GROWING UP, we used to repeat the saying, "God don't like ugly."

In other words, do the wrong thing and there will be negative repercussions for your actions. Maybe that's one old wives' tale nobody ever bothered to whisper in Eddie Murphy's ear.

Murphy may be somewhere wishing desperately that someone had. Or else cursing an empty spot on his mantle and the fact that he'd ever even helped create such a crass character as the 300-pound Rasputia around whom his latest box-office mishap is built. Some are blaming the low-brow film "Norbit" for being the reason behind Murphy's not getting a best-supporting actor Oscar Sunday night.

Leading up to the 79th Academy Awards, Murphy had been considered a shoo-in along with Forest Whitaker for best actor, Jennifer Hudson for best-supporting actress, and Helen Mirren for best actress. As expected, they all got theirs.

But Murphy, who'd already received a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award for his work in "Dreamgirls," wound up the sole loser of the bunch. After the award went to Alan Arkin for his role in "Little Miss Sunshine," Murphy reportedly left the Kodak Theater.

It shouldn't have been too big a surprise. All along, producers had suspected that "Norbit" could damage Murphy's chances of being recognized for his outstanding characterization of the self-destructive, James Brown-like-character he played in "Dreamgirls." In fact, some who worked on "Norbit" had been reluctant to release the film in the middle of Murphy's Oscar campaign. The film's director, Brian Robbins, has pointed out that it was Murphy who insisted that they adhere to the original schedule.

Monday night on the National Public Radio talk show "News & Notes," Allison Samuels, a Newsweek correspondent covering the Oscars, pointed out that Murphy's not getting the award may go even deeper than public disgust at "Norbit."

"I think it was a lot of it, because along with 'Norbit,' you had the situation he had earlier this year with Spice Girl, Scary Spice, where she talked about, you know, him being the father of her child, and he denied it," Samuels said.

Murphy, who recently divorced his wife of 13 years, has requested a paternity test to be done on the as-yet-unborn child.

"You have Academy members who are older, who are very conservative. I think all of that plays a factor in the campaign for you winning an Oscar," Samuels said.

But Jonathan Estrin, a vice president at the American Film Institute, likened the situation to legendary director Martin Scorsese's winning an Oscar for "The Departed."

"Is this the one for which he deserved an Academy Award?" asked Estrin, former dean of Drexel University's School of Media and Design. "It's a body of work . . . [Scorsese] got it this year because it was his year."

As for Murphy's fumble, Estrin said, "I don't think it had anything to do with 'Norbit.'

"First of all, it was a tough category this year. You think about who was up in the category and the movies represented. Sometimes Academy members spread it around in the ballots," Estrin added. "To me, it was a subjective judgment call."

Yeah, maybe. But you can't help wondering if this also isn't a case of Murphy's getting his just deserts. *

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