4 Oscar Nominations in One Year, 0 Wins: Is This Hollywood's Biggest Loser?

4 Oscar Nominations in One Year, 0 Wins: Is This Hollywood's Biggest Loser?
Image credit: Legion-Media

That had to sting.


  • At the 2nd Annual Academy Awards, this person was nominated four times in the same category.
  • He was at the end of a long and storied career.
  • In spite of his wealth of nominations, he didn't take home a trophy.
  • That was only one notable event at a remarkable Oscars ceremony.

It was the second year that the Oscars ever took place (1930 – remember that for your trivia night) and screenwriter Elliott J. Clawson was ready for a big win. He had already had an outstanding career – he's credited with writing more than eighty movies.

That night, Clawson was nominated in the category then titled Best Writing. What made it a historical moment was that he wasn't nominated for one movie – he was nominated for four. That's right, four of the nominees up for a Best Writing award were the exact same person.

Why Haven't I Heard of Him?

Clawson was born in 1883 and died in 1942. The bulk of his writing took place before 'talkies' were popular: silent movies were still the order of the day, though he did write some movies with sound near the end of his career.

By far the most enduring of Clawson's movies is the 1925 adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney as the deformed Phantom and Mary Philbin as Christine Daaé. This Phantom remains a Halloween favorite, in part because of its silent-movie camp and in part because of Chaney's self-devised Phantom makeup, which was kept a secret until the movie premiered.

4 Oscar Nominations in One Year, 0 Wins: Is This Hollywood's Biggest Loser? - image 1

In 1930 Clawson had reached the end of his career. Nobody was aware that the then-new Oscars would become a hallmark of Hollywood talent, but he was probably still thrilled when he was nominated four times in the same category: for The Cop, The Leatherneck, Sal of Singapore, and Skyscraper.

A Disappointing End

There were eleven entries in the Best Writing category, meaning that Clawson had cornered 36% of the nominations. Unfortunately, he still went home empty handed. That year, the trophy went to Hanns Kräly for his screenplay The Patriot.

As Clawson retired in 1930, he was never nominated again.

It's An Honour Just to be Nominated

Although nobody else has been nominated four times in one category, there are some famous faces who have been up for Oscars time and time again – only to go home empty handed every time.

Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction) has been nominated eight times but never won. She shares that unfortunate record with Peter O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia).

Richard Burton (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) was nominated seven times without a win. He's closely followed by Michelle Williams (five nominations) and Amy Adams (four nominations).

Of course, sometimes entire movies get snubbed – and unlike individual actors, they'll never get another shot. Such is the case with The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1986). Both films received 11 nominations but didn't win in any category.

Then and Now

Folks attending the Academy Awards in 1930 probably wouldn't recognize today's lavish, televised event. The awards banquet was held in the 'Cocoanut Grove' of LA's Ambassador Hotel, and there were only seven categories.

The program was broadcast on a local radio station but otherwise was fairly low-key. Aside from Clawson's historic four nominations, the 2nd annual Academy Awards had three notable happenings.

First: actress Jeanne Eagels became the first and so far only person to be posthumously nominated in the Best Actress category. Eagels was the star of The Letter, a drama about a married woman who stands trial for shooting her lover.

Second: 1930 remains the only year in which not a single film won more than one Oscar.

And third: the dialogue-less film Divine Lady became the first (and so far only) film to win Best Director but not even receive a Best Picture nomination.

The 2024 Academy Awards will be broadcast on March 10.