15 Memorable Oscar Firsts

Christopher Polk, Getty Images
Christopher Polk, Getty Images

For more than 90 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has awarded excellence on the big screen. Over the decades, there have been a lot of "first"s (and some "first and only"s) as the Academy Awards have grown and evolved. Here are 15 of them.

1. First Black Artist To Win An Oscar: Hattie McDaniel

Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind (1939)
Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind (1939)
Warner Home Video

In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to be nominated for an Oscar—then the first African American artist to win an Oscar—when she took home the Best Supporting Actress statuette for her work in Gone with the Wind. Nearly a quarter-century later, in 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first African American to win a Best Actor Academy Award for playing Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field.

2. First Actor To Refuse An Oscar: George C. Scott

A publicity still of actor George C. Scott
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

In 1971, George C. Scott refused both the nomination and eventual win for Best Actor in Patton. Scott sent the Academy a telegram saying that he refused to accept the nomination because he disliked the voting process and felt that competing against his fellow actors was artistically wrong. When his name was announced as the winner, Scott was asleep at home with his family in upstate New York. When asked about refusing the Academy Award a few days after the ceremony, Scott replied that he had "no feeling about it one way or another."

3. First Person To Present Him/Herself With An Oscar: Norma Shearer

circa 1930: Norma Shearer (1900 - 1983), the Canadian born actress who starred in silent films and then talkies such as 'Private Lives'.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

During the third Academy Awards in 1931, Norma Shearer was the presenter for the Best Actress category. Shearer was nominated for two Oscars in the Best Actress category that year, and she won the award for her role in The Divorcee (which she had to announce, rather awkwardly). It was the last time a nominated actor presented an Oscar for his or her own category.

4. First Color Movie To Win A Best Picture Oscar: Gone With The Wind

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)
Warner Home Video

In 1938, A Star Is Born became the first all-color movie to receive a Best Picture nomination. Two years later, Gone with the Wind became the first color movie to win the award. It took a long time for Hollywood to fully embrace the technology; it wasn't until 1956 that all five Best Picture nominees were color movies.

5. First Person Named Oscar To Win An Oscar: Oscar Hammerstein

American librettist Oscar Hammerstein II
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Composer Oscar Hammerstein II was the first person named "Oscar" to win an Oscar. Hammerstein won two Academy Awards throughout his career, one for the song "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from Lady Be Good in 1942 and another for "It Might As Well Be Spring" from State Fair in 1946.

6. First Televised Awards Ceremony: The 25th Academy Awards

October 1961: American movie icon Bob Hope (1903 - 2003) arrives at a social function wearing a jacket and bow tie
Fox Photos/Getty Images

The first Oscar ceremony to be televised was the 25th Academy Awards back in 1953. The event was simulcast in black and white from both the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, with Bob Hope as host, and the NBC International Theatre, with Fredric March, in New York City.

In 1966, the Academy Awards ceremony was broadcast in color for the first time on ABC.

7. First X-Rated Movie To Win A Best Picture Oscar: Midnight Cowboy

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight pose in a still from the film 'Midnight Cowboy' June 15, 1968 in the USA
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The first and only X-rated movie to win Best Picture was Midnight Cowboy in 1970. In 1972, A Clockwork Orange was the last X-rated movie to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. In 1990, the MPAA moved away from the "X" rating because of its association with pornographic films and instead introduced the "NC-17" rating for movies with graphic sex and violence.

8. First Sequel To Be Named Best Picture: The Godfather: Part II

Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Paramount Pictures

In 1975, The Godfather: Part II became the first sequel to win an Oscar for Best Picture, two years after the original won the same award. The Silence of the Lambs and The Return of the King would follow The Godfather: Part II as sequels that also won Best Picture Oscars.

9. First Woman To Win A Best Picture Oscar: Julia Phillips

 The Oscar statuette is displayed on the red carpet during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

In 1974, Julia Phillips accepted the Oscar for Best Picture for The Sting, alongside Tony Bill and her then-husband/producing partner, Michael Phillips. The film's success paved the way for Julia and Michael to make Taxi Driver just two years later; in 1977, they earned another Best Picture nomination for the dark Martin Scorsese classic.

