Thursday, October 20, 2022

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1946: Actress

I'd love to write an intro, but I've a busy day today. Let's get right to it. The nominees are:

Olivia de Havilland as Jody Norris
To Each His Own
third of five nominations; NYFCC Awards runner-up for Best Actress

Has the most to play out of everyone: ages 20 years, goes from innocent shopkeeper's daughter to hardened woman of industry, plays the tragedy of unwed pregnancy and nobility of giving that child up - and yet watching him grow up with another family! Oh, and she does it all so well, so movingly. This kind of decades-spanning innocent-to-cynic character arc is typical of this category, but De Havilland is one of the best I've seen in charting the trajectory without losing consistency of character - she's changed, but it's still undoubtedly Jody Norris...especially when she sees her son. She's marvelous.

Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson
Brief Encounter
first and only nomination; NYFCC Awards winner for Best Actress

Because I was watching on HBO Max, inevitably there came two or three points where the sound dropped out completely. I noticed immediately, of course, but I was struck by how much Johnson conveys without dialogue - the way she carries her shoulders, her eyes brightening or lowering, even the shape of her mouth seems to change to ably convey joy, desire, deceit. It's not really the kind of character you typically root for, yet she's so human you can't help it. And is it me, or does she seem younger the more she's with Trevor Howard? Grounded, sexy performance.

Jennifer Jones as Pearl Chavez
Duel in the Sun
past winner, fourth of five nominations

It's a tricky role to play, and not just because all the makeup in the world can't suddenly make Jones into a convincing mixed Mexican girl. This is a woman who must fall in love multiple times, and in some sort of bizarre sadomasochistic lust-love combo with her rapist, who she then goes after with a gun. Certainly, she gets the rage down; the love story stuff, she's fine. Solid all around, and makes a meal of the ending.

Rosalind Russell as Elizabeth Kenny
Sister Kenny
second of four nominations; Golden Globe winner for Best Actress

Here and there she gets to play a scene lightly. In scenes with her patients, she is firm but not cold - reassuring, that's the word. But much of the second half has her going about nobly, and her big scene confronting her chief opponent in the medical world in the middle of his own lecture is hampered by certain self-awareness that this is The Big Scene. Not bad, but a bore.

Jane Wyman as Orry Baxter
The Yearling

A nomination from the days when, damn the role size, if you were a headliner, you were a Lead; to me, she may be the most present female, but she is still supporting (I docked a star). Whatever, how's the performance? Personally, I like how unsentimental Wyman plays it. Her character prefers harmony, sure, but she is bitter about this life, resents the men in it, and, as she sees it, has earned the right to complain. The only time she "softens" is to do the hard labor of building a fence to keep the deer from the plants. All sandpaper, I loved it.


The moment I saw this performance, I thought to myself, "How do you not vote for this?" Fortunately, the Oscars did! And my vote agrees:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Screenplay: Anna and the King of Siam, The Best Years of Our Lives, Brief Encounter, The Killers, and Rome, Open City

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