Since the first ceremony in 1929, the Academy has nominated over 400 performances for Best Actress, with 77 actresses claiming victory. Inevitably, the debates of who “should have” won follow, some of which have lasted decades. There’s no doubt that campaigning and popularity often play roles in who wins, but in many cases there’s more than one deserving winner.
For instance, the 23rd ceremony in 1951 included five memorable performances, two of which were highlights of the veteran actresses’ careers. How could voters pick between Bette Davis‘ aging star in “All About Eve” and Gloria Swanson‘s faded actress in “Sunset Boulevard?” Also in contention were Davis’ co-star Anne Baxter as an ingenue trying to steal the spotlight, and Eleanor Parker, who gave a memorable performance as a naive young woman turned hardened criminal in “Caged!” Any of these performances in a weaker year would have won, but it’s widely believed that Davis and Swanson split the vote, and newcomer Judy Holliday swooped in and won for her comedic turn in “Born Yesterday.”
In this article, we honor some of the most memorable Oscar-nominated performances for Best Actress that didn’t win. It’s not implying that the winner was undeserving, but that there are times multiple performers are equally deserving, with several that have withstood the test of time as some of the finest in cinema history, and most of which would have won in a different year. Many have had numerous roles that were Oscar-worthy, but we only picked one performance per actress for this article. The year indicates the year of the ceremony, not the film.
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