Longest Surviving Oscar Winners By Category (UPDATED)

So, loyal readers know that I’ve been doing my Best Picture Project for quite a while now, whereby I’ve been watching and writing about every Academy Award winner for Best Picture.  Because I’ve got a real job and other interests, like writing – BUY MY BOOKS – it’s taken me about two years or so to get through 49.  Never fear, I’m still chugging away on that and hope to have a new post for that relatively soon.

Nevertheless, with Oscar time is right around the corner it got me thinking about past ceremonies, especially the times when the Academy trots out some old geezer too show it is in touch with its history.  Sometimes it’s Kirk Douglas giving out an Award last year.  Other times it’s when the Academy does one of those ‘family portrait’ type things where they get all the living actors with Oscars together to trot on stage for everybody to see – I think the last one was for the 2002 or 2003 Awards.

All these historical tributes the Oscars like to do got me thinking about who are the longest surviving Oscar winners in every category, and by longest surviving, I don’t mean oldest.  No, what I want to know is who, in a given category, is the living Oscar winner who won the Award earliest.  So listed below is each category the Academy gives Awards in – with some streamlining, to deal with the fact that categories may have had slight name changes but ultimately continued to honor the same thing – with the name of the longest surviving winner, film and year won listed as well.  Just for fun, the year the category was established is included as well.

Best Picture: since 1928

Walter Mirisch, producer,  In The Heat of The Night, 1967

Best Director: since 1928

Mike Nichols, The Graduate, 1967 (UPDATE:  As of December 30, 2014, the longest surviving Best Director is William Friedkin, for The French Connection, 1971)

Best Actor in a Leading Role: since 1928

Ernest Borgnine,  Marty, 1955  (UPDATE: As of July 10, 2012, the longest surviving Best Actor is Maximillian Schell, Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961) (UPDATED AGAIN: As of December 30, 2014, the longest survivor is Sidney Poitier, Lillies of the Field, 1963)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: since 1936

George Chakiris, West Side Story, 1961

Best Actress in a Leading Role: since 1928

Luise Rainier, The Great Ziegfield, 1936

Luise Rainier, The Good Earth, 1937

(Given Ms. Ranier’s advancing age, 101 as of this writing, next in line is Joan Fontaine,Suspicion, 1941) (UPDATE: Sadly, Ms. Fontaine did not outlive Ms. Ranier)

(UPDATE: As of December 30, 2014, the longest survivor is Olivia de Havilland, for To Each his Own, 1946, and The Heiress, 1949)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: since 1936

Celeste Holm, Gentleman’s Agreement, 1950 (UPDATE: As of July 15, 2012, the longest surviving Oscar winner in this category is Eva Marie Saint, On The Waterfront, 1954)

Best Adapted Screenplay: since 1928

Francis Ford Coppolla, The Godfather, 1972

 Best Original Screenplay: since 1940

D.M. Marshman, Sunset Boulevard, 1950

(Next in line, Frederick Raphael, Darling, 1965)

Best Animated Film: since 2001

Aron Warner, Shrek, 2001

Best Art Direction: since 1928

Stuart A. Reiss, The Diary of Anne Frank, 1959

Best Cinematography: since 1928

B&W – Walter Lassally, Zorba The Greek, 1964

Color – Oswald Morris, Fiddler on the Roof, 1971 (UPDATE: As of December 30, 2014, the oldest survivor is Fred Koenekamp, half the duo that won for The Towering Inferno, 1974)

Best Costume Design: since 1948

B&W – Julie Harris, Darling, 1965

Color – Yvonne Blake, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1971

Best Film Editing: since 1935

Elmo Williams, High Noon, 1952

Best Foreign Language Film: since 1947 (Competitively given since 1956)

Serge Bourguignon, Sundays and Cybele, 1962

Best Makeup: since 1981

Rick Baker, An American Werewolf in London, 1981

Best Original Score: since 1934 (for our purposes all categories of scoring were combined here into , including Musical Picture, Dramatic or Comedy, Song Score, Adaptation or Treatment, and Comedy Score)

