So, the other night I was watching this movie with this certain actress who DOESN’T have an Oscar and the thought came to my mind that maybe, just maybe, she did and I was confused. I mean, she HAD to have an Oscar to her name. She’s one of those actresses, you know, the ones that everyone knows by name and generally respects as one of the all-time greats; one of the best that ever worked in the industry. How does she not have an Oscar?
So this got me thinking of those actors and actresses who, on name alone, sound like Oscar winners. I wanted to compile a list of names that we’d all be rather shocked to realize don’t have that golden statue. Sure, there are some names that are famously associated with a lack of an Oscar, the same names that get brought up as DUE for an Oscar every time they make a movie, but there are some more classic actors and actresses who the average moviegoer probably assumes has an Oscar.
They would be wrong.
So, this is a two part series. I’m going to talk about the actors today, and then we’ll get into the actresses tomorrow.
I want to clarify before we get into this list that this is concerning ACTING wins, not any other Oscar win. Some of these actors have won Oscars in other categories (writing/score/directing/honorary) but they never snagged a win for their acting talents. I also only considered names that actually had Oscar nominations attached to them, so while I find it baffling that someone like Peter Sarsgaard, despite his string of remarkable turns in the mid-aughts, doesn’t have an Oscar, he isn’t on this list because he still hasn’t been nominated for anything yet.
Let’s start with the runner-ups…all ten of them. Yup, I could only narrow this down to 20 and then I was like “forget this, I’ll include them all” but because this is supposed to be a Top Ten, I’m not going to rank the runner-ups.
First, let’s talk about Jude Law. I know that he’s a younger addition, but quite frankly his name should be associated with an Oscar by now. Usually, when an actor has the kind of breakout that Law has, and the kind of year he had back in 2003, he walks away with an Oscar. Since his initial Oscar nomination, back in 1999, he’s continued to stretch his legs, and for a while he was starring in everything. Had he been an actress, I have a strong feeling he would have won in 2003 or the following year for something, since they usually gravitate towards honoring actresses who break out as ‘it girls’. Law would have been the Jennifer Lawrence of the early aughts. He still has time though, for Oscar does like to reward the seasoned actor, and they love it when one of them makes a late-in-life comeback. Similarly, Ralph Fiennes has such a sensational early 90’s that his lack of an Oscar seems strange. He’s very similar to Law in that he started with a very highly praised Supporting nomination that many feel SHOULD have won the Oscar, but both lost to a veteran actor in a role many consider undeserving of an Oscar. They followed up these nominations with a Lead nom in an Anthony Minghella directed epic where they played the tortured romantic lead. They’re also two of the most consistent yet overlooked actors of their generation, so here’s to hoping that one day Oscar rewards them for being incredible.
Speaking of currently working actors who don’t have an Oscar, let’s talk for a second about three actors we all know DON’T have Oscars who many feel should have one by now. Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Nick Nolte are all Oscarless. Nolte is one that many may have forgotten about, since his heyday was in the 90’s, but his recent nomination for Warrior may have reminded people that not only is he one of the more respected actors of his generation, he’s also one of the least rewarded. Despite three Oscar nominations, he’s yet to win (even though he looked set to take it home in 1991). At this point, it may never happen for him. I also doubt it’ll happen for Johnny Depp, who seems to have wasted his chance at Oscar gold by throwing his talent to the wind in pursuit of a larger paycheck. In the early 90’s he immerged as one of the more interesting young actors, and his 90’s resume is astonishing. Strangely, he was snubbed by Oscar until he went Disney in 2003, but instead of capitalizing on that welcome to the club, he kind of phoned it in ever since. Now, he’s a laughing stock that no one takes seriously.
Leonardo DiCaprio is probably the most well-known case of ‘I can’t believe he doesn’t have an Oscar’. His tragic loss last year to McConaughey was a shame indeed, because here you had one of his generations finest young actors delivering what may be his greatest work to date up against a one-note actor delivering a gimmicky Oscar snagging performance and the gimmick won, once again. DiCaprio will win though, of that I’m certain.
Unless he becomes his generations Peter O’Toole.
Yeah, he doesn’t have an Oscar either!
