Although there’s a sense that Oscar voters have a sentimental streak in such instances, the number of performers who have garnered nominations — much less won — remains small.
The only recipients in acting categories were Peter Finch, for his role as the crazed anchorman Howard Beale in “Network” in 1977; and Heath Ledger, who earned best supporting actor for portraying the Joker in “The Dark Knight” after an accidental drug overdose in 2008, at age 28.
The overall list of posthumous nominees includes just one woman, Jeanne Eagels, who became the first actor to earn a posthumous nomination for the early talkie “The Letter,” released in 1929.
The other actors nominated, in order, were James Dean (twice, for “East of Eden” and “Giant”), Spencer Tracy (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”), Ralph Richardson (“Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes”), and Massimo Troisi (“Il Postino”).
Beyond Finch and Ledger, there have also been winners in other categories, among them Walt Disney for a Winnie the Pooh short film in 1969, Disney lyricist Howard Ashman (“Beauty and the Beast”), writer Sidney Howard (“Gone With the Wind”) and composer Victor Young (“Around the World in 80 Days”).