The Oscar Curse: Is it For Real?

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Before I dive into my topic/rant, I would like to send a big shout out to my colleagues Aurora (Once Upon a Screen), Paula (Paula’s Cinema Club) and Kellee (Outspoken & Freckled), who put this wonderful blogging meme together. Be sure to check out their sites to see all the other Oscar-related content bloggers around the world have posted.

Oscar Jinx 

The Oscar Jinx – the Origins

Jinx or curse, whatever – you get the idea. It is a theory as old as the actual awards ceremony themselves – the idea being that upon winning an Academy Award in an acting category, the winner finds themselves on the wrong side of Lady Luck – the offers dry up and they end up in a career paralysis, or simply fade into obscurity.

The first time I had ever heard of such a ‘curse’ was when I heard my dad and brother discussing the career of Louis Gossett Junior, following his win for An Officer and a Gentleman and how it ended up not really doing anything of consequence for his career (there was Enemy Mine, however). In subsequent years, as my passion for cinema grew, I discovered a few more instances of the famed curse, especially how ‘the curse’ impacted one of my favorite actresses Joan Fontaine who after her win in 1942 for Suspicion, said the only thing she gained from bringing home the gold was to be typecast as a “simp” (her words folks, not mine).

A little digging around the web unveiled a lot of interesting featured articles where the writer investigates this ‘phenomenon.’ You are forewarned: the various lists have many repeat customers:

Another observation you may have made is that there sure is a LOT of female representation on this list. This observation, unfortunately, leads to my next topic of discussion, the Oscar “Love” curse.

 

Subcategory: The Oscar “Love” Curse

More recently this curse has created a (more personal) subset of those affected – the Oscar Love curse, whereby love-struck members of the fairer sex (females) are afflicted with relationship woes post their awards triumph. According to “the Wikipedia” – which sourced the lists below – this is real, folks; just take a look at some of the winners (past and present) who apparently have been (un)ceremoniously dumped by their significant others upon winning Oscar:

Best Actress

  • Bette Davis (1936 Dangerous and 1939 Jezebel) and husband Harmon Nelson
  • Joan Crawford (1946 Mildred Pierce) and husband Phillip Terry
  • Jane Wyman (1948 Johnny Belinda) and husband Ronald Reagan
  • Elizabeth Taylor (1961 Butterfield 8 and 1967 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and husbands Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton
  • Julie Andrews (1965 Mary Poppins) and husband Tony Walton
  • Barbra Streisand (1969 Funny Girl) and husband Elliott Gould
  • Maggie Smith (1970 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) and husband Robert Stephens
  • Jane Fonda (1972 Klute) and husband Roger Vadim
  • Liza Minnelli (1973 Cabaret) and husband Peter Allen
  • Cher (1988 Moonstruck) and boyfriend Rob Camilletti
  • Kathy Bates (1991 Misery) and boyfriend later husband Tony Campisi
  • Emma Thompson (1993 Howards End) and husband Kenneth Branagh
  • Jessica Lange (1995 Blue Sky) and longtime partner Sam Shepard
  • Susan Sarandon (1996 Dead Man Walking) and longtime partner Tim Robbins
  • Helen Hunt (1998 As Good as It Gets) and boyfriend later husband Hank Azaria
  • Julia Roberts (2001 Erin Brockovich) and boyfriend Benjamin Bratt
  • Halle Berry (2002 Monster’s Ball) and husband Eric Benet
  • Charlize Theron (2004 Monster) and longtime boyfriend Stuart Townsend
  • Hilary Swank (2000 Boys Don’t Cry and 2005 Million Dollar Baby) and husband Chad Lowe
  • Reese Witherspoon (2006 Walk the Line) and husband Ryan Philippe
  • Kate Winslet (2009 The Reader) and husband Sam Mendes
  • Sandra Bullock (2010 The Blind Side) and husband Jesse James

Supporting Actress

  • Goldie Hawn (1970 Cactus Flower) and husband Gus Trikonis
  • Anjelica Huston (1986 Prizzi’s Honor) and boyfriend Jack Nicholson
  • Geena Davis (1989 The Accidental Tourist) and husband Jeff Goldblum
  • Kim Basinger (1998 L.A. Confidential) and husband Alec Baldwin
  • Renée Zellweger (2004 Cold Mountain) and longtime boyfriend Jack White
  • Jennifer Hudson (2007 Dreamgirls) and longtime boyfriend James Payton

 

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, including –

Best Actress

  • Joanne Woodward (1958 The Three Faces of Eve) and husband Paul Newman were married on January 29, 1958, prior to the March 26th Oscar ceremony and remained so, until Newman’s death in 2008.
  • Sophia Loren (1962 Two Women) and husband Carlo Ponti were married on September 17, 1957. However, the 1962 annulment of their marriage was for legal, rather than personal reasons. Loren and Ponti were formally married on April 9, 1966 and remained so, until Ponti’s death in 2007.
  • Jessica Tandy (1990 Driving Miss Daisy) and husband Hume Cronyn were married on September 27, 1942 and remained so, until Tandy’s death in 1994.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Maggie Smith (1979 California Suite) and husband Beverley Cross were married on August 23, 1975 and remained so, until Cross’s death in 1998.
  • Judi Dench (1999 Shakespeare in Love) and husband Michael Williams were married on February 5, 1971 and remained so, until Williams’ death in 2001.

Side note: Dame Maggie made BOTH lists – BOOM!

