In many of the major sports (especially the NBA, NHL and MLB), the term “game seven” is the most thrilling aspect fans would ever want to hear. It is the “now or never” moment in a championship series – where one team moves on, while the other prepares for a long vacation ahead.
Now at the Academy Awards, landing seven nominations for a career is a milestone – assuring one’s place in the pantheon of Hollywood greats. Seven actresses have achieved this pinnacle, and while all of them became Oscar winners before and after, they were not successful upon reaping Hollywood’s biggest prize when they reached trip #7 to the ceremony.
Greer Garson – Sunrise at Campobello (1960)
The British-born actress won her first nomination for 1939’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips – but director William Wyler would direct her to the only statuette of her career, when she claimed the Best Actress for the 1942 drama Mrs. Miniver. When she played Eleanor Roosevelt for the 1960 biopic on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Garson had been long away from the Oscar dance. Her last trip at the time was 1945’s Valley of Decision (a Best Actress bid), but Garson’s portrayal of the former First Lady would launch her back in the race. Garson would lose to fellow British-born star Elizabeth Taylor, who secured her first Oscar for the drama Butterfield 8.
Ingrid Bergman – Autumn Sonata (1978)
The Swedish superstar was best known for her working alongside Humphrey Bogart in the immortal romance Casablanca, but casual fans are probably not aware of her golden pedigree at Oscar time. By the time she worked with director Ingmar Bergman (no relation) on Autumn Sonata, she had already won three statuettes including two Best Actress prizes (1944’s Gaslight and 1956’s Anastasia). Yet Ingrid starred in Ingmar’s personal drama about a concert pianist facing up to her failures as a mother – when the daughter (regular Ingmar collaborator Liv Ullmann) squares off with her. The critical and commercial acclaim led Ingrid to a final Best Actress bid at the 1978 Oscars, where Jane Fonda would win for Coming Home.
Jane Fonda – The Morning After (1986)
The daughter of acting icon Henry Fonda had achieved two Best Actress wins in the 1970s: for playing a prostitute in 1971’s Klute and as the wife of a paralyzed war veteran in 1978’s Coming Home. Yet Jane would reach a seventh acting bid for teaming with legendary director Sidney Lumet (who directed Faye Dunaway to a Best Actress win for the 1976 satire Network) for a rather unusual project. The Morning After was a mystery surrounding an actress with a drinking problem who finds herself in the middle of an investigation – when she wakes up next to a murdered man. Fonda’s performance brought her back to the Best Actress rodeo, but would lose to an upstart in Marlee Matlin – her role in Children of a Lesser God would land the deaf actress her only win.
Geraldine Page – The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)
The American actress had scored leading and supporting nods throughout her career in various films, from the 1953 Western Hondo to Woody Allen’s channeling of Ingmar Bergman’s work in the 1978 drama Interiors. Despite great performances throughout the years, she had no Oscar statuette to show for it. In 1984, Page took on a small but crucial role in the gritty drama The Pope of Greenwich Village, headlined by Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts as two losers looking to get rich in New York City. Page starred as the mother of a police officer who ended up in a bank robbery gone bad with the leading men. Her short screen time was enough for Academy voters to recognize her with a Supporting Actress bid, but Linda Hunt took home the prize for The Year of Living Dangerously. Page would get one more chance to break her long losing streak, and she cashed in – when she won Best Actress the following year for The Trip to Bountiful.
Bette Davis – Mr. Skeffington (1944)
The iconic actress started her Oscar days going 2-for-2 in the Best Actress category, winning for 1935’s Dangerous and 1938’s Jezebel – and one of two performers on this list to never receive a Supporting Actress bid in her road of Oscar gold. Her seventh bid came in the form of a 1944 wartime drama, in which she played the wife of the title character (played by Claude Rains), a Jewish businessman who marries her. The union occurs due to a money laundering issue with Davis’ brother, but becomes enraptured in the rich life and ultimately the politics of Nazi Germany with consequences for her and her husband. Davis would return to the Best Actress category at the 1944 Oscars, after going on an impressive five-year streak of being a nominee – but would fall to Gaslight‘s Ingrid Bergman.
Katharine Hepburn – The Rainmaker (1956)
After winning her first statuette with 1933’s Morning Glory, the controversial and popular actress had a long lull of being eluded of Hollywood’s golden prize. Despite nods for such varied classics as 1940’s The Philadelphia Story and 1951’s The African Queen, Hepburn would only have one Best Actress prize to show for her career by the time she made 1956’s The Rainmaker. The adaptation of N. Richard Nash’s play followed a middle-aged woman who falls for a conman (Burt Lancaster) who convinces her of his ability to make rain in a Western town in dire need of it. Hepburn’s portrayal of the lovestruck Lizzie Curry earned her another Best Actress bid. Yet like Davis in Mr. Skeffington (and besides also never needing a Supporting Actress bid), Hepburn would be defeated by Ingrid Bergman – for her role as Anastasia. Her last three bids (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter and On Golden Pond) would earn in overdue Best Actress victories.
Meryl Streep – Ironweed (1987)
By the time she co-starred alongside Jack Nicholson for this 1987 epic drama based on William Kennedy’s novel, Streep had already earned her place as among the finest actresses of her generation. She had two statuettes already on her resume, for 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer and the 1982 Holocaust drama Sophie’s Choice. In Ironweed, she played Helen Archer, a drunken lost soul who finds companionship in Nicholson’s Francis Phelan, an alcoholic and ex-ballplayer in Depression-era Albany, New York. Her morose portrayal of Helen landed Streep another Best Actress bid, but Cher (her co-star in 1983’s Silkwood, which earned nominations for both) would win the prize for her comic tour de force in Moonstruck. Despite this loss, Streep had not even reached the halfway point of what has become a milestone career at the Oscars. She earned nomination #8 the following year for A Cry in the Dark, and would go on to win eight more trips to the ceremony – with her most recent win as controversial British PM Margaret Thatcher in 2011’s The Iron Lady.