Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Classics: Five Cinema Icons Who Never Won an Oscar By Lauren Ennis

1.      GRETA GARBO: Known as “the Swedish Sphinx”, this star is today best remembered for 'wanting to be alone’. Throughout the 1920’s and into the early 1930’s, however, Greta Garbo was the undisputed queen of the silver screen. Despite her typecast start as a silent film vamp, Garbo was actually a versatile actress whose subtle approach to her craft broke the melodramatic standards set by her peers. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress on four occasions, including once for her comeback role in her first comedy, the 1939 political satire Ninotchka. Despite all the work that she put into her performances, Garbo never seemed to regret her Academy losses and instead came to dismiss her star status and resent the toll that it took upon her private life. She unofficially retired (she continued to review scripts and made a final screentest in 1949) from film in 1941 following the critical and commercial failure of her attempt at a follow-up comedic role in Two Faced Woman. She was awarded an Academy Honorary Award in 1955, which was accepted on her behalf by fellow actress Nancy Kelly as Garbo declined to attend the ceremony. Today, Greta Garbo remains an enigmatic cinema icon amongst classic film fans and was recently ranked fifth on the American Film Institute’s list of Greatest Female Stars of All Time.

2.      BARBARA STANWYCK: Domestic melodrama, screwball comedy, film noir, western; Brooklyn gal  Barbara Stanwyck proved her mettle in all these genres and more in a career that spanned nearly six decades. After making a modest beginning as a Broadway chorus girl, Stanwyck made her film debut in a silent bit part before quickly working her way up to becoming one of the most versatile actresses of all time. Never one to turn down a challenge, she used her chameleon-like skill to move with the changing trends of several eras, playing women of diverse ages and social classes with her trademark combination of street smarts and honest emotion. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress on four occasions, including her memorable turn as femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson in the 1945 noir classic Double Indemnity. True to her working class roots, Stanwyck was far more interested in continuing to work than in receiving awards, saying “I’m a tough old broad from Brooklyn. I intend to go on acting until I’m ninety”.  She finally won an Academy Honorary Award in 1982. Barbara Stanwyck remains a true cinema classic and a shining example of what an actress can achieve if she possesses talent, a good work ethic, and the willingness to try something new.

3.  CARY GRANT: Suave, sophisticated, and endlessly entertaining are just a few ways that fans would describe Cary Grant. After holding his own while starring opposite saucy sexpot Mae West in a pair of films in the early 1930’s ,Grant went on to become the most in demand leading man of the following three decades. Over the course of his career, he played a wide array of parts ranging from conflicted dramatic heroes to hapless comedic foils with equal skill. Unfortunately, Grant was and continues to be better known for his leading man good looks than his dramatic depth, and was unfairly overlooked as a mere ‘pretty face’ throughout his career. Beneath his debonair persona, however, lay a deep internal torment as he spent his life battling a severe case of depression, which led him to experiment with various forms of therapy and mood altering drugs, including prescribed LSD. He was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actor for his roles in the dramas Penny Serenade and Suspicion, and was reportedly elated when he finally received an Academy Honorary Award in 1970. Today, Cary Grant is one of the most easily recognizable actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era and was recently ranked as the second greatest star on the American Film Institute’s list of Greatest Male Stars of All Time. Oh, and for the record, he never did say, “Judy, Judy, Judy”, although he did utter a slew of unforgettable lines throughout his expansive career.

4. ALFRED HITCHCOCK: The ‘master of suspense’ is so famous that even his silhouette is  instantly recognizable. Between 1922 and 1976, Hitchcock directed over fifty full length films as well as the pioneering suspense series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which lasted ten seasons. Over the course of his career, he debuted several stylistic techniques including voyeuristic camera movements, false flashbacks, and decoy plot devices known as ‘MacGuffins’. Through his innovative style he brought a more complicated form of suspense to cinema, which forced audiences to empathize with unsavory protagonists and acknowledge their own hidden dark sides. His most recognizable hits include Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds. Despite the success of his films today, many of his films were denounced by critics upon their release for breaking the established rules of film. He was nominated for five Academy Awards for Best Director, and although he did not win any of them, his 1941 film Rebecca won the Academy Award for Best Picture and several actors won Oscars for their roles in his films. Over time, Alfred Hitchcock has become synonymous with expert directing and the art of suspense for his ability to demonstrate a skill and innovation that many have imitated but none have equaled.

5. PETER O’TOOLE: From period pieces, to capers, to comedies, to biographies, to

musicals Peter O’Toole has proven himself to be an adept actor in nearly every film genre. O’Toole began his acting career not on the screen, but on the British stage as a Shakespearean actor with the English Stage Company. His breakout film was the epic Lawrence of Arabia in which he played the complicated and elusive WWI British army officer T. E. Lawrence. Following his successful introduction to American audiences in Lawrence, he starred in a series of successful films throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, including the historical dramas Becket and Lion in Winter. In the late 1970’s O’Toole underwent surgery for a misdiagnosed case of pancreatic cancer, which included removing a large portion of his pancreas and stomach. The surgery led to insulin-dependent diabetes and ultimately forced him to give up his addiction to alcohol. He later survived a near fatal blood disorder in 1978, but continued working steadily throughout the next three decades. At eight Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, he currently holds the record for the largest number of Academy Award nominations without winning, but did receive an Academy Honorary Award in 2003.


  1. Absolutely Flabbergasted by #4. And I still believe that the Academy refused to bestow the Best Actor Academy Award on Peter O' Toole because he appeared in "Caligula"

  2. Ha! Oh Hollywood so fair and balanced. I still maintain that Garbo never got one because she never kissed up to the studios or press. Cracked up when I read 2 Academy voters voted for 12 Years a Slave without ever watching it