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Q&A: A look at African-American Oscar winners

About 50 Oscar statues are made annually. The statues depict a knight holding a sword, atop a reel of film with five spokes.

Associated Press

About 50 Oscar statues are made annually. The statues depict a knight holding a sword, atop a reel of film with five spokes.

Black actors and the Oscars

How many black actors have won Oscars?

There have been 27 African-American Oscar winners. The first to win the coveted Oscar statuette was Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy in Gone With the Wind. She received the best supporting actress award in 1939, beating her co-star Olivia de Havilland.

In 2001, African-Americans won both of the top acting awards: Halle Berry, the first black woman to win the best actress award, for her performance in Monster's Ball; and Denzel Washington, named best actor for his portrayal of a dirty cop in Training Day.

More recently, Jamie Foxx won best actor in 2004 for his portrayal of Ray Charles in Ray, and Forrest Whitaker won the statue for best actor in 2006 for his role as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Morgan Freeman won an Oscar in 2004 as best supporting actor in Million Dollar Baby, and Jennifer Hudson took home the gold in 2006 as best supporting actress for her performance in Dreamgirls.

The 81st annual awards are Sunday night at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Hepburn still holds the lead

What actors and directors have won the most Oscars?

Katharine Hepburn still leads the field among actors with four best actress awards. She also has the most best actress nominations with 12. Meryl Streep holds the record for most overall nominations with 14.

Three actors have won three Oscars: Jack Nicholson (two best actor, one best supporting actor), Ingrid Bergman (two best actress, one best supporting actress) and Walter Brennan (three best supporting actor).

John Ford has won the most directing Academy Awards, with four (The Informer, 1935; Grapes of Wrath, 1940; How Green Was My Valley, 1941; and The Quiet Man, 1952).

Three films have won 11 Oscars: Ben Hur, 1959; Titanic, 1997; and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003.

The stories behind the statues

Who makes the Oscar statues? Are they really gold?

For the past 26 years, Oscar statues have been made by the manufacturing company R.S. Owens of Chicago. They are 13.5 inches tall and weigh 8.5 pounds and their official name is the Academy Award of Merit. There are several stories about how the statue came to be named Oscar, but the nickname was made official in 1939 by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Once made of bronze and plated with gold, the statue is now a Britannia alloy covered with gold plating on a black metal base. It depicts a knight holding a sword, standing atop a reel of film with five spokes that represent actors, writers, directors, producers and technicians. About 50 are made each year, and they are numbered.

Q&A: A look at African-American Oscar winners 02/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 19, 2009 10:04am]
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