Like horror films, movie comedies are also an underrated genre the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sees as too amateurish for their critical awards ceremonies. Now as we all have seen with the TV previews, there are terrible comedies as well as those that will never age well. Yet, there are also bad dramas, too, that also don’t age well either. Nevertheless, while most of Hollywood has produced a lot of great comedies, many of them are listed as some of the greatest films of all time and are still watched decades after they were made. And don’t get me started on romantic comedies since there were a lot of good ones as well. In this selection, I’m here to bring you 10 more screen legends you may or may not have heard of. First, we have funny ladies Carole Lombard, Una Merkel, Irene Dunne, and Jean Arthur. Second, you have versatile actresses Karen Black and Eleanor Parker. After that comes character giants Charles Bickford and Robert Shaw followed by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. who despite being able to transitioned to sound, was never as famous as his silent screen dad who didn’t. And finally, we have legendary actress Gloria Stuart who started out as an actress in the 1930s before taking time off and then returned to play Old Rose from Titanic. So without further adieu, here are some more profiles of stars who didn’t get to make the Oscar speech.
101. Charles Bickford
Personal Life: (1891-1967) Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Was a very intelligent, independent, but unruly child. At 9, he was tried but acquitted for the attempted murder of a trolley motorman who had callously run over his beloved dog. Drifted across the US as a teenager. Worked as a lumberjack, investment promoter, and pest exterminator. Was working as a stoker and fireman for the US Navy when a friend dared him to get a job in Burlesque, which led to the beginning of his acting career in 1904. Was discovered by Cecil B. DeMille in the 1920s and appeared in his first movie in 1930. Married to Beatrice Loring for 61 years and had 2 children. Died of a blood infection at 76.
Famous for: American actor best known for his strong supporting roles. His burly frame and craggy, intense features, coupled with a gruff, powerful voice lent themselves to a wide variety of roles. Mostly played nice guys like dads, stern businessmen, heavies, ship captains, or authority figures. Notable roles are Hagon Dirk from Dynamite, Matt from Anna Christie, Cash Hawkins from The Squaw Man, Slim from Of Mice and Men, Father Peyramale from The Song of Bernadette, Joseph Clancy from The Farmer’s Daughter, Sam Pierce from Duel in the Sun, Black McDonald from Johnny Belinda, Oliver Niles from A Star is Born, Lt. James Colton from Whirlpool, Maj. Henry Terrill from The Big Country, Zeb Rawlins from The Unforgiven, and Benson Trop from A Big Hand for the Little Lady.
Nominated for: Bickford was nominated 3 times for Best Supporting Actor in 1944 for The Song of Bernadette, 1948 for The Farmer’s Daughter, and 1949 for The Farmer’s Daughter.
Most Crushing Loss: Not receiving the honorary Oscar he so richly deserved for his career.
Reasons: Bickford didn’t have a nice easy going personality you’d sometimes see in his movies. He was a strong willed and outspoken guy with an independent streak who’d frequently argue and nearly come to blows with some studio executives that he never really graduated to leading man and sometimes got black listed. Then again, he always preferred character roles anyway.
Trivia: Born during the first minute of 1891. Was mauled and nearly killed by a lion while filming East of Java in 1935.
102. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Personal Life: (1909-2000) Born in New York City. Son of silent star Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Parents divorced when he was 9. Lived with his mother in California, Paris, and London. Had his first movie contract for Paramount at 14 and took his career on stage. Was a commissioned officer of the US Navy during WWII and assigned to Lord Mountbatten’s command staff in Burma and served in amphibious units in North Africa and Southern France. Married 3 times with his first wife being Joan Crawford. Was married to second wife Mary Lee Harford for 49 years and had 3 daughters. Retired in 1997. Died of a heart attack at 90.
Famous for: American actor who was able to make the transition from silents to talkies which his dad was unable to do. Appeared in about 100 movies and TV shows. Notable roles are Joe Massara from Little Caesar, Joseph Sheridan from Morning Glory, Grand Duke Peter from The Rise of Catherine the Great, Rodolphe from Mimi, Rupert of Hentzau from The Prisoner of Zenda, Ballantine from Gunga Din, Sinbad from Sinbad, the Sailor, and Dr. John Marlowe from The Great Manhunt.
