While the 2014 Oscar nominations read mostly as predicted, they also left out some unbridled talent, including Tom Hanks for his intense and unflinching turn as the titular character in Captain Phillips and Emma Thompson for her painstakingly simple portrayal of author P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks. But leaving some of the best off the ballot is nothing new for the Academy, especially in acting categories that are limited to five nominees each.
Fortunately for Hanks and Thompson, both already have Oscars commending their acting chops. Here’s a list of 7 incredible talents, both past and present, that haven’t had the same luck:
Margaret Hamilton– In a film career that lasted nearly four decades, Hamilton is best (and for many, only) known as the Wicked Witch of the West from Victor Fleming’s 1939 masterpiece The Wizard of Oz. Though Dorothy and her posse raked in screen time and a few show tunes, it was Hamilton that was tasked with crafting a character volatile enough to warrant flame throwing and yet human enough to evoke pity as her being melts into a puddle of nothingness.
The WWOTW was a character audiences had never witnessed on screen before and the actress deserved recognition for her contribution to the art of movies at a time when they were just heating up. Sadly, while Oz was nominated for six Oscars, none of them were in acting categories. What a world.
Peter Lorre– The German actor, who rose to fame playing a serial killer in Fritz Lang’s M, is one of the most overlooked stars of his time. With bulging eyes and a short stature it would’ve been easy for Lorre to become typecast had he not been so good at, and so invested in, portraying creepy. T
Three years after being passed up for a Best Supporting Actor nod for his role in The Maltese Falcon (Sydney Greenstreet was nominated instead),Lorre channeled his killer beginnings in a much more comedic way to portray Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace and he was nothing short of a scene-stealer. As the boozy plastic surgeon and accessory to murder, Lorre showed audiences he also had an excellent grasp of deadpan comedy and facial expressions that could kill in their own right. Another lovable villain? Check. Another Oscar snub? Check. In fact, this Frank Capra classic wasn’t even considered for honors by the Academy.
Jean Hagen– Best known for her role as the silent film diva Lina Lamont in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, Hagen was a perfect Norma Desmond with a comedic twist- instead of being mentally unable to fade +from the spotlight at the dawn of sound technology, it was her unbearably squeaky voice that nearly forced her out. Debbie Reynolds was the starring actress but it’s likely you’ll remember Hagen’s performance more for her outburst-ridden and energy-driven Lamont. The Academy agreed as Hagen and not Reynolds was nominated for a trophy however, she lost Best Supporting Actress to Gloria Grahame for her turn in The Bad and the Beautiful, ironically another movie about film.
Peter O’Toole– The actor sadly passed away in December but he remains a record holder amongst Academy Award nominees- though it’s probably not the record he would’ve liked. With eight nominations, he’s the actor that’s been nominated the most times for an Oscar without winning one. To many, that’s simply baffling because the Hollywood talent deserved to win for his very first nominated performance, that of T.E. Lawrence in the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence was a complex man and his time spent in Arabia during WWI was a complicated series of events, but O’Toole handled the role with aplomb and gave us a full picture of who the person really was. Over forty years later, the Academy did grant him a Lifetime Achievement Award but that came as more of a slap in the face when he received his eighth acting nomination- and loss- in 2006.
Liam Neeson– Acting throughout the 80s, it wasn’t until 1993 that Neeson rose to fame portraying Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s epic Schindler’s List. Neeeson brought a dramatic and touching portrayal of humanity to what otherwise could have been a simply harrowing WWII story. He received a Best Actor nod but lost to Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) likely only because Hanks’ film dealt with the controversial subjects of AIDS and homosexuality. That’s been the actor’s only Oscar nomination and unfortunately, it will stay that way unless he leaves behind the formula action flick routine he’s taken up and returns to the kind of performances that made him a star in the first place.
Viola Davis– Davis had already appeared in more than two dozen movies when she hit a career high playing Aibileen Clark in 2011’s The Help. Her emotional and down-to-earth performance as a southern black maid during the early 1960s painted a vivid portrait of the time and the struggles African Americans endured even at the height of the civil rights movement.
While the movie aims at a lighthearted tone, Davis easily switches between tugging at your heartstrings and making you smile. It’s a trait only the best stars possess and it was no surprise when she landed a Best Actress nomination. What was surprising was that she lost to Meryl Streep’s mediocre portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, likely due to the fact that, well, she’s Meryl Streep.
Leonardo Dicaprio– The versatile actor has had plenty of Oscar worthy roles throughout the years, some that were passed up by the Academy- Titanic, Catch Me if You Can, The Departed– and some that have snagged a nomination- What’s Eating Gilbert Grapes, The Aviator, Blood Diamond– but as hard as it is to believe, the veteran still has zero golden statuettes on his bookshelf. Isn’t it about time the highest court in Hollywood awarded him with something? DiCaprio is once again up for Best Actor, this time for his turn as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. However deserving of the accolade he is, this shouldn’t (and probably won’t) be the role that stands out as his best. But don’t despair, the actor, who turns 40 this year, shows no signs of slowing down.
Eric Miller is a marketing professional with experience in creative writing,
journalism and corporate communications. He has been writing in some way,
shape, or form for nearly all his life with plans to eventually publish a novel or
screenplay. He is also an entertainment enthusiast with the latest news on
movies, pop-culture, and events. A born and bred resident of the Baltimore Metropolitan area, he enjoys visiting the Inner Harbor as well as traveling the country, watching movies, and experimenting with mixed drinks. He is currently a member of the Sundance Institute, American Film Institute, and Maryland Film Festival.