Thursday, October 28, 2021

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Cinema '62: Best Actress

Full stop, this might be one of the greatest Best Actress lineups of all time, not a whiff in the lot, everyone giving their all, sometimes above and beyond what's asked of them. The nominees:

Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan
The Miracle Worker
first of five nominations; BAFTA Award winner for Best Foreign Actress, National Board of Review's Best Actress of 1962; Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Drama

One of the great film teachers, honestly, soft-voiced and questioning herself in the darkness of her private time, firm in tenor and manner at lessons and conference, frustrated by parents, determined with pupil, her life one of constant learning and adjusting. You get a sense that her patience is acquired, not instinctive. There's triumph in the climax, yes, but also relief: she wasn't certain this would work.

Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
past two-time winner, eleventh and final nomination; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Foreign Actress, Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Drama

It's an impressive act: you hate her until you feel sorry for her. She can turn on a dime from bitter old broad to helpless child, mouth curling in cruelty, eyes shining with a desperate need for approval. The pathetic way she says, "You mean, all this time we could have been friends?" kills me every time with its genuine hurt and history...and delusion. Her moments of humiliation are so visceral to me.

Katharine Hepburn as Mary Tyrone
Long Day's Journey Into Night
past winner, ninth of twelve nominations; Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Drama

You feel the pain that led to her first time, see the fussiness and girlish warmth that make her such a distinct matriarch already. Her relationship to her body - from the constant self-measuring of her Hepburn-sized hips to the disembodied way she paws her son - communicates the tenuous grasp of control, the need for relief. In her manner of speech, she gets across the rise, bliss, and fall of the high. 

Geraldine Page as Alexandra del Lago, alias The Princess Kosmonopolis
Sweet Bird of Youth
third of eight nominations; Golden Globe winner for Best Actress in a Drama; BAFTA Award nominee for Best Foreign Actress

A hoot, the haze of hash and alcohol never clouding her sense of entitlement - she is a STAR, top-billed on the poster and in life, even in a self-pitying swirl. Page doesn't sentimentalize her much: any concern Princess has for the people around her is based on what they can do for her at that moment. The way she takes in people, guarded, ready to fight, knowing just what button to push...ooh, it's delicious! 

Lee Remick as Kirsten Arnesen Clay
Days of Wine and Roses
first and only nomination; BAFTA Awards nominee for Best Foreign Actress, Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress in a Drama

Sells the impatience, the indignance, the insistence. She's not an alcoholic, she insists, but even if she is, she can't see hope in sobriety. If other addiction dramas and their performers get at the escape of substance abuse, Remick recognizes - frighteningly! - the self-punishing cycle of it. I wish the movie were more interested in her side of the story (she honestly seems pretty blasé about chocolate), but she sells the subtle descent.


A murderer's row of talent. The Oscar went to Anne Bancroft; in her absence, it was accepted by Joan Crawford:

My vote? A squeaker, but:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Picture: Lawrence of Arabia, The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

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