Sure this 20 part series may be a vanity project that I’ve been working on since January. Yet, I did this series just to make a point as to how many actors in Hollywood and around the world don’t win competitive Oscars in their lifetime. We all know that winning one is every actor’s dream, especially with a role of a lifetime. Sure many of them are famous and talented stars we know and love while some are distinguished character actors we may or may not recognize unless we look them up. However, despite all the glitz and glamor associated with winning an Oscar, it may as come as a surprise that most actors don’t win Oscars during their career. Of course, this isn’t a surprise since most actors aren’t the big movie stars you hear in the magazines and newspapers anyway. In fact, most players in Hollywood usually are extras, bit players, or have supporting roles. Stars usually consist of the top 10% of Tinseltown anyway. Not to mention, a lot of your movie stars have unpredictable and sometimes brief careers, especially actresses hired for their looks in action movies. Let’s face it, you’re more likely to see Jennifer Lawrence doing movies well into her 80s than Kristen Stewart ever giving an Academy Award winning performance. And even if you are a movie star, your chances of making the Oscar speech are slim since most of them don’t even get nominated in the first place. And if they receive a nomination, they aren’t likely to be nominated again. Now my series on those who never won Oscars consist of 200 on the list with many legendary names in their own right and even they may consist of a small sample. And by Oscar, I mean a competitive Oscar usually from the 4 acting categories of Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. However, this series doesn’t include movie stars who are:
1. Still alive and still working. This is the main reason why actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Alan Rickman, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Glenn Close aren’t on the list since they still have chance (albeit a very small one, but still). This is a list of people who haven’t won an Oscar and won’t win one in the future since they aren’t making movies anymore. Most of these people featured are from the Golden Age of Hollywood for this very reason.
2. Who have won competitive Oscars in other categories like Warren Beatty for directing Reds, Richard Attenborough for directing Gandhi, Orson Welles for co-writing Citizen Kane, and Charlie Chaplin for his Limelight score in the 1970s.
3. Anyone mostly active during the Silent Era before 1927-1928 Oscars mostly because the Academy Awards weren’t around at the time and many of their careers ended once sound became a mainstay in the movies. This explains why actors like Rudolph Valentino aren’t on the list (though he was dead by then). John Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Lillian Gish get in since they’ve made sound films.
4. Famous people who achieved acclaim in a very different line of work like Harry Belafonte best known as a Calypso singer and Richard Pryor, Eddie Cantor, Jerry Lewis, and Bob Hope are better recognized as comedians. Dean Martin doesn’t get in because he’s better recognized as a singer.
5. Also more recognizable as TV stars like Lucille Ball, Robert Young, Peter Falk or Andy Griffith. Fred MacMurray, Richard Griffiths, William Demarest, and James Garner get in since their film roles are just as equally significant and will be known better for younger audiences as movie stars anyway.
6. Actors known mostly as child stars, explaining why Freddie Bartholomew, Shirley Temple, and Margaret O’Brien don’t get in. After all, child actors normally don’t win Oscars anyway. Yet, Mickey Rooney and Natalie Wood get in since they acted in films as adults.
Now this selection pertains to some of the better known names in movie history almost anyone is sure to recognize. First, you have the famous Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton who both received the most Oscar nominations without a single win. Next, you have the suave and gentlemanly Cary Grant best known for his screwball romantic comedies, debonair looks and fashion sense, and performances in Hitchcock movies. Then we have movie tough guys like Robert Mitchum, Steve McQueen, and Edward G. Robinson known for playing crooks, gangsters, and action heroes that pushed these men to iconic status. Next, there’s Judy Garland who sang the Academy Award winning song, “Over the Rainbow” as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz but never nabbed a competitive statuette herself though her character Vicki Lester did in-universe in A Star Is Born. Then you have Brooklyn accented Barbara Stanwyck who basically did anything during her 60 year career after spending a childhood as an orphan from the streets of New York City. Finally, you have Ava Gardner and Lauren Bacall best known for being sensual beauties as well as being married to famous men like Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, and Jason Robards Jr. So without further adieu, here are the first 10 actors in my first installment of stars who’ve never won an Oscar.
1. Peter O’Toole
Personal Life: (1932-2013) may have been born in Conemara, Ireland or Leeds, England (though he resided in Conemara as an adult and had his ashes spread there). Worked as a journalist, photographer, and signaler for the Royal Navy. Mother was a Scottish nurse while father was a metal plater, soccer player, and racecourse bookmaker. Started acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and as a Shakespearean actor for the Bristol Old Vic before debuting in 1959. Married to Sian Philips from 1959-1979 with which he had 2 daughters. Also had a son with longtime girlfriend and model Kate Brown. Had a reputation for hard drinking and partying that it caused him all sorts of health problems it nearly killed him in the 1970s. Yet, he only quit drinking for good when he was 75. Retired in 2012. Died at 81.
