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Home / Awards / Best Picture Oscar Presenter So White: History and Trivia of Oscar’s Top Prize

Best Picture Oscar Presenter So White: History and Trivia of Oscar’s Top Prize

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When Faye Dunaway spilled the tea to The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg that she and Warren Beatty would be presenting the Best Picture Oscar this year it kind of dismantled one of the more fun elements of Oscar predicting and that is who will give out the top prize. Now, that juicy bit of information is generally something that is never revealed before the show so Miss Dunaway could have either blurted it out accidentally or was possibly mistaken about which award her and her Bonnie & Clyde co-star are presenting. Interestingly, this marks the 40th anniversary of her Oscar win for Network and in an era of an administration openly attacking the media, bringing that to the forefront for the Oscars may be too much to resist.

Presenting Best Picture has generally come with a fair amount of reverence. Generally reserved for previous Oscar winners or, if the Oscar producers feel like tipping their hand to what they think is going to win, the presenters can sometimes have a connection to the potential winner. See: Michael Douglas and Kirk Douglas giving Best Picture to Chicago. But sometimes it backfires, as when Harrison Ford (Spielberg connection) announced Shakespeare in Love as the winner instead of Saving Private Ryan.

After two years of all white acting nominees, 2017 saw a massive influx of not only non-white actors nominated but also for tech people behind the scenes. Bradford Young (Arrival) became the first African-American nominated for the Cinematography Oscar. Joi McMillon (Moonlight) became the first African-American woman nominated for Film Editing. Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) became only the fourth black male Best Director nominee.

While there have been non-white and female presenters of the Best Picture Oscar it’s still a tiny fraction compared to their white male counterparts.

First Lady Michelle Obama is the only black female presenter of the Best Picture Oscar (in 2013 to Argo) but she presented it with Jack Nicholson, who has presented the top award eight times, more than anyone else. To date, only 16 women have presented Best Picture solo, all white. That in and of itself took 20 years from the first Academy Awards in 1929 to Ethel Barrymore presenting the Best Picture Oscar to Hamlet in 1949. The last female to present alone was Barbra Streisand in 1991 (to Dances with Wolves). Seriously. Amazing when you consider there were two-year and three-year runs of women presenting Best Picture solo in the 50s, 60’s and early 80s. No non-white female has ever given out Best Picture alone.

Only five black male presenters have given out Best Picture, Sidney Poitier is the only one to have done it twice. Morgan Freeman was the most recent, just last year.

Just a single Asian presenter has given out Best Picture; director Akira Kurasawa. He presented with directors John Huston and Billy Wilder in 1987 to Out of Africa. Technically, Olivia de Havilland was born in Japan but she is not of Japanese descent or origin so the Oscars have never had an Asian presenter give out the Best Picture Oscar alone.

Here is a By the Numbers list of Best Picture Oscar presenter history and trivia.

Number of Oscar Ceremonies: 88

Number of Presenters: 70

Number of times with multiple presenters: 8

Number of Male Presenters: 65

Number of Female Presenters: 15 (three have presented more than once)

Number of Black Presenters: 6

Number of Asian Presenters: 1

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Female Presenters

Ethel Barrymore (1949)

Mary Pickford (1953)

Audrey Hepburn (1956; 1961; 1967; 1976)

Janet Gaynor (1957)

Ingrid Bergman (1959)

Olivia de Havilland (1963)

Julie Andrews (1968)

Elizabeth Taylor (1970; 1974; 1992)

Lillian Gish (1981)

Loretta Young (1982)

Carol Burnett (1983)

Cher (1989)

Barbra Streisand (1991; 2005)

Diane Keaton (2007)

Michelle Obama (2013)

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Black Presenters

Sidney Poitier (1969; 1996)

Eddie Murphy (1987)

Denzel Washington (2008)

Michelle Obama (2013)

Will Smith (2014)

Morgan Freeman (2016)

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Asian Presenters

Akira Kurosawa (1986)

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Number of times with multiple presenters: 8

Number of times with a female presenter: 20

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Number of times with a female presented alone: 17

1949 (Ethel Barrymore)

1953 (Mary Pickford)

1956 (Audrey Hepburn)

1957 (Janet Gaynor)

1959 (Ingrid Bergman)

1961 (Audrey Hepburn)

1963 (Olivia de Havilland)

1967 (Audrey Hepburn)

1968 (Julie Andrews)

1970 (Elizabeth Taylor)

1974 (Elizabeth Taylor)

1976 (Audrey Hepburn)

1981 (Lillian Gish)

1982 (Loretta Young)

1983 (Carol Burnett)

1989 (Cher)

1991 (Barbra Streisand)

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Number of times with a non-white presenter alone: 6

1969 (Sidney Poitier)

1988 (Eddie Murphy)

1996 (Sidney Poitier)

2008 (Denzel Washington)

2013 (Will Smith)

2016 (Morgan Freeman)

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Most Presentations

Jack Nicholson (8)

Audrey Hepburn (4)

Steven Spielberg (3)

Elizabeth Taylor (3)

Warren Beatty (2)

James Cagney (2)

Frank Capra (2)

Gary Cooper (2)

Michael Douglas (2)

Clint Eastwood (2)

Harrison Ford (2)

Tom Hanks (2)

Dustin Hoffman (2)

Eric Johnston (2)

Al Pacino (2)

Sidney Poitier (2)

Barbra Streisand (2)

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About Erik Anderson

Erik thanks his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched the Academy Awards together since he was in the single digits; making lists, rankings and predictions throughout the show. This led him down the path to obsessing about awards. Much later, he found himself at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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