Though Linda Darnell played the Virgin Mary in The Song of Bernadette, she didn’t receive credit for her role for her off-screen persona was anything but, especially in later years. Of course, the reason here was that the studios wanted to see her as a sex symbol and that she ran off with a much older cameraman in 1943.
Of course, since my Oscar-less actors and actresses series deals mostly with the players from The Golden Age of Hollywood, it should be no surprise that most of the actors featured are white. Old Hollywood was not a great place for people of color during this period since such players would usually get consigned to play rather stereotypical roles, many of which presented who demographics in a negative light. African Americans usually played servants happy to work for their masters during segregation. Hispanics were portrayed as sensuous Latin lovers, banditos, or lazy workers who took after lunch siesta or else suffer from heat exhaustion. And if a main character had an Asian love interest, then he or she was played by a white person because the Hays Code basically banned interracial kissing onscreen. Of course, I featured quite a few movie stars of color from the era since they were basically robbed of any critical attention in their careers. In this selection, I bring you 10 more movie legends you may or may not have heard of. First, we have Dolores Del Rio who was called “The Female Rudolph Valentino” as well as the first Latin American actress to gain international recognition. Second, we have Glenda Farrell and Joan Blondell known funny ladies associated with the Pre-Code Era and the 1930s. Third, comes prolific character actor and Hollywood patriarch John Carradine better known as the father of David Carradine and Keith Carradine who played Frank Lundy from Dexter. After that is Frances Farmer who’s less remembered for her performances than for her time in a mental institution followed by Sylvia Sidney, an actress who played gangster molls and old ladies in Tim Burton movies like Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks!. Then there are Joan Bennett and Linda Darnell who were remembered as film noir dames yet with personal lives marred by scandals that nearly threatened their careers. Next there is Herbert Marshall who starred in many well-regarded films as a leading man despite being a WWI amputee. And last but not least, we have Van Johnson known for playing cheery roles despite his personal life being no bed of roses. So without further adieu, I bring you 10 more actors and actresses who never had a gold statuette on their mantlepieces.
131. Dolores Del Rio
Dolores Del Rio was the first Latin American actress to gain international attention and one of the most important female figures in Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema during the 1940s and 1950s. Yet, even though Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic in the US, she never received an honorary Oscar in her lifetime.
Personal Life: (1905-1983) Born María de los Dolores Asúnsolo López-Negrete in Durango, Mexico. Father was director of the Bank of Durango and parents were members of the ruling class during the Porifirio Diaz regime. Family lost all assets during the Mexican Revolution and were forced to relocate to Mexico City, living under President Francisco I. Madero, who was her mother’s cousin. Attended the Liceo Franco Mexicano and was chosen to dance for a local hospital benefit and eventually marrying the benevolent group’s leader Jaime Martínez del Río y Viñent at 16 with a 2 year honeymoon in Europe. Yet, once they returned, Jaime lost his fortune and his country’s estate due to the bottom falling out in the cotton market and she miscarried (but instructed never to try for another child). Discovered by a First National director who convinced her and her first husband to go to Hollywood. Made her first film in 1925. Married 3 times. Married to third husband Lewis Riley for 24 years. Suffered a severe kidney infection in 1930. Though suffered a pain in her bones since the 1960s she was diagnosed with osteomyelitis in 1978. Diagnosed with Hepatitis B in 1981 caught through expired vitamin injections which developed into cirrhosis. Died of liver disease in Newport Beach, California at 77.
Famous for: Mexican actress who was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood during the 1920s. One of the few silent superstars to make the transition to talkies and noted for her participation in Pre-Code musicals. When her Hollywood career began to decline, she returned to her native country and join the Mexican film industry, which was at its peak, becoming the most important star in the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. First Latin American female star to be recognized internationally. Notable roles are Carlotta Da Silva from Joanna, Charmaine de la Cognac from What Price Glory?, Katyusha Maslova from Resurrection, Carmen from The Loves of Carmen, Ramona, Evangeline, Luana from Bird of Paradise, Madame DuBarry, Belinnha de Rezende from Flying Down to Rio, Inez from Wonder Bar, Josette Martell from Journey into Fear, Maria Candelaria, Mrs. Erlynne from Story of a Bad Woman, María Dolores from The Fugitive, Spanish Woman from Cheyenne Autumn, Gilda “La Doña” from Casa de Mujeres, and Grandma from The Children of Sanchez.