Famous for: Anglo-Irish actor best known for holding the record of the most Academy Award nominations without a single win. Notable roles include T. E. Lawrence from Lawrence of Arabia, Henry II from Becket and The Lion in Winter, Lord Jim, Mr. Chips from Goodbye Mr. Chips, Lord Jack Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney from The Ruling Class, Miguel Cervantes/Don Quixote from Man of la Mancha, Eli Cross from The Stunt Man, Alan Swann from My Favorite Year, Reginald Johnston from The Last Emperor, and Maurice from Venus.
Nominated for: Had 8 Oscar nominations without winning a single one all for Best Actor: 1962 for Lawrence of Arabia, 1964 for Becket, 1968 for The Lion in Winter, 1969 for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, 1972 for The Ruling Class, 1982 for My Favorite Year, and 2006 for Venus.
Most Crushing Loss: I would have to say either 1968 or 1969 would be the years he was robbed the most. Sure the other times were bad, too, but at least to guys who at least deserved to win like Gregory Peck, Rex Harrison, Marlon Brando, Ben Kingsley, and Forrest Whittaker. Of course, Cliff Roberson was great in the Flowers for Algernon adaptation Charly but I couldn’t say that it was better than O’Toole’s Henry II in The Lion in Winter (a movie robbed for Best Picture by Oliver!, bastards. Then again, the Academy awarded an Oscar for Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump, so that loss isn’t surprising). And while the 1960s version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips isn’t nearly as good as the 1939 original but surely O’Toole should’ve at least lost to a better actor than the eternally talentless and overrated John Wayne.
Reasons: Most likely being burned by the competition. Whenever O’Toole got nominated for an Oscar, he was usually against some other actor playing a role of a lifetime whether it be Gregory Peck, Marlon Brando, Ben Kingsley, or Forrest Whitaker. Of course, since he kept getting nominated, the Academy just reasoned that O’Toole would probably get his chance someday until they got smart and awarded him an Honorary Oscar in the 1990s so even if he didn’t win a competitive one, he’d at least get the statuette he deserved.
Trivia: Helped write the modern version of the Irish folk song “Carrickfergus” with Dominic Behan and wore green socks for good luck (which didn’t help him at the Oscars though, yet with all the health issues and bad habits he’s had it’s a wonder he lived to 81). Said he could quote all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, which he read daily. Has had an award named after him at the Old Vic, where he got his start. Wrote 2 memoirs.
2. Richard Burton
Personal Life: (1925-1984) born in Wales as Richard Jenkins and the 12th of 13 children in a Welsh-speaking coal miner’s household. Absentee father was a gambler and drunk who’d often go on sprees for weeks and wouldn’t acknowledge his famous son’s talents, achievements, and acclaim. Unsurprisingly, he was raised by his sister Ceilia after his mom died giving birth to his younger brother Graham at the age of 43 when he was less than 2 years old. Earned pocket money by running messages, hauling horse manure, and delivering newspapers. Earned a prize as a boy soprano as well as served in the RAF during the mid to late 1940s but couldn’t be a pilot due to his poor eyesight. Started smoking at 8 and drinking at 12. Took the name of Burton after his favorite teacher, Air Training Corps commander, and father figure who encouraged him to pursue an acting career. Married 5 times but his best known part about his love life are his 2 turbulent marriages to Elizabeth Taylor (who considered him among the 3 loves of her life along with Mike Todd and jewelry. Yet, her deepest wish was to see him win the Oscar he deserved.) Had 4 daughters consisting of the biological 2 he had with first wife actress/producer Sybil Williams, a stepdaughter he legally adopted (who was Taylor’s by Mike Todd), and a girl he and Taylor adopted from Germany. He’s also best known for his chronic alcoholism, chain smoking, causing a lot of controversy in the British press, moving to Switzerland as a tax exile, lifelong socialism, and experiencing all kinds of health problems before a cerebral hemorrhage took his life at 58 (which might’ve been genetic since his dad died from the same thing in 1957).
Famous for: Welsh actor known for his mellifluous baritone voice and great acting talent that he was called “the natural successor to Olivier” after establishing himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s that included a memorable performance of Hamlet. Was one of the top box office stars and highest paid actors in the mid to late 1960s receiving fees of $1 million or more as well as a share of the gross receipts. Yet, his legendary alcoholism was his undoing since he failed to live up to such high expectations that he disappointed his colleagues and critics which fueled his reputation as a thespian wastrel. Also known for having 7 Academy Award nominations without a single win making him a runner-up to Peter O’Toole’s record. Notable roles are Philip Ashley from My Cousin Rachel, Marcellus Gallio from The Robe, Alexander the Great, Mark Antony from Cleopatra, Archbishop Thomas Becket from Becket, Rev. Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon from The Night of the Iguana, Hamlet, George from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Alec Leamas from The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Petruchio from The Taming of the Shrew, Doctor Faustus, Major John Smith in Where Eagles Dare, King Henry VIII from Anne of the Thousand Days, Martin Dysart from Equus, and O’Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Nominated for: Had 7 Oscar nominations without winning a single one with the first one for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor for the other 6: 1952 for My Cousin Rachel, 1953 for The Robe, 1964 for Becket, 1965 for The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, 1966 for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1969 for Anne of the Thousand Days, and 1977 for Equus.
