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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

First Oscar Tie Happened On This Date in 1932

In 1932, at the 5th Academy Awards ceremony, Fredric March and Wallace Beery achieved an Academy first: they were the first to tie in a competitive category. The two men were both honored as the Best Actor of the year. And due to a change in the rules, the feat has never been duplicated.

March would win the Oscar for Best Actor twice, once for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and again for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). The man could play roles varying from heavy drama to light comedy, and was often at his best portraying men in anguish, such as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman (1951). As his career advanced he progressed from leading man to character actor. He was the first actor to receive an Academy Award for a horror film (in the afore mentioned Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). The next honoree for a horror film would not be until sixty years later when Anthony Hopkins would win for his performance in The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. Interestingly, March's performance in the title role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) was an inspiration for the Marvel comics character Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk.

When the Academy Awards were first presented, the winners were announced ahead of the ceremony, partly with the hope that the recipients would show up to collect their award. When it was announced that the winner of the 1931 prize for Best Actor was to go to Fredric March, Wallace Beery reportedly stormed into the office of MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer, and demanded that he be given the award instead. The compromising result was a "tie" for Best Actor that year. From then on the Oscar votes were tabulated by an outside source, Price Waterhouse, and the winners were announced at the actual ceremony presentation. And although the 1931 win for Best Actor is generally considered the first Oscar tie, Beery actually finished one vote behind Fredric March. However, under the Academy rules at the time that was considered a tie.

Beery had become almost a household word with the release of the sentimental Min and Bill in 1930, which was one of the year's top money makers. However, he would be forever remembered as Long John Silver in Treasure Island. Beery then became one of the top ten stars in Hollywood, as he was repeatedly cast as the tough, dim-witted, easy-going type. In Dinner at Eight (1933) he played a businessman trying to get into society while having trouble with his on screen wife, Jean Harlow. The next year Beery would win the Oscar for Best Actor in (1934) under the shadow of a "tie".

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