Nominated for: Del Rio was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not receiving an honorary Oscar as a pioneer for her accomplishments in films in both the US and Mexico, especially since the American Hispanic population is on the rise and most Latinos have Mexican ancestry.
Reasons: For one, de Rio was Mexican. Second, she was a bigger star in Hollywood during the silent and Pre-Code eras and mainly spent the rest of her career in Mexico. Also was suspected of Communism since 1934 when she attended a special screening of a Sergei Eisenstein’s ¡Que viva México! with Ramon Novarro and Lupe Velez. Was also associated with people like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles who also had some (perceived) ties to communism. Not to mention, she befriended Eva Peron and the Duke of Windsor. She would later be denied to work in the US for 2 years during the 1950s.
Trivia: Romantically linked to Orson Welles. Was a juror at some international film festivals like Cannes Film Festival (1957), Berlin Film Festival (1962), and San Sebastián Film Festival (1976). Co-founder of the Sociedad Protectora del Tesoro Artistico de México (Society for the Protection of the artistic treasures of Mexico) with the philanthropist Felipe García Beraza that was responsible for protecting buildings, paintings, and other works of art and culture in Mexico. Helped found the Cultural Festival Cervantino in Guanajuato. Help found, lead, and support “Rosa Mexicano” that was meant to protect Mexican actresses and their children. Her Coyoacan “La Escondia” was a popular place for celebrities like Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, María Félix, Merle Oberon, David O’Selznick, Jennifer Jones, the Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Princess Soraya of Iran and more. Upon her return to Hollywood, Elvis Presley presented her with a bouquet of flowers saying, “Lady, I know exactly who you are. It’s an honor to work with one of the largest and most respected legends of Classic Hollywood. As you will be my mother in the film, I want to ask permission for my ophthalmologist make contact lenses that mimic the color of your eyes.” She took to him and regard him with maternal affection.
132. Joan Blondell
Establishing herself as a brassy blonde during Hollywood’s Pre-Code Era, Joan Blondell enjoyed a long career of appearing in 80 films from Goldiggers of 1933 to Grease.
Personal Life: (1906-1979) Born Rose Joan Blondell in New York City to a vaudeville family. Father was one of the original Katzenjammer Kids. Slept in a property trunk as a baby and made her first stage appearance at 4 months being carried onstage in it. Grew up in Dallas, Texas. Attended what’s now the University of North Texas which was a teacher’s college in Denton, where her mother was an actress. Worked as a fashion model, stage hand, and clerk at a New York store before joining a stock company and performing on Broadway, including a play with James Cagney. Both were discovered by Al Jolson in 1930 and made their first film the same year. Married 3 times with second marriage being to Dick Powell and third to Mike Todd (who ran off with her savings) and had 3 children. Died of leukemia at 73.
Famous for: American actress whose career spanned 5 decades. Appeared in 100 movies and TV productions. Notable roles are Myrtle from Sinner’s Holiday, Mamie from The Public Enemy, Maloney from Night Nurse, Nurse Adams, aka Miss Pinkerton from Miss Pinkerton, Mary Keaton from Three on a Match, Carol from Gold Diggers of 1933, Nan from Footlight Parade, Peggy Revere from Stage Struck, Jenny Blake from Lady for a Night, Aunt Sissy from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Zeena Krumbein from Nightmare Alley, Annie Rawlins from The Blue Veil, Peg Costello from Desk Set, Edith from The Opposite Sex, Molly Hays from Angel Baby, Lady Fingers from The Cincinnati Kid, Vi from Grease, and Dolly Kenyon from The Champ.
Nominated for: Blondell was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1951 for The Blue Veil.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1945 for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
Reasons: Well, she was burned by the competition during her nomination. Also, she was known predominantly as a comic actress. Not to mention, she did a few risqué photos during the Pre-Code era when she established herself as a wisecracking blonde.