Most Crushing Loss: I’d have to say 1969 would’ve been his most upsetting loss Oscar wise. Sure the other years weren’t much better but at least he’s lost to guys like theater veterans Rex Harrison and Paul Scofield who were perfect for their parts as well as legends like Anthony Quinn, William Holden, Lee Marvin, and Richard Dreyfuss. He was a way better actor than the extremely overrated John Wayne and thus, should’ve either won or at least lost to Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman, or Peter O’Toole.
Reasons: Like Peter O’Toole, he was also burned by the competition with a rival nominee having a role of a lifetime whenever he got nominated. And he got nominated so much that the Academy thought he might get his chance someday. Yet, he never did nor did he live long enough to receive an honorary Oscar either. Another factor might’ve been his alcoholism (but probably not his scandalous marriages to Elizabeth Taylor since she won an Academy Award during their time together).
Trivia: Had an excellent singing voice and won a Tony for Camelot in 1961. Said in an interview that he experimented with homosexuality as well as got into a sonnet quoting contest with Robert F. Kennedy. Kept a diary from the time he was 14, wrote memoir about Christmas during his childhood as well as occasional magazine articles. Buried in a red suit as a tribute to his Welsh roots and a copy of Dylan Thomas poems. Though he and Taylor discussed being buried together, his widow purchased the plot next to him and erected a large headstone across both before Taylor had the chance.
3. Cary Grant
Personal Life: (1904-1986) Born Archibald Alexander Leach in Bristol, England. Father was a pants presser in a factory but was often absentee as well as a philanderer and alcoholic. Mother was clinically depressed since the death of a previous child and didn’t show much love for him. At 9, dad placed his mom in a mental institution and lied to his son that was on a “long holiday” and later that she died (but Cary wouldn’t find out the truth until he was 31 but he reconnected with her). At 10, dad shacked up with his girlfriend and basically abandoned him. Expelled from school at 14 and joined a theater troupe he once worked with while he was 6. Immigrated to the United States in the early 1920s while in his mid teens. Spent the 1920s working the vaudeville and Broadway circuit as a stilt walker, acrobat, juggler, and mime before signing onto Hollywood as Cary Grant in 1931. Legally changed his name to Cary Grant once he became a US citizen in 1942. Married 5 times though there were rumors about him being bisexual (especially while he was living with Randolph Scott). Had a lot of demons in his life (which isn’t unusual for someone who had a very unhappy and lonely childhood as well as grew up poor). Retired from filmmaking after having a daughter Jennifer Grant with Dyan Cannon. Died of a stroke in Iowa.
Famous for: British and American actor known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor, and dashing good looks who’s considered one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and was said to be the Greatest Male Star of All Time after Humphrey Bogart. Considered one of Hollywood’s definitive leading men as a leading box office attraction for nearly 30 years as well as acting in 72 films. Notable roles are Jerry Warrier from The Awful Truth, Dr. David Huxley from Bringing Up Baby, Johnny Case from Holiday, Sgt. Cutter from Gunga Din, Walter Burns from His Girl Friday, C. K. Dexter Haven from The Philadelphia Story, Mortimer Brewster from Arsenic and Old Lace, Johnnie Aysgarth from Suspicion, Roger Adams from Penny Serenade, T. R. Devlin from Notorious, Ernie Mott from None But the Lonely Heart, the angel Dudley from The Bishop’s Wife, Capt. Rochard from I Was a Male War Bride, John Robie from To Catch a Thief, Roger Thornhill from North By Northwest, Nickie Ferrante from An Affair to Remember, Phillip Adams from Indiscreet, and the Spy from Charade as well as others. His range spanned from screwball and romantic comedies to drama and thrillers.
Nominated for: Despite his appeal, popularity, and fame that he was able to go independent, he was only nominated twice and both times for Best Actor: 1941 for Penny Serenade and 1944 for None But the Lonely Heart.
Most Crushing Loss: Oscar wise, I’d have to say 1944 would be the most crushing for him since he lost to Bing Crosby who I didn’t really think deserved it (though I’m not familiar with his work). Even if Grant didn’t win, he should’ve at least lost to Charles Boyer (who was phenomenal in Gaslight and should’ve won that year anyway). At least Grant lost to Gary Cooper in 1941. Still, what I think is more of a crushing loss to Grant is that he made all these great movies during his long career, he was continually passed over for film industry and critics awards. Being snubbed for his 4 Hitchcock movies were probably the most crushing at all. At least he got an honorary Oscar in 1970 for his career which he certainly deserved. Also received Kennedy Center Honors in 1981.
