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Classic Hollywood Stars Who Never Won an Oscar

Photo Credits: Graphic House / Archive Photos / Getty Images, 20th Century Fox / MMfan / MovieStillsDB / Earl Theisen / Getty Images
Photo Credits: Graphic House / Archive Photos / Getty Images, 20th Century Fox / MMfan / MovieStillsDB / Earl Theisen / Getty Images

For the last 93 years, winning an Oscar has been the biggest dream of any actor in Hollywood. The award’s prestige dates back to the early years of Hollywood cinema, and it is still regarded as the most significant award in the American entertainment industry.

Legends like Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Taylor, and Humphrey Bogart have all been rightfully accepted into the Academy’s highly prized Oscars club. We can’t believe the following classic Hollywood stars were snubbed.

Natalie Wood

Portrait of Natalie Wood, circa 1965
Actress Natalie Wood, circa 1965. (Photo Credit: Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images)

Actress Natalie Wood first began acting at the age of four and received recognition for her role in Miracle on 34th Street when she was just eight years old. By the time Wood was a teenager, she earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Rebel Without a Cause, but the award was ultimately given to Jo Van Fleet for East of Eden.

Wood went on to star in some of the biggest musical films of the 1960s, including West Side Story and Gypsy. She also received Oscar nominations for Best Actress for her performances in Splendor in the Grass and Love with the Proper Stranger. While she never won an Oscar, Wood did win several Golden Globes before her tragic death in 1981.

Rita Hayworth

Portrait of actress Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth, circa 1940s. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

Rita Hayworth was one of the biggest and most glamorous stars of the 1940s. Best known for her leading femme fatale performance in the 1946 film Gilda (opposite Glenn Ford), Hayworth went on to star in other major films like The Lady from Shanghai, Blood and Sand, and Separate Tables.

Surprisingly, she never earned an Oscar nomination for her work.

Richard Burton

Portrait of Richard Burton
Richard Burton in the 1950s. (Photo Credit: John Springer Collection / Corbis / Getty Images)

Richard Burton was not only an accomplished film star, but he was also a prolific stage actor and Shakespearean player. Celebrated as one of vintage Hollywood’s greatest male leads, it’s shocking that he never won an Academy Award.

Burton was nominated for an Oscar seven times for films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?. Although his wife Elizabeth Taylor won Best Actress for the same film, he never won the award. Burton did receive two Golden Globes, a Grammy, and a Tony award.

Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay
Actress Jayne Mansfield and her husband Mickey Hargitay attend the premiere of “Giant” in 1956. (Photo Credit: Earl Leaf / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Jayne Mansfield is mostly remembered for her 1950s sex-symbol status through her work as a model and Playboy Playmate, but she also enjoyed a successful acting career before her sudden death in a car crash in 1967.

Mansfield earned a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year, Actress for her role in The Girl Can’t Help It but was never given an Academy Award nomination. Who knows what might have happened if her life wasn’t cut short at the age of 34?

Errol Flynn

Portrait of Errol Flynn, circa 1945.
Actor Errol Flynn in 1945. (Photo Credit: Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images)

Australian-born actor Errol Flynn found major success in swashbuckling and tight-wearing roles like Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood. The American Film Institute even named him the 18th greatest hero in American film history, but he ultimately quit Hollywood and became embroiled in financial troubles before his death in 1959.

Flynn was never nominated for an Oscar or other major awards but remains a classic figure of Golden Age Hollywood.

Janet Leigh

Portrait of Janet Leigh in 1955
Janet Leigh, circa 1955. (Photo Credit: Icon and Image / Getty Images)

Janet Leigh had been working in Hollywood since the 1940s, but it wasn’t until Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho that Leigh was truly put on the map as Hollywood’s original “scream queen.” Leigh won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for playing Marion Crane and was also nominated for an Oscar that same year. Ultimately the Oscar was awarded to Shirley Jones for her role in Elmer Gantry.

“I’ve been in a great many films,” Leigh commented on her career-defining role in Psycho. “But I suppose if an actor can be remembered for one role then they’re very fortunate. And in that sense I’m fortunate.”

Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis, circa 1955
Actor Tony Curtis in 1955. (Photo Credit: Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images)

It seems that an Oscar win has eluded the Curtis family, but all that may change at the 2023 awards ceremony. Janet Leigh’s husband and Some Like it Hot star Tony Curtis worked in Hollywood for six decades alongside legends like Sidney Poitier, Kirk Douglas, and Marilyn Monroe. Curtis won two Golden Globe awards and was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his role in The Defiant Ones. Ultimately David Niven won the award for his role in Separate Tables.

Curtis and Janet Leigh’s eldest daughter Jamie Lee Curtis was recently nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her hilarious role in Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. This is Curtis’ first Oscar nomination, and she could potentially make both her parents proud by bringing an Academy Award home.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich, circa 1932.
Marlene Dietrich in the 1932 film Shanghai Express. (Photo Credit: Don English / John Kobal Foundation / Getty Images)

German-American actress Marlene Dietrich was one of the biggest stars of the silent film era before tackling “the talkies” in the 1930s. Her incredible singing voice landed her roles like Amy Jolly, a cabaret singer in Morrocco. Her portrayal of Jolly earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1932, but the award was given to Marie Dressler instead.

More from us: 40 Years Later, Questions Linger Regarding the Death of Actress Natalie Wood

Dietrich remains an iconic Hollywood star. And even though she didn’t receive any major award wins during her career, the American Film Institute named her the ninth greatest female screen legend of classic Hollywood cinema in 1999.

Elisabeth Edwards

Elisabeth Edwards is a public historian and history content writer. After completing her Master’s in Public History at Western University in Ontario, Canada Elisabeth has shared her passion for history as a researcher, interpreter, and volunteer at local heritage organizations.

She also helps make history fun and accessible with her podcast The Digital Dust Podcast, which covers topics on everything from art history to grad school.

In her spare time, you can find her camping, hiking, and exploring new places. Elisabeth is especially thrilled to share a love of history with readers who enjoy learning something new every day!

The Digital Dust Podcast