Oscar Directors: Two Directing Categories, Drama and Comedy

In the first year, there were two directing awards, one for comedy and one for drama, and three directors competed for each. The first directing winners were: Frank Borzage for the drama Seventh Heaven, and Lewis Milestone for the comedy Two Arabian Nights. This distinction was dropped in the following year.

For two years (1929-30), five nominees competed for Best Director, but in 1932, the number of contestants was reduced again to three. From 1936 on, however, the number of directing nominations was standardized to five.

Unlike the Acting Branch, which stipulates that actors may receive only one nomination per category, the Directors Branch allows for the same filmmaker to be nominated multiple times for different films. This has happened only twice. In 1938, Michael Curtiz was nominated for two directing achievements, Angels With Dirty Faces and Four Daughters. Curtiz lost both; the winner was Frank Capra for You Can Take It With You, which also grabbed the Best Picture.

In 2000, Steven Soderbergh became the second director ever to nab two nominations, for Erin Brockovich and for Traffic. In a major upset (pre-oscar polls predicted that Ang Lee would be the winner for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Soderbergh didn’t cancel himself out and won Best Director for Traffic, though the Best Picture went to Gladiator.