Reasons: Well, you can argue that Grant was constantly passed over for awards mostly since he made a lot of comedies (screwball, romantic, and otherwise). His relationships with Randolph Scott as well as some of his troubled marriages and personal life might’ve been a factor as well.
Trivia: Was introduced to LSD therapy by his third wife Betsy Drake and was one of the first major celebrities to espouse the virtues of psychedelic drugs. Until California abolished it in 1966, he had booked 100 sessions for himself, tried to get as many Hollywood friends on it as he possibly could, and basically talked about it glowingly with Good Housekeeping and Time magazine (basically saying to millions of housewives that getting high was awesome). All this before the Beatles, Timothy Leary, and Frank Zappa. Had a onetime infatuation for Sophia Loren but she turned him down (since she’d been in love with Carlo Ponti since she was 15). Served on the boards of Fabrege, Hollywood Park, Western Airlines, the Academy of Magical Arts, and MGM. Owned many classic cars many of which were Cadillacs. Went on lecture tours across the US, making 36 public appearances between 1982-1986 and was on one of them when he died. May have thought he was Jewish and donated to Jewish causes but probably wasn’t. Yet, despite leaning Republican in his political views, condemned McCarthyism when his friend Charlie Chaplin was blacklisted (saying his artistic value outweighed political concerns, yet the fact they were friends isn’t too surprising since they’re both from similar backgrounds), befriended the Kennedys and the Mankiewicz family, and supported gun control after RFK’s assassination. Turned down a lot of roles that eventually went to Gregory Peck.
4. Robert Mitchum
Personal Life: (1917-1997) born into a Methodist Bridgeport, Connecticut family as the second of 3 children to a shipyard and railroad worker and a Norwegian immigrant and sea captain’s daughter. Father was crushed to death in a railyard accident when he was less than 2 years old. Mother quickly married a former Royal Navy officer just out of economic necessity and had a daughter named Carol as well as worked as linotype operator for the Bridgeport Post. Brother and sister were also in showbiz while it was his sister who talked him into acting. His reputation as a prankster often involved in mischief and fights led to him being sent to his grandparents in Delaware at 12, expelled from middle school for scuffling with the principal, sent to live with his sister in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen at 13, and expelled from high school at 14. After dropping out, he became a train hopping hobo taking odd jobs like ditch digging for the Civilian Conservation Corps and professional boxing. Was arrested for vagrancy in Savannah, Georgia for vagrancy and was put on a chain gang before escaping to Delaware to nurse the injured leg he nearly lost and joining his sister in Long Beach, California. There, he worked as an operator for Lockheed Aircraft, a ghostwriter for an astrologer, and wrote song lyrics and monologues for his sister’s nightclub performances. Began acting in theater and started out in Hollywood as an extra before working his way up to B-Westerns and supporting roles before his big break in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Yet, he had to take 8 months off from filmmaking due to being drafted in the army in 1946. Married to Dorothy Spence for 57 years and had 3 children named James, Christopher, and Petrine. Said to have numerous affairs. Sons had show biz careers as well. Was a heavy lifelong smoker as well as heavy drinker and died 5 weeks shy of his 80th birthday from lung cancer and emphysema complications.
Famous for: American actor who rose to prominence for his starring roles in several major film noir works and considered a forerunner to anti-heroes in film during the 1950s and 1960s. However, he also played a lot other character types to from indifferent to jaded drifters and supportive father figures to truly sadistic villains. Acted in over 110 films and TV series. Notable roles are Bobby Gray from Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Lt. Walker from The Story of G. I. Joe, Keeley from Crossfire, Jeff Bailey from Out of the Past, Max Calder in The River of No Return, the Rev. Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter, Cpl. Allison USMC from Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, Lucas Doolin from Thunder Road, Paddy Camody from The Sundowners, Max Cady from Cape Fear, and Charles Shaughnessy from Ryan’s Daughter.
Nominated for: Despite his long career of appearing in over 110 films, he was only nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1945 for The Story of G. I. Joe.
Most Crushing Loss: Actually his Oscar loss in 1945 isn’t the worst for at least received some recognition for his role and it was early in his career. Not to mention, he lost to James Dunn who played the alcoholic dad in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which isn’t bad either. However, what does more injustice to Mitchum is that he should’ve at least received an Oscar nomination for his roles in The Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear.
Reasons: Despite his popularity and natural acting talent, Mitchum was a loveable bad boy both on and off screen which might’ve been fine by today’s standards. Yet, back in the 1940s and 1950s, his reputation as a loveable scamp didn’t sit well with much of the Hollywood establishment. Though he was certainly a serious actor, he often pretended he wasn’t as well as said he only took some roles for the money. Also said to have spent 50 days in jail for marijuana possession. Nevertheless, he didn’t really many film awards until later in life and mostly for life achievement. Still, he’s one of the greats.
