Monday, July 9, 2018

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Day One: Actress, 1959

The year is 1959. My parents are born. Berry Gordy founds Motown Records. The Clutters are murdered in cold blood. And the nominees for Best Actress are....

(after the jump....)
Doris Day in Pillow Talk

Notes: First and only nomination; Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Musical/Comedy

A world-class comedienne, Day proves game for sending up her good girl image as the brittle interior decorator falling in love and annoyance with Rock Hudson's playboy songwriter. It's not just that her readings are a hoot: she delivers a real, breathing person behind the one-liners without straying from the farcical tone. It's a performance that finds convincing room for both a lovelorn aria and sophisticated, silly shouting.

Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story

Notes: Third of five nominations, previous winner; BAFTA Award Winner for British Actress, NYFCC Winner for Actress; Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Drama

Another star persona put to perfect use. A frequently underestimated and often miscast actress, Hepburn is perfect here her fragile beauty a perfect canvas for spiritual conflict. She does not just play the honorable conflict either of nurse vs. nun, dedication to others vs. dedication to God - this sister is full of pride, her conscience tormented both when she showcases her confidence in her abilities and when she goes the humbler route.

Katharine Hepburn in Suddenly, Last Summer

Notes: Eighth of twelve nominations, previous winner; Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Drama

The most interesting thing in the movie, which is saying something considering the fate of her character's son. From the moment she descends in the elevator to her last shot going up in it, Kate commands attention, giving her usual crisp recitations a lolling rhythm that allows her to steamroll her co-stars with vague certainty. Her final monologue is hypnotic, haunting. This is her movie.

Simone Signoret in Room at the Top

Notes: First of two nominations; BAFTA Award Winner for Foreign Actress (1958), Cannes Film Festival Winner for Actress, National Board of Review Winner for Actress; Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Drama, NYFCC Runner-Up for Actress

After two viewings, I find myself liking this movie and its performances while I'm watching it and completely unable to recall any specifics afterward. I have an impression of a strong performance of a middle-aged woman connecting with another outsider, with Signoret underplaying through sultry, sleepy eyes throughout. She's great, I think. She's heartbreaking, I'm pretty sure.

Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer
Notes: Third of five nominations; Golden Globe Winner for Actress in a Drama

A lot of challenges to face here: walking a thin line between the "is-she-or-isn't she" question of her sanity without overplaying either; a very long climactic monologue which, if I'm reading reports correctly, she delivered in one take; the absolutely gonzo storyline. She does a great job with most of it, but even she seems at a loss for just who Catherine Holly is. More a device than a character, I believe she's in agony, but I don't believe she was ever in the situation that put her in such a state.

There were, as there always are, other actresses in the conversation, of course. Such as:
  • Dorothy Dandridge, Porgy and Bess (Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Musical/Comedy) - Gives great face, out-performs Sidney Poitier, but still an entirely lip-synced performance. **
  • Ava Gardner, On the Beach (BAFTA Award Nominee for Foreign Actress) - Tricky accent aside, dynamite as a sloppy drunk learning she's worthy of love in the time of Armageddon. *****
  • Shirley MacLaine, Ask Any Girl (BAFTA Award Winner for Foreign Actress, Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Musical/Comedy) - unseen by me at this time.
  • Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot (Golden Globe Winner for Actress in a Musical/Comedy) - Far more adept at delivering a full character within a broad comedy than some of her co-stars. ****
  • Lilli Palmer, But Not For Me (Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Musical/Comedy) - Borderline supporting, but clearly having a hoot in a hilarious, scene-stealing performance. ****
  • Lee Remick, Anatomy of a Murder (Golden Globe Nominee for Actress in a Drama) - Also borderline supporting, keeps us and James Stewart guessing regarding degrees of innocence and complicity. ***

Oscar chose Simone Signoret.

I wish I could co-sign, but alas for her, I must choose a previous Oscar winner, finally giving a performance that earned the gold....


Tomorrow: Best Original Screenplay, including non-nominated almost-contenders and the official lineup: The 400 Blows, North by Northwest, Operation PetticoatPillow Talk and Wild Strawberries.

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1 comment:

Fritz said...

I absolutely adore this year! Five wonderfully different performances and five amazing actresses and five movies I enjoy very much. How often that this happen? Not all of them are all-time best but they still offer something to treasure.

I have to say, I also needed some time with Simone - when I was much younger and started my Oscar-watching, she was actually one of my least favorite winners but over time I started to really love her subtle approache to this part. Still, what an unusual pick by the Academy!