The 9th Annual Academy Awards in 1936 ushered in the very first set of women who were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The five women who were nominated came from a variety of backgrounds and the roles they played in their respective films were integral in the successes of each picture. Up until the 8th annual Academy Awards, nominations for Best Actress were intended to include ALL actresses- whether they filled leading or supporting roles. However, at the 9th annual awards ceremony, a distinct award for supporting actors was created. This new award leveled the playing field for actresses and it ended the outdated approach to only honoring the “leading actresses” or those who had the most screen time in their respective films. The creation of the Best Supporting Actress category allowed for outstanding actresses in supporting roles to take their place in awards history. The time had come for these women to be given the recognition they so richly deserved (and be allowed to step out of the shadows of their more prominent co-stars).
One such Supporting Actress nominee in this first field of five took the form of Beulah Bondi, nominee, (179) for her role as Rachel Jackson, Andrew Jackson’s misunderstood and devoted wife in The Gorgeous Hussy. Bondi played Mrs. Jackson as the true “Backwoods Belle.” Her love and devotion to the soon-to-be-named 7th president of the United States was unshakeable- despite being wildly criticized as nothing more than a pipe-smoking, country bumpkin. Bondi was truly a standout in a stellar cast that featured the likes of Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, and Jimmy Stewart. The Gorgeous Hussy is a lavishly appointed costume drama from director Clarence Brown. The fictionalized historical picture scored two Academy Award nominations (one for Best Supporting Actress and one for Best Cinematography), but it came away empty handed.
The real award was the creation of this new category.
And the 72 outstanding women who’ve won this award have proven the importance of its existence.