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Oscar musicals: Only a select few have won best actor/actress awards

James Cagney won the best actor award in

James Cagney won the best actor award in 1943 for playing impresario George M. Cohan in "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Photo Credit: Turner Classic Movies

Will Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dance off with Oscars on Sunday night for their performances in the musical “La La Land”?

While the film is one of this year’s favorites, it’s rare for a musical performance to earn a best actor or actress Oscar. (Hint: It helps to play a real person or to re-create a Broadway role.)

Here are the precious few who have accomplished that feat.

Best actor winners

JAMES CAGNEY, “YANKEE DOODLE DANDY” (1942) — The movie tough guy showed off his softer side in this grand old flag-waver about showman George M. Cohan.

BING CROSBY, “GOING MY WAY” (1944) — This mashup of sentiment and songs was a perfect showcase for Bing Crosby as laid-back Father O’Malley. He also got to croon the Oscar-winning “Swinging on a Star.”

YUL BRYNNER, “THE KING AND I” (1956) — The actor became so identified as the King of Siam after playing the role on Broadway that no one else was considered for the film version.

REX HARRISON, “MY FAIR LADY” (1964) — Broadway fans who’d grown accustomed to Harrison’s face as Professor Henry Higgins got to see his Oscar-winning portrayal on screen. Legend has it that Cary Grant refused the role and told studio head Jack L. Warner that he wouldn’t even see the picture if Harrison wasn’t cast.

JAMIE FOXX, “RAY” (2004) — This biopic of soul legend Ray Charles gave Foxx plenty of dramatic meat to chew on. So what if his musical numbers were dubbed by Charles?

Best actress winners

LUISE RAINER, “THE GREAT ZIEGFELD” (1936) — The German-born actress won the first of her back-to-back Oscars for portraying actress Anna Held in this musical paean to impresario Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell). Rainer’s “Oscar moment” was her famous telephone scene.

JULIE ANDREWS, “MARY POPPINS” (1964) — While Andrews was “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” as the magical nanny, some experts considered her win a consolation prize for losing out the role of Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” to Audrey Hepburn.

BARBRA STREISAND, “FUNNY GIRL” (1968) — Streisand reprised her stage role of Broadway star Fanny Brice and a movie star was born. Streisand began her Oscar acceptance speech with “Hello, gorgeous,” her first two words in the movie.

LIZA MINNELLI, “CABARET” (1972) — The singer-actress had her best screen role as Sally Bowles, a chanteuse and party girl in this Bob Fosse musical set in 1930s Berlin.

SISSY SPACEK, “COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER” (1980) — Country singer Loretta Lynn’s rocky road from Kentucky to Nashville was brought to life by Spacek, who probably sealed her Oscar victory by also doing her own singing.

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