Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Who's Afraid of Best Actress 1966?

Both polls for the 1997 Best Actress race have been landslides on behalf of my own pick, Helena Bonham Carter. Which is lovely, if a mite unsuspenseful—and I'm guessing that outcome won't change too much in the polling for my latest group, the leading ladies of 1966. Liz Taylor, absent but at least out of surgery on Oscar night, had nothing to worry about in that year's race and I'm confident that she won't here, either. Feel free to prove me wrong—I know there are staunch fans of A Man and a Woman fans out there—but she's superb in Woolf, and though the other four films were all popular hits with major prizes under their belts, none of them have the enduring visibility of Taylor's vehicle.

To keep things interesting, then, I've added a third question to this round of polling, which will become a fixture whenever I delve into a long-ago year where I haven't seen as many films or performances as I have from the recent vintages. Decide my fate, reader. Chart my course. Be the wind beneath my actress-loving wings. What performance from Oscar's eligibility field would you support as my next pit-stop on the 1966 trail? Hana Brejchová's in a Czech New Wave hit and Best Foreign-Language Film nominee (and thus a generic sibling of Ida Kaminská's film and an also-ran to A Man and a Woman's Oscar win)? 1965 nominee Elizabeth Hartman in very early Coppola? Fellini and Herzog favorite Claudia Cardinale in the American west? Late starlet-period Jane Fonda? A Criterion-certified masterpiece by Carl-Theodor Dreyer or late-arriving Chabrol, or outsider icon Tuesday Weld in a proto-Heathers, or Godard muse and wife Anna Karina, or Lauren Bacall scoping out Paul Newman? The cross-cultural stars of a very early Merchant-Ivory? Maybe you prefer Frankenheimer weirdness or Tony Richardson hit-and-missness, or you feel like putting me through Shelley Winters or the stunted-camera time-capsule The Group, with its eight female leads? Which ever way you're leaning, read up on Oscar's own priority list and then let your voice be heard! And if your implicit vote is "other," arrest me with your alternative options in the Comments. (N.B. Since I've promised to provide these direction-seeking polls in all the years where I am under-versed, I've put one up for 1932, also.)

(By the way, speaking of big female ensembles, a quick plug for the 1966 John Ford doozy 7 Women, especially for you Paradise Road fans who spoke up in the '97 discussion. 7 Women, Ford's last film, presents a palpably perverse Christian mission that now has a Mongol warrior to worry about, all of which gives prim autocrat Margaret Leighton some fascinating context for her trembling-neurotic routine. Sue Lyon finally gets to play the good girl instead of the fantasy or the sexpot, and Anne Bancroft gets her Johnny Guitar on as a butch expatriate doctor willing to go a long, long way—and I don't just mean to China—for the good of civilization. And she's a Ford character, so she's not even sure she likes civilization! Pretty non-stop intensity for 87 minutes, give or take its lapses in judgment and cultural sensitivity, and a literally killer ending to boot.)

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14 Comments:

Blogger DL said...

I don't think I've seen any other real Best Actress contenders from 1966 (unless we're counting Persona, which I don't think we are because I'm sure you would have Andersson and Ullmann somewhere in there), but Elizabeth Taylor gets my vote in all the polls anyway! 'Cuz really, it's one of my favourite Best Actress winning performances ever and I doubt anyone else could unseat it.

This 7 Women picture is really intriguing me though. Is it on DVD?

6:28 PM, March 25, 2008  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Yep, the Persona gals will make their (big) impression in '67, since that's when the movie bowed stateside... and swept the second annual awards from the NSFC, too.

Why 7 Women isn't on DVD or even VHS is a confounding mystery to me, especially since its critical reception has been pretty well rescued since the lukewarm-to-vicious reviews of 1966 (though some, like Andrew Sarris, were always influential champions). Turner Classic Movies likes to air it a lot, which is how I saw it, but I know that doesn't help everyone.

6:44 PM, March 25, 2008  
Blogger Catherine said...

Finally! This is the summons I need to finally rent "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", although I'm a tad apprehensive. I read Albee's play for the first time a mere two weeks ago and it was like a slap in the face. Novels and poetry have achieved this knee-jerk madcrazylove feeling before, but this is the first time it's happened so quickly with a play. Albee got me; hook, line and sinker. I spent nights acting out various scenes, trying on the different parts for size, etc - then my dad caught me reading it and HE started enthusing about the how great it was.

So, I'm scared the film's not going to live up to it. :(

Incidentally, Nick, are any of Albee's other plays any cop? Anytime I'm in a bookstore I have a quick mosey around and they seem to be hard to fine, most shops just stack "...Virginia Woolf?". If anything else he wrote is worth a look, I'd be interested to track it down.

