HOLLYWOOD Halle Berry and Denzel Washington made film history March 24, as the actors won the Best Actress and Actor awards, breaking a 40-year Oscar dry spell for African-Americans at the ceremonies.
Halle Berry is first black actress to earn an Academy Award in a lead role. She won the Oscar for her portrayal of the widow of a death-row inmate who becomes romantically involved with her husband's executioner in "Monster's Ball."
In her tearful acceptance speech, Berry told the audience: "It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."
Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American actress to win an Oscar. She won the Best Supporting Actress award for her supporting role as a slave in "Gone With The Wind" (39) 51 years later, Whoopie Goldberg won a best Supporting Oscar for her role of a fortuneteller in "Ghost" (90).
"Two birds in one night," Washington said about his and Berrys awards. "Forty years, Ive been chasing Sidney and they give it to both of us on the same night." Washington was referring to Sidney Poitier, who received an Honorary Career Oscar earlier in the evening.
Washington's award-winning role was as a crooked cop in "Training Day," (01) and Poitier won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a drifting handyman in "Lilies Of The Field" (63).
In 1989, Washington won a supporting-actor Oscar for "Glory." He has been nominated five times.
Louis Gossett Jr. received a best supporting Oscar in 1982 as the unflappable drill instructor Sargent Foley in "An Officer and a Gentleman." Coining the catch phrase "Show Me The Money," Cuba Gooding Jr. garnered a best supporting Oscar in 1996 as a spoiled jock in "Jerry Maguire."
"Monster's Ball" was Berrys first nomination, making her the sixth black actress to be nominated for an Oscar in a leading role.
Former rapper Will Smith, nominated for best actor for his role as the artful Muhammad Ali in "Ali," made it the first time two African-Americans have been nominated in the same category in the same year.
Other Oscar highlights were:
Best "Big Apple" montage: Woody Allens tribute to New York City.
Best poem: Halle Berry a cappelling the "Biffs! Pows! Zowies! and Zoinks!" that go into the "Best Achievement In Sound."
Best chicken tail feathers: Whoopie Goldbergs gold "Moulin Rouge" dress, punctuated with white feathers.
Best acceptance speech: Sidney Poitier's acceptance of his "Honorary Award" for extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen, and for representing the motion picture industry with dignity, style and intelligence throughout the world. Hes accepted the award on behalf of all the African-American actors who came before him.
Biggest frustration: Will Smith couldnt win, too.
Biggest shoe size: Whoopie Goldbergs mahogany colored size "16" "Lord of The Rings" feet.
Best waterworks: Halle Berry, any time something good happens.
Best homage: Denzel Washington presenting the Honorary Award for extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen award to Sidney Poitier.
Best dressed male: Samuel L. Jackson in his beautiful 3/4-length coat. Wow!
Best personal moment: Montage tribute to deceased performers, writers and directors.
Biggest surprise: Denzel Washington and Halle Berry sweeping the best actor and actress awards.
Final thought: As expected, the show ran long.
Visit the official Oscar web site at: http://www.oscar.com/