Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies and Oscarologist extraordinaire (he's author of "80 Years of Oscar") would NOT like to thank the members of the Academy for some of their more glaring oversights.
More than 68 years after the fact, he still can't believe that in 1940 Henry Fonda was passed over for best actor in "The Grapes of Wrath" -- "I can't think of a better screen performance in the 1940s, can you?" -- in favor of James Stewart in "The Philadelphia Story." But then, he says by phone from his New York apartment today, Jimmy Stewart's performance the prior year in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" was passed over in favor of Robert Donat's in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips."
Of the best-picture contenders who were robbed, Osborne believes that the most egregious year was 1951 when "An American in Paris" edged out "A Place in the Sun" and "A Streetcar Named Desire." So embarassed was "Paris" ' studio, M-G-M, says Osborne, "That it took out an advertisement showing its shamefaced mascot, Leo the Lion, confessing, "Honestly, we were just standing in the Sun waiting for a Streetcar."
Osborne has a theory as to why some of the most beloved Hollywood figures -- including Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock and Barbara Stanwyck -- never won competitive Oscars. "They were always so good. Often, the ones who win have often been mediocre and are honored when they surpass themselves."