Trivia: Had a sideline career in music both as a singer and songwriter. Used his own singing voice whenever his characters sang in films. Wrote and recorded the theme song to Thunder Road which topped at No. 69 on the Billboard Singles Chart. Also recorded a Calpyso album as well as a country one. He even composed an oratorio produced by Orson Welles at the Hollywood Bowl. Provided the voice for American Beef commercials that touted, “Beef…it’s what’s for dinner from 1992 until his death. His son James played his brother in Thunder Road, a part which was said written for Elvis Presley. Helped Charles Laughton direct The Night of the Hunter since Mitchum had 3 kids and Laughton had none.
5. Barbara Stanwyck
Personal Life: (1907-1990) Born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, New York City. Parents were working class. At 4, her mother died from miscarriage complications after a drunk stranger accidentally knocked her off a moving streetcar. Two weeks after her mom’s funeral, alcoholic and womanizing father joined a work crew digging the Panama Canal and was never seen again basically leaving parental responsibilities to her 9 year old sister. When Mildred became a showgirl, she and her brother were placed in a series of foster homes which she often ran away from. At 14, she dropped out of school and wrapped packages at a Brooklyn department store as well as filled cards for a telephone company for $14 a week. Was fired from a job cutting dress patterns from Vogue magazine and would soon be a typist for the Jerome H. Remick Music Company. Despite her sister’s chagrin, she pursued her showbiz career joining the Ziegfeld Follies at 16. Debuted on Broadway in 1926 which was when she adopted “Barbara Stanwyck” as a stage name. Made her first film in 1927. Married twice with her second marriage to Robert Taylor. Adopted a son with her first husband Frank Fay. Was robbed and assaulted at her Beverly Hills home in 1981. Was a smoker from the age of 9 until 4 years before her death. Died of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at 82.
Famous for: American actress known for her 60 year career as a consummate and versatile professional with a strong, realistic screen presence and a favorite of directors Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Capra, and Fritz Lang. Made 85 films in 38 years before turning to television. Notable roles are Lora Hart from Night Nurse, Selina Peake De Jong from So Big!, Megan from The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Lily from Baby Face, Annie Oakley, Lady Lee from The Gambling Lady, Stella Dallas, Mollie Monahan from Union Pacific, Lorna Moon from Golden Boy, Lee Leander from Remember the Night, Jean from The Lady Eve, Ann Mitchell from Meet John Doe, Sugarpuss O’Shea from Ball of Fire, Hannah Sempler Hoyt from The Great Man’s Lady, Deborah Hoople, aka Dixie Daisy from Lady of Burlesque, Phyllis Dietrichson from Double Indemnity, Elizabeth Lane from Christmas in Connecticut, Martha Ivers from The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Sally Morton Carroll from The Two Mrs. Carrolls, Sandra Marshall from Cry Wolf, Leona Stevenson from Sorry, Wrong Number, Jessie Bourne from East Side, West Side, Julia Sturges from Titanic, Sierra Nevada Jones from Cattle Queen of Montana, Helen Stilwin from Jeopardy, Gwen Moore from Escape to Burma, and Irene Trent from The Night Walker.
Nominated for: Stanwyck was nominated for Best Actress 4 times consisting of in 1937 for Stella Dallas, 1941 for Ball of Fire, 1944 for Double Indemnity, and in 1948 for Sorry, Wrong Number.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing the Best Actress prize to Luise Rainer in 1937 for she was playing a Chinese woman (which is kind of offensive to Asians, no offense). Stanwyck should’ve at least lost to Greta Garbo. Ingrid Bergman and Joan Fontaine were much more worthy competition.
Reasons: Stanwyck might’ve been popular among the public and very well liked in Hollywood, but she was burned out by the competition every time. Didn’t help that she was nominated what the Hollywood prestige would view as inferior films. At least she received an honorary Oscar for her career.
Trivia: Was romantically linked to Robert Wagner, Farley Granger, and Henry Fonda. Best known in her later career as Victoria Barkley from The Big Valley and Mary Carson from The Thorn Birds. Was an Ayn Rand fan who persuaded Warner Brothers to buy the rights for The Fountainhead and admired Atlas Shrugged. Often called, “The Best Actress Who Never Won an Oscar.” Stage name was inspired by a theatrical poster that read “Jane Stanwyck in ‘Barbara Frietchie.'”. Was the highest paid woman in 1944 according to the US government. Made 3 to 4 films a year at one point in her career. Marriage to Frank Fay may have been the inspiration for A Star Is Born (and yes, he did become an unemployed drunk).
