This Day In History: April 11

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On April 11, 1988, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, the actress and singer Cher collects the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Moonstruck (1988).

Cherilyn Sarkasian, who was born on May 20, 1946, first became famous as the taller, female half of the 1960s singing duo Sonny and Cher, alongside her future husband, Sonny Bono. The two scored their first hit, “I Got You Babe,” in 1965; their television series, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour ran from 1971 to 1974, when the couple split up after having one child, Chastity. By that time, Cher had launched a solo music career, scoring hit singles like “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” (1971), “Half-Breed” (1973) and “Dark Lady” (1974). Her short-lived solo TV effort, Cher, fared worse, as did her second marriage, to the musician Gregg Allman.

By the end of the 1970s, Cher was a single mother (she had a son, Elijah Blue, with Allman) with a stalled career. She began studying at Lee Strasberg’s famed Actors Studio in New York City, and soon landed a part in Robert Altman’s Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). The following year, in her new incarnation as a serious actress, Cher won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep. She turned in another critically acclaimed performance as the mother of a boy with severe facial deformities in Mask (1985). Though she didn’t get an Academy Award nomination for that role, Cher caused a stir at the Oscars when she arrived wearing a show-stopping black dress, complete with an exposed midriff and an enormous feathered headdress. Bob Mackie, whose collaboration with Cher began on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, designed the outfit.

In 1987, Cher had no fewer than three high-profile movies at the box office: The Witches of Eastwick, co-starring Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer; Suspect, co-starring Dennis Quaid; and Moonstruck. Directed by Norman Jewison, the last film featured Cher as a widow who falls in love with her fiance’s brother (played by Nicolas Cage). At the 60th annual Academy Awards ceremony, Moonstruck won in three categories, including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis) and Best Original Screenplay. To pick up her golden statuette, Cher did not disappoint, wearing a black mesh Bob Mackie.

At the time of her Oscar win, Cher’s music career was also flourishing: Her 1986 self-titled album contained hit singles written with Michael Bolton (“I Found Someone”) and Jon Bon Jovi (“We All Sleep Alone”) and she released another million-selling album, Heart of Stone, in 1988. Though her acting career largely stalled after her next movie, Mermaids (1990), she roared back onto the pop charts yet again in the late 1990s with the irresistible hit single “Believe,” and remains an indomitable icon of pop culture and entertainment.

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