10. First Woman To Be Named Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow

 Director Kathryn Bigelow accepts Best Director award for 'The Hurt Locker' onstage during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

In 2010, after 82 years of Academy Awards, Kathryn Bigelow was the first female filmmaker to win the Best Director Oscar. She won for directing The Hurt Locker, which also ended up winning Best Picture.

Only four other women have been nominated for Best Director Oscars: Italian director Lina Wertmüller was nominated for Seven Beauties in 1977, Jane Campion was nominated for The Piano in 1993, Sofia Coppola was nominated for Lost in Translation in 2004, and Greta Gerwig was nominated for Lady Bird in 2018.

11. First Best Picture Nominee To Be Released On Home Video Before The Oscars Ceremony: The Silence Of The Lambs

 Actor Anthony Hopkins accepts the Scream Legend award onstage during Spike TV's 2008 Scream awards held at the Greek Theater on October 18, 2008 in Los Angeles, California
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

The Silence of the Lambs was the first Best Picture nominee to be released on home video (VHS and laserdisc) before the start of the awards ceremony. The movie was released in theaters on February 14, 1991 and on VHS on October 24, about four months before the Oscars telecast in 1992. It was also the first horror film to win Best Picture.

12. First Animated Film To Earn A Best Picture Nomination: Beauty And The Beast

Robby Benson and Paige O'Hara in Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Walt Disney Productions

Although it didn’t win the award, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991) was the first animated movie to receive a nomination for Best Picture. Since then, Pixar's Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010) have also received Best Picture nominations. In 2001, the Academy introduced a Best Animated Feature Film category.

13. First Actor To Receive Two Nominations For The Same Role: Barry Fitzgerald

Barry Fitzgerald (1888 - 1966) (left) holds his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor while American actor Bing Crosby (1904 - 1977) holds his Oscar for Best Actor, both for their roles in 'Going My Way,' Academy Awards, Los Angeles, California, March 15, 1945.
Barry Fitzgerald (left) holds his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor while Bing Crosby holds his Oscar for Best Actor, both for their roles in 'Going My Way' (1944).
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1945, Barry Fitzgerald became the first and only actor to ever be nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role, for playing Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way (he ended up winning the latter). AMPAS later changed the rules and guidelines for acting nominations, so that a double nomination couldn’t happen again.

14. First Actor To Win A Posthumous Award: Peter Finch

August 1958: British actor Peter Finch (1916 - 1977) at Pinewood Studios, for the filming of the Michael McCarthy picture 'Operation Amsterdam
Howell Evans/BIPs/Getty Images

Peter Finch was the first actor to win an Academy Award posthumously. He received the Best Actor Oscar in 1977 for his electrifying performance as TV anchor Howard Beale in Network. Finch died of a heart attack on January 14, 1977, less than three months before the ceremony.

15. First 3D film(s) To Earn Best Picture Nominations: Avatar And Up

Sam Worthington in Avatar (2009)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Though the 3D format has been around since 1915, it took until 2010 for the first stereoscopic film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. And it was a big year for the format, as it wasn't just one 3D film that earned the Oscars' top nod—there were two of them: James Cameron's Avatar and Pete Docter and Bob Peterson's Up (ultimately, both films lost to Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker).

An earlier version of this article ran in 2017.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

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Why Steve Carell Required a Cold Set on The Office

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for CinemaCon

Many people know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to disagree on the ideal office temperature. Some people tend to run warm, while others keep a handy stash of blankets and scarves at their desks to keep the goosebumps at bay. If you're in the latter category, you'd probably have a tough time as an actor or crew member on the set of The Office. Though it would be a cool opportunity to see the Dunder Mifflin team in action, you'd have to work on a set that was consistently kept at 64°F.

As Insider reports, Steve Carell, who played Michael Scott, insisted the set remain at such a chilly temperature because of his very active sweat glands. As silly as it might sound, it's not a myth. Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight Schrute, revealed this behind-the-scenes secret in his 2015 book, The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy.

Insider notes that Carell's requirement was not always appreciated by his castmates, who apparently suffered through the crisp temperatures until they finally got space heaters. Though the set's frequent frigid feel was rough, it probably saved the crew from having to re-shoot scenes spoiled by sweat stains.

[h/t Insider]