6. Steve McQueen
Personal Life: (1930-1980) born in Beech Grove, Indiana. Father was a stunt pilot for a barnstorming flying circus who abandoned his mom 6 months after meeting her. Mom was said to be an alcoholic prostitute and was raised by his maternal grandparents and uncle (who was like a father to him) at his uncle’s Missouri farm and from 8-14 he’d live between that and his mother’s home whether it be in Indianapolis or Los Angeles. Ran away from home at 9 to escape an abusive stepfather and committed acts of petty crime with a street gang. After leaving his uncle’s farm a final time at 14, he ran away with the circus before joining his mom and second abusive stepfather in California, resuming his life as a petty crook. Was caught by police for stealing hubcaps who handed him over to his stepfather which ended him thrown down the stairs. McQueen threatened to kill him. Spent 2 years at a juvenile detention center at Chino where he finally shaped up. At 16, he joined his mom at Greenwich Village. Worked as a sailor, towel boy for a brothel, oil rigger, carnival trinket salesman, and lumberjack. Joined the Marines in 1947 and though he was demoted 7 times and put on a brig for 41 days, he embraced the discipline, saved 5 of his fellow Marines during an exercise, and assigned to guard Harry S. Truman’s yacht. All before his honorable discharge in 1950 and drifted into acting school thanks to the G. I. Bill. Was dyslexic and partially deaf since childhood. Married 3 times with Ali McGraw being his second wife. Had 2 children with his first wife Nelie Adams. Was known for his prolific drug use and was said to carry a handgun at all times after the Charles Manson murders of Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring. Died of malignant pleural mesothelioma at 50 while undergoing some kind of alternative treatment in Mexico.
Famous for: American actor called, “the King of Cool” for his antihero persona developed at the height of Vietnam War Era counterculture, making him a box office draw for the 1960s and 1970s. Became the highest paid movie star in the world in 1974. Known for being combative with directors and producers with directors and producers but his popularity placed him in high demand and able to command such high salaries. Notable roles are Steve Andrews from The Blob, Vin Tanner from The Magnificent Seven, Capt. Virgil Hilts “The Cooler King” from The Great Escape, The Cincinnati Kid, Nevada Smith, Jake Holman from The Sand Pebbles, Thomas Crown from the Thomas Crown Affair, Lt. Frank Bullitt from Bullitt, Doc McCoy from The Getaway, Henri ‘Papillon’ Charriere from Papillon, and Chief Mike O’Hallorhan from The Towering Inferno.
Nominated for: Only had one nomination for Best Actor in 1966 for The Sand Pebbles.
Most Crushing Loss: Well, he was never going to beat Paul Scofield in 1966. However, with a career like his, he should’ve received at least a Life Achievement Award, but he died too young.
Reasons: McQueen was more of an action star and acted in movies that usually didn’t get Oscar consideration. Also was known as combative with producers and directors.
Trivia: Had an unusual reputation for demanding free items in bulk from studios when agreeing to do a film such as electric razors, jeans, and other items. It was later found out that McQueen donated these items to the Boys Republic Reformatory School where he spent his teen years. He’d even make occasional visits there to play pool with the students and speak about his experiences. Was an avid motor and race car enthusiasts as well as enjoyed dirt bikes and flying. Had a daily 2 hour exercise regimen. Performed many stunts in his own films. Was good friends with James Garner. As of 2007, he’s among one of the top earning dead celebrities.
7. Edward G. Robinson
Personal Life: (1893-1973) Born Emanuel Goldenberg in Bucharest, Romania to a Yiddish speaking Jewish family. Father was a builder. Family decided to immigrate to the US after his brother was attacked by an anti-semitic mob and arrived to America at 9 on Valentine’s Day, 1903. Grew up in New York City. Attended the American Academy for Dramatic Arts on a scholarship and made his Broadway debut in 1915. Married twice and had a son to Gladys Lloyd named Edward G. Robinson Jr. who was an actor and playboy as well as adopted her daughter. Died of bladder cancer at 79.
Famous for: Romanian-American actor who was a popular star during Hollywood’s Golden Age and best remembered for playing gangsters in the 1930s for Warner Brothers. Made 101 films in his 50 year career. Notable roles are Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello, Turou from Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Paul Ehrlich from Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet, Paul Julius Reuter from A Dispatch from Reuter’s, Johnny Rocco from Key Largo, Dathan from The Ten Commandments, Barton Keyes from Double Indemnity, Joe Keller from All My Sons, Martinius Jacobson from Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, and Sol Roth from Soylent Green as well as numerous roles as gangsters.
Nominated for: Robinson was never nominated for an Oscar, though he received an honorary Oscar 2 months after his death, which he certainly deserved.
Most Crushing Loss: Never being nominated for an Oscar, especially for Little Caesar in 1931.
Reasons: Well, depends on the times. If it’s before WWII, it was because he worked at Warner Brothers playing gangsters which wasn’t considered up to prestigious Hollywood award standards. If it’s after WWII, then it’s because of his refusal to testify in front of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Though he tried to clear his name, he refused to name any Communist sympathizers yet his career would suffer until The Ten Commandments.
Trivia: Contrary to his onscreen persona, he was a sensitive, soft spoken, and cultured man who spoke 7 languages and hated guns. Was a passionate art collector and even ran a gallery with Vincent Price. But he had to sell his collection in 1956 to a Greek shipping tycoon Starvos Niarchos to pay for his divorce and for being underemployed. Also loved collecting record from the world’s leading concerts. Though too old to serve in the military during WWII, he was an outspoken critic of fascism and Nazism as well as donated more than $250,000 to 850 charitable groups between 1939 and 1949. Also signed a declaration to boycott all German made products in 1938.
