Through the years, the Academy Awards haven’t just been a stage for patting industry professionals on the back. There have been times when the stage has served as a backdrop for shocking drama, surprising snubs and jaw-dropping losses.
Some Academy Award snubs are so shocking, they become the stuff of legend.
Julie Andrews, unknown at that time to movie audiences, played the role of Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” on the Broadway stage. Rather than take a risk on a fresh face, the studio chose Audrey Hepburn to play the lead in the film version. This left Andrews free to accept an offer from Walt Disney to play Mary Poppins in the title film role. Andrews won for her debut performance at the 1965 Academy Awards, while Hepburn wasn’t even nominated.
Cary Grant, one of the best-known comedic film actors of the silver screen and the actual inspiration for the character James Bond, never won an Academy Award. Despite his impressive film resume, Grant only received two nominations in his career. Grant was nominated for “Penny Serenade” and “None But the Lonely Heart” in the 1940s, but won neither. He was eventually awarded an honorary statue in 1970.
Great actors need great directors, and Stanley Kubrick is widely regarded as one of the best. However, he never got an Oscar to validate it. Despite such films as “Full Metal Jacket,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he never won the Academy Award…nor even an honorary one.
Speaking of iconic directors, Alfred Hitchcock never won an Academy Award either. Despite “Psycho,” “The Birds,” “Rear Window” and too many other amazing films to name, Hitch wasn’t even nominated for some of his best movies. Only one of his films received award recognition, but he did not. “Rebecca” won for Best Direction in 1940, but back then the producers and not the directors accepted that award. Upon receiving an honorary statue many years later, Hitchcock stepped on stage to say “thank you” and walked away.
The Off-Stage Dramatics
The 1963 Best Actress race was an exciting race during award season. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had teamed up to make “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” and Bette was nominated to win. The film was shocking because both actresses were considered to be past their prime, and the two had engaged in a decades-long feud that was no secret in Hollywood. According to legend, Joan Crawford asked all the other nominees if they were going to attend the ceremony. Upon hearing that Anne Bancroft (nominated for “The Miracle Worker”) would not be in the theater, Joan offered to accept the Oscar if she were to win.
Joan was giddy when Bancroft won the Oscar and she stood on stage to give a speech.
The stage was set for drama in 1942 as well, when feuding sisters and Best Actress nominees Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland were seated at the same table. Fontaine won for her turn in “Suspicion,” and later wrote in her autobiography that it wasn’t a happy moment. When Olivia won her Oscar years later for “To Each His Own,” she completely ignored Fontaine at the ceremony.