Sunday, July 30, 2006

Supporting Actress Sundays: 1961

Nick'sFlickPicks is a little groggy today after a screechy, squealy, hour-long, dead-of-night altercation with a bat flying around our apartment. I, not the bat, did most of the squealing, but I still came out ahead. Note to future victims of pteropine invaders: Resolve™ Carpet Cleaner streams far enough from the can that you can daze the bat from two or three yards away, allowing you to catapult it out of a window with a broom and a dustpan...but not before the bat makes exactly the same face at you that Angela makes in the last shot of Sleepaway Camp.

The point being: I was extra happy to have something scintillating to wake up to today, specifically the 1961 Supporting Actress Smackdown, chez StinkyLulu. Like all the best Smackdowns—and this one might be my very favorite so far—Nathaniel has furnished a clipreel of the nominees, and Tim R. has added some follow-up commentary on his own site.

Two more things to know about this edition of SAS: it's just about as gay as can be, with Judy Garland, The Children's Hour, two Tennessee Williams adaptations, and West Side Story in competition, and the five nominees, no matter how diverse the quality of their own performances, all share the distinction of being better than someone who is truly terrible in each film: to wit, pugnacious little Karen Balkin as the bad seed in The Children's Hour; jittery Montgomery Clift as a sterilization victim in Judgment at Nuremberg; Warren Beatty as a soul-crushingly accented Italian gigolo in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone; Geraldine Page offering the fussiest possible imago of a "repressed" character in Summer and Smoke; and Richard Beymer somehow landing the lead in West Side Story despite his inability to sing, dance, or act.

That truly hellacious catalogue of thespian miscalculation—and, believe it or not, two of them scored Academy nominations, plus a Golden Globe for Page—makes Bainter, Garland, Lenya, Merkel, and Moreno look like quintuplet Stanislavskis... though, as you'll read, at least two of these women need no extra help in this department. Meanwhile, thanks for another good time, guys!

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Blogger tim r said...

You're so right about Beatty, Behlmer, Balkin and Clift. Still, I have to say I think Nuremberg is hurt even more by the self-congratulatory austerity of Burt Lancaster's performance –- it's like he's clapping himself on the back for playing a brilliant Nazi jurist, and one with feelings, dammit! Don't you find that whole movie one of the most unevenly acted liberal Oscar bids in history? From Schell (electrifying) down to Clift (atrocious) it really runs the gamut.

4:23 PM, July 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so oddly coincidental, given that there is a local production of West Side Story and I am seeing it for the second time tonight. That film is the only one I've seen in the bunch, but I can imagine Rita Moreno would still be my favorite. That performance is timeless.

5:15 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

honestly this smackdown was a little rough for me acting wise.

Warren Beatty (roman spring) and Monty Clift (nuremberg) are two of my favorite actors ever... and two of the 10 or so that were crucial to the onset of my cinephilia... and they were both AWFUL.

i tried to pretend they weren't there. It was easy with Clift since he gets only one scene. Warren was harder to work around. But I do have to say that I'm surprised no one talks about Vivien Leigh's work in that movie. It's not her best by any means but I was really surprised given her other work at how restrained she is.

9:17 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger StinkyLulu said...

I have to agree with Nathaniel about Leigh -- I think it's her best work. It's a tone piece and I think she and Lenya are the keyed into that somehow, while Beatty seems to think it's a show piece...

8:41 AM, July 31, 2006  
Blogger amanda said...

I LOVE the Sleepaway Camp reference.

2:22 PM, July 31, 2006  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Amanda: Of course you do. It was for you. ;)

I can't get quite as excited about Leigh in Roman Spring. I agree that she's going for mood over psychology, which is a good idea given what's available in the script, and it's also consistent with Quintero's directorial approach. Still, there's something a little gauzy to me about the performance and the film. True, I'm not a huge fan of the material, as much as I love Williams, and I'm not sure Leigh is off-track so much as the part is damned limiting.

1:23 AM, August 18, 2006  

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