8. Ava Gardner
Personal Life: (1922-1990) Born in Smithfield, North Carolina. Was the youngest of 7 children. Parents were poor tobacco farmers while her father would work at a sawmill and her mother would tend to a series of boarding houses. While young, her family lost their property and spent a time in Newport News, Virginia and Wilson, North Carolina. At 15, her father died of bronchitis. Attended Atlantic Christian College for a year in secretarial studies. Was discovered when her brother-in-law took and displayed her portrait in the front window at his Fifth Avenue photography studio and someone suggested he and her sister should send her to the New York MGM office. Moved to Hollywood in 1941 and made her first film that year. After divorcing Sinatra, she moved to Spain in 1957 and London in 1968 after getting an elective hysterectomy to prevent uterine cancer that claimed her mother’s life. Married 3 times with husbands consisting of Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra. Due to a lifetime of smoking, she suffered from emphysema, as well as an unidentified auto-immune disorder. In 1986, she had 2 strokes that left her partially paralyzed and bedridden as well as forced to retire. Suffered a bad fall a week before she died and lay on the floor unable to move until her housekeeper returned. Died of pneumonia at 67.
Famous for: American actress who appeared mainly in bit parts until she drew attention with her performance in The Killers. Appeared in several high profile films from the 1950s to 1970s and was one of Hollywood’s foremost dark haired sex symbols. Notable roles are Kitty Collins from The Killers, Jean Ogilvie from The Hucksters, Venus from One Touch of Venus, Pauline Ostrovsky from The Great Sinner, Isabel Lorrison from East Side, West Side, Pandora Reynolds from Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Lady Susan Ashlow from The Little Hut, Barbara Beaurevel from My Forbidden Past, Julie LaVerne from Show Boat, Cynthia Green from The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Guinevere from The Knights of the Round Table, Maria Vargas from The Barefoot Contessa, Victoria Jones from Bhowni Junction, Lady Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises, Maria Cayetana, Duchess of Alba from The Naked Maja, Moira Davidson from On the Beach, Eloise Y. Kelly from Mogambo, Soledad from The Angel Wore Red, Baroness Natalie Ivanoff from 55 Days in Peking, Eleanor Holbrook from Seven Days in May, Maxine Faulk from The Night of the Iguana, Empress Elizabeth from Mayerling, Lily Langtry from The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, and Nicole Dressler from The Cassandra Crossing.
Nominated for: Gardner was nominated for Best Actress in 1954 for Mogambo.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Actress in 1954 for The Barefoot Contessa. Seriously, Academy, she was awesome in this!
Reasons: Well, when Frank Sinatra dumped the mother of his children for her, she was seen as a femme fatale that led him being blasted by gossip columnists, the Hollywood establishment, fans, and even the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, her helping getting Sinatra the part in From Here to Eternity basically saved his career. Yet, their marriage was extremely tempestuous with his intense jealousy and mistrust, her two abortions, her substantial drinking habit, and his suicide attempts. Was also prone to being constantly dismissed by the critics which resulted in her being so underrated. Not to mention, she was more or less seen as a sex symbol (which doesn’t make the Hollywood establishment take her talents seriously).
Trivia: Spoke in a thick Southern accent during her first screen test in New York that the folks at MGM found her voice incomprehensible. Was only able to overcome her drawl when MGM gave her a contract and a speech coach in Hollywood with Louis B. Mayer saying, “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk, She’s terrific!” Used considerable influence to get Frank Sinatra cast in his Oscar-winning role From Here to Eternity which revitalized his career. Was infatuated by Howard Hughes. Born on Christmas Eve. Was friends with Ernest Hemingway. Had an island in Fiji named after her called Ava Ava. Housekeeper and corgi were taken in by Gregory Peck after she died. Was known for swearing a lot.
9. Judy Garland
Personal Life: (1922-1969) Born Frances Ethel Gumm in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Parents were vaudevillians who settled there to run a movie theater featuring their acts. At 2, she made her first stage appearance with her 2 older sisters as “Baby Frances.” In 1926, family relocated to Lancaster, California amid rumors that her father made sexual advances toward male ushers. Enrolled in a dance school with her sisters run by Ethel Meglin in 1928 and appeared on the Vaudeville circuit as the Gumm Sisters who later changed their names to the Garland sisters in 1934. Yet, the group eventually broke up when her older sister eloped to Reno with a musician. Was signed to MGM in 1935, which was the same year her father died of meningitis. Made her first film in 1936. Struggled immensely with her personal life since she was a child. Was addicted to prescription pills from a young age as well became eventually suicidal on one occasion. Self-image was strongly influenced by film executives saying she was unattractive and constantly manipulated her physical appearance. Was plagued by financial instability, often owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. Married 5 times and had 3 children including Liza Minnelli to second husband Vincent Minnelli. Also had a long battle with drugs and alcohol ultimately leading to her death 47 to a barbiturate overdose.