Yup, Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Richard Harris, Tony Curtis and James Dean round out my runner-ups as names that should be and most may think are associated with Oscar and yet, none of them have won, and sadly all of them are gone so none of them will ever win. When you hear these names, you think of classic cinema and you think of the raves that they as actors have earned, the reputations they have achieved. That really is the reason their lack of Oscar wins is so baffling. They are so famous, and not for being ‘celebrities’ but for being true actors. Dean is possibly the most baffling and least baffling case. He only ever made three films and yet he’s probably (arguably) the most famous name in the bunch and for those unfamiliar with his filmography, they’d probably assume from his reputation that he’d starred in a hell of a lot more films than three. The fact that both of his Oscar nominations were posthumous is also telling. AMPAS wanted to reward him, and yet they passed him over both years.
Peter O’Toole’s lack of an Oscar is an insane joke. Despite eight nominations, he lost every one of them. They didn’t even Al Pacino him by giving him an Oscar for a crappy performance in a weak year, which they most certainly could have. They couldn’t even Paul Neman him by giving him a win for a later in life nom in a year where there were better performances yet nothing that trumped his name recognition, which they most certainly could have. I mean, Forrest Whitaker doesn’t need an Oscar, does he?
But let’s go ahead and get into the Top Ten, because these names may surprise you.
Charles Boyer was one of those European imports who made such an impact on classic cinema his name immediately ignites interest. He’s also one of those actors who I forget I love as much as I love until I watch one of his films and am taken aback by how impressive he is in whatever role he takes on. Whether he’s the tortured love interest (Love Affair / All This, And Heaven Too), the chilling villain (Gaslight) or the solid presence for the film’s core to swim around (The Constant Nymph / The Earring of Madame de…), he’s always exceptional. With his dashing good looks and range for days, one hears his name and probably assumes he had an Oscar on his shelf, but despite four nominations he never once won gold! He lost to two of Spencer Tracy’s least impressive performances, Bing Crosby doing absolutely nothing of note, and an iconic Gregory Peck in a performance for the ages. So, I feel sad for Boyer, who really should have won for his chilling performance in Gaslight, which anchored the whole film, but unfortunately Oscar doesn’t like to reward sheer evil in Leading categories. If only he could have category-frauded his way to Supporting, where he probably would have STILL lost against Barry Fitzgerald, who was the only actor in the history of Oscar to receive a nomination in Lead and Supporting for the same performance.
I never thought I’d ever say this, but damn you Spencer Tracy!
So, during the 2010 Oscar ceremony, Kirk Douglas got on stage to present the Supporting Actress Oscar, and he talked about how third time was NOT a charm for him, and it was then that I realized that this legendary actor didn’t have an Oscar. I just always took it for granted that he did. Nope, that was Michael. Douglas is truly a legend, but he’s a legend that many may not be entirely familiar with. His reputation is a great one, and his legacy is deep, but his son has, in a way, eclipsed him simply because Michael is the bigger star. Yup, we live in a day and age when celebrity means more than talent, and Kirk, despite being the richer talent, has never been the celebrity that his son has been. So, despite snagging three Oscar nominations (to Michael’s ONE), Kirk is Oscarless. He lost to a singing King, a worn out Sheriff and tyrannical politician. Personally, I think Broderick Crawford is a revelation in All the King’s Men, and I kind of find Douglas lacking in Lust for Life, but Douglas was astonishing in The Bad and the Beautiful (truly remarkable work) and the actual winner, Cooper (who had already won an Oscar), was so bland and unremarkable that this loss stings, a lot.
Damn you Gary Cooper!
Claude Rains was one of the most reliable presences in Hollywood during the 30’s and 40’s. This is proven by his four Oscar nominations, all falling within a seven year period. The fact that his performances in Casablanca and especially Notorious have become so well remembered and lauded makes his lack of an actual Oscar win confusing. He was a true thespian, and in this category Oscar likes to reward those men, but instead of snagging an Oscar for his consistent magnetism, he lost out on the prize all four times. A case can be made for Harold Russell, who had a lot of sentiment going into Oscar night (not to mention starring in the odds on favorite for Best Picture) as well as Thomas Mitchell, who was a hard working character actor with a once in a lifetime role, but do we remember Coburn in The More the Merrier? Fitzgerald (here we go again) kind of screwed everyone in the Supporting category in 1944 by placing in both Lead and Supporting that year, so he should have been disqualified.
Damn you Oscar rules for not instituting them sooner!
