Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wanting for Oscar, not Spiritual Gold

By Mary Claire Kendall

“Crowd lining street under the marquee of the Pantages Theater at the 31st Academy Awards in 1959” 
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Oscars have not always looked favorably upon Hollywood’s most celebrated stars.

Bob Hope, legendary comedian, television personality, and film star, hosted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards ceremony a record 19 times, but never won, nor was he nominated for, a competitive “Oscar.” Each year he told signature jokes about this artistic hole in his life, at the Oscars, “or as it’s known at my house: Passover,” he famously quipped.

He did, however, win five special Oscars, including the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 32nd Academy Awards in 1960 for his charitable work. 

An Oscar for film achievement is, of course, the most coveted. Indeed, the year Hope won his humanitarian award, Ben-Hur (1959) won 11 Oscars, including Best Director (William Wyler), beating out Gigi (1958), which, the year prior, won 9—both exemplifying the towering achievement Oscar recognizes.  But, sometimes, for reasons largely unknown, an artist of undeniable talent, fails to secure this golden recognition from his or her peers.

Ann Sothern, a legendary comedienne, featured in Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends, along with Hope, Hitchcock, Lana Turner and others, got her big break in A Letter for Three Wives (1949). Though the film won two Oscars, Sothern was not even nominated. Afterwards, her prospects, along with the Hollywood studio system, faded. But, as her career spiraled downward, fueled by illness, she looked upward to God and found solace and strength. Finally, after much suffering, she garnered a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for her starring role, alongside Lillian Gish and Bette Davis, in The Whales of August   (1987). Turner, too, received a Best Actress Oscar nod—for Peyton Place (1957)—but, like Sothern, went home empty-handed. Later, also like Sothern, she found healing in God.

But, perhaps the most stunning of Oscar passovers is Alfred Hitchcock. Known for Psycho (1960), Vertigo (1958), Rear Window (1954), among other classics, the legendary director was nominated for five Oscars, and though his films, such as Rebecca (1940), won Oscars, he, himself, never won a directorial Oscar.

Hitch did finally win the non-competitive Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1961.  Then, twenty years later, he won, as with Hope and the others in Oasis, the ultimate prize when he recognized God as the director of his life and embraced the healing power of His grace, winning, that all-important spiritual gold.

Mary Claire Kendall, a Washington-based writer, is author of Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends

Originally published in American Catholic Blog

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