Oscar Actors: Occupational Inheritance and Mobility in the Acting Profession (Best Actor Winners)

November 23, 2020

Occupational Inheritance in the Acting Profession

Occupational inheritance refers to the phenomenon where sons and daughters follow in the career paths of their parents.

This trend has been documented in the professions of engineering, medicine, military, and education.

Our essay examines the extent of occupational inheritance in the acting profession by focusing on Oscar winning actors.

Over the past 92 years of the Academy Awards (first given in 1929), 83 men have won the Best Actor Oscar (some more than once).

 

BEST ACTOR WINNERS: 83 (Last Name, A to Z)

 

Abraham, Murray F.: working class; father auto mechanic; mother housewife

 

Affleck, Casey: working-middle class; mother teacher; father janitor; child actor; brother, Ben Affleck

 

Arliss, George: (UK) middle class; worked in publishing office of his father, but left at age 18 to go on the stage.

 

Barrymore, Lionel: occup. inheritance; siblings actors

 

Baxter, Warner: working class, father owner of cigar stand, Columbus, Ohio

 

Beery, Wallace: middle class, father police officer; brother actor; son actor

 

Benigni, Robert: Italian; working class; mother fabric maker, father bricklayer, carpenter, and farmer

 

Bogart, Humphrey: upper middle; father surgeon; mother commercial illustrator

 

Borgnine, Ernest: working class, son of Italian immigrants; factory work

 

Brando, Marlon: occup. inheritance; mother actress and theater administrator; father pesticide and chemical feed manufacturer; sister actress

 

Bridges, Jeff: occup. inheritance; father actor, brother actor

 

Brody, Adrien: upper-middle; mother photographer, father, retired history professor and painter

 

Brynner, Yul: Middle; father mining engineer and inventor

 

Cage, Nicolas: upper-middle; father prof. of literature (uncle Coppola)

 

Cagney, James: working class; father bartender and amateur boxer

 

Carney, Art: middle class; father newspaper man and publicist

 

Colman, Ronald: (UK) middle class; father, silk merchant

 

Cooper, Gary: upper middle; father prominent lawyer, rancher, Montana Supreme Court justice

 

Crawford, Broderick: Occup. inheritance: parents, grandparents vaudeville performers

 

Crowe, Russell: film set caterers; father also hotel manager

 

Crosby, Bing: middle class; father bookkeeper

 

Day-Lewis, Daniel: UK; father poet laureate

 

De Niro, Robert: father painter

 

DiCaprio, Leonardo: Middle class; mother legal secretary; father underground comix writer, publisher, and distributor of comic books.

 

Donat, Robert: (UK): upper middle; father civil engineer of German origin

 

Douglas, Michael: occup. inheritance; father actor

 

Dreyfuss, Richard: upper-middle; attorney, restaurateur and the owner of a plastics company

 

Dujardin, Jean: (French) father, construction company

 

Duvall, Robert: mother amateur actress, father U.S. Navy rear admiral

 

Ferrer, Jose: upper-middle; father, attorney and author

 

Finch, Peter: father, Indian army officer; product of divorce

 

Firth, Colin (UK): upper middle; both parents academics and lecturers

 

Fonda, Henry: middle class; father printer

 

Foxx, Jamie (black): biological father, stockbroker; adopted by yard worker and nursery operator

 

Gable, Clark: working class; father oil-well driller

 

Guinness, Alec (UK): Scottish banker?

 

Hackman, Gene: middle class; father operated printing press for local paper

 

Hanks, Tom: middle class; father itinerant cook, mother hospital worker

 

Harrison, Rex (UK):  Middle class; father cotton broker

 

40. Heston, Charlton: Middle class; sawmill operator

 

Hoffman, Dustin: Middle; father worked as prop supervisor, set decorator at Columbia, then furniture salesman.

 

Hoffman, Philip Seymour: Upper-middle; mother elementary school teacher, lawyer, family court judge; father worked for Zerox Corp.

 

Holden, William: Upper-middle; mother schoolteacher, father industrial chemist

 

Hopkins, Anthony (Welsh): working class, father baker

 

Hurt, William: Upper middle; father state department; mother publishing

 

Irons, Jeremy (UK): Middle class; father accountant

 

Jannings, Emil (German): Middle; father American businessman

 

Kingsley, Ben (UK): mother actress and model; father doctor

 

Lancaster, Burt: working class; father mailman

 

50. Laughton, Charles (UK) Middle; hotel keepers

 

Lemmon, Jack: father, president of Doughnut Corporation of America

 

Lukas, Paul: (Hungarian): adopted by advertising executive

 

McConaughey, Matthew: Middle; kindergarten teacher and published author; father ran an oil pipe supply business

 

McLaglen, Victor: middle; missionary and bishop

 

Malek, Rami: father Egyptian immigrant; travel agent, then insurance agent

 

March, Fredric: Middle class; mother schoolteacher from England, father worked in the wholesale hardware business.

 

Marvin, Lee: No Data

 

Milland, Ray: Middle; steel mill superintendent

 

Muni, Paul: Occup. Inheritance; parents actors

 

60. Newman, Paul: Middle; father sporting goods store

 

Nicholson, Jack: parents in showbusiness

 

Niven, David (UK): No Data

 

Oldman, Gary (UK): working class; father former sailor, also a welder

 

Olivier, Laurence (UK): upper-middle; father clergyman, then Reverent

 

Pacino, Al: (Son of Italian immigrants) Middle class; insurance salesman and restauranteur

 

Peck, Gregory: Upper middle; chemist and pharmacist

 

Penn, Sean: occup. inheritance; father actor

 

Phoenix, Joaquin: father landscape architect; mother exec secretary (TV); all his siblings are actors

 

Poitier, Sidney (black): Lower; parents farmers from Bahama

 

70.Redmayne, Eddie (UK): Upper middle; mother runs relocation business; father businessman in corporate finance

 

Robertson, Cliff: Upper middle; idle heir (rancher)

 

Rush, Geoffrey (Aussie): Middle, mother, department store sales assistant, father accountant for Royal Australian Air Force

 

Schell, Maximillian (Swiss): Occup. inherit; mother, actress who ran acting school; father, Swiss poet, novelist, playwright and pharmacy owner.

 

Scofield, Paul (UK): Upper middle; father, headmaster at the Hurstpierpoint Church of England School

 

Scott, George C.: Upper middle; father exec at Buick

 

Spacey, Kevin: Middle; mother secretary; father technical writer and data consultant.

 

Steiger, Rod:  Occup. inherit; vaudevillian, part of traveling song-and-dance team (never knew his father)

 

Stewart, Jimmy: Middle; hardware store owner

 

Tracy, Spencer: Middle; truck salesman

 

80. Voight, Jon: Middle; professional golfer

 

Washington, Denzel (black): Middle; mother, beauty parlor owner; father, minister, employee of NYC Water Department and worked at local ddepartment store.

 

Wayne, John: Middle; father pharmacist

 

Whitaker, Forest (black): Middle; father insurance salesman, mother special education teacher

Best Actors: Occupational Inheritance

Occupational inheritance is not prevalent among male actors: Only 10 out of 83 had showbusiness origins

Lionel Barrymore, Brando, Bridges, Crawford, Michael Douglas, Muni, Nicholson, Sean Penn, Maximillian Schell, Rod Steiger

Best Actors: British (Britain, Irish, Welsh):

16 of the 83 (about 20 percent)

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