Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Watch This: The Famous Hepburn/Streisand Best Actress Tie of 1969

Left to right: Barbra Streisand and Anthony Harvey
There was a lot of reason that the 42nd Academy Awards - held on April 14, 1969 - stood out as something special. For starters, this was the year in which they didn't have any host and it would also be the year in which the Best Picture would go to their first (and so far only) X-rated film Midnight Cowboy. However, these details are overlooked in the history books in favor of something even more peculiar. This was the year in which a newcomer and a veteran performer tied in the Best Actress category. It was a trend that hasn't been seen before or since and introduced the world to the woman who was so thankful for the Academy making her miserable: Barbra Streisand.

The night was going according to schedule. Actress Ingrid Bergman would walk up to the podium and announce the winner of the Best Actress category. With the images of the performers already on a projection behind her, she quickly read off the names. Without any acclaim in her voice, she said those words that you don't often hear at the Oscars: "It's a tie."

There's not too many times in which those words come up because they rarely happen. There has never been a Best Picture tie. The only other acting tie happened in 1932 when Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide) tied with Wallace Beery (The Champ), which even then saw March with a one vote lead. At most, the remaining ties have been in technical fields that are rarely talked about. So for Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl) and Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter), the on point tie of 3,030 votes each became something of a celebratory cause.

What would have been an interesting moment was sort of diminished by the missing presence of Hepburn, who sent the director Anthony Harvey in her place. His speech was humble, familiar and spoke kindly of what the legendary actress would say if she was there. He made his short and sweet, allowing for the entrance of one of the more memorable speeches in history as a young, enthusiastic Streisand gave a speech. This was decades before she herself became a legend. This was her debut performance and one that clearly struck a chord. It was a speech of the young optimist such as contemporaries Lupita Nyong'o or Jennifer Lawrence where the enthusiasm makes up for any stumbling words.

With her opening line "Hello gorgeous," she made the crowd cheer her on with the award. From there, it was the familiar sincere route. As she spoke with her goofy haircut and awkward standing, she seemed like the happiest person to be there. It was happenstance that it was broadcasted via satellite. Still, with the victory, she made the most of the moment and created Oscar history. She would continue to get nominated, even winning in 1977 with A Star is Born. However, it was one of those moments that you can't plan for because they rarely happen.

So on this anniversary, why not watch one of Oscar's most memorable moments and remember to always expect the unexpected.

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