Albert Finney. This one is a conundrum. His career opened with a bang, proving that he was not only a solid actor, but a real charismatic one. He had this grizzled charm, a look that could play for gentle laughs or more dramatic tension. He was another Paul Newman type actor, a young man with good looks and a brooding intensity that recalled a young Brando. Unlike Newman, who created a prime in his early career though, Finney didn’t really blossom as a respected and beloved actor/thespian until his mid-career. In the 80’s, he surged as this uncanny presence. Over the span of three decades, he racked up four nominations and then disappeared from Oscar’s eyes until 2000 brought him back with a delicate and nuanced turn alongside that year’s Best Actress winner, Julia Roberts. Despite a longstanding career of consistent and varied work, he’s 0/5 and the realization of this is depressing. He couldn’t snag a win for breaking out, he couldn’t win an Oscar for finding his hot streak and he couldn’t win for having a late in life career resurgence. Looking at his losses though, it’s not hard to understand why he lost (even if he shouldn’t have). He’s lost to Poitier, in a history making moment. He lost to a beloved veteran, Art Carney. He lost to Robert Duvall, who, like Finney, had been working for years and was actually one nomination ahead of Finney at that point (he was on his fourth nom). He lost to F. Murray Abraham in one of the most beloved Oscar wins in history. He lost to Benecio Del Toro, who was borderline Lead in the year’s Best Picture frontrunner.
And yet, in all honesty, he was better than all of those winning performances.
So, damn you everybody!
Orson Welles has an Oscar, although it’s not for what you think it is. It isn’t for directing, which is what he’s probably most well-known for, and it isn’t for acting, which is something he’s so often taken for granted for. It’s for writing. That being said, Welles is one of those legends who probably should have about ten Oscars. Finding out that Welles has never won an Oscar for his acting, once you actually delve into his filmography, is the same feeling you get when you realize that Alfred Hitchcock has never won an Oscar for his directing. It’s ridiculous. First, Orson has only ever been nominated for his acting ONCE, for Citizen Kane. But, look at the rest of his credits. The Stranger, The Lady from Shanghai, The Third Man, Touch of Evil, Moby Dick, Macbeth, Jane Eyre…and the list continues. The man was a cinematic genius, and the world generally regards him as such, which makes his lack of an acting Oscar ludicrous.
Also, damn you Gary Cooper…AGAIN!
Now we come to the point in the list where it’s clear that I’m not creating a biased list but one that I really thought long and hard about and considered it from a purely unbiased and technical standpoint (although that is semi-true with regards to Douglas as well, who I don’t fawn over). Yes, we’re talking about Warren Beatty. Did you know he’d never won an acting Oscar? Like, Warren Beatty! At least he has that in common with his wife, Annette. But really, the LEGEND status associated with his name alone causes one to assume that he’d been gifted an Oscar for his performances, and yet despite snagging four acting Oscar nominations, he lost them all. For me, Beatty has often always come across wooden. I can only really recall two/three times when I felt he eased into a performances in a natural way, or had his stagey demeanor used to perfection. He was only Oscar nominated for one of those performances (Bugsy). For me, his other nominations weren’t really warrented, but my personal feelings aside don’t negate the fact that he’s probably one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood, had a career that has just been HUGE, created his own legend over years and years of working (acting, writing, directing, producing) and is one of the most beloved individuals ever to work in the industry. He lost to a very due Rod Stieger, a baity as hell Jon Voight, the beloved veteran Henry Fonda and Anthony Hopkins, in a legendary performance. I actually preferred Beatty to Hopkins (ever so slightly), but Hopkins as an actor I appreciate more, so I’m glad he won.
So, damn nobody really, but WOW…this one really is surprising.
Like Beatty (who won for directing) and Welles, Charlie Chaplin won an Oscar, this time for Scoring Limelight. He also won two Honorary Oscars, but he’s only been nominated for his acting once, where he lost to Jimmy Stewart collecting his makeup Oscar for losing the year before. Some may not be shocked to know that Chaplin isn’t an Oscar winner, for his acting, because they associate him with the silent films of the 20’s, before the Oscars came into existence, but his career spanned DECADES, and his presence in film and his contribution to it remained consistent and important until his retirement. Just looking at his work after Oscars institution, he could have (and should have) been nominated for City Lights and Monsieur Verdoux, and probably should have won both years as well. For an actor who’s actual face and image is so ingrained in the cinematic society, it’s rather baffling that he never once one for created that iconic image.
Damn you Louis B. Mayer for not creating the Oscars sooner!
