The Oscar Winners that Remain Irreplaceable
by Amy Lignor
In this time leading up to the red carpet, where we wait to see everything from best to worst dressed; from best speech to longest and most boring; from glowing winners to those clapping, smiling losers who really want to punch someone out when their name isn’t called, we look back on the most golden winners of all.
Now, this is not one of those clichéd lists that focus on ‘best this’ and ‘worst that’ of all time. No, this shows the irreplaceable actors, actresses, and other categories that we have yet to find a viable substitute for, even after all these years. In other words, they are the most golden of all Oscar winners. They will never be dimmed or tarnished…or replaced.
Various names will always be remembered as far as the Oscars are concerned, as well as the backstories that added to the drama of their lives. The beauty of Audrey Hepburn; the perilous world of Grace Kelly; the oddities of Joan Crawford; the sparkling fashions and unforgettable marriage choices of Elizabeth Taylor – who was always dressed to the nines in her diamonds and furs on Oscar night. But is there one actress that can be brought to the forefront that has never even been close to being replaced? Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. From her voice to her performances to her spirit, the great Katharine Hepburn is the one Oscar winning actress who has had no substitute (even a poor one) since Oscar time began.
You can love others, of course. But “the” leading lady remains Hepburn. From her perfect sarcasm always delivered with perfect timing (The Philadelphia Story) to her older, wiser self that made people smile (On Golden Pond), her spark that could be seen jumping off the screen, even when the movies were filmed in black-and-white, made her “irreplaceable.” Whether it was Grant or Tracy, she also made ALL of the actors who worked with her even better. Winning four Best Actress Oscars, Hepburn deserved every single one (and more).
What about the men? Well, there have been blue-eyed, blond-haired substitutes over the years, even though Paul Newman will remain in most minds as being the most beautiful. And when it comes to Gable, we have had other suave actors who exuded charm (without the famous mustache, of course). But, thus far, has there been another Bogart? The answer remains, no. From The Maltese Falcon to Casablanca, Bogart had it all. He was not the best looking. He did not exude the most charm. What Bogart did do was act, and act well. Like Hepburn, he has remained the “irreplaceable” one with the odd accent, the sarcasm, and a face that seemed to always be rolling its eyes. And although he and Bacall were the ones that sparked on (and off) screen, it was Ms. Hepburn who brought his light to shine even greater. His most celebrated performance came in the 1951 film The African Queen, starring with Hepburn, for which he won his first and only Oscar for Best Actor. Should he have received more? Absolutely.
Bring on the music! It has been stated that, in this category, no one will ever replace John Williams. This is the truth. Nominated for his 50th little golden statue this year for the latest Star Wars movie, Williams has created the most memorable themes that are still used as cell phone rings today. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Superman, E.T. – you name it, Williams created it. But, in the end, it was his attempt at convincing the world that a broken-down, mechanical shark was the most frightening creature ever to hit a movie screen that wins him the “irreplaceable” title. With his music, Jaws would attack! Even if the illustrious director, Spielberg (the winner for “irreplaceable” director), had no way to make the darn thing work.
Williams could scare with his sound, but it was a movie in 1980 that scared with sight and has been “irreplaceable” ever since. People will argue about this one because we now have special effects masters that build long-dead dinosaurs with a computer screen. But, it was Alien that offered the most disgusting moment on screen – even worse than anything T.V.’s “The Walking Dead” has given to us. John Hurt, brave astronaut, gave birth to a violent psychopath that was an entirely different species. When that alien creature burst out of his chest, Jack the Ripper suddenly sounded like a religious guy who just wanted to save prostitutes, and Stephen King books looked more like fairytales and less like horror.
Speaking of that much-needed and rarely-congratulated visionary called the “writer,” there is one “irreplaceable” Best Story and Screenplay Oscar, won in 1951, that proved a perfect story – even using fantastic actors – was still the necessary foundation to create the perfect piece of entertainment that would stand the test of time. That story was called, Sunset Blvd., and it brought to life the character of Norma Desmond who, rightly so, said: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”
So true. There will be winners and losers at the Oscars on February 28th, but – seeing as that we already know the nominees – no matter who wins, they will not have a chance at “replacing” the most “irreplaceable” of all.