Trivia: Under the name Rosebud Blondell, she was 1926 Miss Dallas and placed 4th in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Wrote a novel called Center Door Fancy.
133. Glenda Farrell
Glenda Farrell is best known as the resilient, fast-talking, crime solving reporter Torchy Blane from a series of 1930s films. Her most famous character would later be the inspiration for Nancy Drew and Lois Lane.
Personal Life: (1904-1971) Born in Enid, Oklahoma. Began her acting career with at theatrical company at 7. Made her first film in 1925. Married twice and had a son with first husband Thomas Richards. Married to second husband Dr. Henry Ross for 30 years (who was buried with her). Died of lung cancer at 66.
Famous for: American actress best known as Torchy Blane in a 1930s film series. Notable roles are Olga Stassoff from Little Caesar, Mrs. Black, Prisoner at Checkers Table from Three on a Match, Florence Dempsey from Mystery of the Wax Museum, Missouri Martin from Lady for a Day, Marie from I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Torchy Blane from Smart Blonde and other films, Jean Fenderson from Prison Break, Mae Blythe Agridowski from Johnny Eager, Regina Rush from The Talk of the Town, Hazel Bixby from I Love Trouble, Maude Snodgrass from Susan Slept Here, Mrs. Nesbit from The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, Mrs. Winston from Secret of the Incas, and Mrs. Mueller from Middle of the Night.
Nominated for: Farrell was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1932 for I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang since the award didn’t exist. Yet, she played the only person who genuinely cared about Paul Muni in the film.
Reasons: She was basically best known as the career oriented, competent, self-reliant, and intelligent Torchy Blane which got her typecast and partly inspired Nancy Drew and possibly Lois Lane.
Trivia: Second husband was a West Point graduate and member of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff during WWII. Mother of Tommy Farrell. Buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
134. John Carradine
Though better known as the patriarch of the Carradine family, John Carradine was a prolific character actor who appeared in 227 film and TV credits throughout his career. Did everything from horror and westerns to Shakespearean drama.
Personal Life: (1906-1988) Born Richmond Reed Carradine in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in New York City. Father was correspondent for the Associated Press while mother was a surgeon. Grandfather was evangelical author Beverly Carradine. At 2, his father died of tuberculosis. Stepfather was a paper manufacturer who was physically abusive. Ran away from home at 14 but later returned. Studied sculpture at Philadelphia’s Graphic Arts Institute. Was arrested for vagrancy and suffered a broken nose in jail that didn’t set correctly. Made his stage debut at New Orleans in 1925. Shipped bananas from Dallas to Los Angeles and worked as a set designer for Cecil B. DeMille. Made first film in 1930. Retired in 1987. Married 4 times and had 5 sons. Adopted Bruce and had David to first wife Ardanelle McCool Cosner and Christopher, Keith, and Robert to second wife Sonia Sorel. Both these 2 marriages ended in divorce and very acrimonious custody and alimony battles that resulted in his younger children being sent to an abused children’s home as wards of the court as well as himself in jail. Was separated from his third wife Doris Grimshaw when she died in a fire in 1971 started by her burning cigarette. Suffered from crippling arthritis before dying of multiple organ failure in Italy at 82.
Famous for: American actor best known for his role in horror films, westerns, and Shakespeare theater. Member of Cecil B. DeMille’s and later John Ford’s stock company. Was one of the most prolific character actors in movie Hollywood history as well as patriarch of the Carradine family. Made about 227 credit appearances. Notable roles are Enjolras from Les Miserables, Beauty Smith from White Fang, David Rizzio from Mary of Scotland, Jim Farrar from Ramona, Sand Diviner from The Garden of Allah, Gordon from Kidnapped, Bob Ford from Jesse James, Barryman from The Hound of the Baskervilles, Hatfield from Stagecoach, Jim Casy from The Grapes of Wrath, Porter Rockwell from Brigham Young, Nacional from Blood and Sand, Gaston Morel from Bluebeard, Orange Povey from Captain Kidd, Charles Forestier from The Private Affairs of Belle Ami, Old Tom from Johnny Guitar, Fletcher from The Kentuckian, Giacomo from The Court Jester, Bruce Alden from The Patsy, Jeff Blair from Cheyenne Autumn, and other roles in westerns and horror movies.