Side, side note: my simple observation is that with some of these actresses, notably for the aforementioned Dame Maggie and member of her cohort Dame Judi Dench, their respective wins gave them a “second career” of sorts and they are more popular than ever. This observation in of itself should be an indication of what my final conclusion will be (see below).

 

So With All of this Evidence, Does the “Curse” Hold Water?

In this blogger’s humble opinion, the answer is: maybe kinda sorta  – but maybe not really. WHAT ON EARTH DO I MEAN? My reasoning is quite simple really. YES winning such a prestigious award will change your life – for better or worse, but like with many things in life, it is a combination of preparation, effective decision making and sheer luck that determines the ultimate outcome. Now, that is not to say that ripe acting opportunities are limited. So while the Oscar may get you in the door, it is not a sure-fire ticket to continued success.

Also if you are fortunate enough to win, there is an added pressure to find a vehicle that potentially can match the acclaim of that winning performance. Granted, some folks are lucky enough and lightning WILL strike more than once (see above); but really that is more the exception, not the rule. If anything, the winning performance by an actor is more so an indication of them being the top of their game, the peak of their powers – and as the phrase goes it is all downhill from here in most cases. So sad, but so true.

As it pertains to the “love” curse I suppose especially for those folks whose partner is also in the business there is the chance that a little professional rivalry and/or jealousy exists and will precipitate hurt feelings and such. But seriously, looking at some of these entries on Wikipedia are a bit of a stretch given that in some cases, the relationship ended YEARS after the actress won the statue. In other words, I am calling BUNK on this part of the theory.

In the end, I say take the Oscar and hope for the best …

—–

But that is just me and my humble opinion; I could probably spend another 1000 words trying to debunk this further, but my fingers are tired.

Now is your turn; how about you? What do you think? Is the Oscar curse, be it professional OR personal something real?

Share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Well said, Iba! Great post for the blogathon. I do think winning an Oscar brings the weight of it so that it eventually becomes a curse. A few actors seemed immune. Meaning, they seemed to follow a path that never changed. Spencer Tracy and Kate Hepburn come to mind. Of course, nothing for Tracy after ’37 & ’38. So maybe he was cursed ;-).
    le0pard13 recently posted..31 Days of Oscar – Recant This! Recasting Oscar’s Picks: the 90sMy Profile

    • Thanks Michael! I have found myself pondering this notion a lot especially during this time of year. I guess I prefer the term ‘burden’ over curse because the win brings with it a certain amount of issues (as you have described as well).

  2. WOW, this is fascinating Iba! I have to go back and peruse this during lunch. Whether it’s a ‘burden’ or a ‘curse’ there certainly a bunch of examples to suggest they do exist!
    ruth recently posted..Question of the Week: Who’d you pick for Best (or Worst) Casting in 2012?My Profile

  3. I had never heard of this oscar curse… But damn, that list of dumped actresses is scary! Men just can handle our success.
    Sofia recently posted..Frankie and Johnny (1991)My Profile

  4. I think the Oscar “love curse” is bunk, too. It just looks really shocking to see it in a list like that.

    Thanks for this interesting post. It’s a great contribution to the blogathon.
    R.A. recently posted..Joel McCrea Sees AmericaMy Profile

  5. Interesting stuff, Iba! This is a favorite topic of mine. Reading through your really well-research post, it seems to me that the Curse is more luck than anything. Re: the “Oscar Love Curse,” I think the Oscar has very little to do with romantic breakups. Relationships don’t have much of a shelf life in Hollywood apparently (with the exceptions you noted) so the timing of the Oscar relative to the split is probably just coincidence.
    Paula recently posted..31 Days of Oscar – 2013 Predictions and MusingsMy Profile

  6. Hi, Iluv:

    Very intriguing and meticulously researched critique!

    Hollywood is its own universe populated with and built upon status and egos. And more than a few thoroughly untalented actresses (Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand and Halle Berry share the top of my list) who win, swell their ego and are blocked from better, possibly more prestigious roles.

    Stalwarts like Reese Witherspoon, who still hasn’t found her niche yet. Kathy Bates, Emma Thompson, Charlize Theron and Julia Roberts will always find a role to make their own.

  7. I don’t see the Oscar curse in many classic era acotrs or actresses, maybe only in wrong choices by the Academy.
    But the love curse is another thing. Maybe the husbands couldn’t stand to be overshadowed by their award-winning wives! Personally, I prefer to have an Oscar and be alone!
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
    Greetings!
    Le
    Le recently posted..Uma personalidade, vários intérpretes: Abraham LincolnMy Profile

  8. LOVE THIS, Iba!! Wonderful stuff. Jaysus – I knew about the Oscars curse but not the “LOVE” curse. That damn statuette is more trouble than he’s worth! Yet he is coveted by so many. The allure of “the bad boy” carries itself to this as well. A damn statue.

    Thanks so much for posting this as part of our blogathon.

    Aurora

  9. Really enjoyed this!!! Great stuff!!

  10. There is always a curse. All these actors and actresses win, and then went on to make that bomb at the box office. And also, they can become too expensive by various studios. Where is Marlee Matlin? Where is Louise Fletcher? Dianne WIEST? Anjelica Huston? Renee Zellwegger? They have been cursed

  11. It must feel great to win an oscar but the pressure and demands on actors/actresses is so huge these days
    and its often impossible to maintain a stable family life there’s just too many temptations. When you reach the top the only way is down hill from there but surely oscar winners must feel blessed even if their lives areny always the picture of happiness! I love films and the oscars I would love a replica statuette hope I wont fall victim to any curses
    though!

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