Musical Picture – Andre Previn, Gigi, 1958

Best Original Song: since 1934

Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins, 1964 (UPDATE: As of March 5, 2012, when Robert Sherman passed away, Richard Sherman was left the longest survivor)

Best Sound Editing: since 1963

John Poyner,The Dirty Dozen, 1967

Best Sound: since 1930

The longest surviving winner might be James Corcoran, The Sound of Music, 1965 (I say might be, because without any death dates on IMDB or Wikipedia for this guy I have to judge whether he’s living based on his earliest credits.  Because those credits make it conceivable he could be alive and well and about 80 years old now, I’ll assume he’s our winner.  It’s also conceivable that Douglas O. Williams for Patton in 1970, is alive as well, based on the same criteria.)

Longest confirmed survivor in the category: Chris Newman, The Exorcist, 1973.

Best Visual Effects: since 1939 (Competitively given since 1977)

John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack, Star Wars, 1977

Just for fun I thought we’d even consider the winner’s in the ‘dead’ categories – those awards that have been discontinued by the Academy – but it goes without saying that in the ‘dead’ categories, there are few survivors.

Best Assistant Director: 1933 to 1937

No Survivor – last winner was Robert Webb for In Old Chicago, 1937

Best Dance Direction: 1935 to 1937

No Survivor – last winner was Hermes Pan for A Damsel In Distress, 1937

Best Engineering Effects: 1928 only

No Survivor – lone winner Roy Pomeroy for Wings

Best Original Story: 1928 to 1956

         No survivor – the last winner in the category was Robert Rich, for The Brave One, which was actually a pseudonym for the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo.  It’s interesting to note that Trumbo also won an Oscar in this category for Roman Holiday, also produced under a pseudonym.  Pretty sure that Mr. Trumbo bears the distinction of being the only two-time Oscar winner to win in this way – not including professionally adopted stage-names as well.

Best Title Writing: 1928 only

No Survivor – lone winner was Joseph Farnham, with no citation for an individual film; the advent of sound made this category antiquated.  Given that he was a founding member of the Academy, it’s reasonable to think his award was payback for helping establish the Academy.  Trivia to note: he died approximately two years after receiving his Oscar, making him the first Oscar winner to die (thanks to the IMDB for that nugget of info).

Best Unique and Artistic Quality of Production: 1928 only

No Survivor – lone winner was Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, when the award was given to the studio and not to an individual


The Award for best performance by a juvenile was created in 1934 to give Shirley Temple an Award.  It was sporadically given, on a non-competitive basis, with the recipient taking home a miniature Oscar.  Only 12 people won one of these Awards.

The longest surviving is Shirley Temple, who received her Award in 1934.

Mickey Rooney is next on the list, having received his Award in 1938, sharing it with Deanna Durbin.

(UPDATE: as of December 30, 2014, Margaret O’Brien, 1944, is the longest survivor; at this moment, only four of the 12 who were given this award survive: O’Brien, Jarman, Whiteley and Mills; see below for the list of all the winners)

Other winners were: Judy Garland in 1939, Margaret O’Brien in 1944, Peggy Ann Garner in 1945, Claude Jarman Jr. in 1946, Ivan Jandl in 1948, Bobby Driscoll in 1949, Jon Whiteley and Vincent Winter in 1954,

The last was Hayley Mills, for Pollyanna, 1960.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice I ignored a handful of categories, mostly because finding the winners in those categories, and the survivors, is simply too taxing – I have a real job and like to keep it.  If somebody else really had the time, they have my permission to search out and share the information with me here, with full credit to the researcher.  These categories are:

Best Documentary Feature: since 1943

Best Documentary Short: since 1941

Best Live Action Short Film: since 1931

Best Animated Short Film: since 1931

Best Short Film – Color: 1936 and 1937

Best Short Film – Live Action – 2 Reels: 1936 to 1956

Best Short Film – Novelty: 1932 to 1935

As always, you can follow the progress of the Best Picture Project here and can buy my books here.

1 Comment

Filed under The Best Picture Project

One response to “Longest Surviving Oscar Winners By Category (UPDATED)

  1. Riommar

    Best Actor in a Supporting Role??
    R.I.P. Ernest. Borgnine

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