Nominated for: Carradine was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1940 for Stagecoach. Also, not receiving an honorary Oscar for his sheer volume of work men like Eli Wallach and Mickey Rooney have.
Reasons: Well, other than appearing in westerns and horror movies, his acrimonious custody and alimony battles might have hurt his chances.
Trivia: Was said to be apprentice for Lincoln Monument sculptor Daniel Chester French. Third wife typed the script to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Son Christopher is vice president of Disney Imagineering. Had the word “HAM” on his Mercedes-Benz license plate. Had climbed 328 steps of Milan’s Gothic Duomo Cathedral when he was fatally stricken.
135. Joan Bennett
Joan Bennett had 3 distinct phases of her career: first as a winsome blonde, second as a sensuous femme fatale, and third as a warmhearted matriarch such as in Dark Shadows. Also has a scandal in which her husband shot her agent over suspicion she and the agent were having an affair.
Personal Life: (1910-1990) Born in Fort Lee, New Jersey from a famous theatrical family. Father was an actor Richard Bennett while mother was an actress and literary agent. Made her first film in 1916 with her parents. Attended L’Hermitage, which was a finishing school in Versailles, France. Married 4 times and had 4 children. Married to third husband producer Walter Wanger for 25 years (I’ll get to him later). Retired in 1982. Died of a heart attack at 80.
Famous for: American actress who appeared in more than 70 films from the silent era well into the sound era. Best known for her femme fatale roles in Fritz Lang movies. Had three distinct phases to her long and successful career, first as a winsome blonde ingenue, then as a sensuous brunette femme fatale (with looks that movie magazines often compared to those of Hedy Lamarr), and finally as a warmhearted wife/mother figure. Notable roles are Phyllis Benton from Bulldog Drummond, Lady Clarissa Pevensey from Disraeli, Lucy Blackburn from The Mississippi Gambler, Delores Fenton from Puttin’ on the Ritz, Helen Riley from Me and My Gal, Amy from Little Women, Helen Berkeley from The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, Brenda Bentley from The House Across the Bay, Princess Maria Theresa from The Man in the Iron Mask, June Delaney from Girl Trouble, Sophia Baumer from Margin for Error, Alice Reed from The Woman in the Window, Katharine “Kitty” March from Scarlet Street, Margaret “Margot” Macomber from The Macomber Affair, Peggy from The Woman on the Beach, Ellie Banks from Father of the Bride and Father’s Little Dividend, Amelie Ducotel from We’re No Angels, Madame Blanc from Suspira, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard from House of Dark Shadows.
Nominated for: Bennett was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Actress in 1947 for The Macomber Affair in which you really can’t tell whether to love her or hate her.
Reasons: Well, her career went through major damage in a 1961 scandal when her third husband Walter Wanger shot and injured her agent Jennings Lang in the balls over suspicion of him having an affair with his wife at the time (which she flatly denied). This in front of her. Wanger got off on a temporary insanity defense and a 4 month prison stint for assault with intent to kill. Nevertheless, she was virtually blacklisted for this for a time (yet I can’t understand why she stayed married to the jerk for 4 more years. Jesus!)
Trivia: Played Elizabeth Collins Stoddard on the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows. Sister of Constance Bennett. Granddaughter of legendary Jamaican-born Shakespearean actor Lewis Morrison who was of English, Spanish, Jewish, and African ancestry.
136. Herbert Marshall
Despite losing a leg while fighting for his country during WWI, Herbert Marshall managed to be an in-demand leading man in the 1930s. This might be because he had a nice English accent and that he was never expected to do a sex scene.
