- Beatrice Straight’s five-minute performance in “Network” earned her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, making her the record holder for the shortest performance to win the award.
- Other actors, such as Ben Johnson and Gloria Graham, have also won Oscars for short but impactful performances in films.
- While Straight’s career was primarily in theater, her role in “Network” showcased her talent for delivering emotional and powerful performances in a short amount of time.
Directed by Sidney Lumet from a script by Paddy Chayefsky, this is among the most star-studded and talented casts ever formed for a film. Faye Dunaway appears as Diana Christensen, while William Holden plays Max Schumacher. There’s also Peter Finch as Howard Beale, Robert Duvall as Frank Hackett, and Ned Beatty as Arthur Jenson. None of that is to even touch on the actress at hand: Beatrice Straight, who portrays Louise Schumacher to an indelible degree. And she only appears for five minutes and two seconds.
But each performer shows up in spades, leading Network (1976) to new qualitative heights within the first few frames of the film. It received ten nominations at the 49th Academy Awards, with three people walking away holding golden statuettes: Chayefsky for Best Original Screenplay, Dunaway for Best Actress, and Straight for Best Supporting Actress. Another winner included Peter Finch for Best Actor. Alas, he passed away just two months before the event. He still won, of course. But the award goes down as posthumous.
The honor for Best Supporting Actress remains the only Oscar win of Straight’s career, and the sole nomination in general. And for someone with such a brief history at the ceremony, her win at the 49th ceremony of the Academy Awards remains fairly popular today. But of course, throughout the years of Hollywood history, dozens of other famous performers have had similar impacts on the industry with brief appearances in well-directed films.
Other Short Performances to Win Oscars
A few performances throughout Hollywood history stand out for giving Beatrice Straight a great run for her money regarding this particular record. For example: in just under ten minutes, Ben Johnson put on a career-defining performance in The Last Picture Show (1971) that saw him win for Best Supporting Actor at the 44th Academy Awards. There’s also Gloria Graham, who played Rosemary Bartlow for just nine minutes and thirty-two seconds in a film called The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).
She walked away with a golden statuette for Best Supporting Actress at the 25th Oscars ceremony, and she actually held the record at hand until Beatrice Straight put on the performance of her life in Network. More modern film fans may not be familiar with those acting efforts in the first place, though. Among the more recent and famous wins in this regard include Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), and Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables (2012).
Perhaps the most fan-favorite role of the bunch goes to the vicious Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. With a brief appearance clocking in at sixteen minutes, Sir Anthony Hopkins completely stole the show of out from under his fellow cast members, not to mention director Jonathan Demme and his crew. Jodie Foster gave him a valiant run for his money as the beloved Clarice Starling. But really, Hopkins put on the performance of a lifetime. There’s no topping it.
Meanwhile, in Network by Sidney Lumet, multiple performers can be highlighted as stars of the show, from Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall to William Holden and Peter Finch. The monologue from Finch’s character alone is perhaps the highest-quality excerpt from the film as a whole. But in the end, one performer among the cast of Network goes down as a record-holder for their efforts.
Beatrice Straight: The Shortest Performance to Win an Oscar
A member of the Whitney family, the actress of the hour had been a mainstay on Broadway before ever being cast in a Hollywood picture. She made her debut in the former regard with a part in The Possessed from 1939. The play was penned by Albert Camus, who in turn adapted the story from Fyodor Dostoyevski’s novel of the same name. Two years later, Straight appeared as Lisa in Twelfth Night, a Shakespeare play, with other production credits of hers including Macbeth and The Crucible.
She then had a brief stint in television and radio before transitioning to film with Phone Call From a Stranger (1952). A few other film roles filled the gap between her debut and the project at hand, with Network from a couple of decades later truly marking Straight’s commitment to the medium. As Louise Schumacher, the actress at hand highlighted the film as a whole with just five minutes of total screen time. The project saw direction by Sidney Lumet, who’s known for eliciting powerful performances from his thespians.
And through all the critically acclaimed efforts of acting featured from Lumet’s filmography, Beatrice Straight as Louise Schumacher is easily among the most impressive. She appears for just over five minutes, and she exudes palpable emotion through each line of well-written dialogue that she so seamlessly delivers. Though she does boast a Tony win and an Emmy nomination for separate works, this Best Supporting Actress win marked the only honor of her career at the Oscars. But with a five-minute-long effort, it’s likely that Beatrice Straight will forever hold the record for shortest performance to win an Academy Award.