With the Academy Awards ceremony coming up this Sunday, February 22, we decided to take a look at some of the best actors and actresses who never won an Oscar for their acting talents. In this gallery, we’ve collected images of a number of actresses who either were nominated but never managed to claim the coveted golden statuette, and those who weren’t even honored with a nomination.
There are exceptions, though.
We’ve listed several actresses who were eventually given Honorary Oscars for various career achievements. Although this is significant, let’s be honest: it’s not the same as a competitive Academy Award. Also there are a few actresses who never won a competitive Oscar for their work most likely due to the fact that the bulk of their careers happened before the first Academy Award ceremony in 1929 (which honored films made in 1927-28). Every actress on this list except for five (Debbie Reynolds, Catherine Deneuve, Kim Novak, Maureen O’Hara, and Doris Day) are no longer in the acting business because they’re no longer with us.
Here are 42 actresses who never won an Oscar…but should have. Stay tuned for Never Won an Oscar, Pt. III.: The Directors, Writers, & Cinematographers.
And if you haven’t seen our gallery of actors who never won an Oscar, make sure to check it out!
Greta Garbo– Nominated for four Academy Awards for ROMANCE (1930), ANNA CHRISTIE (1930), CAMILLE (1936), and NINOTCHKA (1939).
Ava Gardner–The gorgeous and underrated Gardner earned one Academy Award nomination for her performance alongside Clark Gable and Grace Kelly in the RED DUST remake MOGAMBO (1953).
Carole Lombard– Nominated for her performance in MY MAN GODFREY (1936).
Madeline Kahn–Nominated for two Academy Awards for performances in PAPER MOON (1973) and BLAZING SADDLES (1974).
Dame Judith Anderson–Nominated once for her performance in REBECCA (1940).
Debbie Reynolds–Nominated once for her performance in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (1964).
Agnes Moorehead– Although she is better known to modern audiences for her role as Endora on BEWITCHED, Moorhead was an accomplished actress who was a member of Orson Welles’s Mercury Theatre group. She earned four Academy Award nominations for performances in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942), MRS. PARKINGTON (1944), JOHNNY BELINDA (1948), and HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964).
Barbara Stanwyck–Nominated a total of four times for performances in STELLA DALLAS (1937), BALL OF FIRE (1941), DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), and SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948). She received and Honorary Award “For superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting.”
Gloria Swanson– Nominated for three films including SADIE THOMPSON (1928), THE TRESPASSER (1929), and SUNSET BLVD. (1950).
Doris Day–Nominated for her performance in PILLOW TALK (1959). Hey, Academy: GIVE HER AN HONORARY OSCAR!
Catherine Deneueve– Nominated once for her performance in INDOCHINE (1992).
Beulah Bondi– The ultimate on-screen mom. Bondi was nominated for performances in THE GORGEOUS HUSSY (1936) and OF HUMAN HEARTS (1938).
Deborah Kerr–Nominated a total of six times for performances in EDWARD, MY SON (1949), FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953), THE KING AND I (1956), HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON (1957), SEPARATE TABLES (1958), and THE SUNDOWNERS (1960). Received an Honorary Award in 1994 for being “An artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.”
Elsa Lanchester–Nominated for two Academy Awards for COME TO THE STABLE (1949) and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957).
Lauren Bacall–Nominated for her performance in THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES (1996). Received an Honorary Award “In recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures.”
Irene Dunne– Nominated for five Academy Awards for performances in CIMARRON (1931), THEODORA GOES WILD (1936), THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937), LOVE AFFAIR (1939), I REMEMBER MAMA (1948).
Janet Leigh–Nominated once for her performance in PSYCHO (1960).
Jean Arthur–Nominated for one Academy Award for her performance in THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943).
Eleanor Parker–Nominated for three Academy Awards for performances in CAGED (1950), DETECTIVE STORY (1951), and INTERRUPTED MELODY (1955).
Jean Harlow–Never nominated.
Julie Harris–Nominated for her performance in THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING (1952).
Judy Garland–Nominated for two Academy Awards for performances in A STAR IS BORN (1954) and JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961). Was awarded a special juvenile award in 1940.
Myrna Loy–Never nominated. Received an Honorary Award in 1991 “In recognition of her extraordinary qualities both on screen and off, with appreciation for a lifetime’s worth of indelible performances.”
Tallulah Bankhead–Never nominated.
Kim Novak–Never nominated.
Thelma Ritter–Nominated for six Academy Awards for performances in ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), THE MATING SEASON (1951), WITH A SONG IN MY HEART (1952), PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953), PILLOW TALK (1959), and BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962).
Jean Simmons–Nominated for two Academy Awards for HAMLET (1948) and THE HAPPY ENDING (1969).
Lana Turner–Nominated for one Academy Award for her performance in PEYTON PLACE (1957).
Lucille Ball–Never nominated.
Shirley Temple–Never nominated. Received a special juvenile award “In grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934.”
Rosalind Russell–Nominated four times for performances in MY SISTER EILEEN (1942), SISTER KENNY (1946), MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA (1947), AUNTIE MAME (1968). Was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1973.
Margaret Sullavan–Nominated for one Academy Award for her performance in THREE COMRADES (1938).
Marilyn Monroe–Never nominated.
Marlene Dietrich–Nominated for one Academy Award for her performance in MOROCCO (1930).
Gene Tierney– Nominated for one Academy Award for her performance in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945).
Maureen O’Hara– Never nominated. Was finally awarded an Honorary Award in 2014.
Merle Oberon–Nominated for her performance in THE DARK ANGEL (1935).
Jean Hagen– Nominated once for her performance in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952).
Miriam Hopkins– Nominated for her performance in BECKY SHARP (1935).
Natalie Wood–Nominated three times for performances in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1953), SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (1961), LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER (1963).
Rita Hayworth– Never nominated.
Lillian Gish–Nominated for her performance in DUEL IN THE SUN (1947). Received an Honorary Award “For superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures.”
Featured: Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Carole Lombard, Madeline Kahn, Dame Judith Anderson, Debbie Reynolds, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Swanson, Doris Day, Catherine Deneuve, Beulah Bondi, Deborah Kerr, Elsa Lanchester, Lauren Bacall, Irene Dunne, Janet Leigh, Jean Arthur, Eleanor Parker, Jean Harlow, Julie Harris, Judy Garland, Myrna Loy, Tallulah Bankhead, Kim Novak, Thelma Ritter, Jean Simmons, Lana Turner, Lucille Ball, Shirley Temple, Rosalind Russell, Margaret Sullavan, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Gene Tierney, Maureen O’Hara, Merle Oberon, Jean Hagen, Miriam Hopkins, Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth, Lillian Gish
Jill Blake is a co-founder & senior editor at The Retro Set and the film editor at the pop culture website CC2K. In 2012, she was interviewed on-air by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz, and a featured guest on the TCM podcast in 2013. In her spare time, Jill is a stay-at-home mom, wife, fried okra connoisseur, and the neighborhood’s own L.B. Jeffries. Follow Jill on Twitter at @biscuitkitten
Each month, The Retro Set Staff will select a small handful of films available to stream on a variety of services, including: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Warner Archive, and more. These are films we believe should […]