Oscar Scandals: Grant, Cary Never Won the Best Actor Award

They don’t recognize comedies. They don’t have a comedy category.
–Bob Hope, Comedian

The Academy’s bias against comedy was also apparent in the case of excellent comedians, who had to deviate from this genre to gain the Academy’s respect. The best example of these actors is Cary Grant, who distinguished himself in romantic as well as screwball comedies. It was comedy, which catapulted him to stardom, and it was comedy, which kept him up there on the pantheon for decades. The public preferred to see Grant in comedies, the best of which were those opposite Katharine Hepburn (Bringing up Baby, Holiday), Rosalind Russell (His Girl Friday), and Irene Dunne (The Awful Truth), but none of them brought him a nomination.

Grant had to step outside of his specialty to earn his nominations. The first was for a sentimental melodrama, Penny Serenade (1941), as a childless married man whose adopted daughter dies tragically at the age of six. The second nod was for a “seriousdramatic” role in Clifford Odets’s pedestrian None but the Lonely Heart (1944), as a Cockney drifter. Grant’s nominations had more to do with the fact that most Hollywood male stars were mobilized to the War effort than distinguished acting.

No other actor of Grant’s generation contributed more to screen comedy, but the Academy took for granted his acting, which seemed to be natural and too facile. In actuality, Grant’s seamlessly polished style was a product of hard work and meticulous preparation. It took years of practice to perfect the genius timing, the spontaneity, and the naturalness in delivering lines, which became Grant’s trademark. The Academy “corrected” this injustice by honoring Grant with a 1972 Honorary Oscar, whose citation was simple and to the point, “for Cary Grant for being Cary Grant.”