Before the top five Golden Age Oscar travesties are unveiled, Let's take a moment to mention what didn't make it. This is because I don’t think of these as major travesties--though others might--yet somehow I felt the need to include them, just to let you know they were thought about, but not enough to be in the running.
“Near travesties” considered for this list, but ultimately rejected:
How Green Was My Valley beats out Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon for Best Picture, 1941.
I think too highly of John Ford and his reputation, so I can’t muster any vitriol on this issue. I’m also a lukewarm Citizen Kane and Maltese Falcon fan. I like both movies and understand their importance and appeal, but the Ford Factor weighs too heavily for me to label this a travesty.
Thelma Ritter never wins an Oscar.
Though nominated six times for Best Supporting Actress, Thelma Ritter never won. While this is highly unfortunate, in looking at the roles for which Miss Ritter received her nominations, I feel as though she lost out to superior performances each and every time even if she lost to actors via the dreaded stage performance-turned -film-performance curse which reared its ugly head in the case of 1950 and 1951:
All About Eve (1950) Lost to Josephine Hull in Harvey The Mating Season (1951) Lost to Kim Hunter in A Streetcar Named Desire With a Song in My Heart (1952) Lost to Gloria Grahame in The Bad and the Beautiful Pickup on South Street (1953) Lost to Donna Reed in From Here to Eternity Pillow Talk (1959) Lost to Shelley Winter in The Diary of Anne Frank Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) Lost to Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker
Marlon Brando fails to win Best Actor in 1951.
It was a stage role that Brando played a zillion times; my dislike for actors getting Oscar nominations for stage roles holds true in this and every regard, despite my admiration for Brando in general. Besides, Bogart was better.
Barbara Stanwyck never wins an Oscar.
This omission pains me the most, but in looking at Babs' nominations, with the exception of 1937--see travesty #9--when Stanwyck was nominated for Stella Dallas--I couldn't make a case for her beating out the actual victors:
Ball of Fire (1942) Lost to Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver Double Indemnity (1944) Lost to Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) Lost to Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda
So while it's a travesty that Barbara Stanwyck never won a "competitive" Oscar, at least her losses were in years with memorable winners.