Hanover native becomes oldest woman in history to win a competitive Oscar

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Ann Roth speaks onstage during the 2018 DGA Honors Show at DGA Theatre on October 18, 2018 in New York City. On Sunday, Roth, a native of Hanover, became the oldest woman to win a competitive Oscar when she won the award for best costume design for her work on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for DGA/TNS)

Hanover native Ann Roth on Sunday won an Oscar in the Best Costume Design category for her work on the film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom."

Roth, 89, is now the oldest woman in history to win a competitive Academy Award, The Morning Call reported. The 2020 drama based in Chicago was directed by George C. Wolfe and featured actors including Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman.

Sunday marked the second time Roth has won an Oscar in the category, the first time being in 1997 for her work on the film "The English Patient." It was her fifth nomination.

Roth has also been nominated for numerous other awards, and she won a Tony in 2013 for costuming "The Nance."

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From left, Michael Potts, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo star in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Hanover native Ann Roth won an Oscar Sunday for costume design for the film.

In introducing her work, presenter Don Cheadle said Roth “reads the script and asks herself questions about the character like, ‘When she goes to bed, where are those clothes? Do they fall on the floor? Does she hang them up?’ From there, Ann builds the costumes which define the character.”

Roth did not appear or give a remote speech during the Oscar ceremony; earlier this month, when she earned the Costume Designers Guild Award for excellence in a period film for “Ma Rainey,” presenter Lana Condor explained that Roth preferred to let her work speak for itself.

The designer had previously told the Movie Times, though, that she was “a huge researcher” — which meant that, while she pulled pieces from her Oscar-nominated “Places in the Heart” costumes (set in 1931) for “Ma Rainey” (set in 1927), “I can pick out what’s 1931 and not 1927, and I have to take them away. It doesn’t work.”

She also discussed with W Magazine some of the accoutrements beneath the jazz-age exterior: “I made the behind,” she said of helping Davis’ physique imply the famed singer’s larger size. (She also said she used Aretha Franklin’s measurements, not Rainey’s.)

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.