Famous for: American actress and singer renowned for her vocals and attained international stardom which continued throughout her career spanning more than 40 years. Respected for her versatility as an actress in dramatic and musical roles as well as a recording artist. Made 9 films with Mickey Rooney. Notable roles are Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Patsy Barton from Babes in Arms, Penny Morris from Babes on Broadway, Little Nellie Kelly, Jo Hayden from For Me and My Gal, Ginger Gray from Girl Crazy, Esther Smith from Meet Me in St. Louis, Alice Maybery from The Clock, Susan Bradley from The Harvey Girls, Marilyn Miller from Till the Clouds Roll By, Hannah Brown from Easter Parade, Veronica Fisher from In the Good Old Summertime, Vicki Lester / Esther Blodgett from A Star Is Born, Jane Falbury from Summer Stock, Irene Hoffman from Judgment at Nuremberg, and Jean Hansen from A Child Is Waiting.
Nominated for: Garland was nominated twice once for Best Actress and once for Best Supporting Actress in 1954 for A Star Is Born and 1961 for Judgment at Nuremberg.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Grace Kelly in the 1954 Best Actress Race. What makes it more crushing is that she just gave birth to her son Joey and would’ve broadcasted her acceptance speech through her hospital bed via camera crew. Not to mention, everyone expected her to win that year. Luckily she received a Juvenile Oscar in the 1930s.
Reasons: Garland was burned by the competition. Seriously, her loss to Grace Kelly was an upset and she lost by 6 votes total. The competition in the acting categories in the 1950s was brutal. But still, Garland should’ve won for A Star Is Born. Also, Warner Bros. basically edited the film heavily which might not have been as good as the restored edition (which had to make do with stills and the recorded dialogue).
Trivia: Romantically linked with Artie Shaw and Orson Welles. Youngest recipient of the Cecille B. DeMille Award. James Mason performed the eulogy for her funeral.
10. Lauren Bacall
Personal Life: (1924-2014) Born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx in New York City to Jewish parents. Father was a salesman and mother was a secretary. At 5, her parents divorced while her mother reverted back to the Romanian form of her last name Bacall (a name she’d later take since she never saw her father again and was very close to her mom who remarried a man named Goldberg). In 1941, she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts while working at the St. James Theatre as an usher as well as a fashion model. Made her Broadway debut the next year at 17. Was recruited into films by Howard Hawks’ wife at the time, Nancy. Married twice husbands being Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards Jr. and had 3 children. Died in her Dakota apartment from a massive stroke at 89.
Famous for: American actress known for her distinctive voice and sultry looks. Best known for appearing in film noir and romantic comedies and dramas. Made 4 movies with husband Humphrey Bogart. Notable roles are Marie “Slim” Browning from To Have and Have Not, Vivian Sternwood Rutledge from The Big Sleep, Irene Jansen from Dark Passage, Nora Temple from Key Largo, Amy North from Young Man with a Horn, Sonia Kovac from Bright Leaf, Schatze Page from How to Marry a Millionaire, Lucy Moore Hadley from Written on the Wind, Marilla Brown Hagen from Designing Woman, Sylvia Broderick from Sex and the Single Girl, Mrs. Harriet Belinda Hubbard from Murder on the Orient Express, Bond Rogers from The Shootist, Lady Westholme from Appointment with Death, Marcia Sindell from Misery, Hannah Morgan from The Mirror Has Two Faces, Witch of the Waste from Howl’s Moving Castle, and Annemarie Sterling from The Forger.
Nominated for: Bacall was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1997 for The Mirror Has Two Faces.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Actress in 1946 for The Big Sleep. Luckily she earned an honorary Oscar in 2009. Of course, the fact most people just know her for marrying Humphrey Bogart is even more crushing.
Reasons: Face it, no matter how talented and successful she was in her own right, she was always remembered as Humphrey Bogart’s wife, even after she married Jason Robards Jr. and had a kid to him. Also, more or less seen as a sex symbol with her distinctive voice and sultry looks, especially the definitive Hawksian woman of 1940s films. Also had a tendency to turn down scripts she didn’t find interesting and had a reputation for being difficult.
Trivia: Had a daughter named after Leslie Howard (at Bogart’s insistence no doubt). Son Stephen was named after the nickname she gave Bogart’s character in To Have and Have Not, where she met him. Was a staunch opponent of McCarthyism and was on the Committee for the First Amendment though she and Bogart distanced themselves from The Hollywood Ten. Was a classmate with Kirk Douglas at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Crowned Miss Greenwich Village in 1942. Modeled for a cover in Harper’s Bazaar. According to Howard Hawks, she had a naturally high pitched nasal voice but was trained to make it lower. Was spokeswoman for High Point (coffee) and Fancy Feast cat food.