Nominated for: Fairbanks was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1931 for Little Caesar since that category didn’t exist yet.
Reasons: Despite his success, Fairbanks had big shoes to fill being the son of his iconic silent screen star. And while his career didn’t suffer like his dad’s when the talkies came, he was never able to surpass his father’s fame. Not to mention, he’s also better known for being married to Joan Crawford.
Trivia: Was a stepson of Mary Pickford for 10 years. Was appointed a special envoy to South America by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1941. Retired as Captain in the US Navy Reserve in 1954. For his WWII service, received the United States Navy’s Legion of Merit with bronze V (for valor), the Italian War Cross for Military Valor, the French Légion d’honneur and the Croix de Guerre with Palm, and the British Distinguished Service Cross. Also was awarded the Silver Star and the National Order of the Southern Cross from Brazil. Was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit for his relief contributions to occupied Germany. Friends with Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Rex Harrison. Third wife was a QVC merchandiser.
103. Una Merkel
Personal Life: (1903-1986) Born in Covington, Kentucky and grew up in Philadelphia and New York City. Began her career as a stand-in for Lillian Gish and made her first film in 1924. Yet, during the 1920s, she spent most of her time on Broadway where she could show her comedic talents more effectively since movies were silent until The Jazz Singer. Married 13 years to Ronald Burla. Mother committed suicide in 1945 and she nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning that very night, shortly followed by a nervous breakdown. Overdosed on sleeping pills in 1952, though whether she’d tried to take her own life is uncertain. Retired in 1966. Died from an undisclosed illness at 82.
Famous for: American actress known for strong southern accent and wry line delivery. Was often cast as the heroine’s wisecracking best friend and later mothers and maiden aunts. Notable roles are Ann Rutledge from Abraham Lincoln, Sally McBride from Daddy Long Legs, Sally from Red-Headed Woman, Lois Martin from The Secret Witness, Sibyl from Private Lives, Lorraine Fleming from 42nd Street, Mac from Bombshell, Queen from The Merry Widow, Fritzi from Saratoga, Lily Belle from Destry Rides Again, Belinda Watters from Comin’ Around the Mountain, Myrtle Sousè from The Bank Dick, Quimby from The Road to Zanzibar, Rose Dibble from This Is the Army, Betty Johnson from Kill the Umpire, Mary Ann Crabtree from Golden Girl, Sophie Wakefield from The Kentuckian, Verbena from The Parent Trap, Ma Larkin from The Mating Game, Sophie Wakefield from Summer and Smoke, Mrs. Watkins from A Tiger Walks, and Violet Ranley from Spinout.
Nominated for: Merkel was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1961 for Summer and Smoke.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1939 for Destry Rides Again in which she gets into a famous brawl with Marlene Dietrich.
Reasons: Merkel primarily appeared in comedies and was typecast in one role or another during most of her career.
Trivia: Won a Tony Award in 1956.
104. Robert Shaw
Personal Life: (1927-1978) Born in Westhoughton, Lancashire in England. Mother was a nurse while father was a doctor. Moved to Scotland at 7. At 9, his alcoholic dad committed suicide. Went to high school in Cornwall where he taught before attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Served on a Royal Air Force air crew at the end of WWII. Made his debut on the West End in 1952 and made his first film in 1951. Married 3 times and had 10 children. Died in Ireland of a heart attack at 51.
Famous for: British actor and novelist. With his menacing mutter and intimidating demeanor, often cast as villains. Notable roles are Grant from From Russia With Love, Squadron Leader Skipper from Battle of Britain, Stanley Webber from The Birthday Party, Henry VIII from A Man for All Seasons, Lord Randolph Churchill from Young Winston, Doyle Lonnegan from The Sting, Quint from Jaws, and the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin and Marian.
Nominated for: Shaw was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1967 for A Man for All Seasons.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Walter Matthau in 1967 for Best Supporting Actor. Seriously, I’ve never heard of The Fortune Cookie.
Reasons: Playing a Bond villain might’ve ruined his chances. Not to mention, Academy voters weren’t used to seeing a fit and athletic Henry VIII even though the real king would’ve actually been in that shape by then.
