So, yesterday I posted my list of Top
Ten Twenty Actors You Won’t Believe Don’t Have Oscars, and I wanted
to follow that up with the actresses. I
guess it’s less a follow up, but more the closing act. It all started with an actress. I was sitting in my bed, watching an
incredible movie starring an incredible actress and then it dawned on me…she
DOESN’T have an Oscar…at all…for anything!
From that small grain of a thought, this was born. I stayed up half the night compiling my lists
and it kept growing and growing and I wound up typing out a collective list of
65 names…which I then condensed to 40 (twenty men/twenty women).
If you haven’t checked out the male list yet, here it is.
So, like yesterday, I’m not going to rank those that landed in the 11-20 spots, but merely present them in a group form. Then we’ll get into the Top Ten.
Again, like with the Actor’s List, I’ve only listed actresses who have been nominated for an Oscar, so some of the greats have been left off. Like, take Marilyn Monroe. I’m actually dumbfounded that in the height of her fame she didn’t receive an Oscar, but she was never nominated and so she is not on this list. The Top Ten itself is mostly composed of classic actresses, because I really wanted to think about the ones who have attained a reputation that would suggest they are Oscar winning actresses. I want you to read these names and think to yourself, ‘wait…they DON’T have Oscars?’…
But of course, there are many who haven’t won that we are all very much aware of the snubs, because we are reminded of them all the time…and some of those make up the Top Twenty.
Here we go:
Let’s start with that batch of current or still working actresses chasing after the gold. With a combined total of 21 Oscar nominations between them, it is a real shock that none of these five actresses have ever won an Oscar. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening are regarded as two of the greatest actresses ever, and Glenn Close, love her or hate her, is one of those actresses who really should have an Oscar by now. Her rise to fame in the 80’s was huge, and her snubs sting, mostly because she’s lost to inferior work (at least the last three times).
And then there is current Oscar darling, Amy Adams, who is touted as becoming the next Thelma Ritter (who also never won an Oscar, but she’s not on this list). She’s nominated for almost everything she does (I like her, but no) and so the fact that she is always coming up short is kind of ridiculous. Maybe she’s destined to be filler…
Naomi Watts kind of baffles me, because at this point I would have thought she’d be a six time nominee, two time winner. She’s just such a marvelous actress and has proven herself in many genres and she just has that classic look and feel that makes me think Oscar would be dying to reward her…and yet she only has two nominations at this point and wasn’t in the running to win for either of them.
Let’s move on to two actresses who we may not often think about, because they don’t work as often, but they’re filmography and reputation kind of speak for themselves. Joan Allen and Laura Linney are two of the most consistent presences in cinematic history. In the mid-90’s it looked certain that Joan Allen was going to be an Oscar winner. She was nominated back to back in 95/96 and then moved up to a Lead nom in 2000…but then agism set in and she just wasn’t getting the roles she needed to remain in Oscar’s good favor. It’s a shame, because she’s such an incredible actress. Her new face is scary, and I kind of think that that is limiting her at this point, but Oscar missed the boat on this one. Linney is a sad case, because she is like the Naomi Watts before there was Naomi Watts. She’s so consistent…so good all of the time, and has such range, but she’s almost too natural. She doesn’t look like she has to work for anything, and so despite her three noms and flawless reputation, I don’t think she’ll ever win.
And finally we come to the three classic actresses that just missed my Top Ten. Angela Lansbury is an actress that many of us mostly associate with television, thanks to her long running stint as everyone’s favorite elderly crime solver, but her early career was quite an impressive one, and her three Oscar nominations are truly sublime. She had such presence and such range. Her three nominations prove that. She can be seductive, manipulative, fragile, charismatic, chilling…everything. And then, Oscar lost interest. Irene Dunne is a strange case, because she was so famous and so loved and so nominated. Five nominations over a 17 year period, and many times being singled out over her co-stars (no Grant, no Boyer) and yet she still never took home the gold.
But of the three, the most baffling for me is Natalie Wood. I guess classic Hollywood wasn’t as intent on crowning the current ‘it girl’ as modern Hollywood is, because she was probably the best example of a classic Jennifer Lawrence, and yet those three nominations meant nothing.
Alright, enough about them…let’s talk about these ten!