Personal Life: (1890-1966) Born in London. Parents were stage actors and his father also dabbled in writing and directing. Primarily raised by his aunts yet would occasionally appear on stage with his parents. Worked as an accounting clerk and an assistant manager for a troupe run by his father’s friend as well as a series of backstage jobs. Thus, decided to become an actor. Served in the London Scottish Regiment during WWI but was shot in the right knee by a sniper. His leg would later be amputated after a series of operations and he was in the hospital for 3 months. After he learned to walk with a prosthetic, he decided to return to the theater. Yet, he would suffer from the phantom pain associated with it for the rest of his life. Made his film debut in 1927. Married 5 times and had 2 children to his second and third wives. Suffered from bouts of depression and alcoholism. Suffered from a pulmonary embolism in 1951. Died of heart failure at 75.
Famous for: British actor who starred in many popular and well-regarded Hollywood films in the 1930s and 1940s. After a successful theater career in Britain and North America, became an in-demand Hollywood leading man, frequently appearing in romantic melodramas and occasional comedies. Turned to character acting in his later years. Notable roles are Geoffrey Hammond from The Letter, Edward ‘Ned’ Faraday from Blonde Venus, Gaston Monescu from Trouble in Paradise, Walter Fane from The Painted Veil, Gray Meredith from A Bill of Divorcement, Robert Crosbie from The Letter, Horace Giddens from The Little Foxes, W. Somerset Maugham from The Razor’s Edge, Scott Chavez from Duel in the Sun, Archibald Craven from The Secret Garden, William, Earl of Mackworth from The Black Shield of Falworth, and Lord Robert Dudley from The Virgin Queen.
Nominated for: Marshall was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1946 for The Razor’s Edge.
Reasons: Though he was respected and liked by his colleagues for his professionalism, talent, gentlemanly demeanor, and pleasant attitude, he had a private turbulent life that periodically appeared in gossip columns.
Trivia: Grandfather wrote several books on art and travel while his uncle was a dramatic critic. Great-nephew of Edward Wollstonecraft who was a nephew of Mary Wollstonecraft and cousin of Mary Shelley. Was called “Bart” by his mother because she hated the nickname, “Bertie.” Was visited in the hospital by King George V during WWI and when asked to pick up which of his legs was fake, chose the wrong one. Made numerous appearances on the Armed Forces Radio Services during WWII and helped organize British war relief in Hollywood. Used his own money for travel to visit military hospitals during WWII and particularly focused on encouraging amputee soldiers to keep a positive attitude and not think of themselves as handicapped or limited. He even discussed his own experience with his amputation and gave them tips on how to use their prosthetics. Daughter Ann was Jack Nicholson’s personal assistant. Had an affair with Gloria Swanson. Starred in his own radio series A Man Called “X.”
137. Linda Darnell
From an ambitious stage mother, alcoholism, affairs, mental illness, and legal battles to her legendary death in a house fire, Linda Darnell’s life was full of drama from the time she came to Hollywood at 15. She may have had a perfect face yet her life was a hot mess which would end in flames -literally.
Personal Life: (1923-1965) Born Monetta Eloyse Darnall in Dallas, Texas. Father was a postal clerk. Parents’ marriage wasn’t happy and she grew up a shy and reserved girl in a house of domestic turmoil. Mother had big plans for her and thought she was the only one of her children with potential as an actress and ignored rearing her other kids. Mother’s reputation in her neighborhood ranged from “aggressive” to “downright mean.” Worked as a model at 11 and started acting at 13. Also, performed in beauty contests. Spotted by a talent scout from 20th Century Fox in 1937 who invited her for a screen test in Hollywood but was initially rejected for being too young (she was a teenager). At 15, she secured a contract in 1939 but lied about her age (posed as 17 but listed at 19). Made her first film in 1939. Married 3 times and adopted a daughter with first husband Peverell Marley. Died from severe burns sustained in a house fire in Chicago, Illinois at 41, which burned 80-90% of her body.