Trivia: Wrote novels, plays, and screenplays.
105. Carole Lombard
Personal Life: (1908-1942) Born Jane Alice Peters in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1914, parents separated in which her mother took her and her brothers and moved to Los Angeles. Grew up as “a free-spirited tomboy” who participated in sports like tennis, volleyball, and swimming as well as won athletic prizes. Discovered by director Allan Dwan while she was playing baseball with her friends. Made her first film in 1921. Married twice with her husbands being William Powell and Clark Gable. In 1927, she was involved in a car accident that left a scar on her face. Died in a plane crash on Mount Potosi, Nevada while returning from a WWII War Bond Tour at 33.
Famous for: American actress known for her highly neurotic, energetic, and often off-beat roles in screwball comedies in the 1930s and highest paid Hollywood star of the decade. Started out in bit parts and worked up to leading lady. Notable roles are Virginia Hoyt from The Arizona Kid, Connie Randall from No Man of Her Own, Helen Hathaway from Bolero, Lily Garland, aka Mildred Plotka from Twentieth Century, Irene Bullock from My Man Godfrey, Hazel Flagg from Nothing Sacred, Helen Barlett from True Confession, Jane Mason from Made for Each Other, Julie Lee from In Name Only, Ann from Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Maria Tura from To Be or Not To Be.
Nominated for: Lombard was nominated for Best Actress in 1936 for My Man Godfrey.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Luise Rainer in 1936. Seriously, The Great Ziegfeld sucked. Also, Norma Shearer was too old to play Juliet. The other two nominees were from movies I didn’t hear of.
Reasons: Lombard was a comedic actress known for screwball comedies. As good of an actress she was in My Man Godfrey as a crazy spoiled rich girl, the Academy wouldn’t take a sniff at her. Also died in a plane crash at 33.
Trivia: Was considered for Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. Bought the Encino Ranch with Clark Gable who still owned it at his death. Rose $2 million in war bonds during WWII within a single evening. Had a Liberty ship named after her. Clark Gable made it in his will that he be buried next to her when he died since she was the love of his life.
106. Jean Arthur
Personal Life: (1900-1991) Born Gladys Georgianna Greene in Plattsburgh, New York. Father was a photographer and she spent part of her childhood in Maine, New York, and Florida. Dropped out of high school during her junior year. Worked as a stenographer during WWI. Discovered by Fox Studios while doing a modeling job in New York City for a commercial. Married twice. Retired for good in 1975. Died of heart failure at 90.
Famous for: American actress and major film star of the 1930s and 1940s by appearing in films that championed the “everyday heroine.” Called, “the quintessential comedic leading lady.” Started out in shorts and B movies. Notable roles are Janie from The Saturday Night Kid, Sandra Morrison from Whirlpool, Babe Bennett from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Paula Bradford from The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, Calamity Jane from The Plainsman, Irene Vail from History Is Made at Night, Alice Sycamore from You Can’t Take It With You, Mary Smith from Easy Living, Bonnie Lee from Only Angels Have Wings, Clarissa Saunders from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Phoebe Titus from Arizona, Miss Nora Shelley from The Talk of the Town, Constance “Connie” Milligan from The More the Merrier, Congresswoman Phoebe Frost from A Foreign Affair, and Marian Starrett from Shane.
Nominated for: Arthur was nominated for Best Actress in 1943 for The More the Merrier.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for any of her performances in Frank Capra films.
Reasons: Arthur avoided interviews until she was pressured to do one for a book on Frank Capra during her retirement. She also avoided photographers as well as any kind of publicity. Also was better known as a comedic actress in Frank Capra films as well as the occasional western. Not to mention, she was mostly typecast as a cute secretary for Jimmy Stewart to shag.
Trivia: Taught drama at Vassar College and the North Carolina School of Arts. Was a mentor to Meryl Streep. Took her stage name from 2 childhood heroes: Joan of Arc and King Arthur. First marriage was annulled after one day. Was arrested and jailed for trespassing in North Carolina to console a dog she felt was being mistreated.
