Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award: Doris Day & Danielle Darrieux among Honorary Oscar non-recipients
(See previous post: “Honorary Oscars Bypass Women: Greta Garbo & Angela Lansbury Among Rare Exceptions.”) Those who have read my Alt Film Guide posts are aware that I’m no fan of political correctness. But looking at the Honorary Oscar figures discussed in part one of this article, I’d say that (anti-female) sexism is the only plausible explanation for them, as one of the characteristics of male (or male-oriented) chauvinism is the perception that women’s issues – whether in life or on screen – carry less importance than those of men.
Women in the film industry certainly haven’t been bypassed because the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Board of Governors have been unable to find qualified female candidates. Among women film veterans – in Hollywood or elsewhere – with at least 35 years in the business (i.e., from 1979 onwards) and who have yet to receive an Honorary Oscar for their body of work are the following actresses:
Danielle Darrieux (a movie star for nearly eight decades). Doris Day. Michèle Morgan. Eva Marie Saint. Catherine Deneuve. Vanessa Redgrave. Debbie Reynolds. Actress-director Jeanne Moreau. Joanne Woodward.
Micheline Presle (more than 75 years in movies; her latest film, the short Je montrerai mes seins, was screened in 2014). Actress-director Liv Ullmann. Gina Lollobrigida. Claudia Cardinale. Kim Novak. Mia Farrow.
Doris Day: Honorary Oscar snub
Of the aforementioned Honorary Oscar non-winners, Doris Day, nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for Michael Gordon’s 1959 romantic comedy hit Pillow Talk, is a particularly interesting case. After all, Day remains a major celebrity. And that is undoubtedly a consideration in the Board of Governors’ selection of most of the Academy’s past Honorary Oscar winners, especially when the award was presented at the televised Oscar ceremony itself.
According to one Academy insider, Doris Day has in fact been contemplated for an Honorary Award, but the “official” top female domestic box office draw of the ’50s and ’60s declined the Academy’s invitation to show up at the ceremony.
Now, since Jean-Luc Godard didn’t bother picking up his Honorary Oscar at the 2010 Governors Awards, while the following year honoree James Earl Jones was busy playing opposite Vanessa Redgrave in Driving Miss Daisy on the London stage, it’s impossible to understand why the Academy would be unwilling to honor Doris Day in absentia.
As it stands, Doris Day, who turned 91 (or 93, according to some sources) in April 2015, remains Honorary Oscar-less. And despite her charity work and ardent support for animal rights, she remains Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award-less as well.
- “Doris Day Today.”
- “Doris Day Movies.”
- “A Letter from Doris Day: AIDS LifeCycle and Remembering Rock Hudson.”
Charlotte Ramping, Claire Bloom: More women bypassed for the Honorary Oscar
In varying degrees of international prestige and movie-career longevity, among Honorary Oscar-less actresses, one could also add the following:
A few more names, in various capacities:
- Producers Margaret Ménégoz (mentioned in the previous post) and Kathleen Kennedy.
- Actress-directors (and sometimes producers) Barbra Streisand and Lee Grant.
- Directors Agnès Varda, Catherine Breillat, Barbara Hammer, Margarethe von Trotta, and Lina Wertmüller.
- Editor Anne V. Coates (Lawrence of Arabia, The Elephant Man).
- Screenwriter Harriet Frank Jr. (Hud, Norma Rae).
Shortening the cut-off date a bit, one could add:
- Six-time Academy Award-nominated actress Glenn Close, whose first feature film, George Roy Hill’s The World According to Garp, was released in 1982.
- 1986 Best Actress Oscar nominee Kathleen Turner (Peggy Sue Got Married), whose film career began with Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat in 1981.
Julie Andrews, Eva Marie Saint: Oscars decades ago
- Eva Marie Saint for Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954).
- Julie Andrews for Robert Stevenson’s Mary Poppins (1964).
- Julie Christie for John Schlesinger’s Darling (1965).
- Goldie Hawn for Gene Saks’ Cactus Flower (1969).
- Shirley MacLaine for James L. Brooks’ Terms of Endearment (1983).
Besides Doris Day, others have been nominated, whether once or multiples times, without ever winning a competitive Academy Award. Examples include:
- Three-time nominee Piper Laurie.
- Four-time nominees Jane Alexander and Marsha Mason.
- Carroll Baker, one of the earliest surviving Best Actress Oscar nominees (Baby Doll, 1956).
- Lina Wertmüller, the first woman shortlisted for the Best Director Oscar (Seven Beauties, 1976).
Many others have never even been nominated, e.g., Danielle Darrieux, Isabelle Huppert, Claire Bloom, Carmen Maura, Michèle Morgan, Mia Farrow, Agnès Varda.
Two-time winners excluded
Left out of the list of Honorary Oscar-less women were actresses Luise Rainer, Olivia de Havilland, Maggie Smith, Glenda Jackson, Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Sally Field, Jodie Foster, and Jessica Lange, as each one of them has already won two or more (Streep has three) Academy Awards in the acting categories. (Update: Luise Rainer died in Dec. 2014.)
Additionally, Barbara Kopple and Thelma Schoonmaker have each already won more than one Oscar in the same category: Kopple has two wins for Best Documentary Feature, while Schoonmaker has three for Best Film Editing.
Only someone like filmmaker Elia Kazan, i.e., with friends in high places at the Academy, can have two Oscar wins in a specific category – Best Director for Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and On the Waterfront (1954) – and still be allowed to get a third statuette for career achievement.