Famous for: American actress who appeared in supporting roles for big budget films at 20th Century Fox throughout the 1940s and rose to fame co-starring opposite Tyrone Power in adventure films. Established a main character career after her role in Forever Amber. Won critical acclaim for her work in Unfaithfully Yours and A Letter to Three Wives. Notable roles are Carolyn Sayers from Star Dust, Zina Webb – The Outsider from Bringham Young, Lolita Quintero from The Mark of Zorro, Carmen Espinosa from Blood and Sand, Virginia Clemm from The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe, The Virgin Mary from The Song of Bernadette, Dawn Starlight from Buffalo Bill, Netta Longdon from Hangover Square, Stella from Fallen Angel, Tuptim from Anna and the King of Siam, Amber St. Clair from Forever Amber, Chihuahua from My Darling Clementine, Daphne De Carter from Unfaithfully Yours, Lora Mae Hollingsway from A Letter to Three Wives, Edie Johnson from No Way Out, and Edwina Mansfield from Blackbeard the Pirate.
Nominated for: Darnell was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1949 for A Letter to Three Wives in which her portrayal of a social climber is sympathetic and well balanced compared to others.
Reasons: Though she appeared onscreen as The Virgin Mary in The Song of Bernadette, her off-screen lifestyle was particularly notorious and made perfect tabloid fodder. She struggled with alcoholism, weight gain, and mental health issues. She fought legal battles with agents and estranged husbands causing her financial woes as well as distanced herself from her dysfunctional family. She also had a lot of affairs and it’s said Ann Miller was her only friend. This didn’t help that 20th Century Fox wanted her to be a movie sex symbol.
Trivia: Was a witness at Lana Turner’s first wedding to Husband Stephen Crane. Star Dust was basically based on her beginnings in Hollywood. Romantically linked to Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes, and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
138. Frances Farmer
Frances Farmer isn’t as known for her work in Hollywood during the 1930s than for her involuntary commitment to a mental hospital, which has become the stuff of Hollywood legend that Jessica Lange played her in a film.
Personal Life: (1913-1970) Born in Seattle, Washington. Father was a prominent lawyer. Worked as a movies usher, waitress, tutor and factory worker while attending the University of Washington. Made her first film in 1936 at Paramount. Married 3 times with first marriage to Leif Erickson. Died of esophageal cancer at 56.
Famous for: American actress and TV host. Notable roles are Lotta Morgan/Lotta Bostrom from Come and Get It, Josie Mansfield from The Toast of New York, Ruby Taylor from South of Pago Pago, Linda Chalmers from Flowing Gold, Doris Halliday from Rhythm on the Range, Kitty Carr from World Premiere, Elaine Raden from Among the Living, and Isabel Blake from Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake.
Nominated for: Farmer was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1936 for Come and Get It, if any.
Reasons: Well, not only was Farmer alleged to be a Communist and an atheist, she had an outspoken style that made her uncooperative and contemptuous. She rebelled against the studio’s control and resisted every attempt they made to glamorize her private life. Refused to attend Hollywood parties or date other stars for the gossip columns. Not to mention, she’s more famous for her dramatic fall from grace when she was arrested on multiple charges and involuntarily committed to a mental hospital twice (with her mother having to assume legal guardianship). However, contrary to popular fictional portrayals, she was never lobotomized.
Trivia: Was agnostic and influenced by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche according to a high school essay of hers she won $100 in a contest yet she would later convert to Roman Catholicism in 1959. Also won contests to Europe and the Soviet Union during her college years. Romantically linked to Clifford Odets. Had a second career as a daytime TV host in Indiana from 1958-1964.
139. Sylvia Sidney
Though Sylvia Sidney achieved fame by playing gangster gals in 1930s crime dramas, she is better known by younger viewers as the afterlife caseworker from Beetlejuice and the Slim Whitman loving grandmother from Mars Attacks!. Also wrote 2 books on needle point.
Personal Life: (1910-1990) Born Sophia Kosow in The Bronx of New York City to Russian and Romanian Jews. Father was a Russian Jewish immigrant who worked as a clothing salesman. Mother would later become a dressmaker. Parents divorced in 1915 and mother remarried a man named Sidney who adopted her. Became an actress at 15 as a way of overcoming shyness and trained in the Theater Guild’s School of Acting, appearing in several theatrical productions during the 1920s. Discovered by a Hollywood talent scout in 1926 and made her first film later that year. Married 3 times and had a son wit second husband Luther Adler, who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Was a lifelong smoker. Died of esophageal cancer in New York City at 88.