107. Irene Dunne
Personal Life: (1898-1990) Born Irene Marie Dunn in Louisville, Kentucky. Father was a steamboat inspector for the United States Government. Mother was a concert pianist and music teacher. At 11, her father died and mother took her and her younger brother to Madison, Indiana. Attended Chicago Musical College on scholarship where she graduated in 1926. Though aspired to be an opera singer, she didn’t pass her audition for the Metropolitan Opera Company. Decided to do musical theater instead and made her Broadway debut in 1922. Made her first film in 1930. Married to dentist Dr. Francis Griffin for 37 years and adopted a daughter. Retired from acting in 1962 and for good in 1985. Died at 91.
Famous for: American actress and singer of the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s. Notable roles are Sabra Cravat from Cimarron, Ray Smith from Back Street, Ann Vickers, Countess Ellen Olenska from The Age of Innocence, Helen Hudson from Magnificent Obsession, Magnolia Hawks from Show Boat, Theodora Lynn/Caroline Adams from Theodora Goes Wild, Lucy Warriner from The Awful Truth, Terry Mckay from Love Affair, Ellen Arden from My Favorite Wife, Julie Gardiner Adams from Penny Serenade, Dorinda Durston from A Guy Named Joe, Susan Dunn from The White Cliffs of Dover, Anna Owens from Anna and the King of Siam, Vinnie Day from Life With Father, Martha “Mama” Hanson from I Remember Mama, and Queen Victoria from The Mudlark.
Nominated for: Dunne was nominated for Best Actress 5 times consisting of: 1931 for Cimarron, 1936 for Theodora Goes Wild, 1937 for The Awful Truth, 1939 for Love Affair, and 1948 for I Remember Mama.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Luise Rainier in both 1936 and 1937. Sure she probably wasn’t the best actress that year, but she shouldn’t have lost to an actress who appeared in a terrible movie one year and played an Asian lady the next.
Reasons: Dunne had a tendency to be nominated in very bad years and was burned by the competition.
Trivia: Her and her husband were members of the Knights of Malta. Raised $20 million for St. John’s Roman Catholic Hospital in Santa Monica which had a bust dedicated to her. Was friends with Jimmy Stewart and Loretta Young. Was a trained operatic soprano. Was present at Disneyland’s “Dedication Day” in 1955. Was appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower as a delegate for the United Nations. Was the first woman on Technicolor’s board of directors. Was a daily communicant.
108. Eleanor Parker
Personal Life: (1922-2013) Born in Cedarville, Ohio and grew up in East Cleveland. Was signed to Warner Brothers at 18 and made her first film in 1942. Married 4 times and had 4 children. Married to fourth husband Raymond N. Hirsch for 35 years. Beverly Hills home burned down in 1951 while she was sick. Died of pneumonia complications at 91.
Famous for: American actress of notable versatility as a leading lady who appeared in some 80 films and TV shows. Called, “Woman of a Thousand Faces.” Notable roles are Emlen Davies from Mission to Moscow, Anne Bergner from Between Two Worlds, Irene Carr from Crime by Night, Kitty Kelly from The Last Ride, Ruth Hartley from Pride of the Marines, Mildred Rogers from Of Human Bondage, Ellen Gayley from Never Say Goodbye, Laurie Fairlie Ann Catherick from The Woman in White, Joan “Jo” Holloway from Chain Lightning, Marie Allen from Caged, Susan Adele Connors Chase from Three Secrets, Christabel “Christy” Sloane from A Millionaire for Christy, Mary McLeod from Detective Story, Lenore from Scaramouche, Lucey Tibbets from Above and Beyond, Joanna Leiningen from The Naked Jungle, Ann Barclay Mercedes from Valley of the Kings, Zosh Machine from The Man with the Golden Arm, Marjorie Lawrence from Interrupted Melody, Carol Carwin from The Seventh Sin, Louise Harris from Panic Button, Esperia Vincenzini from The Tiger and the Pussycat, Baroness Elsa Schrader from The Sound of Music, Aunt Danny from Eye of the Cat, Paula Burgess from Circle of Fear, and Katherine Richardson from Madame X.
Nominated for: Parker was nominated 3 times for Best Actress consisting of: 1950 for Caged, 1951 for Detective Story, and 1955 for Interrupted Melody.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Judy Holliday in the Best Actress race in 1950. Seriously, she should’ve lost to Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, or Gloria Swanson that year.
