Actresses unfairly ignored by the Academy (or: Lindsey’s bitter post-Oscar ranting)

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.

12 thoughts on “Actresses unfairly ignored by the Academy (or: Lindsey’s bitter post-Oscar ranting)

  1. I completely agree with this post – and it’s mind-boggling that none of the actresses you mentioned won a competitive Oscar. I remember how surprised I was when I first heard that Loy was never even nominated for one. You’re right that this list could go on and on; my personal additions would be Irene Dunne and Greta Garbo.

    I think you’re right about Russell and her comedies, but oddly enough, two of her four nominations were for dramas. It’s ironic that when she was the heavy favorite for her dramatic role in 1947’s Mourning Becomes Electra, Loretta Young won for a comedic performance. I think Russell’s better dramatic performance was in 1946’s Sister Kenny. When I first watched it, I wondered who won that year before realizing that it was my other favorite, Olivia de Havilland. Academy voters have to make tough decisions among deserving candidates.


    1. I haven’t seen Mourning Becomes Electra, but how odd that she lost to a comedic performance! I will never understand the Academy’s taste in comedy – for them to award comedic films/performances but never recognize one of the greatest comedic actresses of all time makes no sense at all.


  2. Add to the list: Carole Lombard and Jean Arthur.

    Those who haven’t been nominated or won an Oscar are in good company. Winners join the ranks of . . . those who shall remain nameless!


    1. Yes! I may have to turn this into a series of posts to cover everyone who has been neglected. So many great directors were ignored, too. And I didn’t even begin to consider any of the talented actors who never cracked into mainstream Hollywood (like Tom Neal)!


  3. Agree with everything you’ve said here. And wow, I’ve heard Lawrence say a lot of questionable things, but I never heard her say that about old movies, she’s missing out! But anyway, she really had the weakest performance of the 5 nominees this year, really don’t agree with her win.

    I haven’t seen a lot of her movies, but Deborah Kerr is one that I can’t believe never won an Oscar despite her 6 nominations. Jean Arthur is also one of my favorite actresses, and it’s upsetting that throughout her whole career she was only nominated once.

    And generally speaking, I don’t get what the Academy’s deal is with comedy…there’s so many award-worthy comedic performances that are never recognized, and I’d argue that a lot of the time comedy is harder to accomplish than drama.


    1. Comedy is definitely difficult to pull off successfully! I can kind of see why they neglect it nowadays, because most new release comedies are completely unfunny, but they seem to have ignored it in virtually every era.


  4. Not trying to toot my own horn, but my latest post at The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog has a long list of great talents that never won a competitive Oscar.


  5. Totally agree, Lindsey, and I doubly totally agree with your thoughts on the Academy, and their lack thereof of intelligent thoughts, it seems. I stopped watching the Oscars years ago, and was actually quite shocked when my personal pick for last year’s top film, The Artist, actually won Best Picture. A prime example of their witlessness was to choose Argo as Best Picture last night (a great film, I’ll admit), but Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated as its director! Dumb!

    I think tonight at 1:30 am you should write up list of male actor Oscar snubs. And though I thought Jennifer Lawrence did a fine job in Silver Linings Playbook (but Oscar worthy?), she has just lost several points with me for her ‘black-and-white films are boring’ comment…


    1. Are you prepared for a 3,000 word spiel on why Cary Grant should have won every award ever? (In all seriousness, I may make a list for the men later this week if I have the time/can force myself to stay awake long enough.)
      It wasn’t only black and whites that Jennifer attacked — she pointed out silents as particularly boring. I’ve also read that she doesn’t like shy people, and since I’m a shy person who likes black and whites/silents…


      1. Only if you’re prepared for a spiel of equal length on Alfred Hitchcock! And if Cary Grant should have won every award ever, then I choose his role in I Was a Male War Bride for Best Actress!

        And I can maybe tolerate someone who doesn’t like black-and-white films…I’ve known a few, and when I question them on their reasons why, they can never give me an answer…but to not like shy people? Where does THAT mentality come from? I hope for her sake it’s a misquote; otherwise, she’s got a long and lonely road ahead of her.


        1. I’ll have to find the interview later but she explained that it’s because they make her feel awkward/she doesn’t want to do all of the talking (though she seems to do a hell of a lot of talking, haha).


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