Last night, the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role award was given to Jennifer Lawrence for her work in Silver Linings Playbook. The first thought that came to my mind as her name was called was, “Jennifer Lawrence is winning this and Barbara Stanwyck never got anything but an honorary Oscar?”
Now, let me begin by saying that I don’t really have anything against Jennifer Lawrence. She’s said a few things in interviews that have ticked me off (like calling black and white movies “boring”), but I liked her as Katniss and thought she showed some promise in Winter’s Bone.
I’m not going to preach what I think about SLP or get into debate about who should have won this year, but the short of it is that I didn’t think Jennifer Lawrence should have been the one. And her win got me thinking about how often I disagree with the Academy, and how much talent they’ve ignored in the past.
I’m not even going to get into the men, because that post would probably turn into a very large rant about the Academy’s continual snubs of Cary Grant. The following are some of my favorite actresses who never won a single Academy accolade for their performances (with the exception of honorary awards in some cases).
Barbara Stanwyck – Stanwyck is, of course, the most infuriating of the Academy’s snubs for me. She is my favorite actress of all time. Nominated for four of her roles (Sorry, Wrong Number; Double Indemnity; Ball of Fire; Stella Dallas), Stanwyck never took home one of those golden statues until receiving an honorary award in 1982. At the very least, she should have won for Stella Dallas, a film that was made powerful by her emotional performance. She gave so many fantastic performances throughout her long career, though, that I’m just baffled they didn’t choose her even once. Her ability to pull off any type of character and do so realistically has been matched by very few actresses.
Judy Garland – Judy’s snubs are a bit more understandable than Stanwyck’s because most of her filmography is on the lighter side, filled with musicals and cuteness, which the Academy doesn’t seem to reward as frequently as more serious fare. Where is her award for A Star is Born, though? (She received one of her two nominations for the role, but lost to Grace Kelly that year.) Or Meet Me in St. Louis, which the Academy also snubbed director Vincente Minnelli for, even though it’s one of his greatest films? (note: Judy did win an award for juvenile performance.)
Myrna Loy – Myrna Loy’s snubs make me just as angry as those of Stanwyck and Cary Grant; in a way, even more angry because she was never even nominated. I repeat: not a single nomination. I wouldn’t expect her to have been nominated for any of the Thin Man films despite my immense love for them, but Myrna was so much more than just Nora Charles or a romantic comedy lead. She was once voted the Queen of the Movies, and yet they continued to overlook her talent.
Jean Harlow – Another fantastic actress with not a single nomination, and worse, she never even received an honorary award. I’m sure the fact that she was pigeon-holed as the “blonde bombshell” in many of her films did nothing to help her chances during awards season, but her natural charm and screen presence elevated every single one of her films. Though her career was tragically cut short when she passed away in her mid-20s, Jean Harlow’s talent was a force to be reckoned with.
Clara Bow – Clara has her place in Oscar history because she starred in the first-ever Best Picture winner, Wings. However, Clara never received any nominations or wins for her performances. Granted, the majority of her career and many of her best films came before the Oscars even existed, but she appeared in nearly 20 films after Wings. Her snubs may be the most excusable on this list due to the fact that she never broke out of the silent era and therefore didn’t have as much opportunity for nomination, but a snub is a snub regardless.
Rosalind Russell – Again, Roz’s snubs are somewhat understandable; many of her roles were comedic, and the Academy doesn’t seem to take as well to comedy as they do to other genres. Roz was nominated four times and didn’t win on any of those nominations, only receiving a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1973. One of those nominations was for Auntie Mame, which I’ve expressed my love for about a million times. She was up against Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor that year, which is tough competition, but had I been around for the 31st ceremony she would have been one of my top picks for the category.
Lauren Bacall – Bacall’s name will forever be known due to her legendary romance with Humphrey Bogart, but what the general populace doesn’t often realize is that Betty was a highly talented actress in her own right, alongside Bogart or not. Shockingly, she was not nominated for any of her leading roles. She received one supporting nomination in the ’90s but didn’t win it, and she was eventually given an honorary award. Designing Woman won an Oscar for it’s script, but Lauren wasn’t nominated for her work in that one (which brings out the bitter in me because along with The Big Sleep, which was also completely snubbed, it is my favorite of her films).
The list could go on for miles and is by no means comprehensive; I’ve compiled it at 1:30 in the morning, off of the top of my head. One user on IMDb has compiled a list of fifty talented women who never took home little golden men for their acting efforts, and I’m sure even fifty doesn’t come close to recognizing all of the ignored talent. Feel free to add your own picks in the comments, or sound off about how frustrating the Academy’s choices can be in general.