This is not meant as a definitive list and does not include any who are active today.
Lillian Gish (1893-1993)
Had the Oscars been created in 1915 or 1920, there is little doubt that Lillian Gish would have won one or more statuettes. As it was, by the time of the first Oscar ceremony in 1929, her career as a leading lady was mostly over and she spent the next sixty years playing mainly supporting roles in film or acting on stage or in radio and television.
Nevertheless, she was nominated for, but lost, best supporting actress for her role in Duel in the Sun (1946) and arguably deserved consideration for her work in The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Unforgiven (1960), The Comedians (1967), and her last role in The Whales of August (1987). She was given an Honorary Award by the Academy in 1971.
Counting her early pre-movie stage career, this remarkable actress performed in nine decades, the longest continuous acting career on record.
Myrna Loy (1905-1993)
It is quite remarkable that this dependable actress, who was named Queen of the Movies in 1936, was never nominated for an Oscar. After often being miscast as exotic femme fatales in the 1920s and early 1930s, Loy went on to find her niche playing urbane, sophisticated women, as in the in the popular Thin Man series opposite William Powell, and later in light comedies such as Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), co-starring with Cary Grant .
Although usually not regarded as a dramatic actress, she gave strong performances as the wife of Fredric March in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) and in The Red Pony (1949) with Robert Mitchum. Loy was finally given a lifetime achievement award by the Academy in 1991.
Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990)
Ranked #11 in the American Film Institute’s Greatest Screen Legends, Stanwyck was one of the most versatile actresses in film history. This is reflected by the fact that her four non-winning Oscar nominations for best actress represented four different genres: soap opera melodrama (Stella Dallas, 1937); screwball comedy (Ball of Fire, 1941); film noir (Double Indemnity, 1944); and suspense-thriller (Sorry, Wrong Number, 1948).
She was also at home in westerns, such as Union Pacific (1939), and straight drama (The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and Executive Suite (1954).
Stanwyck retired from the movies in the mid-1960s and turned to television where she won three Emmys and a Golden Globe. She starred as the strong matriarch of a Bonanza-like ranching family in The Big Valley (1965-1969) and as Victoria Colby in the drama Dynasty (1985-1986). She received the Academy’s Honorary Award in 1982.
Greta Garbo (1905-1990)
In a nine year period during the 1930s, the Swedish born Garbo, who became a semi-mythical character, was nominated four times as best actress, but never won. Her nominations were for Anna Christie and Romance (both 1930), Camille (1937), and Ninotchka (1939). She could easily have been nominated for at least two more, Queen Christina (1934) and Anna Karenina (1935).
Had she continued in movies, Garbo would undoubtedly have won an Oscar eventually, but she decided instead to retire at the age of 36, having made only 25 American films. After retiring, she moved to New York where she helped to continue creating her own legend by living the life of a jet setter, and, later, becoming an eccentric recluse. She was given an Honorary Award in 1955.
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