Oscar Directors: Male Category?

Part Three of Four

For decades, women’s Oscar record (in various categories) was not much better than that of African American artists–or other ethnic minorities.  Furthermore, in the women’s case, contrary to popular notion, there was actually a backlash compared to their more visible status in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s, at the height of the studio system.


Mr. Fay Kanin


To begin with, in its entire history, the Academy has had only two female presidents: Bette Davis and Fay Kanin.  It may have been a Freudian slip, but it’s indicative that when the Oscar announcer, Hank Sims, introduced Fay to the TV viewers, he mistakenly referred to her as Mr. Fay Kanin.


Sofia Coppola


In 80 years of Oscar, only three women have received Best Director nomination.  In 2003, Sofia Coppola was singled out as writer and director for “Lost in Translation,” which was also nominated for Best Picture.  She lost out the directing Oscar to vet filmmaker Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”), but at least won the Original Screenplay Oscar.


Jane Campion


In 1993, Jane Campion became the first woman director to be nominated, for The Piano, since Lina Wertmuller had received the nod for Seven Beauties, in 1976. Several women?directed films were nominated for Best Picture, but their helmers were not.  Children of a Lesser God was nominated in 1986, but not its director, Randa Haines.  Awakenings was a 1990 Best Picture nominee, but its helmer Penny Marshall was totally ignored.


La Streisand Scandal


Barbra Streisand, the driving force behind The Prince of Tides, which grossed over seventy million dollars, was also denied a 1991 Best Director nomination.  The omission of Streisand was interpreted as a slight against women directors in general.  Producer Lynda Obst (The Fisher King), explained: “When you’re celebrating a woman behind the camera, that’s a woman in power, and people are still uncomfortable with that.”  “Streisand’s snub by the Academy may be less sexism than Barbarism,” wrote Newsweek: “Many in Hollywood consider her self?absorbed, difficult and controlling.”


Streisand did receive a nomination from the Directors Guild, which usually portends Oscar nomination.  But in 1991, John Singleton, the twenty?three?year?old black director of Boyz ‘N the Hood’s fame, took Streisand’s slot.  To some, this act suggested the industry’s political correctness at the moment, as though saying: blacks, yes, women, no.  Streisand, however, refused to let the Academy rain on her parade.  She told the Los Angeles Times: “I can’t honestly say that I was wronged in any way, since there are a lot of good movies in contention.”  At the same time, she allowed that sexism is still a problem: “It’s as if a man were allowed to have passion and commitment to his work, but a woman is allowed that feeling for a man, but not her work.”