One Hit Wonders of the Academy Awards
While there have been quite a number of budding actors and actresses that have received Academy recognition – e.g. a nomination or even an Oscar – for their very first movie roles, some non-actors have also been rewarded similarly. Although it doesn’t happen very often, over the years there have been persons with unique talents and/or attributes that have been chosen – for their excellence in another (artistic) field or even plucked from obscurity – to play a needed part in a given film. Additionally, there have been others whose sole contribution to moviemaking has been recognized or was unforgettable in some way.
Similarly, diminutive Japanese vocalist-nightclub artist Miyoshi Umeki (who earned a Best Supporting Oscar alongside veteran actor Red Buttons in Michener’s Sayonara (1957)) and New York playwright Jason Miller (who was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar for his performance as Father Karras in The Exorcist (1973)) continued acting after their auspicious debuts, though Umeki is best remembered for playing little Brandon Cruz’s surrogate mother-housekeeper Mrs. Livingston in TV’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, featuring Bill Bixby as the titled character.
Others who have been recognized by the Academy for their first and only contribution to filmmaking include Paul Wing, who won a Best Assistant Director Oscar for his work on Henry Hathaway’s adventure drama The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), RCA sound recordist Watson Jones was nominated for Stanley Kramer’s doctor drama Not as a Stranger (1955), producer Michael Todd (who also helped to develop the short-lived widescreen technique dubbed Todd-AO) won the Best Picture Oscar for his only production Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), and choreographer Jerome Robbins, who shared the Best Director Oscar with Robert Wise for West Side Story (1961) – the only time that’s been done.
Some other significant one-time contributors that weren’t recognized by the Academy include Maria Falconetti, who gave one of the best silent film performances ever in The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) aka La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc before the awards were established, child Edmund Meschke (aka Moeschke), who made an indelible impression in Roberto Rossellini’s post WW II drama Germania anno zero (1948), and Anton Karas, whose zither music were among the many elements that made The Third Man (1949) a classic. I also wanted to mention ballerinas Moira Shearer and Tamara Toumanova who gave such memorable performances to enrich less than a handful of films each, from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) and Vincente Minnelli’s The Story of Three Loves (1953) to Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966) and Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970).
© 2008 Turner Classic Movies - this article originally appeared on TCM's official blog