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When Oscar nominations are announced every January, the conversation turns quickly from who got nominated to who got snubbed. And people tend to react with more indignation over who’s missing than in celebration of who’s been recognized.
For many, this year’s disappointments include the absence of Selma director Ava DuVernay from the Best Director field and star David Oyelowo from the Best Actors group, as well as the lack of recognition for The Lego Movie. The lack of racial diversity among the nominees has led, naturally, to a viral hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite. It’s enough to make you think that perhaps an Oscar is more the result of a manipulative multimillion dollar campaign than merit alone.
But the snub has been around since long before the age of Internet outrage, when gossip was relegated to soda fountains and opinions took days to make it from type-written notes to a Letters to the Editor page. And although we tend to associate Hollywood’s biggest stars with that bald, naked mini-man of gold, many of history’s most remembered actors and actresses never got their hands on a statuette.
On the actresses’ side, Marlene Dietrich, Ava Gardner and Dorothy Dandridge had to settle for nominations alone. Perhaps Natalie Wood and Jayne Mansfield would have been recognized had their lives not been cut so tragically short. Some actresses gave up a great deal for the roles that would leave them empty-handed—Janet Leigh, who was nominated for Psycho but didn’t win, spent the rest of her life afraid of the shower.
Among their male counterparts, things weren’t all bad. Richard Burton, nominated seven times for films including Becket (1964) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), could substitute Benjamins for toilet paper if he wanted, as one of the highest-paid actors in the world at his peak. Peter Sellers, born in England, could take comfort in his two wins at the BAFTAs, Oscar’s cousin across the pond. And Steve McQueen could wipe his tears of dejection on that clean white t-shirt, though many, to be sure, preferred him without one at all.
Many repeated oversights were corrected, if not fully, with honorary Academy Awards doled out to stars in their golden years, although none of the actors and actresses pictured above even received one of those. For them, alas, money, fame, and a place in the annals of history would just have to suffice.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.