Thursday, December 17, 2020

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1970, Day Eleven: Actress

Notable notes in the Best Actress competition for 1970 include this fun gem: it is, as of this writing, the last time an entire lead acting category was made up of first-time nominees. C'est vrai! Jane Alexander and Glenda Jackson would each be nominated another three times, but both were having their breakthroughs. As for the other three, none of them would ever be nominated again: Sarah Miles, taking the lead role in previously-discussed Ryan's Daughter; Ali MacGraw, the leading lady in #1 hit Love Story; and Carrie Snodgress, making her big screen breakthrough in Diary of a Mad Housewife. That film follows an unappreciated middle-class wife and mother whose husband's social-climbing wears her down physically, mentally, emotionally. Then she becomes a writer's fuck-buddy and begins coming into her own. The movie is the performance, so let's discuss that...and the others:

Jane Alexander as Eleanor Bachman
The Great White Hope
first of four nominations

A very solid movie debut. She gets some great moments, gives good tears, the way she looks at James Earl Jones is very s e x y. I don't think it's leading, and I wouldn't nominate it either way, but it's pretty good.

Glenda Jackson as Gudrun Brangwen
Women in Love
first of four nominations; National Board of Review's Best Actress of 1970, NYFCC Awards winner for Best Actress; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Actress (1969), Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Drama

There's a dangerous spontaneity to Jackson's performance, an unfiltered wildness that you can't see at first - one supposed she was just sardonic, not completely bored! You can't take your eyes off of her, not when she's performing theatre during a weekend outing, not when she's dancing for bulls, not when she's openly courting a gay artist, not even when she's just watching.

Ali MacGraw as Jenny Cavilleri-Barrett
Love Story
first and only nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Actress in a Drama

You will never convince me this character runs any deeper than the ink on the page. But what, I'm gonna punish MacGraw for nailing this character, for playing her completely and honestly? It's the rare performance of "good girl with a bad mouth" that doesn't try. And she doesn't overplay the dying - she doesn't play it at all, even!

Sarah Miles as Rosy Ryan
Ryan's Daughter
first and only nomination; BAFTA Awards nominee for Best Actress, Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Drama

It's a subtly difficult role: Rosy is frustrated, with no real idea of why...or what she wants. There's a self-centered boredom that only lifts when she begins her lusty lusty affair with a British officer: suddenly, she's passionate, nurturing, understanding; in his arms, she really can live for someone else, but has to be selfish to do so. It's not the most sympathetic character, but Miles never loses our empathy.

Carrie Snodgress as Tina Balser
Diary of a Mad Housewife
first and only nomination; Golden Globe winner for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy

Frank Langella's playboy author isn't prepared for the change that comes over our mad housewife; her husband certainly doesn't expect the quietly suffering mouse of the film's opening to challenge the hoity-toity hypocrites he so needs to impress. But over the course of 90 minutes, Snodgress has shown - subtly, realistically, yet within the film's comic tone - the gradual confidence of a woman who is DONE.


The Oscar and my winner:


Tomorrow...the nominees for Best Picture of the Year: Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love StoryMASH and Patton.

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