What’s In A Name?


Hey, just a quick little post I thought I’d throw together. Now I’ve spent a good deal of time talking about how Brie Larson is this year’s frontrunner for Best Actress. When I initially read the book, I knew that her character could easily score with Oscar should a movie adaptation be made. But a few days ago, I realized that Brie Larson’s character is missing something kind of important – a name.

In the book, we never find out the name of Jack’s mother. She is constantly referred to as ‘Ma’ by Jack, who narrates the story. And IMDB suggests that the movie won’t give her a name. Now, having the name of a main character be a mystery is nothing new in Hollywood. From Fight Club to The Polar Express to Once, a lot of directors like to do it for one reason or another.

But then the question became, ‘What does this mean for her Oscar chances?’ So I looked it up online. Here is every person ever nominated for an acting Oscar for playing a character with no name*.

*(It’s difficult to say when someone has an official name. Since I haven’t seen most of these movies, it’s hard to tell if a character is only known by their nickname, or if they just have a very unusual name. I usually just tried to stay away from performances where you knew either a first or last name. The one exception I made to this rule was Joan Fontaine as ‘The Second Mrs. DeWinter’ in Rebecca, mainly because the film is about her marrying into that last name, and her first name is never revealed.)


1927/28 – Richard Barthelmess as ‘Patent Leather Kid’ in The Patent Leather Kid
1928/29 – Warner Baxter as ‘The Cisco Kid’ in In Old Arizona
1929/30 – George Arliss as ‘The Raja Of Rukh’ in The Green Goddess
1931/32 – Alfred Lunt as ‘The Actor’ in The Guardsman
1958 – Spencer Tracy as ‘The Old Man’ in The Old Man & The Sea
1983 – Albert Finney as ’Sir’ in The Dresser
1984 – Jeff Bridges as ‘Starman’ in Starman


1927/28 – Janet Gaynor as ’The Wife’ in Sunrise
1931 – Lynn Fontaine as ‘The Actress’ in The Guardsman
1940 – Joan Fontaine as ‘The Second Mrs. DeWinter’ in Rebecca


1939 – Harry Carey as ‘President Of The Senate’ in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
1974 – Jeff Bridges as ‘Lightfoot’ in Thunderbolt & Lightfoot
1982 – Charles Durning as ‘Governor’ in The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
1984 – Ralph Richardson as ’The Sixth Earl Of Greystroke’ in Greystroke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes
1990 – Graham Greene as ‘Kicking Bird’ in Dances With Wolves
2008 – Heath Ledger as ‘The Joker’ in The Dark Knight


1957 – Carolyn Jones – as ‘The Existentialist’ in The Bachelor Party
1958 – Cara Williams as ‘Billy’s Mother’ in The Defiant Ones
1963 – Margaret Rutherford as ‘The Duchess Of Brighton’ in The V.I.P.s
1990 – Mary McDonnell as ’Stands With A Fist’ in Dances With Wolves
1991 – Diane Ladd as ‘Mother’ in Rambling Rose
2014 – Meryl Streep as ‘The Witch’ in Into The Woods

There you have it. 22 performances, and the most recent one was just last year. 4 people have won Oscars without ever giving their character a name, most recently Heath Ledger as ‘The Joker’.

I don’t really think this statistic makes it unlikely for Brie Larson to be nominated/win, but it is an interesting statistic that I thought I would share with you.

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