1936 and 1937 — Luise Rainer. The Austrian actress was imported to Hollywood by MGM as a potential new Garbo and surprised everyone (including herself) by winning back-to-back Oscars for “The Great Ziegfeld” and “The Good Earth.” While logic would dictate Rainer was a new queen of films, MGM strangely forced her into a number of inconsequential and mediocre roles which failed to challenge her or her audiences. Rainer quickly grew unhappy with the film industry and by the end of the 1930s she voluntarily left Hollywood.
1937 — Alice Brady. Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “In Old Chicago” capped the character actress’ busy career, but poor health denied her the opportunity to continue in her field. Within two years of the premiere of “In Old Chicago,” Brady was dead from cancer.
1939 — Hattie McDaniel. The first black performer to win the Oscar, McDaniel’s role in “Gone with the Wind” was both a breakthrough and a setback. Hollywood’s primitive racial attitude kept her from receiving more complex roles and the remainder of her film career was primarily devoted to flashy but painfully unworthy roles that imitated her Oscar-winning performance as Mammy. McDaniel found more career opportunity on radio and television as the star of her own popular sitcom “Beulah” (albeit playing the role of a maid).
1940 — Jane Darwell. Perhaps the ultimate portrayal of motherhood on-screen was Darwell’s sensitive and touching Ma Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath.” For the hefty character actress, this Best Supporting Actress honor was a once-in-a-lifetime triumph; subsequent roles were inevitably smaller, less eloquent and often fleeting.
1943 — Katina Paxinou. The Greek actress escaped wartime Europe for Hollywood and landed the extraordinary role as the fiery partisan in “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” Paxinou won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, but her heavy accent and sharp features quickly typecast her in badly stereotypical roles as evil Continental sharpies. A rare attempt at eccentric casting (as the adulterous mother in “Mourning Becomes Electra”) was a disaster and Paxinou returned to Europe in the late 1940s where she made occasional cameo appearances in high-profile international productions.
1945 — James Dunn. After a fine run as a light leading man in the 1930s, Dunn’s career ebbed badly and remained in the doldrums until his dramatic return as the ne’er-do-well father in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Dunn hoped the Best Supporting Actor Oscar would relaunch his film work, but he quickly found himself stuck in cheapie Westerns and forgettable TV appearances.
1945 — Anne Revere. Winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “National Velvet” failed to protect Revere when the McCarthy witch hunts took over Hollywood. Revere was blacklisted, ruining her career and denying audiences the chance to enjoy her complex and rich acting style.
1949 — Broderick Crawford. The burly character actor enjoyed a rare starring role as the Willie Long-style politician in “All the King’s Men,” nabbing him a Best Actor Oscar and setting him up for a new chapter as a leading man. But Crawford proved difficult to cast and found himself in variation of the crass, loudmouthed character that brought him the Academy Award (sometime memorably, such as “Born Yesterday” in 1950, but often not). More success came to him on the smaller screen, where he achieved a lasting stardom as the lead actor in the long-running “Highway Patrol” cop series.
The curse continues in part four of THE OSCAR JINX STALKS HOLLYWOOD>>>

Posted on March 20, 2003 in Features by

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