Alabama at the Oscars

Another Academy Awards ceremony has come and gone with one film, in particular, capturing the interest of Alabamians. The Help, based on the novel of the same name, featured Alabama-born actress Octavia Spenser capturing the win in the Best Supporting Actress category. The novel was written by Kathryn Stockett, a University of Alabama graduate. However, Oscar winning and nominated films with Alabama connections are nothing new. Take a look at these:

The 1941 adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes, starring Bette Davis, was nominated for 9 Oscars (Best Actress, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay among others). Hellman was born in Louisiana but drew heavily on her Alabama roots. Her mother was from Demopolis and Hellman set the play and film in a small Alabama town. With an amazing performance by Davis in the role of Regina Hubbard Giddens, this timeless tale of greed, blackmail, and manipulation is a classic. Interestingly, when the play opened on Broadway in 1939, the role of Regina was played by Alabama native Tallulah Bankhead.

Probably one of the most acclaimed novels of our time was turned into an equally acclaimed film in 1962. To Kill a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, won three Academy Awards. The Oscars were for Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Best Art/Set Direction Black and White, and Best Writing. Set in a fictional Alabama town and written by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird resonated with audiences then and still touches them today.

The film Paper Moon, released in 1973, was based on Birmingham journalist Joe David Brown’s novel Addie Pray. Earning 4 Oscar nominations and taking home one win, Paper Moon is probably best known for Tatum O’Neal’s performance as Addie. O’Neal won the Best Supporting Actress award and at 10 years old she was the youngest winner in any category, a distinction that she still holds today.

Birmingham-born writer and actress Fannie Flagg captured one of the two Oscar nominations that went to the 1991 film Fried Green Tomatoes. Based on Flagg’s book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, the movie was a huge hit and not only was Flagg nominated for her writing but Jessica Tandy also received a nod in the Best Supporting Actress category. While the film did not win either Oscar, it is a fan favorite and helped put Irondale’s Whistle Stop Café on the map.

So curl up with some popcorn and enjoy these classic films and the literary works that inspired them.

Submitted by M.B. Newbill
Southern History Department
Central Library