This Is The Only Person To Win 2 Oscars For The Same Performance

Released in 1946, the film "The Best Years of Our Lives" provides an intimate look at World War II veterans with severe disabilities readjusting to civilian life (via The Guardian). According to an essay on the film posted at the Library of Congress, producer Samuel Goldwyn's wife suggested he read a Time Magazine article about the difficulties servicemen were facing upon returning home. Goldwyn hired writer MacKinlay Kantor, himself a veteran, to compose a short "fictional adaptation." Kantor turned in a 300-page blank verse novel titled "Glory for Me."

Goldwyn didn't understand the book and almost abandoned the project. He was convinced otherwise by director William Wyler and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Sherwood. As both Wyler and Sherwood were veterans — Sherwood had been wounded in action — this was a passion project for them. Their perseverance paid off; the film was the most commercially successful since 1939's "Gone With The Wind." Filmsite describes "The Best Years of Our Lives" as poignant, superb, and eloquent. It went on to be nominated for eight academy awards and won seven.

One of the film's stars was Harold Russell, a World War II veteran who had lost his hands in a freak accident and had chosen to replace them with hooks instead of prosthetics (per Entertainment Weekly). Russell was not an actor. However, his impressive ability to use his hooks garnered him a non-speaking part in an army training film titled "Diary of A Sergeant," for veterans who had suffered similar losses. (The film is posted on YouTube.) Wyler saw the film and subsequently cast Russell in "The Best Years of Our Lives."

Harold Russell auctioned off one Oscar

According to Filmsite, Harold Russell's portrayal of veteran Homer Parrish earned him an Academy Award for best supporting actor. In addition, he received an honorary Academy Award "for bringing hope and courage to fellow veterans" with his performance. Russell is the first and so far only actor in history to receive two Oscars for the same role. His own life challenges informed his performance as Homer with profound authenticity. William Wyler, the director, said it was "the finest performance I have ever seen on the screen" (per The New York Times).

Russell went back to college after the film's release "because there wasn't much call for a guy with no hands in the motion picture industry" (via The Guardian). He returned to film acting only twice, for "Inside Moves" in 1980 and "Dogtown" in 1997. He was also cast in the TV series "China Beach." He established a public relations firm, but spent most of his time as an advocate for the disabled. He served on the presidential committee on employment of disabled people under presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. He also published a memoir, "Victory in My Hands."

In 1992, he caused a commotion when he auctioned off his best supporting actor Academy Award for $60,000. Russell reportedly needed the money for his wife's health care and stated that "My wife's health is much more important than sentimental reasons." Per The New York Times, he decided to keep his honorary Oscar, which remained in his modest Massachusetts home. Turner Classic Movies reports that Harold Russell died at the age of 88 on January 29, 2002.