Oscar Actors: Occupational Inheritance and Mobility Patterns in Acting Profession

Occupational Inheritance in 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.

This essay examines the extent of occupational inheritance in the acting profession.

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: 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:


Crowe, Russell:


Crosby, Bing:


Day-Lewis, Daniel: UK; father poet laureate


De Niro, Robert: father painter


DiCaprio, Leonardo:


Donat, Robert: UK


Douglas, Michael: occup. inheritance; father actor


Dreyfuss, Richard:


Dujardin, Jean: (French)


Duvall, Robert


Ferrer, Jose:

Finch, Peter

Firth, Colin (UK)

Fonda, Henry

Foxx, Jamie

Gable, Clark

Guinness, Alec (UK)

Hackman, Gene

Hanks, Tom

Harrison, Rex (UK)

40. Heston, Charlton

Hoffman, Dustin

Hoffman, Philip Seymour

Holden, William

Hopkins, Anthony (UK)

Hurt, William

Irons, Jeremy (UK)

Jannings, Emil

Kingsley, Ben (UK)

Lancaster, Burt

50. Laughton, Charles (UK)

Lemmon, Jack

Lukas, Paul

McCaunoghey, Matthew

McLaglen, Victor

Malek, Rami

March, Fredric

Marvin, Lee

Milland, Ray

Muni, Paul

60. Newman, Paul

Nicholson, Jack

Niven, David (UK)

Oldman, Gary (UK)

Olivier, Laurence (UK)

Pacino, Al

Peck, Gregory

Penn, Sean: occup. inheritance; father actor

Phoenix, Joaquin

Poitier, Sidney

70.Redmayne, Eddie (UK)

Robertson, Cliff

Rush, Geoffrey

Schell, Maximillian

Scofield, Paul (UK)

Scott, George C.

Spacey, Kevin

Steiger, Rod

Stewart, Jimmy

Tracy, Spencer

80. Voight, Jon

Washington, Denzel

Wayne, John

Whitaker, Forest


Best Actors (UK): 16 of the 83 (about 20 percent)