For the first time in Academy history, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award will be awarded to two people–actresses Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor.
Hepburn and Taylor are the 26th and 27th recipients of the award, which recognizes individuals in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.
They are only the third and fourth women to receive the honor. In 1968, Martha Raye was voted the award and Rosalind Russell received it in 1972.
In making the announcement of the paired awards, Academy president Robert Rehme said, “I don’t know that this will ever happen again. Many years we don’t even find one appropriate candidate for the award. This year, the board just found itself looking at proposals on behalf of two magnificent women who both so clearly deserved this honor that it didn’t seem possible to make a choice. So we didn’t.”
This is Hepburn’s second Oscar; in 1953, she received the leading actress award for her performance in “Roman Holiday.” It’s the third for Taylor, following awards for “Butterfield 8” in 1960 and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in 1966. Each has been nominated five times for best actress.
Hepburn has appeared in 27 films, including “Sabrina,””War and Peace,””The Nun’s Story,””Breakfast at Tiffany’s,””Charade,””My Fair Lady” and “Wait Until Dark.”
For many years, Hepburn has served as UNICEF’s Ambassador to the World’s Children, calling attention to the plight of millions of Third World children.
Hepburn lives in Switzerland, where she’s battling cancer.
Asked about her attendance at the awards, an Academy spokesman said, “We hope her health is fine and we’re looking forward to her being here to accept the award.”
As for contingency plans for giving the award to Hepburn if she is unable to attend, the spokesman said, “It hasn’t been discussed yet.”
Taylor, whose film career began in 1942, has appeared in 51 films. Highlights of her career include “Lassie Come Home,””National Velvet,””Father of the Bride, “”Giant,””Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Reflections in a Golden Eye.”
Since 1985, Taylor has pledged her time and energies to speak out on the AIDS crisis. She is the founding national chairman of AmFAR and is the organization’s leading fund-raiser. She also has established the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which focuses on AIDS care as distinct from research.
The French government has honored Taylor with its Legion of Honor in recognition of her work with AIDS.