Who doesn’t love Cary Grant? Grant is probably one of the most beloved actors of any generation. Alongside Marlon Brando, he’s probably the one actor who gets his name thrown around the most when comparing young breakout actors today to those of old. Wasn’t George Clooney christened the next Cary Grant years ago? But, despite being such a major household name (who doesn’t know who he is?), Grant never won an Oscar. He was nominated twice, both early in his career, but he didn’t win for either (he lost to that damn Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby again). What strikes me as odd is that Grant really was in a prime position to win for any of his roles because Oscar had no problems in those years rewarding actors in light performances. His 1940’s co-star, Jimmy Stewart, won for just that (and Grant was leagues better than him in the same film), and Crosby, who defeated Grant in 1944, was a singing priest with no real meat on those bones at all (if you think Tracy was a skeletal character in Boys Town, wait till you watch Going My Way). For me, Grant was better than both of the actors he lost to, but the saddest part of all of this is that Grant never got the recognition he deserved. He was such a brilliant and versatile actor, which is even proved by his two nominations (which are very different). His screwball comedies of the 30’s were marvelous, and his more serious demeanor in his later years was also pitch perfect. How he lost out for nominations for films like North By Northwest or Bringing Up Baby or The Philadelphia Story or An Affair to Remember is beyond my comprehension. Maybe he really was too pretty. Maybe he was the Brad Pitt/Leonardo DiCaprio of his time.
Damn you jealous Oscar voters for being too vain to vote for a pretty man!
When one thinks back over classic Hollywood and they compile in their heads a list of the most respected and generally considered BEST actors there ever was, Montgomery Clift often pops up sooner rather than later. Maybe it’s the fact that his face and his voice were so distinct that he’s easy to remember, or maybe it’s the fact that he was truly a brilliant actor. With four nominations, Clift may have been in the same boat as Grant in that he was too pretty for Oscar, but what makes his lack of a win more preposterous is that Clift never really strayed from working on Oscar bait films. He never did the whole light-frothy route. He didn’t deliver a slew of screwball comedies or pick roles that relied solely on his charisma and charm (which he had, to a degree). No, Clift was part of the Brando school of acting and sought after those rich, brooding character studies that Oscar salivates over.
He lost to Olivier playing Hamlet, Bogart being a complete ham, Holden snagging a ridiculous makeup Oscar and George Chakiris singing and dancing his way into Oscar hearts (sort of).
In all honesty, it was probably Clift’s personal life that prohibited him from ever winning an Oscar. Being deeply distressed over his own homosexuality, he fell into a life of drugs and depression and this stunted his cinematic growth. Whether he was snubbed gold due to his lifestyle, or whether he would have eventually been embraced, his career was cut short due to a tragic car accident, which scarred him physically and emotionally, and an eventual early death. Had he gotten help for his depression and continued to seek out the right roles, I have no doubt he would have eventually won an Oscar, probably a Supporting one in the mid-70’s.
Damn you life for being extra hard on some people!
And now we’ve reached our #1, Richard Burton. I’m sorry, but what the actual hell?!? This is probably one of the most unsettling tidbits of Oscar trivia to ever become acquainted with. If I were to make a list right this moment of the ten greatest actors in the history of ever, Burton definitely be in the Top Five, and would be duking it out with Newman, Brando, Stieger and Crowe for the #1 spot. Guess what; he’s the only actor in that bunch without an Oscar. With seven nominations to his name, AMPAS had many opportunities to reward him and yet he went home empty handed every single time. What makes this so baffling is that his style of method acting was really beloved by Oscar at that time, and actors like Brando, Steiger and even Olivier were embraced and rewarded for doing the same thing that Burton was doing, and Burton also had the added benefit of being married to the beloved Elizabeth Taylor, who won TWO Oscars and is probably only beneath Meryl Streep and Katherine Hepburn is undisputed respect in the cinematic industry. Despite the talent AND the celebrity, Burton is a seven time Oscar loser.
Anthony Quinn, William Holden, Rex Harrison, Lee Marvin, Paul Scofield, John Wayne and Richard Dreyfuss are all to blame for this historical stain on cinematic justice. Looking at that list of names, outside of Wayne, who is more well-known and beloved than Burton? None. You hear the name Richard Burton and you think OSCAR! You hear the name Richard Dreyfuss and you think JAWS! Don’t get me wrong, I love Dreyfuss as an actor, and would even have nominated him a few times, but the two names are just not comparable, at all.
DAMN YOU EVERYONE EVERYWHERE FOR ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN!
Well that’s it for today, but that’s not it for this discussion. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be posting my thoughts on actresses that we can’t believe don’t have Oscars, since they were really what inspired this idea to begin with. Now, just pray for me that work remains slow this week and I can compile all my thoughts on the matter!
Oh yeah, and CHIME IN!!!