In comparison to child actresses, fewer child actors have been nominated: Brandon De Wilde (Shane) in 1953;
Jack Wilde (Oliver!) in 1968;
Justin Henry in 1979.
In 1999, at age eleven, child actor Haley Joel Osment co-starred with Bruce Willis in blockbuster thriller, The Sixth Sense. More than any other members of the cast, which also included Oscar-nominated Toni Colette as his mom, Osment deserves credit for contributing to what became the most popular horror thriller in the genre’s history.
No child actress has ever been nominated for the Best Actress Oscar–until 2012.
The youngest nominees in the lead category are:
Marlee Matlin, who won at 21 for Children of a Lesser God;
Janet Gaynor and Kate Winslet, who each was 21 when first nominated, the former for three roles, the latter for Titanic, in 1997.
Jackie Cooper, nominated at the age of ten for Skippy, is the only boy to compete for the Best Actor. But Cooper was a known quantity, a nephew of film director Norman Taurog (who helmed Skippy) and a veteran who began performing in Bobby Clark and Lloyd Hamilton comedies, and later in the popular Our Gang series, in which he made audiences laugh and cry with his mishaps and antics.
Special Junior Awards
The Academy has acknowledged the importance of star children as box-office champions with Special (Junior) Awards.
In 1939, Deanna Durbin and Mickey Rooney were awarded miniature Oscar trophies. Durbin was honored for her performance in her first feature, Three Smart Girls, which made her a star and also saved Universal from bankruptcy.
Rooney received the award in recognition of his Andy Hardy movies, “for significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth and as a juvenile player setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”
In 1940, Judy Garland won a Special Oscar as “the year’s best juvenile performer,” for her appearance in the musical The Wizard of Oz, one of MGM’s al-‘time smash hits.
Other children were honored with a Special Oscar in the 1940s, but later, youthful performances qualified for nominations in the legitimate awards.
If you want to know more about this issue, please read my book, All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards (Continuum Int’l, 2004 paperback