Oscar Actors: Dreyfuss, Richard–Award as Popularity Contest–The Goodbye Girl

The standing of film artists within the Hollywood industry and their popularity with audiences often count for more than the quality of their acting performance when it comes to receiving an Oscar nomination or even the Oscar itself.

Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Dreyfuss’ 1977 Best Actor Oscar for The Goodbye Girl, based on Neil Simon comedy, was probably also related to the fact that he had appeared in three of the all-time blockbusters of the 1970s, American Graffiti (1973), Jaws (1975), and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which was made in the same year as The Goodbye Girl.


If the choice of winners is influenced by the candidate’s popularity rather than talent, it’s due to the fact that the final voting is done by the Academy’s entire membership. Consequently, many artists stress the nomination because it is based on peer evaluation, a process which is allegedly more matter-of-fact or less biased. Since the final selections are made by a large and varied body, many “irrelevant” factors–ad campaigns, studio politics, the nominees’ personality, popularity within the industry–come into play.

And while there is more of a consensus over the merits and deservedness of the five nominees, it is much harder to choose the one nomination that’s the best. Almost inevitably, emotional and political factors impinge on the Academy’s final selections.

The claim that the final choices are based on the “validity” or “morality” of the nominees’s personalities offscreen rather than their on’screen work is a doubleedged charge. On the one hand, brilliant actors have been denied the Oscar (and nomination) because of real or alleged political factor. But mediocre artists have won the award for sentimental and other personal reasons, such as an impressive comeback, career longevity, old age, etc. In all of these cases, the Oscar is used as a symbol of social acceptance and personal embracement, granted to previously wayward members of the film colony.