Sunday, May 22, 2011

(Near) Travesties That Didn't Make the Cut

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.


  1. You state your case well, C.K. I can't muster much anger about 1941 either, since it's not like Citizen Kane has lacked for accolades since that time. The only thing I feel compelled to argue with is Ritter's haunting work in Pickup on South Street being passed over for Reed's earnest playing in a sketchily written part. Felt more like the Academy rewarding a younger actress for breaking out of her onscreen image than a testament to her acting. While Ritter's character is what holds Pickup together, for me.

    Stanwyck getting continually passed over is maddening to this Stanwyck fan, but it's also pretty baffling. Considering Stanwyck's well-documented popularity in Hollywood, it's odd that she was never awarded one. Not even a "well, she's waited long enough" one, as the Academy has been known to do.

  2. I think that Ritter's performance in that was good, but her most memorable scene is due more to how it was shot rather than what she brought to it.

    As much as I'd like to think otherwise, I think my life will end up like a Richard Widmark noir character's! Let's hope not!

  3. Well, at least one of Widmark's fates is to be adored by Gene Tierney, even if he does have to die in the end.

    I'll agree that Ritter shares credit with Fuller for her death scene, but I still put it above Reed. Not to mention the way she runs through various pickpocketing methods in the police station. Not quite as mesmerizing as Robinson's suicide method speech in Double Indemnity but still way up there.

    Ritter may not have got her Oscar, but looking at her films, I can't help but think that she got some of the best dialogue ever given to a character actress. There are compensations.

  4. I personally think Stanwyck deserved the Oscar over Ingrid Bergman in 1944. Don't get me wrong I love Bergman but Stanwyck was just more impressive that year.


    She deserved every nomination, but especially feel that she should have won for Pillow Talk! So utterly brilliant!

    And The Stanwyck never winning is just completely uncool.


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