The #6 Oscar travesty of the Golden Age: Barry Fitzgerald’s nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role in 1944.
“Performances by an actor or actress in any supporting role may be nominated for either the Best Acting Award or the Award for Best Supporting Player.” – the Academy’s official rules circa 1944.
Oh, so you can be lead and second banana?
Barry Fitzgerald wasn’t a man, he was a leprechaun; a wee leprechaun who charmed and enchanted the Academy out of its then-fashionable high-waisted pants. His half-senile, Best Supporting Actor-winning performance as the “lovable” Father Fitzgibbon in Going My Way notwithstanding, Barry Fitzgerald could do no wrong in 1944. He was so lucky that he beat a manslaughter rap a month before the Oscar nominations were announced.
But the real travesty lies in that the Academy’s dopey rules prevented 1944’s most deserving Supporting Actor–Clifton Webb in Laura—from taking home the Oscar. The dual nomination also aided his Going My Way co-star, Bing Crosby. Crosby was the odds on favorite, but in case that wasn’t enough, voters could refrain from voting for Fitzgerald for Best Actor, knowing they could award him Best Supporting Actor instead. In a sense, the game was rigged for ol’ Barry, wasn’t it?
Fitzgerald later knocked the head off of his plaster Oscar while practicing his golf swing in his living room, and Paramount paid for its replacement. In a way he received two Oscars anyway. Imagine the horror if Fitzgerald had somehow won the Best Actor award, too? If that happened I doubt we would’ve been treated to Crosby and Fitzy’s subsequent blarney team ups throughout the rest of the ‘40s.
Not only did Fitzgerald’s unfair (but within the flawed rules) dual nomination deny the deliciously catty Webb-as-Waldo Lydecker the Oscar, but his intrusion in the Best Actor category kept some other worthy performer from receiving a nod.