Lost But Not Forgotten: Oscar Nominees for Best Actress

Today’s post concludes my look at the Oscar nominees who never won among the four acting categories, with what’s probably my favorite of those categories: Best Actress! More often than not, it’s the acting category that’s the strongest to me in just about any year in the Academy Awards’ 90-year history.

Note: I narrowed it down to just 20 favorites from each category, so of course there are several great nominees that didn’t make the cut. I also opted to not consider anything from films that were released from 2000 on, as I felt they’re still too recent. But there are some performers on this list that are still working, so there’s still a chance for them to win an Oscar someday…

Now, in chronological order, my favorite Oscar-nominated performances for Best Actress…

Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey (1936)

Carole Lombard as Irene Bullock in My Man Godfrey
Other Nominations: N/A
Competition:
Luise Rainer for The Great Ziegfeld (winner)
Irene Dunne for Theodora Goes Wild
Gladys George for Valiant Is the Word for Carrie
Norma Shearer for Romeo and Juliet

Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth (1937)

Irene Dunne as Lucy Warriner in The Awful Truth
Other Nominations: Cimarron; Theodora Goes Wild; Love Affair; I Remember Mama
Competition:
Luise Rainer for The Good Earth (winner)
Greta Garbo for Camille
Janet Gaynor for A Star Is Born
Barbara Stanwyck for Stella Dallas

Greta Garbo in Ninotchka (1939)

Greta Garbo as Nina Ivanovna Yakushova (aka Ninotchka) in Ninotchka
Other Nominations: Romance; Anna Christie; Camille
Competition:
Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind (winner)
Bette Davis for Dark Victory
Irene Dunne for Love Affair
Greer Garson for Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity (1944)

Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity
Other Nominations: Stella Dallas; Ball of Fire; Sorry, Wrong Number
Competition:
Ingrid Bergman for Gaslight (winner)
Claudette Colbert for Since You Went Away
Bette Davis for Mr. Skeffington
Greer Garson for Mrs. Parkington

Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Gene Tierney as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven
Other Nominations: N/A
Competition:
Joan Crawford for Mildred Pierce (winner)
Ingrid Bergman for The Bells of St. Mary’s
Greer Garson for The Valley of Decision
Jennifer Jones for Love Letters

Eleanor Parker in Caged (1950)

Eleanor Parker as Marie Allen in Caged
Other Nominations: Detective Story; Interrupted Melody
Competition:
Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday (winner)
Anne Baxter for All About Eve
Bette Davis for All About Eve
…and…

Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd.
Other Nominations: Sadie Thompson; The Trespasser
Competition: see above

Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones (1954)

Dorothy Dandridge as Carmen Jones in Carmen Jones
Other Nominations: N/A
Competition:
Grace Kelly for The Country Girl (winner)
Audrey Hepburn for Sabrina
Jane Wyman for Magnificent Obsession
…and…

Judy Garland in A Star Is Born (1954)

Judy Garland as Vicki Lester in A Star Is Born
Other Nominations: Judgment at Nuremberg (Best Actress in a Supporting Role)
Competition: see above

Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956)

Deborah Kerr as Anna Leonowens in The King and I
Other Nominations: Edward, My Son; From Here to Eternity; Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison; Separate Tables; The Sundowners
Competition:
Ingrid Bergman for Anastasia (winner)
Carroll Baker for Baby Doll
Katharine Hepburn for The Rainmaker
Nancy Kelly for The Bad Seed

Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958)

Rosalind Russell as Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame
Other Nominations: My Sister Eileen; Sister Kenny; Mourning Becomes Electra
Competition:
Susan Hayward for I Want to Live! (winner)
Deborah Kerr for Separate Tables
Shirley MacLaine for Some Came Running
Elizabeth Taylor for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Natalie Wood as Wilma Dean Loomis in Splendor in the Grass
Other Nominations: Rebel Without a Cause (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); Love with the Proper Stranger
Competition:
Sophia Loren for Two Women (winner)
Audrey Hepburn for Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Piper Laurie for The Hustler
Geraldine Page for Summer and Smoke

Geneviève Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

Geneviève Bujold as Anne Boleyn in Anne of the Thousand Days
Other Nominations: N/A
Competition:
Maggie Smith for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (winner)
Jane Fonda for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Liza Minnelli for The Sterile Cuckoo
Jean Simmons for The Happy Ending

Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Gena Rowlands as Mabel Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence
Other Nominations: Gloria
Competition:
Ellen Burstyn for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (winner)
Diahann Carroll for Claudine
Faye Dunaway for Chinatown
Valerie Perrine for Lenny

Jill Clayburgh in An Unmarried Woman (1978)

Jill Clayburgh as Erica in An Unmarried Woman
Other Nominations: Starting Over
Competition:
Jane Fonda for Coming Home (winner)
Ingrid Bergman for Autumn Sonata
Ellen Burstyn for Same Time, Next Year
Geraldine Page for Interiors

Sigourney Weaver in Aliens (1986)

Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Aliens
Other Nominations: Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey; Working Girl (Best Actress in a Supporting Role)
Competition:
Marlee Matlin for Children of a Lesser God (winner)
Jane Fonda for The Morning After
Sissy Spacek for Crimes of the Heart
Kathleen Turner for Peggy Sue Got Married

Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987)

Glenn Close as Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction
Other Nominations: The World According to Garp (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); The Big Chill (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); The Natural (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); Dangerous Liaisons; Albert Nobbs
Competition:
Cher for Moonstruck (winner)
Holly Hunter for Broadcast News
Sally Kirkland for Anna
Meryl Streep for Ironweed

Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

Michelle Pfeiffer as Susie Diamond in The Fabulous Baker Boys
Other Nominations: Dangerous Liaisons (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); Love Field
Competition:
Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy (winner)
Isabelle Adjani for Camille Claudel
Pauline Collins for Shirley Valentine
Jessica Lange for Music Box

Winona Ryder in Little Women (1994)

Winona Ryder as Jo March in Little Women
Other Nominations: The Age of Innocence
Competition:
Jessica Lange for Blue Sky (winner)
Jodie Foster for Nell
Miranda Richardson for Tom & Viv
Susan Sarandon for The Client

Annette Bening in American Beauty (1999)

Annette Bening as Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty
Other Nominations: The Grifters (Best Actress in a Supporting Role); Being Julia; The Kids Are All Right
Competition:
Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry
Janet McTeer for Tumbleweeds
Julianne Moore for The End of the Affair
Meryl Streep for Music of the Heart

2 thoughts on “Lost But Not Forgotten: Oscar Nominees for Best Actress

  1. OK…so, I’m just going to say it: Moonstruck is such a crap movie. Cher winning over Glenn Close and Holly Hunter is almost as criminal as Dances With Wolves beating GoodFellas for Best Picture.

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