Oscar: Occupation Inheritance, from Generation to Generation

Direct occupational inheritance, that is, children stepping into their parents’ occupations, is also prominent in the film world. This dimension is more prevalent in acting than in other professions, resulting in an even smaller, more intimate, and coherent community.

About 10 percent of the Oscar players had one parent in the acting profession, and 5 percent of them had both parents.

If related professions (writing, producing, directing) are included, the proportion is even higher (15 percent), particularly among the women (20 percent).

In some cases, occupational inheritance has prevailed for three or more generations. Consider the acting dynasties of the Barrymores, the (Tyrone) Powers, the Fondas, the Robards, the Minnellis, and the Bridges in the U.S., and the Redgraves in the U.K.

Paul Muni

Many performers were literally born in a theater tent. The parents of Paul Muni (ne Muni Weisenfreund), who was reared in a theater trunk, were strolling players who toured all over Europe and America with him and his brothers. Shunning the financial hazards of acting, Muni’s parents hoped that he would pursue a career as a violinist. But he was stagestruck, and at thirteen became a regular member of his parents’ troupe. Muni never had to study acting, there was no need for it.

Mickey Rooney

Another Academy nominee, Mickey Rooney, spent his infancy and childhood touring with his parents, who were both entertainers. Rooney made his stage debut at fifteen months, appearing as a midget in a vaudeville act, for which he wore a tuxedo and smoked a big rubber cigar.

Jennifer Jones

The parents of Oscar winner Jennifer Jones were the owners’ stars of the Isley Stock Company, a tent show which toured the Midwest. After working as a ticket and soda seller, Jones made her stage debut at the age of ten, and her film debut (as Phyllis Isley) at twenty.

Marriage in Same Profession

Marrying a spouse within the same profession is another distinctive attribute of acting. These “in” marriages contribute to the integration of its members into a social group that has its own lifestyle and subculture.

At least two thirds of the nominated players have married within the film colony; most, more than once. The only difference between the genders is that actors usually marry actresses, whereas actresses also marry producers and directors, along with actors.

The Academy’s nominees could almost be accused of “incest,” based on the high percentage (north of 20) of all nominated actors and directors who have been married to other pros at one time or another in their careers. Many in fact have met their prospective spouses at work, while appearing in a play or shooting a movie. Some have fallen in love and subsequently married their leading men or leading ladies.

Actors Profiled:

Jones, Jennifer

Muni, Paul

Rooney, Mickey