Famous for: American actress who rose to prominence in the 1930s appearing in numerous crime dramas, often playing a gangster’s girlfriend or sister. Notable roles are Nan Cooley from City Streets, Roberta “Bert” Alden from An American Tragedy, Rose Maurrant from Street Scene, Helen Smith from The Miracle Man, Joan Prentice from Merrily We Go to Hell, Cho-Cho San from Madame Butterfly, Katherine Grant from Fury, Mrs. Verloc from Sabotage, Joan Graham from You Only Live Once, Drina from Dead End, Cecily Harrington from Love from a Stranger, Fantine from Les Miserables, Mrs. Pritchett from Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, Miss Coral from I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Juno from Beetlejuice, and Grandma Florence Norris from Mars Attacks!
Nominated for: Sidney was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1973 for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 1977 for I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.
Reasons: Sidney was typecast as gangster molls and sisters early in her career and kindly old ladies in her later years. In 1977, she spoke of how producers came to typecast her as “the girl of the gangster, then the sister who was bringing up the gangster, then later the mother of the gangster, and they always had me ironing somebody’s shirt.” As for her Oscar nomination, she was just burned by the competition. Not to mention, she was a more prominent actress in the theater than in films.
Trivia: Tim Burton was a big fan of hers. Wrote 2 popular books on needle point.
140. Van Johnson
Though Van Johnson was the embodiment of the cheery wholesome boy next door onscreen during the 1950s, much of his live wasn’t which included a difficult childhood, a 1943 near-fatal car accident, and a supposedly engineered marriage by MGM to quell gay rumors which ended horribly.
Personal Life: (1916-2008) Born Charles Van Dell Johnson in Newport, Rhode Island. Father was a plumber and real estate salesman. Mother was an alcoholic who left the family when he was a child and he had a chilly relationship with his father. Moved to New York City after graduating from high school and made his stage debut in 1935. Made his first movie in 1940. Was involved in a car crash in 1943 which left him with a metal plate on his forehead and scars on his face that the plastic surgery at the time couldn’t correctly conceal. Also had his scalp nearly sheared off. Yet, he slapped his scalp and crawled 50 yards to get to rescue workers for aid. Injury exempted him from service during WWII. Married to stage actress Eve Abbott for 23 years and had a daughter (though marriage might’ve been a publicity stunt to quell gay rumors). Retired in 1992. Died in New York of natural causes at 92.
Famous for: American actor, singer, and dancer who was a major MGM star during and after WWII. Was the embodiment of “the boy next door wholesomeness” that made him a popular Hollywood star in the 1940s and 1950s. Was one of the last surviving matinee idols of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Notable roles are Marcus Macauley from The Human Comedy, Ted Randall from A Guy Named Joe, Ted Lawson from Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Spike McManus from State of the Union, John Alden from Plymouth Adventure, Lt. Stephen Maryk, USNR from The Caine Mutiny, Jeff Douglas from Brigadoon, Maurice Bendix from The End of the Affair, Charles Wills from Last Time I Saw Paris, Al Yearling from Divorce American Style, and Larry from The Purple Rose of Cairo.
Nominated for: Johnson was never nominated for an Oscar.
Most Crushing Loss: Not being nominated for Best Actor in 1954 for The Caine Mutiny.
Reasons: Despite his image as a cheery guy, Johnson was reputed to be morose and moody because of his difficult early life and had little tolerance for unpleasantness. He and his daughter were estranged by his death. Also it’s said he was involved in many homosexual proclivities which were well known within the film industry but mostly covered up due to respect for privacy and Louis B. Mayer’s efforts to quash scandal (yet, this can’t really be proven). Still his marriage ended very bitterly and his life was frequent tabloid fodder.
Trivia: Was friends with Lucille Ball. Usually wore heavy makeup in his roles since 1943 with the sole exception of The Caine Mutiny. Always wore red socks.