Lana Turner. That face, that appeal, that sultry stare…those soap opera theatrics! How was she passed over so many times for giving Oscar voters exactly what they love to acknowledge so much? There was rarely a presence in film as forceful as Turner’s. She wanted it. She worked for it. It didn’t always work from a viewer’s perspective, especially from today’s standards, and yet it was always what Oscar liked and so the fact that she only received one Oscar nomination is almost as baffling as the fact that she never won. She lost to Woodward, doing what Oscar loves best (playing a real life person with a disability), but I’ve always felt that Turner’s performance in Peyton Place was actually the better one. But forget that performance…I mean, how was she not nominated for her work in The Bad and the Beautiful, or for The Postman Always Rings Twice? She is such an icon of classic Hollywood, that this is all so very strange to me.
Damn you Oscar for having a strange aversion to rewarding this legend.
I think what makes Sigourney Weaver’s lack of Oscar so sad is that her last two nominations, which fell on the same night, looked promising to snag her something. She had the Globe for Gorillas in the Mist (albeit, in a tie with the un-nominated MacLaine and the eventual Oscar winner, Foster) and she had that surprise nom in Supporting, where the race seemed somewhat open. How do you lose with two nominations on the same night in races that aren’t wholly determined? Apparently, Oscar wanted to christen Davis a quirky comedic gem (Weaver was FAR more effective in her role) and honor Foster for shedding any evidence she was ever a child star and going ‘brave’…
I’d say ‘damn you, Gena Davis’, since that was her best nominated performance, but ‘DAMN YOU, Jodie Foster’ sounds so much nicer.
Debra Winger. I have such a soft spot for this woman. She was such an incredibly beautiful and talented actress (she still is) and yet, despite her obvious appeal to Oscar voters, and her box office draw in her 80’s, she never won. She was nominated three times, losing to her legendary co-star once (MacLaine) and two legendary performances the other two times (Hunter and Streep). I’m often surprised that, for such a bright young star, she wasn’t nominated more by the Academy. She’s pretty much retired now, which means that her only chance at Oscar gold would be coming out of retirement to play some crotchety grandmother in a beloved indie in a weak Oscar year, but I don’t think that’ll happen.
Damn you Oscar, for not rewarding Shirley MacLaine earlier in her career so that you could give Winger the Oscar!
Ok, so when you hear the name Marlene Dietrich, what to do you think? Legend, right? Yup. Legend. The name just calls to mind old Hollywood glamor and allure and that mysterious European seductiveness that you can’t learn. You’re either born with it, or you’re not. Dietrich was born with it, and her impressive resume screams OSCAR! Then you realize that she was only nominated once, back in 1930, and she lost to Marie Dressler, and while I’ve heard that her performance in Min and Bill is pretty wonderful, does anyone know who Marie Dressler is? No, but we all know the name Marlene Dietrich, and that name feels incomplete without the words “Academy Award Winner” in front of it.
Damn you Academy (there’s a lot of these in this round) for refusing to accept Dietrich as one of your own!
So, when we think about the 30’s, one of the first names that comes to mind is Greta Garbo. She is a true legend. Her face is unforgettable, and her ability to completely transform herself into any role was remarkable. Despite being such a remarkable force for nearly twenty years in cinema, she retired after the war due to personal reasons, and never again filmed a movie. Her final nomination came in 1939, when she lost to Vivian Leigh. The bulk of her film work was done pre-Oscar, which also made it real difficult to garner her an Oscar, but I have no doubt that had she stuck it out and done more films, she’d have won that Golden Man. Instead, she’s left us a legacy that defies logic. How does a woman with this reputation not have an Oscar? Aside from Leigh, she lost to Rainer (who already had an Oscar) and to Norma Shearer, despite being nominated TWICE in the same category (in her defense, so was Shearer). Norma Shearer, Vivian Leigh and Louise Rainer are legendary names in their own right, but, like, did Rainer need two?
Damn you war, for ruining Garbo’s ambition!
I know that she may be a newer face, amidst this sea of classic actresses, but I know I’m not the only one completely baffled by the fact that Michelle Pfeiffer has no Oscar, especially when you consider how big her rise to fame was. When she picked up that nomination in 1988, it was clear that we had a very talented new face on the scene, and she immediately followed that up with one of the most beloved and respected turns of not just the 80’s, but ever. She won practically everything for The Fabulous Baker Boys, and going into Oscar night it looked like she was about to be crowned the new princess of cinema…and then that old lady took home the gold and Pfeiffer’s Oscar dreams were crushed. It’s obvious that she lost because the Academy felt they could easily reward her later, but things don’t always pan out like you plan, and she wound up with a solitary follow-up nomination and her career has pretty much fizzled into nothing now. In fact, she attempted a brief renaissance in 2007, where she was in three films, but that didn’t work out for her and really, the world has moved on.
Damn you old people for stealing blinding Oscar voters with sentiment!
