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The Oscar Categories That Are No Longer with Us

There have been a ton of Oscar related posts on this blog lately, so if you’re sick of them–good news! This will be the last one for approximately one year. But this last one is pretty interesting. By now we’re all pretty familiar with the categories in the Oscars. The categories have been mostly pretty stable for several decades now. But that wasn’t always the case.

The first couple decades of the awards were a time of change with the awards. Awards like the supporting actor categories didn’t exist for the first few years, and it wasn’t until the early 1940s that documentaries had awards. And in the early years, there were also numerous categories that didn’t survive long. Three didn’t even make past the first ceremony. Let’s take a look at these short-lived early Oscar categories.

Unique and Artistic Production
It existed: 1st year only

This award, at the first ceremony, was treated as equal with Outstanding Picture (before it was renamed to Best Picture). While Wings took home outstanding picture, while Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, took home Unique and Artistic Production. Only Best Picture remained the following year, and the Academy later determined that Wings was the sole winner of the top honor.

Best Title Writing
It existed: 1st year only

It’s obvious why this category didn’t survive past the first year. By the next year, silent films were a thing of the past, eliminating any need for the category. The Red Mill, directed by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle under a pseudonym, was the winner.

Best Engineering Effects
It existed: 1st year only

Wings took home this only award, and it makes sense considering the impressive effects used in the film. The other two nominees were individuals with no specific films attached to them.

Best Assistant Director
It existed: 6th-10th

This award had a pretty unique history in just a span of a few years. The first year, seven different assistant directors were named the winner–the most for any single award by a wide margin (Best Documentary had four winners it’s first year). The award was given to one assistant director from each major studio. There were eleven other nominees that year, from various studios. No specific films were named.

In all future years, there was only one winner, and specific films were named. The number of nominees varied from then on out, as few as three or as many as five. No one won more than once, but there are some superlatives:

-Eric G. Stacey had the most nominations with three (no wins).
-John Waters, Clem Beauchamp and Scott Beal all have a win and one other nomination.

Best Dance Direction
It existed: 8th-10th

In the few years this category existed, it was dominated by the same group of people, although no one won more than once. Bugsby Berkeley, Hermes Pan, Dave Gould and Bobby Connolly were all nominated every year the award was around.

The Academy Juveline Award
It existed: 7th-33rd (intermittently)

This honorary Oscar was only given out on select years, beginning with the 7th ceremony. All the child actors given the award were no older than 18, and the specific honor received varied. Some stars were cited for specific work in a movie, or for substantial work the entirety of the year. In other cases, like Deanna Durbin, the honor was presented in a different way: “For their significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

The miniature sized Oscar appeared three years in a row once, from 1944-1946. Five years was the longest gap in which it didn’t appear. Hayley Mills won the final one in 1961, and two years later Patty Duke (age 16) won for Best Supporting Actress. From that point on, all children were nominated in the normal categories.


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