Class Act: Performance categories introduced
For all of us, watching film and television has always meant falling for the performers on screen, actors and actresses the literal face of the stories we love. At the cinema in particular, British actors had a key presence in Hollywood from the days of the star system onwards – a presence still maintained now.

All of these factors have contributed to the importance of the acting awards to BAFTA since the first of them were presented in 1953. As the profile of the awards grew, the Academy recognised the importance of including actors in order to spark public interest and conversation. Originally there were awards in four categories, recognising both national and international talent.

The first winners of the prizes for British Actor and Actress were Ralph Richardson and Vivien Leigh, while the awards for Best Foreign Actor and Actress went to Marlon Brando and Simone Signoret.

At the 1969 Film Awards ceremony, the categories evolved again. The British and international acting categories were combined, and two new awards in recognition of supporting actors and actresses were created. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn were the first actors to win the Best Actor and Actress awards once the British and international acting categories had been combined.

Image: Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn on the set of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967). 

Columbia Pictures/BFI National Archive

Video: Awards footage from 1965 showing Audrey Hepburn accepting her British Actress award for Charade and Richard Attenborough collecting his British Actor prize for Guns At Batasi/Séance On A Wet Afternoon (Source: BBC copyright material reproduced courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation).