The One-Time Oscar Nominee Club

Michael Keaton

Surely Michael Keaton’s been nominated for an Oscar before Birdmanright? That guy’s been around forever, with a list of hits a mile long. Oh sure, he started off 2014 with soulless pay-days like Need for Speed and Robocop, but Birdman was a golden egg. One of many! Everybody loves him in the Batman movies and Beetlejuice, though those never screamed for Oscars … Well, how about serious Oscar plays, like his work in Clean and Sober or, to a lesser but deserving extent, Ron Howard’s The Paper? No, no nominations for those either?

Wow, Jack Frost really burned him, didn’t it?

Well, you know what? It’s just nice to see the guy get a nod for the very first time. He deserves it for his beautifully crazed work in Birdman. And he’s not alone in what we’re calling The One-Time Club. Today, we’re going to give a little extra love to those single noms: some of the finest actors to ever grace the screen who have also only received one Oscar nomination for their performances but deserved several more. It may not be an awards statue or a ludicrous paycheck, but it’s something damn it.

–Blake Goble
Staff Writer

Lauren Bacall

Nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting role, The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)


When Lauren Bacall passed away last August, we lost one of our boldest, ballsiest, and most beautiful onscreen sirens. She was in countless classics like Written on the Wind, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, To Have and Have Not, Key Largo … okay, a lot of that had to do with her putting up with her then-husband Bogey, but you try conveying love for that smoke-damaged, hang-dog face. Bacall had something. She was a real vamp and a voice to be reckoned with onscreen. So what was her Oscar record like?

A stupid supporting actress nomination for a third-tier Babs weeper?

Now you probably want to argue that her honorary Oscar in 2010 counts. No. It does not. IMDB doesn’t say she won an Oscar on her main page. It’s a light bit of pity and hope that audiences will forget she never received an award from AMPAS. They always do that to certain special talents (Peter O’Toole, Hitchcock, Steve Martin, Deborah Kerr, and so on).

Bad Oscars! Bad bad Oscars! –Blake Goble

Marlene Dietrich

Nominated for Best Actress, Morocco (1930)

Annex - Dietrich, Marlene (Morocco)_04

Marlene Dietrich’s lone Oscar nomination came in the category for Best Actress in 1931 for her role as Amy Jolly in Morocco, only to lose to Marie Dressler in Min and Bill. I’d go into more detail about Min and Bill, but I’m sure everyone reading this is more than familiar with that particular motion picture, right (crickets, etc.)? Anyway, it was Dietrich’s performance in a film she made with Morocco director Josef von Sternberg four years later that should have led to another nom.

Dietrich’s role as the princess-who-would-become-Catherine II in The Scarlet Empress finds the uber-talented actress playing a young, naïve village girl who is thrust into an unhappy palace life and uses her sexual wiles to take revenge on an insane husband and evil mother-in-law. Dietrich is convincing from beginning to triumphant end. See also: her small but important role in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. –Justin Gerber

Harrison Ford

Nominated for Best Actor, Witness (1985)

harrison ford witness

Arguably the biggest movie star of the modern era, Ford’s only been recognized once by the Academy for an acting nomination, and it was for his performance as Det. John Book in Peter Weir’s Witness. He lost the Best Actor Oscar that year to William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman), but that shouldn’t have been his only shot. He may not care too much about his performances nowadays, but Ford most certainly did in his heyday.

I can wax poetic about his roles as Han Solo and Indiana Jones in their respective franchises, but I’m willing to dig a little deeper. He plays totally against type as a teacher who develops a God complex in The Mosquito Coast, Weir’s follow-up to Witness. In Regarding Henry, he plays a high-powered attorney who has to start all over after being shot in the head (by a young John Leguizamo), coming off as a small, frightened child. As for a dark horse nominee: if you’ve seen Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath, you’ll know that Ford’s performance in the last half hour of that film changes it from “pretty good” to “pretty damn good.” –Justin Gerber

Samuel L. Jackson

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Pulp Fiction (1994)

samuel l

No way!

Sam Jackson has only one Academy Award nomination? He’s one of the greatest supporting actors of the last 30 years. In fact, you should consider yourself lucky if you can get him to read lines in your movie. He can elevate any script of scene with his typically righteous and super-confident persona (please may that lisp he’s sporting in Kingsmen not sabotage this praise). We can put aside the campy drivel for a moment, because he just rises above all of it. Yes, even that stupid snake plane movie the internet got in a tizzy over … he held up his end of that basement bargain. But for real, no Oscar nominee for ultimate Elmore Leonard film creation with Ordell Robie in Jackie Brown? Or what about when he took tears from us with extreme force in A Time to Kill? His read alone on “YES THEY DESERVE TO DIE AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL” is the stuff of Supporting Actor gold. Could we maybe consider an Oscar for best shouting? He’d be a lock every year.

At least the nod came for playing Jules in 1994’s Pulp Fiction. If not, Jackson may have had to come down on the Academy with great vengeance and furious anger. –Blake Goble

James Earl Jones

Nominated for Best Actor, The Great White Hope (1970)

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Another one of those “Honorary Academy Award” winners over here.

It’s fascinating to think that James Earl Jones has starred in some of the biggest and most distinct hits of all time. The Lion King, the Star Wars movies, he was the villain in Conan the Barbarian, and he got a start in Dr. Strangelove. The Hunt for Red October, The Sandlot … listen, the list goes on for a really long time. His voice is legendary. His name is famous. His presence, easily recognizable. So how did this guy have a career in films for over 60 years and only get one Oscar nomination?

The Great White Hope by Martin Ritt. It was a period piece about boxing and that boxer’s scandalous interracial relationship. Heavy stuff. Total Oscar bait. And Jones was strong, proud, and progressive: he’s incendiary in it. Looking back at his career, given that there are no Oscars for Darth Vader’s voice, Great White Hope may have been his best and only chance at an acting nomination. At least he got that. -Blake Goble

Diane Lane

Nominated for Best Actress, Unfaithful (2002)


Diane Lane’s had a long and lovely career in Hollywood. She survived a child star career, made it through two star marriages (a sad break from Josh Brolin and a curious break from the Highlander), and she’s made a variety of work that’s kept her relevant. She’s a gem, and her Oscar nomination for Adrian Lyne’s 2002 Unfaithful was deserved. She exuded a sadness and restlessness with marriage that made a potentially trashy paperback novel affair into a nuanced and startling drama about marriage.

And that was it. That seems wrong, given that she may have given her truly best performance in George Roy Hill’s unbearably charming A Little Romance. It was Lane’s first onscreen performance and perhaps her sweetest, sincerest, and most intimate. As a young girl in love with a French boy, guided by the weathered charms of Laurence Oliver, Lane gave a wonderful performance. One that at least should have gotten her off this list. –Blake Goble

Robert Mitchum

Nominated for Best Actor, Story of G.I. Joe (1946)

1945 Story of G.I. Joe

Just how in the hell did one of the most distinctive (and manliest) actors of all time get through his legendary career with one nomination? Yes, the Best Actor nomination for William Wellman’s Story of G.I. Joe was a good one. It’s a solid war film. But John Huston’s Heaven Knows, Mr. Alison was a much better, more cerebral war film for the stoic Mitchum. His smooth noir showcase Out of the Past could have gotten him nominated, too. The Big Steal, Holiday Affair, even his cameo in Jarmusch’s Dead Man: Mitchum was great and weird in everything.

If the Oscars were really fun (some day…), Mitchum would have been nominated for his creepy calling card performances in J. Lee Thompson’s Cape Fear and Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter. In the former, his Max Cady mastered the awkward alienation of an unwanted presence. In Hunter, Mitchum’s performance as the knuckle-tattooed religious fanatic Harry Powell lives on in infamy. –Blake Goble

Bill Murray

Nominated for Best Actor, Lost in Translation (2003)

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The one great flaw of the Academy Awards (just kidding, there are numerous flaws) is their lack of recognition towards comedy. Sure, an Annie Hall or As Good As It Gets get nominations now and again, but straight comedies tend to get overlooked. If the Academy wasn’t so weird about applauding those who make us laugh out loud, then Bill Murray would have countless golden statues.

He was nominated for his role in Lost in Translation in 2004 but lost thanks to Sean Penn’s performance in Mystic River. But why no love for his supporting role as Herman Blume in Wes Anderson’s perfect Rushmore or lead actor for his performance as Steve Zissou in Anderson’s perennially underrated The Life Aquatic? Do I need to get started on how brilliant he is in Ghostbusters? Do I need to say more about Groundhog Day? Academy: ya’ blew it. Capiche? –Justin Gerber

Gary Oldman

Nominated for Best Actor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)


Oldman may just be the most shafted of any performer to appear on this list. He received his first nomination for his quite-good performance in 2011’s otherwise decent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and ended up losing to The Artist’s Jean Dujardin. That’s fine, but what isn’t fine is that it took the Academy nearly 30 years to recognize his excellence.

For what other performances should he have been nominated? Let’s go down the checklist: his down-and-drugged-out performance as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Rastafarian pimp Drexl in True Romance (small role, but if Judi Dench gets one for Shakespeare in Love, why not Oldman here?), the best part and titular role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, demented detective in Leon: The Professional, deformed psycho Mason Verger in Hannibal (say what you will about the film, but Oldman is outstanding), and a ruthless congressman in The Contender. The list probably goes on, but I’ll stop here. –Justin Gerber

Robert Redford

Nominated for Best Actor, The Sting (1973)

the sting 15 The One Time Oscar Nominee Club

Redford was nominated for Best Actor in 1973, thanks to his performance alongside Paul Newman in The Sting. He’d lose out to Jack Lemmon, but everything turned out okay for Redford because he’d be nominated a few times after…

Wait. He was never nominated again? Or even before The Sting?

The shocking answer is yes. We’re about to go down a Gary Oldman-like rabbit hole by listing off a number of performances that should have been recognized by the Academy: his first pairing with Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the delightful off-the-cuff candidate in The Candidate, his take on Bob Woodward in the timeless All the President’s Men, Roy “Pick me out a winner, Bobby” Hobbs in baseball fable The Natural, and even a couple years ago for his performance in All Is Lost. He is the only human heavily featured in that movie, without a Helen Hunt in sight. –Justin Gerber

Lee Remick

Nominated for Best Actress, Days of Wine and Roses (1962)


Days of Wine and Roses was a nice hit in 1962. I mean, to think a film about alcoholism could crack the top 20 at the box office is a little amazing. Then and now. Blake Edwards’ hot-blooded marital drama was pure addiction scare tactics that discussed drinking in a way that still shocks. As Kirsten, the wife of Joe the drunkard, Lee Remick was a revelation and a damned heartbreaker.

Remick got to own one of the bleakest movie endings ever filmed with her terrifying descent and ultimate refusal to admit that she has a problem. Remick was luminous, of course, but so sad, startling audiences by letting them know that veneers mean very little when a lot is wrong inside. Remick got her first and only Oscar nomination for this. Pity. Her work in Anatomy of a Murder, A Delicate Balance, Wild River, The Europeans, Tribute, jeez, even The Omen could have gotten this talent at least another nomination. –Blake Goble

Debbie Reynolds

Nominated for Best Actress, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)


The Uninkable Molly Brown was a funny and flashy MGM musical that gave Debbie Reynolds not just her spunkiest role, but her first and only Best Actress nomination. It’s the stuff of big-time dreamers: tiny mountain girl goes against the odds and shows everybody that she’s worth a damn? It’s great! But come on, Reynolds is one of Hollywood’s pluckiest talents; she was in Singin’ in the Rain, people! And that would have made for one hell of a deserved Oscar nomination. She’s old-school stage performer, and you could tell she was giving 200% in everything she starred in, but Singin’ in the Rain is such a masterpiece. How did anyone not get nominated for that? How did her iconic rendition of the theme song not get more love?

Then in 1996, AMPAS couldn’t give her a little credit for the sweetest and most overbearing mother of all time in Albert Brooks’ Mother? It was a genius and self-aware lampoon of her specifically naïve sweetness. Bah! –Blake Goble

Robert Shaw

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor, A Man for All Seasons (1966)

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Robert Shaw’s lone nomination came in 1967 for his performance of Henry VIII in an adaptation of A Man for All Seasons. The film won several Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture, but Shaw lost out to Walter Matthau (The Fortune Cookie) for Best Supporting Actor. I’m not about to argue against that, but Shaw should have received nods in the same category for at least two other films.

His role as Red Grant in From Russia with Love appears at first to be by-the-numbers, but in short time Shaw transforms Grant from mute strongman to well-to-do businessman trying to fool 007 and ultimately becomes one of Bond’s greatest adversaries. Another role that should have brought him a nomination is his performance as Quint from Jaws. A permanent thorn in the side of Sheriff Brody and oceanographer Hooper, his USS Indianapolis speech near the film’s conclusion is nearly as memorable as anything that damn shark ever did! –Justin Gerber

Sharon Stone

Nominated for Best Actress, Casino (1995)

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How was Sharon Stone not nominated for her role as villain Laurel Hedare in 2002’s Catwoman? A travesty, I tell ya! All joking aside, the best performance of Stone’s career came out of her role as Ginger in 1995’s Casino – an ex-prostitute who marries and slowly destroys Robert De Niro’s Sam Rothstein. It was good enough to win her a Golden Globe but not an Oscar (Susan Sarandon won for Dead Man Walking).

But what about her career-defining role as seductive novelist Catherine Tramell in Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 film Basic Instinct? While most known for a certain movement she makes with her legs in the film, her role as Basic’s accused murderer has reached near-legendary status and even saw her get nods from other critics circles during that time. Was it too sexual for Oscar? Maybe, but it’s not like the Academy’s been squeamish about that before (see: Best Picture, and Rated X, Midnight Cowboy). –Justin Gerber

Kathleen Turner

Nominated for Best Actress, Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)


Kathleen Turner was one of the biggest stars of the ‘80s, starring in her fair share of critical and commercially successful films. Her lone Oscar nomination came in the form of Best Actress for her performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married. Her role there was only a small sample size of what she was capable of as an actress.

Turner should have received more attention for her role as the femme fatale in Lawrence Kasdan’s nod to film noir, Body Heat, opposite William Hurt. She plays it cunning, mysterious, fragile, and downright sexy in the murder mystery, which also featured Mickey Rourke in a bit role. And am I far-fetched in thinking that Turner could have been nominated for her voice work in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?? Can you imagine anyone else saying, “I’m not bad … I’m just drawn that way.”? She was Andy Serkis before Andy Serkis. –Justin Gerber