In the Third Decade of Oscar, Marlon Brando Left All Other Actors Saying “I Coulda Been a Contender”
In the third decade of Oscar, which encompassed movies released between 1947 to 1956, Marlon Brando burst onto the Hollywood scene. Beginning with his second movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, released in 1951, Brando had a run of four consecutive years in which he was nominated for Best Actor. If you include his nomination for Sayonara , released in 1957, he had a string of 5 nominations in 7 years. He won the award for his 1954 iconic portrayal of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. It’s that movie that showcases Brando, at the peak of his career, in the classic scene with his brother Charley, played by Rod Steiger, where he laments that Charley should have been looking out for him with the line “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am”.
Here are the scoring results for the decade including the other “contenders”:
|Top Actors of the Decade|
|1947 to 1956|
|Actor||Year of 1st Movie in the Decade||Lead Actor Nominations||Lead Actor Wins||Supporting Actor Nominations||Supporting Actor Wins||Total Academy Award Points|
Movie fans today may not realize how influential Brando was. In 1999, Time Magazine compiled a list of the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century. Marlon Brando was one of three actors to make the list, joining Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. He was one of the first method actors, becoming off screen the character he needed to be on screen. While he has many detractors, he is widely regarded as the greatest actor of all time. I’ll explore this claim in a future blog. But for this period, there is little disagreement of his greatness.
There was no one actress over this ten year period who was the unquestioned actress of the decade. A group of veteran actresses divided up the awards fairly evenly.
|Top Actresses of the Decade|
|1947 to 1956|
|Actress||Year of 1st Movie in the Decade||Lead Actress Nominations||Lead Actress Wins||Supporting Actress Nominations||Supporting Actress Wins||Total Academy Award Points|
|Olivia de Havilland||1948||2||1||0||0||9|
Three points separated nine actresses. Of the nine, only Audrey Hepburn debuted during the decade. On a list that includes both Hepburns, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, and Deborah Kerr, many would find it surprising to see Susan Hayward and Jane Wyman at the top of the list. I know I was. When you look at the tie breakers for the two actresses, their nominated movies don’t generate much interest from today’s viewers and critics.
|Tie Breakers for Top Actors of the Decade|
|Avg IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes Ratings for Nominated Movies|
|Released from 1947 to 1956|
|Actor||IMDB Avg Rating||# of Votes||Rotten Tomatoes % Fresh||How Fresh?||# of Critics Reviews|
|Susan Hayward||7.1||3,738||No Rating||0|
Susan Hayward was nominated for four Best Actress awards and not a single Rotten Tomatoes critic has been interested enough to review even one of those movies. Jane Wyman is my actress of the decade because two of her nominated movies, Johnny Belinda, her winning performance, and Magnificent Obsession, have attracted some, but not much, interest from today’s movie viewers and critics. Is this one of those periods where there just weren’t many good female roles? Maybe. If so, it didn’t last long. Next week when I write about the 1957 to 1966 decade, one actress will dominate the decade and no other actor or actress will even be close.