CONTRIBUTED BY JAKE THOMPSON
Best Actor can be a controversial category at times. Sometimes a supporting performance will be submitted as a lead performance by the distributor either to help boost box office revenue or to increase the actor’s chances in that category for another film (because they think the actor has a better shot with the other film). But most of the times, lead performances are nominated, but not every nominee truly deserved the nod. Best Actor has a history of numerous major snubs; consequently I feel that listing just five major snubs is doing a disservice to all of those who were snubbed. Nevertheless, I will name five major snubs, and I will also name five honorable mentions (rather than the usual three).
One immediate major snub is Humphrey Bogart for 1950’s In A Lonely Place. He portrays Dixon Steele, a famous Hollywood screenwriter who has quite a bit of a temper and a dangerous past that’s hinted at throughout the film. Bogart commands the screen every second he’s on it. He manages to make such a difficult character sympathetic even when he’s suspected of murder (and all of the circumstantial evidence points to him). It is truly a shame that he wasn’t nominated for such a strong performance. Bogart is a three-time nominee (2 Actor nods for 1942’s Casablanca & 1954’s The Caine Mutiny, 1 Actor win for 1951’s The African Queen).
The actual nominees at the 23rd Academy Awards were:
Cyrano De Bergerac – Jose Ferrer (*Winner)
The Magnificent Yankee – Louis Calhern
Sunset Boulevard – William Holden
Harvey – James Stewart
Father of the Bride – Spencer Tracy
Another major snub is James Stewart for 1958’s Vertigo. Although one could argue that Stewart was a stand-in for Alfred Hitchcock in this film (personality-wise), it cannot be disputed that Stewart delivers nothing less than a masterful performance as Scotty, a detective who’s forced to retire from the police department due to his vertigo. He perfectly captures a character that suffers from vertigo as well as the obsessive qualities of a man haunted by his past. It’s too bad he wasn’t nominated for his terrific work in this film. Stewart is a five-time nominee (4 Actor nods for 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life, 1950’s Harvey, & 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder, 1 Actor win for 1940’s The Philadelphia Story).
The actual nominees at the 31st Academy Awards were:
Separate Tables – David Niven (*Winner)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – Paul Newman
The Defiant Ones – Tony Curtis
The Defiant Ones – Sidney Poitier
The Old Man and the Sea – Spencer Tracy
I could not go any further without bringing up one of the biggest acting snubs of all time: Malcolm McDowell for 1971’s A Clockwork Orange. McDowell gives an incredible performance as Alex, the leader of the Droogs, who loves women, ultra-violence, and listening to Beethoven. He emits a gaze that’s nearly hypnotic, and it’s to his credit that he manages to remain likeable despite all the terrible, terrible things he does. The Academy should be ashamed of itself for not nominating his performance for this film, for he has yet to receive a single Oscar nod.
The actual nominees at the 44th Academy Awards were:
The French Connection – Gene Hackman (*Winner)
Sunday Bloody Sunday – Peter Finch
Kotch – Walter Matthau
The Hospital – George C. Scott
Fiddler On the Roof – Chaim Topol
Another major snub would be Paul Giamatti for 2004’s Sideways. Giamatti delivers such an understated performance here, one that seemed like a lock for a nomination until Million Dollar Baby came out at the last second (and the Academy unfairly gave his nomination slot to Clint Eastwood). It isn’t easy to play a man whose life is crumbling away and passing him by while putting up with the shenanigans of his best friend (and seeing that friendship disintegrate over the course of a week), but Giamatti pulls it off while having us root for him. It’s a shame he wasn’t nominated for his work here. Giamatti is a one-time nominee (1 Supporting Actor nod for 2005’s Cinderella Man).
The actual nominees at the 77th Academy Awards were:
Ray – Jamie Foxx (*Winner)
The Aviator – Leonardo DiCaprio
Hotel Rwanda – Don Cheadle
Finding Neverland – Johnny Depp
Million Dollar Baby – Clint Eastwood
One final major snub would be Michael Fassbender for 2011’s Shame. Fassbender gave a raw and fearless performance as a sex addict who tries to cope with his addiction after his sister comes to visit for an extended period of time. He brings vulnerability to a character that could’ve been unlikeable and unrelatable had he been played by a lesser actor. Fassbender makes us care for his character as he attempts to have a real relationship but gets frustrated when his addiction prevents him from having one. It really is a shame that the Academy didn’t nominate this terrific work, for Fassbender has yet to receive a single Oscar nod.
The actual nominees at the 84th Academy Awards were:
The Artist – Jean Dujardin (*Winner)
A Better Life – Demian Bichir
The Descendants – George Clooney
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Gary Oldman
Moneyball – Brad Pitt
Other actors that were considered include Charlton Heston for 1956’s The Ten Commandments, Jack Nicholson for 1980’s The Shining, Jeff Goldblum for 1986’s The Fly, Bill Murray for 1991’s What About Bob, and Jim Carrey for 1998’s The Truman Show.
I definitely agree with your choices here. It’s such a shame these performances weren’t recognized.
Thanks. I believe that Best Actor has more major snubs than any other category. Whittling it down to just five nominees is definitely not an easy task.
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