Mad Max: Fury Road’s Furiosa. West Side Story’s Anita. My Cousin Vinny’s Mona Lisa Vito. Chicago’s Velma Kelly. Almost Famous’ Penny Lane. Dreamgirls’ Effie White.
Some of our most memorable film performances have been supporting ones. And yet, it took almost 10 years for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to introduce the awards in supporting acting categories for both men and women.
The first award for Best Actress in A Supporting Role was given out to Gale Sondergaard in 1937, during the ninth Academy Awards, for her role in 1936’s Anthony Adverse. Since then, 79 more women have climbed onstage to receive the prestigious prize — including some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
It’s a category that has often been groundbreaking. In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first black woman to win an Oscar in any acting category, for her supporting role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind. It would take 51 years for Whoopi Goldberg to repeat the experience. She took home the Oscar in 1991 for her role as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost. To this day, only seven black women have ever won — a track record that’s still better than that of the Best Actress category, which counts only one black woman (Halle Berry) among its recipients.
There’s a good chance that may change this year, with Regina King as the frontrunner in a Best Supporting Actress race that is as tight as ever.