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Bogie’s Detective, Curtis’s Flack Get No Love From Oscar: Film

Fred Astaire
"Fred Astaire on his Toes," 1936, by Martin Munkacsi. Fred Astaire wasn't recognized for an Oscar for any of his musicals. Source: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art via Bloomberg

Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- This year’s Oscar nominations featured the usual surplus of snubs. The most-commented upon was the absence of Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) from the quintet of anointed directors.

Whatever one thinks of that movie -- and I’m not a big fan --- it is nothing if not directed to the max. So was Nolan’s “Dark Knight” (2008), which unlike “Inception” wasn’t even nominated for best picture. If Nolan wants to win an Oscar, his next movie better not contain a single special effect.

The list of past Oscar snubs and slights could fill a thick book, but some of the more egregious omissions are truly flabbergasting.

Charlie Chaplin’s supreme comedy “City Lights” (1931) was nominated for nada. (The best-picture winner that year was the perishable “Cimarron.”) Preston Sturges’s script for “The Lady Eve” (1941), probably the closest Hollywood has ever come to Wildean wit, also drew a blank.

The original 1933 “King Kong”? Zippo.

Fred Astaire wasn’t recognized for any of his musicals. His only nomination was for “The Towering Inferno” (1974), a movie he should have danced away from.

Edward G. Robinson was consistently ignored, even for his classic performance as the insurance company bloodhound in “Double Idemnity” (1944). Like so many other movie legends (for example, Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Peter O’Toole and Barbara Stanwyck) who never won for a particular movie, Robinson had to settle for a consolation prize -- an honorary statuette. It was awarded to him in 1973, several months after he had the bad form to kick the bucket.

Bogie Bypassed

Humphrey Bogart wasn’t nominated as Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) or Fred C. Dobbs in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), two of his most iconic roles.

Love musicals? Perhaps the best of them, “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), wasn’t on the short list for best picture in the same year that Cecil B. DeMille’s deadweight circus movie “The Greatest Show on Earth” won.

Tony Curtis’s performance as the conniving press agent Sidney Falco in “Sweet Smell of Success’ (1957), the template for just about every hustling huckster performance that has come since, was blanked out.

Sam Peckinpah wasn’t recognized in 1969 for his peerless direction of “The Wild Bunch.” That was the same year that “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” was nominated for nine Oscars -- but not for best picture.

The reverse happened to Bruce Beresford, whose “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) won for best picture even though he wasn’t nominated for best director. Apparently the movie directed itself.

‘Godfather’ Cinematographer

It’s one thing if a masterpiece that was totally unrecognized at the time -- like, say, “The Night of the Hunter” (1955) -- was ignored by the Academy. But what to make of Gordon Willis, whose deep-hued cinematography on “The Godfather” (1972) and “The Godfather II” (1974) -- arguably the two greatest color films ever shot by an American -- wasn’t even nominated?

Neither was his work on “Manhattan” (1979) or “All the President’s Men” (1976). He eventually racked up two nominations -- for “Zelig” (1983) and “The Godfather III” (1990) -- and, in 2009, the inevitable honorary Oscar. Maybe it’s because he spent his entire career in New York, not Hollywood.

Speaking of “Godfather III,” that’s the only Oscar for best score that Nino Rota ever won. So much for “The Leopard” and for all those great Fellini movies like “La Strada,” “8 1/2” and “La Dolce Vita,” which weren’t even nominated for their music.

‘Laura’ Score

And then there’s composer David Raksin, whose score for “Laura” (1944) contains one of the most beloved of all American pop melodies. His work went unnominated because Darryl Zanuck, the head of Twentieth Century Fox, chose instead to push the score for the studio’s pretentious dud “Wilson.”

The John Kander-Fred Ebb song “New York, New York,” from the eponymous 1977 Martin Scorsese movie, is another great standard that got the Oscar shaft. The winner that year was “You Light Up My Life.”

Memo to Chris Nolan: You’re in honorable company.

(Peter Rainer is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own).

To contact the writer responsible for this story: Peter Rainer at Fi1L2E@aol.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net

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