When Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn shared an Oscar: "It's a tie!"

8 March 2024, 16:02

Funny Girl – Barbra Streisand’s 1968 movie trailer

By Mayer Nissim

One of the four pillars of Barbra Streisand's EGOT is actually shared with another performer.

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The Academy Awards are supposed to be all about celebrating the best of the best... when an actor, director, or other creative person is head and shoulders above their peers for their work that year.

But sometimes it's just too hard to choose...

On several occasions in the near-century history of the Oscars, the voters haven't been able to split the difference between a couple of nominees.

The first such occasion happened way back in 1932, only the fifth ceremony, where Frederic March and Wallace Beery shared the Best Actor prize for their respective lead roles in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Champ.

But the most famous tie in Academy Awards history has to be in 1969, when Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn both won the Best Actress gong.

Barbra Streisand wins the Oscar for Funny Girl
Barbra Streisand wins the Oscar for Funny Girl. Picture: Getty Images

Barbra was recognised for her performance as real-life entertainer Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, her movie debut being a reprise from her successful run in the original Broadway musical of the same name, as well as its transfer to London's West End.

Streisand picked up a Tony nod for her performance back in 1964, but actually missed out there to Carol Channing's superlative performance in Hello, Dolly!

At the Oscars, Babs shared the prize with Katharine Hepburn for the latter's performance as Eleanor of Aquitaine, the estranged queen of Peter O'Toole's Henry II in the historical drama The Lion in Winter.

Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand Tie for Best Actress: 1969 Oscars

It was the legendary Ingrid Bergman who made the shocking announcement on the night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center for the 41st Academy Awards ceremony, the first to be broadcast live around the world.

"It's a tie!! Bergman exclaimed as she opened the envelope. Both actors had received exactly 3,030 votes each. It was actually Hepburn's second year as a Best Actress winner, having won a year earlier for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

As was her custom, she didn't turn up to accept the award. That could be because she didn't hold much stock in baubles. "As for me, prizes are nothing," she was once quoted as saying. "My prize is my work."

Barbra Streisand with her Academy Award
Barbra Streisand with her Academy Award. Picture: Getty Images

Years later Katharine admonished herself for not going, saying it was out of a fear of losing and was "cheap" and "second rate", but whatever the real reason, it was The Lion in Winter's director Anthony Harvey who picked up the award on her behalf.

Hepburn won a stunning four Oscars (out of a then-record 12 nominations, only since surpassed by Meryl Streep) but didn't show up once.

The only time she attended the ceremony was in 1974 when she presented the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer and friend Lawrence Weingarten.

Katharine Hepburn's only Academy Awards® appearance

The 26-year-old debutant Streisand had no such qualms about being recognised by her peers

"Hello Gorgeous," she opened her acceptance speech, giving a nod to the film for which she had won it.

"And I'm very honoured to be in such magnificent company as Katharine Hepburn. And gee whiz, it's kind of a wild feeling.

"Evergreen" Wins Original Song: 1977 Oscars

"Sitting there tonight I was thinking that the first script of Funny Girl was written when I was only eleven years old, and thank God it took so long to get it right, you know. So I would like to thank my co-producer Ray Stark for waiting till I grew up."

After a full splurge of further thanks, she added: "Wow. It's like, somebody once said to me, asked me, if I was happy. And I said, 'Are you kidding? I'd be miserable if I was happy'. And I'd like to thank all the members of the Academy for making me really miserable. Thank you."

Barbra didn't seem at all bothered to be sharing her prize with a fellow legend, and she picked up a second Oscar in 1977 for Best Original Song for 'Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born), for which she wrote the music, sharing the prize with the song's lyricist Paul Williams.

“My Man” from Funny Girl (1968)

Years later, Barbra told Variety of that all-important first win: "First I was in shock because I think it was her name first, so I thought, 'Okay that's good, she was wonderful in that movie, Katharine Hepburn,' and then they said my name and I was tongue-tied.

"So 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 and rushing to the stage, tripping on my long pants, pants that were too long and a top you could see through when the lights are on it.

"So I was kind of a mess, but it was lovely to receive an Academy Award, I must say."