In Praise Of the Only Living EGOT Who's Won All 4 Awards as a Performer

Rita Moreno
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Rita Moreno photographed on Jan. 13, 2020.

Moreno won her first EGOT award -- the Oscar -- in April 1962.

You may know that 15 people have attained EGOT status by winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in competition. You may not know that only three of the 15 EGOTs won all four awards as performers – rather than as writers, producers or directors.

That's not to diminish the importance of behind-the-scenes contributions. But there's something special about winning all four EGOT-level awards for work as performers. And the only people who have done that are Helen Hayes, Rita Moreno and Audrey Hepburn. And the only one of those three artists who is still living is Moreno, still active and vital at 88.

Moreno has been a star longer than most of you have been alive. She ticked off her first EGOT award -- the Oscar -- in April 1962, when John F. Kennedy was president and Marilyn Monroe was Hollywood's reigning sex symbol.

Moreno achieved EGOT status in 1977. She was just the third person to win all four awards, following Richard Rodgers and Hayes. She was just 45 at the time, which made her the youngest to that point. More than four decades later, she's still the third youngest person to clinch EGOT status. Only Robert Lopez and John Legend were younger. (Both were 39 when they joined the club.)

Moreno has won two Emmys for performances on The Muppet Show (1977) and The Rockford Files (1978), a Grammy for best recording for children for The Electric Company (1972), an Oscar for her supporting role in West Side Story (1961) and a Tony for her featured performance in the play The Ritz (1975). Moreno shared the Grammy with Bill Cosby, another trailblazing star who broke racial and ethnic barriers in the 1960s. (Though his 2018 conviction for aggravated indecent assault damaged his legacy.)

Moreno owns a piece of Billboard chart history. She is featured on two songs, "America" and "Tonight Quintet," on the West Side Story soundtrack, which topped the Billboard 200 for 54 weeks in 1962-63, longer than any other album since the chart became a weekly feature in 1956. The soundtrack received a 1961 Grammy nomination for album of the year.

More recently, she was included on Lin-Manuel Miranda featuring Artists for Puerto Rico's "Almost Like Praying," which was based on "Maria" from West Side Story. The single reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017. (Moreno was born in Puerto Rico.)

Moreno is slated to appear in Steven Spielberg's upcoming reboot of West Side Story. (She also has an executive producer credit on the film.) On television, Moreno is a member of the main cast of the reboot of One Day at a Time and has a recurring role on Bless This Mess.

Now let's look at the two other EGOTs who have won all four awards for work as performers.

Hayes won an Emmy for best actress for an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (1953), a Grammy for best spoken word recording for Great American Documents (1976), two Oscars for performances in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1932) and Airport (1970) and two Tonys for best actress, drama for performances in Happy Birthday (1947) and Time Remembered (1958). Hayes, often called the first lady of American theater, died in 1993. Hayes shared the Grammy with Henry Fonda, James Earl Jones and Orson Welles. (Now that's what I call a collab!)

Hepburn won an Emmy for outstanding individual achievement, informational programming for Gardens of the World with Audrey Hepburn (1993), a Grammy for best spoken word album for children for Audrey Hepburn's Enchanted Tales (1993), an Oscar for her lead role in Roman Holiday (1953) and a Tony for best actress in a play for Ondine (1954). Hepburn, like Hayes, died in 1993.

Of the 11 remaining EGOTs, John Gielgud and Whoopi Goldberg came the closest to joining this elite group. Both won three of the four EGOT prizes for work as performers. In both cases, the Tony was the only award they didn't win as a performer.

Gielgud's only Tony won in competition was for directing the 1961 play Big Fish, Little Fish. (He won a special Tony as a member of the company of a 1948 production of The Importance of Being Earnest, but that wasn't won in competition.) Gielgud, the first LGBT EGOT, died in 2000.

Goldberg's only Tony to date is as one of 10 producers of the 2002 best musical winner, Thoroughly Modern Millie. Goldberg is 64, so she still has time to bring home a Tony as a performer.

Mel Brooks has won two of the four awards for work as a performer. But his only Oscar is for writing the screenplay for 1968's The Producers. All three of his Tonys are for behind-the-scenes work on the 2001 blockbuster musical based on the aforementioned film. Brooks is 93.

Marvin Hamlisch, Mike Nichols and Legend each won just one of the EGOT awards for work as a performer. In each case, that award was the Grammy. Hamlisch died in 2012, followed by Nichols in 2014. Legend, who is just 41, has lots of time to add to his trophy case.

The other six EGOTs won all of their awards for behind-the-scenes work. They are Rodgers, Jonathan Tunick, Scott Rudin, Lopez, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.