Remember When Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand Tied at the Oscars?


On April 14, 1969, Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tied for Best Actress at the 41st Annual Academy Awards. It wasn’t the first deadlock at the Oscars, but it remains (arguably) the most fabulous to date.

Hepburn, then 62 and a cinema legend, had been nominated for her 11th Oscar for her role as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter. And Streisand, 26, was not just nominated for her first Academy Award ever, but also for her first film, in which she played Fanny Brice in the now-iconic Funny Girl. The actress had only appeared on television prior to that. To top it all off, it was the first year that the ceremony was to be televised.

That evening, Hepburn, like always, was not in attendance. The previous year, she had won the Best Actress award for her role as Christina Drayton in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and was not expected to win again. Streisand was present, and was dressed in what would become one of the most recognizable Oscars ensembles ever: a twinkling Arnold Scaasi pantsuit with floaty bell-bottoms, white-cuffed sleeves, and collar decorated with a black bow. The actress would say later that it was much more sheer than she expected, especially since the stage lights were so bright, but she sparkled just the same.

The infamous award was presented later that night by Ingrid Bergman, who exclaimed “It’s a tie!” before announcing Hepburn’s name first, then Streisand’s. Not expecting to win, the latter recalled: „I had to take out my gum and put it on the bottom of the chair and think about what the hell I was going to say.” It was the first time an exact tie had taken place in one of the Academy’s prime categories: both Hepburn and Streisand garnered 3,030 votes each.

The Lion in the Winter director Anthony Harvey accepted the Best Actress award on Hepburn’s behalf. When discussing with Hepburn her record-breaking nominations, he offered a quip of hers: “I suppose if I’ve lived as long as I have, anything can happen.” And Streisand figured out what she would say just fine, greeting her gold statuette with her famous Funny Girl opening line: “Hello, gorgeous!”

Neither star was finished winning Oscars, however. Hepburn would win Best Actress again in 1982 for her role as Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond. Streisand would win for Best Original Song in 1977, for “Evergreen” from A Star is Born, making her the first woman to ever win an Oscar for music composition.

But that’s the thing about excellence: it has no end date.


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