Is there anyone in cinema as iconic and beloved as Judy Garland? I don’t think so. She could sing, she could dance, she could charm the pants off of anyone, and she did it time and time and time again. What she could also do, remarkably well as well, is play dramatic perfection. Both of her Oscar nominations came from very dramatic roles, and she nailed them both (and lost both, to much lighter fare). It’s sad that someone with such a legendary status and so many incredible movies that we all love and revisit and quote and recommend is a two time Oscar…loser. Grace Kelly may be a legend, but Judy Garland is a LEGEND! The mother of Liza Minnelli (Oscar winner) and the wife of Vincente Minnelli (Oscar winner), this all around beloved film icon (icon, period!) never won an Oscar herself, which is not only shocking, it’s preposterous!
Damn you Grace Kelly!
So, the film I was watching where the whole idea for this series started was Minnie and Moskowitz, and if you haven’t seen that film and Gena Rowlands’ Oscar snubbed performance in it, you should add that to your Netflix queue right now (it’s actually streaming, so watch it). I sat there, in awe of this woman, and then I remembered that she LOST for delivering my all-time favorite female performance in the history of cinema, and possibly my favorite performance PERIOD, in A Woman Under the Influence. That face, that voice…she was practically the Cate Blanchett of her time and yet she was never rewarded (in noms or in actual statuettes) as much as she should have been. In fact, she only has two nominations to her name (she’s still alive, so someone give her a comeback role ASAP), and while she lost to two tremendous actresses (Spacek and Burstyn), she should NOT be an Oscar loser. I’m sorry, but her 70’s work is pretty much unmatched by anyone, and her work alongside her husband makes for one of the greatest director/muse relationships in the history of cinema. How she is not an Oscar winner is just disgusting to me.
Damn you Ellen Burstyn, for not winning ANY OTHER YEAR FOR ANY OTHER OF YOUR BETTER PERFORMANCES!
I love you Lauren Bacall, and I really should have placed you somewhere on this list, I’m sure, but no one did the seductive noir temptress like Barbara Stanwyck, no one! No one did much of anything quite like Stanwyck, actually. She was such a brilliant presence in film, and the way that she melded into such drastically different characters with such fluidity was astonishing. She was funny and charming, sexy and seductive, chilling and manipulative, but she could even play the average woman, lighting up a room with her natural charisma. Stanwyck was everything, but despite racking up four nominations and delivering one of the most legendary noir turns in history, she walked away from each ceremony with nothing. Louis Rainer (who stole Oscar’s from Garbo and Dunne the same year), Joan Fontaine (yuck), Ingrid Bergman (love her, so I’ll refrain) and Jane Wyman (I haven’t seen, so I can’t judge) are all to blame for Stanwyck’s lack of Oscar, but really, it is Oscar voters who are to blame for not rewarding this tremendous talent.
But honestly, damn you Joan Fontaine!!!
So, I was thinking that Stanwyck should be #1, but the more I sat on this the more it became clear that the most astonishing case of “I can’t believe they don’t have an Oscar”, male or female, has got to be Deborah Kerr. Like, how is this possible? I mean, your average cinephile is pretty aware of this statistic, but like, it doesn’t make it any more understandable. This has got to be a glitch in the system, right? There is no way that she lost all six times she was nominated, right? Someone read the wrong name, right?
Despite being one of the most beloved actresses ever and delivering more consistently than many of the greats (seriously, she was practically always in top form), she lost every time she was up for gold, which is just gross. What’s even more shocking is that looking at the performances she was actually nominated for, there are so many tremendous performances missing. The Innocents, An Affair to Remember, Tea and Sympathy, Bonjour Tristesse, Black Narcissus, The Night of the Iguana and many, many more were all Oscar worthy, and so the fact that she wasn’t nominated for any of those and STILL wound up a six time nominee says a lot for her immense talent. She lost to Woodward, Taylor, Hayward, Bergman, Hepburn and de Havilland, all legends in their own right (or at least all but Hayward, who is a legend for other reasons) and yet, Taylor, Woodward and Hepburn all won for mediocre efforts on their parts, and while Bergman was a worthy win in 1956, Kerr’s one-two-punch of The King and I and Tea and Sympathy should have netted her the Oscar in a walk.
This is just sad!
Damn you Legendary Actresses of the world for not sharing the wealth with this equally legendary actress!
So there you have it, my picks for the ten most astonishing Oscar losers. I know that I missed a lot of names, so feel free to fill me in on them. I caught Bacall too late and didn’t know who I wanted to drop (she should have at least been in the top twenty) and Ritter, while a well-known Oscar loser, just missed my cut off. But who else baffles you?