Within the tangled historical past of the Academy Awards, there’s a small subset of individuals for whom profitable the Oscar has been so simple as taking a bow or operating a victory lap; regardless of the immense status of the artwork kind’s most coveted award, individuals like Daniel Day-Lewis, Katharine Hepburn, and Meryl Streep have had the unusual knack of being historic anomalies, racking up nominations and wins for virtually each movie they touched. Amongst non-actors, there have been some much more spectacular hauls, from Alan Menken’s eight Oscars to John Williams’ 53 nominations to Walt Disney’s outstanding 22 wins. For each such star-crossed competitor touched by destiny, nonetheless, there have been these on the opposite finish of the size: the fixed opponents at all times on the sting of glory, however who for one cause or one other by no means fairly step into the limelight efficiently. Whereas there are various actors, administrators, and performers who famously by no means got here house with the prize, the reigning champion of near-misses is a reputation likely wouldn’t acknowledge: the movie composer Alex North.
There are, after all, many extra well-known names than that of Alex North among the many ranks of those that by no means fairly ascended to the summit of Oscars glory. Oscar wins, in spite of everything, are notoriously tough to realize, even for essentially the most proficient of Hollywood elite. Regardless of being essentially the most iconic actor for a era, John Wayne was solely acknowledged by the Academy extraordinarily late in his profession for True Grit, after nearly all of his best-remembered roles. It took greater than 20 years from his first nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio to lastly win the Award, and Christopher Plummer was 82 earlier than he lastly received his well-deserved Oscar.
However regardless of the lengthy and onerous street that it took to get there, these actors at the least did lastly break by and achieve the popularity that had eluded them for many years with aggressive award wins. Alex North, nonetheless, belongs to a choose crew even throughout the ranks of these beneath the dry spell of an Oscar curse: whereas he by no means received a aggressive Oscar regardless of a ridiculous variety of nominations, he did ultimately stroll away with a statue anyway.
The explanation such a state of affairs ever got here to go has to do with the assorted completely different honorary Oscars awarded for profession achievements somewhat than particular person performances. The “profession achievement” Oscar has for a lot of been the comfort prize for long-time opponents who by no means fairly managed to come back away with an outright win. Whereas they cranked out nomination after nomination with out profitable, their Oscar profile does include an asterisk as they did ultimately stroll away with the trophy in a much less typical manner. Alfred Hitchcock is without doubt one of the most well-known examples, as some of the iconic administrators of all time was nominated 5 instances with out ever profitable, earlier than being acknowledged for his profession in 1968. Maybe much more well-known than Hitchcock is the case of Peter O’Toole, who was nominated for appearing Oscars seven instances in his profession earlier than accepting a profession achievement Award — and even tacked on an eighth empty nomination earlier than he lastly packed it in.
Although these may be essentially the most well-known to have a dry spell damaged by an honorary Award, nonetheless, there are a handful of much less well-known instances whose close to misses stacked up into double digits of their profession earlier than they lastly gained recognition for his or her work. One of the vital notable examples is the director Federico Fellini. The Italian director of La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ was nominated for each Directing and Writing a grand complete of twelve instances in his profession over the span of 30 years, however by no means got here away with the highest prize — till he was lastly acknowledged for his profession achievements in 1993.
Surpassing even Fellini in nominations, Diane Warren not too long ago joined the ranks of this choose group of luckless nominees with a silver lining, as the girl who wrote songs for Cher, Celine Dion, and Aerosmith contributed Oscar-nominated music to movies like Con Air, Armageddon, and RBG and has to date been nominated fourteen instances since 1987, earlier than being acknowledged with the Honorary Award in 2023.
However to date, the unsurpassed king of this crew continues to be Alex North. The person well-known for composing “Unchained Melody” in 1955 additionally scored a few of his period’s most well-known and profitable movies. The composer of the movie scores for A Streetcar Named Want, Dying of a Salesman, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, Cleopatra, and The Agony and the Ecstasy have been nominated fifteen instances from 1952 to 1985, however in some way, even with greater than a dozen probabilities, by no means got here away with the Award. He additionally notably wrote a rating for Kubrick’s 2001: A Area Odyssey that the director by no means ended up utilizing — although admittedly, in that case, it’s onerous to think about that he might have surpassed the long-lasting picture and sound of Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” enjoying over the opening shot of that movie.
In the end, Alex North ended up in rarified territory within the ranks of Oscar historical past. Not solely does he maintain the file for essentially the most unsuccessful nominations and not using a aggressive win — a distinction he presently shares with one other composer, Thomas Newman — however together with his Honorary Award granted in 1986, he additionally turned one in all solely two composers ever to be provided that Award by the Academy. He shares that distinction with Ennio Morricone, who was equally luckless on the Oscars till he lastly received a aggressive Award for his movie rating for The Hateful Eight.
Whereas there’s a well-known checklist of actors, administrators, and composers who’ve been nominated a number of instances over a number of many years with out ever profitable, Alex North as the person on the prime of the heap in that class is one who hardly ever will get recognition lately — both for his contributions to cinema, his distinctive place amongst composers, or his spectacularly dangerous run of luck with aggressive Oscars. Thomas Newman may sometime threaten his place, however even then the distinctive legacy of Alex North would nonetheless be worthy of one other look by college students of cinema, music, and Oscar historical past.