Reasons: Parker was more or less burned by the competition for 1950s Oscar races had brutal competition.
Trivia: Won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival for Caged. Converted to Judaism.
109. Gloria Stuart
Personal Life: (1910-2010) Born Gloria Stewart in Santa Monica, California. Father was an attorney and was fatally injured in a car crash when she was 9. Mother remarried a guy named Finch and she attended high school under that name. Was a cub reporter for The Santa Monica Outlook. Majored in philosophy and drama at UC Berkeley. After her first marriage in 1930, she acted at the Theatre of the Golden Bough and worked at The Carmelite Newspaper and waited tables at the tea shop. She also spent her spare time hand sewing aprons, patchwork pillows, and linens as well as created bouquets. Also worked as a night watchman. Made her first film in 1932. Married twice and had a daughter to second husband Arthur Sheekman whom she was married to for 34 years. Retired for good in 2004. Battled breast cancer and lung cancer, the latter which took her life at 100.
Famous for: American actress whose career spanned from 1930s and 1940s to 2004 with a 29 year break. Notable roles are Flora Cranley from The Invisible Man, Princess Sylvia from Roman Scandals, Barbara Kelton from Gift of Gab, Ann Prentiss from Gold Diggers of 1935,
Mrs. Peggy Mudd from The Prisoner of Shark Island, Margaret Allen from Poor Little Rich Girl, Joan Langford from The Girl on the Front Page, Gwen Warren from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Queen Anne from The Three Musketeers, Mrs. Horn from My Favorite Year, Old Rose from Titanic, Eleanor from The Love Letter, and Jessica from The Million Dollar Hotel.
Nominated for: Stuart was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1997 for Titanic.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Kim Basinger in 1997. Considering how Basinger’s career went and how amazing Stuart’s life was, it’s kind of disappointing.
Reasons: Well, Stuart probably didn’t have the name recognition Basinger did and was probably burned out by the competition. Also, Basinger played an expy of Lana Turner.
Trivia: Oldest person ever nominated for an Academy Award for Acting at 87 which was the only year when 2 actresses were nominated in different acting categories for playing the same character. Born on the 4th of July. Had a side career as an artist and fine printer. Specialized in bonsai collecting and decoupage. One of the founding members of the Screen Actors Guild and was one of the first Hollywood stars to speak out against the Nazis. Redesigned the interior of her old craftsman style house, including the furniture and landscaping. Celebrated her 100th birthday with James Cameron.
110. Karen Black
Personal Life: (1939-2013) Born Karen Blanche Ziegler to Jewish parents in Park Ridge, Illinois. Father was an engineer and businessman. Made her Broadway debut in 1965 and made her first film in 1960. Married 4 times and had 2 children. Married to fourth husband Stephen Eckelberry for 26 years. Was diagnosed with ampullary cancer at 74.
Famous for: American actress, screenwriter, singer, and songwriter. Notable roles are Karen from Easy Rider, Rayette Dipesto from Five Easy Pieces, Mary Jane Reid – The Monkey from Portnoy’s Complaint, Myrtle Wilson from The Great Gatsby, Nancy Pryor from Airport 1975, Faye Greener from The Day of the Locust, Connie White from Nashville, Fran from Family Plot, Marian Rolf from Burnt Offerings, Judy Drinkwater from Capricorn One, Nehor from Plan 10 from Outer Space, Rose Van Horn from Dogtown, Lucy Romano from Fallen Arches, Mother Firefly from House of 1000 Corpses, Sandra Eleanor from Firecracker, Mrs. Martin from A Single Woman, and Aunt de la Chasse from Repo Chick.
Nominated for: Black was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1970 for Five Easy Pieces.
Most Crushing Loss: Losing to Helen Hayes in 1970 considering that most people don’t watch Airport as much as Five Easy Pieces. Also that Hayes already had an Oscar by that point.
Reasons: Well, Hayes was a veteran actress by that point while Black was a young upstart. The Academy probably figured she’d have her chance someday. Yet, she’d never get nominated again. Also, did a lot of sci-fi and horror movies after the 1970s.
Trivia: Mother was a writer of several prize-winning children’s novels. Grandfather was first violinist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Was a Scientologist.