so infrequent that anyone even gets nominated for it, let alone win it. It takes a performance like Heath Ledger’s as The Joker in The Dark Knight. He won a Posthumous Oscar at the 2009 Oscars for Best Supporting Actor. Although critics and veterans were shaking their heads, and Comic Book movies are hardly ever on the list... he won. Only one other actor has ever actually won a posthumous Oscar, Peter Finch, for Network.
Jeanne Eagels was the first nominee for a posthumous Oscar. She was nominated for Best Actress for The Letter (1929). Sidney Howard was the first person to actually win a posthumous Oscar. Howard died in a tractor accident on his farm months before his film came out. In 1939 he won an Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay for Gone with the Wind. One person has even been nominated twice for a posthumous Oscar, James Dean. Once for Best Actor in East of Eden (1955) and again for Best Actor in Giant (1956). Back in the Red Scare era there were two writers who had written a screenplay that won an Oscar. However, they were on the Hollywood Blacklist, so they didn’t get to win the prestigious award while still alive. Instead it went to a person who not only did not write the screenplay, but didn’t even speak English, Pierre Boulle. Boulle was the writer of the novel that the movie was based on. The duo was later given posthumous Oscars, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, for Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). (IMDB)
Posthumous Acting Nominations and Award(s):
- Jeanne Eagels - nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for The Letter (1928/29) posthumously
- James Dean - the only actor who was twice nominated (in two consecutive years) for a Best Actor Oscar after his death and lost, for East of Eden (1955), and Giant (1956)
- Spencer Tracy - nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) posthumously
- Peter Finch - was nominated for - and won the Best Actor Oscar for Network (1976) posthumously - Finch is the only performer to have won the Oscar after his death
- Ralph Richardson - nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) posthumously
- Italian actor Massimo Troisi - nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for The Postman (Il Postino) (1995) posthumously
The “group of statuettes awarded annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for achievements in motion-picture production and performance,” (Dictionary.com) are long and boring to watch being handed out, but Hollywood loves them. That’s probably why Oscar voters are reluctant to hug the dead, they don’t love them THAT MUCH.
Congratulations Heath Ledger.