One of my friends told me this was the category he was most interested to see my take on. Let's hope he is not disappointed:
Ingrid Bergman as Jeanne d'Arc
Tough role, St. Joan, a holy warrior who must be both girl and saint. Bergman leads with equal parts confusion and confidence, not knowing why her with this burden, but accepting it - with tears and fear, yes, but knowing Who is leading the way. It's a great vessel performance.
Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham
The Snake Pit
past winner, fourth of five nominations; NYFCC Awards winner for Best Actress
I get why she's so lauded here, she gets to play several layers of trauma, dissociation, breakdown, recovery. And she's not always playing these bits to the rafters, but I generally think De Havilland is a better performer when she has to suppress, when she relies on subtext and subtleties. I don't think there's much of that here. It's a demonstrative performance, effective enough, but...I didn't click with it.
Irene Dunne as Mama - Marta Hanson
fifth and final nomination
Not merely playing the sainted version of Mama as narrated by Barbara Bel Geddes, Dunne fills in the rest with pauses, sighs, deliberate line readings, looks of affection or frustration or strength. She is the embodiment of Mama and motherhood, of love and patience and a feeling of responsibility for family and loved ones. If this performance doesn't work, the movie doesn't. The movie is great because Dunne is great.
Barbara Stanwyck as Leona Stevenson
fourth and final nomination
Stanwyck is never bad, and were she able to fully commit to the part of an obnoxious bedridden wealthy woman, she would have been great. She's manacled by a screenplay that wants to explain and excuse way too much. When she has to play fear or entitlement, she's great. Wish she had more to work with.
Jane Wyman as Belinda MacDonald
Oh, she's so good here. I find I quite like Jane Wyman, who speaks not a word here but conveys everything. Subtle? Not at all, but that's her character, an open, honest face, one that can still hold secrets and desires. Too saintly and naive, a fantasy girl who is both child and lover and overall malleable? Yeah, I think so, but she's also communicating the curiosity and strength that Belinda needs. Always great with a reaction, her expressive face runs the show here.
Wyman won, but my vote goes to:
I REMEMBER MAMA
Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Picture: Hamlet, Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.