Barbra Streisand, I should note, has also won two Academy Awards: her first Oscar was for Best Actress in William Wyler’s 1968 Fanny Brice biopic Funny Girl (Streisand tied with Katharine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter), while the second was as co-composer (with Paul Williams) of the song “Evergreen” from A Star Is Born. Hence, actress-director-producer (and songwriter) Barbra Streisand’s inclusion on the list.
Honorary Oscar article notes
Steve Martin was given an Honorary Oscar in 2013. Martin’s feature film career began in earnest 34 years earlier, with Carl Reiner’s 1979 hit comedy The Jerk (released two years after Carl Gottlieb’s Oscar-nominated comedy short The Absent-Minded Waiter, written by Martin).
1985 Honorary Oscar winner Paul Newman’s first film was released 31 years prior to his Academy honor: Victor Saville’s widely derided post-biblical drama The Silver Chalice. Eddie Cantor had to wait 27 years from the time his Hollywood career truly kicked off following the 1930 release of the Samuel Goldwyn musical Whoopee!.
Two-time Best Actor winner Gary Cooper had been making movies for 36 years when he received his Honorary Award. (In place of the ailing Cooper, James Stewart picked up the statuette.) Orson Welles had been around for 29 years (32 years, if one includes the experimental Too Much Johnson). Ernst Lubitsch, who began his film career in Germany, had to hang around for 33 years overall and for 24 years since his Hollywood debut.
Several Honorary Oscar winners, however, didn’t have to wait nearly as long.
Honorary Oscar super-fast lane: Gene Kelly was handed an Honorary Oscar in 1952, a decade after his first film, For Me and My Gal. (Directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Kelly in the title role, the musical An American in Paris was 1952’s surprise Best Picture Oscar winner.)
Also after having been in Hollywood for only ten years, Danny Kaye received an Honorary Oscar in 1954 (not only for “his service to the Academy,” but also “for his unique talents”), while in 1949 Fred Astaire took home his career-achievement statuette after having been in movies a mere sixteen years.
Most women had to wait (a lot) longer for their Honorary Oscar
For comparison’s sake: Greta Garbo was named a 1955 Honorary Award recipient 33 years after her feature film debut and 29 years after her Hollywood debut. For women, that’s as brief a wait as it got.
Sophia Loren had to wait 40 years for her Honorary Oscar. Margaret Booth, Barbara Stanwyck, Deborah Kerr, and Gena Rowlands more than half a century. Lillian Gish nearly six decades. Mary Pickford, Myrna Loy, and Lauren Bacall had to wait more than six decades. Angela Lansbury 69 years from the time of her film debut (Gaslight, 1944). And Maureen O’Hara more than 75 years.
Doris Day movies
- Michael Curtiz’s Young Man with a Horn (1950), with Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall.
- David Butler’s Calamity Jane (1953), with Howard Keel.
- Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), with James Stewart.
- Delbert Mann’s Lover Come Back (1961), with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall.
- Delbert Mann’s That Touch of Mink, with Cary Grant (1962).
- Norman Jewison’s The Thrill of It All, with James Garner and Arlene Francis (1963).
Honorary Oscar: Timing an issue
 Regarding the timing of the Board of Governors’ Honorary Oscar selections, here’s one example: Alec Guinness was handed an Honorary Award at the 1980 ceremony. Three years earlier, the 1957 Best Actor Oscar winner (for David Lean’s World War II action-drama The Bridge on the River Kwai) had been featured in George Lucas’ mega-blockbuster Star Wars, which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination.
The year he won his Honorary Oscar, Guinness was back on the big screen in another blockbuster, the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back and in the costly box office bomb Raise the Titanic.
Laurence Olivier, for his part, was handed an Honorary Oscar in 1979, the year he received his tenth – and last – nomination in the acting categories, as Best Actor for Franklin J. Schaffner’s The Boys from Brazil (1978).
Timing of a different sort – ill health/encroaching death – resulted in Honorary Oscars for Gary Cooper (1961 ceremony), Edward G. Robinson (1973, by then posthumously), and Satyajit Ray (1992).
More Honorary Award-less actresses
Stefania Sandrelli. Liza Minnelli. Dominique Sanda. Dorothy Malone. Tuesday Weld. Machiko Kyo. Glynis Johns. Anna Karina. Ann Blyth, who trails Angela Lansbury for the title of earliest surviving Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee (Mildred Pierce, 1945).
Jane Birkin. Jane Powell. Norma Aleandro. Senta Berger. Silvia Pinal. Jacqueline Bisset. Geneviève Bujold. Anjelica Huston. Michelle Pfeiffer. Joan Allen. “Mexico’s Sweetheart” Lupita Tovar, who turned 105 years old on July 27, ’15.
Joan Leslie had also been included on the list; she died in Oct. 2015.
Honorary Oscar: Previous winners in the competitive categories
Helen Mirren and Judi Dench
 Helen Mirren and Judi Dench were left out of the list because the former won a Best Actress Oscar less than a decade ago (for Stephen Frears’ The Queen, 2006), while the latter – a Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love (1998) – became a de facto film actress only in the mid-’80s, or less than three decades ago.
That was clearly a sentimental gesture on the part of the Academy, as the Best Actor winner for Howard Hawks’ Sergeant York (1941) and Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon (1952) was dying of cancer at the time of his 1961 honor.
Doris Day publicity photo (possibly for Pillow Talk) ca. 1960: Universal Pictures.
Danielle Darrieux image via Tout le Cinéma.
Claire Bloom Clash of the Titans image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.