Tuesday, April 9, 2019

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Day Six: Best Supporting Actress, 1961

Day-and-a-half late, but we're back with the Academy Award Nominees of 1961! We start this week with the nominees for Best Supporting Actress, after the jump.

Fay Bainter as Amelia Tilford
The Children's Hour
third and final nomination, past winner; Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress

There is a moment in the film when a furious and humiliated Bainter turns on an adversary, then suddenly collapses, before rising, unassisted, continuing on her path of retribution. No one dares stop her. I wouldn't either. It's a great cap to a portrayal of frustrating credulity, side-stepping potential villainy (and stupidity!) to present a dignified if small-minded human being.

Judy Garland as Irene Hoffmann-Waller
Judgment at Nuremberg
second and final nomination; Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress

A triumphant return after seven years' absence from cinema, Garland more than holds her own - unsurprisingly! - in a solid, haunting turn. Watch her eyes - Irene is constantly listening, debating, making decisions, calling upon an unknown strength to keep her going...and all the time she's tired.

Lotte Lenya as The Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
first and only nomination; Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress

Enter the delectable villainess - but why? Lenya's motivations remain a mystery, her character a cypher; even her camp is more stale than delicious. A disappointment.

Una Merkel as Mrs. Winemiller
Summer and Smoke
first and only nomination

I guess she does what she can, all mischievous grins and childlike pouting. A device, not a character, and I don't even know to what end. How did this get in?

Rita Moreno as Anita
West Side Story 
first and only nomination; Golden Globe Winner for Best Supporting Actress

The most fully-realized performance in the film. Steals the show without distracting: we cannot help but feel warmth and excitement in her presence. "America", yes; the lip-sync of "Boy Like That", of course; but the way she navigates "The Dance at the Gym" and "Taunting" put her over the edge.

Also in the conversation:
  • Ruby Dee, A Raisin in the Sun (NBR Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress) - Always in the background - watching, reacting, living. Perfection. *****
  • Annie Girardot, Rocco and His Brothers (BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Foreign Actress) - Borderline lead; terrifically sexy; somewhat overplays the Act Three fall. ***
  • Rachel Roberts, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (BAFTA Award Winner for Best British Actress) - Sexy, sometimes foolish but certainly no fool, more certain than you'd think; steers clear of cliches. ****
  • Pamela Tiffin in One, Two, Three (Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress) - Matches Cagney beat for beat, outshines his other scene partners. ***

History was made when Rita Moreno won the Academy Award:

My choice is a difficult one: I sincerely consider Rita Moreno's to be one of the greatest wins in Oscar history, but Fay Bainter gave an incredible performance in what could have been a shallow role. Both stellar performances. But I have to check one box. And that check goes to....


Tomorrow - the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay: Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Guns of Navarone, The HustlerJudgment at Nuremberg and West Side Story.

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