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On Oscars: The best often don't win

February 24, 2012|By Tom Titus

On Sunday, Hollywood celebrates itself and honors its own. All eyes (or most of them anyway) will be on the presentations of the Academy Awards.

But do the Oscars always end up in the right hands? Opinions abound on this topic, and what follows is only one man's personal opinion. In any event, it makes for some interesting discussion.

Let's start by rewinding the historical clock back to 1941. That was the year of "Citizen Kane,"a movie judged by most critics as belonging in the all-time top three, along with "Gone With the Wind" and "Casablanca."

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But did "Kane" prevail at the Oscars? Nope. That award went to "How Green Was My Valley." Orson Welles had hit his peak at 26, and from there it was all downhill.

Fast-forward to 1952, when Cecil B. DeMille's big top blockbuster "The Greatest Show on Earth" was voted Best Picture. Probably deserved, but where was the flick generally ranked among the best musicals of all time? Alas,"Singin' in the Rain"wasn't even nominated.

Perhaps the Academy, in its infinite wisdom, rebelled against the idea of two Gene Kelly musicals winning back-to-back Oscars. The previous Best Picture winner, in 1951, was "An American in Paris."

Speaking of musicals, if Judy Garland ever truly deserved an Oscar it was for the 1954 picture "A Star is Born." On Oscar night, news cameras gathered at her bedside (she was ailing) only to swiftly depart after the announcement that Grace Kelly had won for "The Country Girl."

In 1955, the year that James Dean burst onto the screen in "East of Eden" and Frank Sinatra mesmerized audiences as a drug addict in "The Man With the Golden Arm," voters turned their backs on both and opted for Ernest Borgnine's regular guy in "Marty."

Few actresses have delved as deeply into their soul as did Nancy Kelly in the 1956 drama "The Bad Seed," repeating her Broadway performance. Yet Ingrid Bergman prevailed for "Anastasia."

In 1961, Maximilian Schell won for "Judgment at Nuremberg" as the war crimes defense lawyer, yet a strong case could have been made for his opposite number, Richard Widmark, who wasn't even nominated. Paul Newman was nominated as Fast Eddie Felson in"The Hustler," but he would have to wait a couple decades before winning for playing that same character in"The Color of Money."

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