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From Hayley Mills to Hailee Steinfeld: Oscar Can’t Resist Young Women

Hailee Steinfeld, age 14, will surely be nominated for an Oscar tomorrow for True Grit, because she deserves it and because the Academy loves to nominate plucky youngsters.

Yes, the Academy loves plucky. But it loves plucky young women just a little more than plucky young men.

Steinfeld will be the 14th Oscar nominee under age 18 in the last 50 years. (All of them actors, of course. It’s a scandal how all the cinematographers and film editors under 18 are never nominated.) And here’s the catch: Girls are nominated four times more often than boys.

Hayley Mills (left) with Maurice Chevalier in 1962 film ‘In Search of the Castaways.’

Here’s the full roll call of kid nominations since 1961, when Hayley Mills was given the last old-style Juvenile Oscar:

  • Mary Badham (age 10, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962)
  • Patty Duke (age 16, The Miracle Worker, 1962 — winner)
  • Jack Wild (age 16, Oliver, 1968)
  • Tatum O’Neal (age 10, Paper Moon, 1973 — youngest winner ever)
  • Linda Blair (age 15, The Exorcist, 1973)
  • Jodie Foster (age 14, Taxi Driver, 1976)
  • Quinn Cummings (age 10, The Goodbye Girl, 1977)
  • Justin Henry (age 9, Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979)
  • Anna Paquin (age 11, The Piano, 1993 — winner)
  • Haley Joel Osment  (age 11, The Sixth Sense, 1999)
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes (age 13, Whale Rider, 2002)
  • Abigail Breslin (age 10, Little Miss Sunshine, 2006)
  • Saoirse Ronan (age 13, Atonement, 2007)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (presumptive, age 14, True Grit, 2010)

That’s 15 kids (including Hayley Mills for good measure) and 12 of them girls. Three wins for girls, none for the boys.

Meanwhile the Academy has ignored boys of the same age, ranging from Kevin Hooks in the awesome Sounder (1972) to Max Records in 2009’s not-quite-as-awesome Where the Wild Things Are.

Henry Thomas in E.T., anyone? Sorry!  (Well, it wasn’t that popular a movie, right?)

Lucas Haas as the heartstrings-tugging Amish kid in Witness (1985)? Sebastian Rice-Edwards, surviving the Nazi blitz in Hope and Glory (1987)? Christian Bale, that same year, carrying Empire of the Sun? Nope. Even Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, that 1990 box office smash, couldn’t get a tumble.

Look, nobody’s arguing that Hollywood is unfair to males. Truth is, it’s easy to argue the opposite: that the Juvenile Gender Gap is part and parcel of Hollywood’s preference for keeping its women young.

No surprise that the youngest woman ever to win an Oscar is Tatum O’Neal at age 10, while the youngest male winner is Timothy Hutton at age 20 (for Ordinary People).

In 1973, the year for which O’Neal and Linda Blair were nominated, Candy Clark was also nominated for playing a big-haired teen in American Graffiti.  She was 26. Madeline Kahn (age 31) and Sylvia Sydney (daringly aged 63) filled out the group.

The best supporting actor nominees, meanwhile, included Vincent Gardenia (age 53), Jack Gilford (65), and winner John Houseman (71).

But that was years ago. We’ve come a long way since then, obviously. Christopher Plummer was only 80 at last year’s Oscars.  And Anna Kendrick was all of 24.

As for Hailee Steinfeld, Tom O’Neil of The LA Times suggests that she might miss out entirely if the nominating vote is split between the best actress and best supporting actress categories.

Mmmmaybe. But she was very good. And we’re betting that Oscar can’t resist.

[ Update:  Yup, Steinfeld got her nomination! ]

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