8:24 PM, March 25, 2008  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Albee is phenomenal, even if he's not quite up there in my personal pantheon with Adrienne Kennedy, Tennessee Williams, Caryl Churchill, Suzan-Lori Parks, and some others. I love his work a lot. A Delicate Balance might be my favorite of his plays, though Woolf, All Over, and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (about which I am currently advising a senior honors thesis in my department) are all pretty marvelous. And The Zoo Story is a great example of a short, tense two-hander. The live-or-die proposition is probably Tiny Alice, which no one should start with, but if you're really hooked on other Albee stuff, you'll probably be absorbed. (John Gielgud was Tony-nominated in the original Broadway cast and always claimed that he didn't have the slightest idea what was going on in it.)

The more personal P.S. is that I played George for a few scenes in ninth grade, which must have been appalling to watch (what did I imagine I was relating to?) but was fun like gangbusters to do. So I absolutely understand your impulse to act the whole play constantly.

10:03 PM, March 25, 2008  
Blogger Brooke Cloudbuster said...

Words can't describe how much I'm in love with you for doing this year. I mean, the year itself is unremarkable; but it features one of my favourite performances of all time; Ms. Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

I'm almost not sure whether it's the performance itself or the fact that it's Elizabeth Taylor doing such an amazing job with it. The only performance, in my mind, that could top hers would be Vivien Leigh for Gone With The Wind. But that's all up to opinion.

Any discussion of the performance on my part would just be hyperbolizing and rabid fanboy praises, so I'll just skip that and thank you for posting all of these. They're really a fun thing to read, and not just once; but over and over. So kudos on all of this!

I can't wait for the next year!

2:47 AM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

I prefer Williams by a hair myself (maybe a little more range within his preferred types? or maybe i just spark to his types more?) but Albee is genius.

I saw THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? twice on Broadway with different casts and both times it was like watching a separate play entirely (showing you how much actors choices affect flexible plays) but equally great. love love love it.

i think THE PLAY ABOUT THE BABY is a really interesting abstract reworking of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (two couples again, with the older couple destroying the younger... and strange references to an unseen child) though minor because it seems like such an abstract reworking. but still really worth looking at.

Nick --not to nitpick because you know how i feel about BEST ACTRESS but does this mean the 07 honorees have lost interest for you? ;)

8:47 AM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

@Brooke: So glad you're happy, and that Taylor and Albee both continue to inspire such devotion. And thanks so much for reading the Actress posts so devotedly.

@Nathaniel: I'm halfway done with the next category. One of the Honorees just came out on DVD and I needed a second look. But no, the dream is still alive! (And I really do need to get around to reading The Play about the Baby.) (And welcome back!!)

9:22 AM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger John T said...

I am going to say that 1966 is one of my worst years as far as this category goes (I've only seen the winner), though I have a hard time believing that I'll be making a different decision than the Academy. 1966 has always been a less interesting forerunner to 1967, and with the grand exception of Blow-Up, I've never felt a huge pull for any of its films. I guess 7 Women will have to get onto the TiVo list!

12:18 PM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

@John: Consensus sure seems to be building around Taylor, and around the low-level interest in much of the '66 field. But do allow me stump again for The Shop on Main Street. It really is a remarkable, unpretentious, but very disciplined and powerful film. A Foreign Film winner that's accessible and world-class, which is the sweet-spot that the category so rarely seems to hit.

And if I may say, hold that thought about 1967...

12:34 PM, March 26, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

I am fan of Gambit.

That's almost all I have to contribute to this discussion. Except that I'm with you, Nick, on the British New Wave: almost invariably disappointing, except for Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, which I think is terrific.

I look forward to reading the '67 write-up alongside Mark Harris's book Scenes From a Revolution, which is entirely about that year at the Oscars. Heartily recommended.

3:18 AM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Kamikaze Camel said...

I'd definitely give my prize to Taylor. Hard to beat, that one. Although I do looove Kaminska, too.

6:42 AM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

@Tim: I just read it, too! Great book. I'll say more about it when '67 is ready. (I'm almost done with The Whisperers, and I cannot wait to revisit Bonnie and Clyde.)

@KC: So glad there are more Kaminská fans among us, even if neither of us is voting for her. (But someone did!)

11:38 PM, March 27, 2008  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

My nominees for '66 would be:
ANOUK AIMEE "A Man & a Woman"
JEANNE MOREAU "Mademoiselle"
LYNN REDGRAVE "Georgy Girl"
NATALIE WOOD "This Property is
Condemned"
(probably the Wood performance I love best, even edging out her amazing work in "Miracle on 34th Street")
ELIZABETH TAYLOR "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

And, yes, Taylor deserved the win. Nothing else in her career even remotely approached the quality of her work here. Tremendous.

I must add that the wonderful (and extremely beautiful) Japanese actress AYAKO WAKAO contributed an unforgettable central performance in Yasuzo Masamura's "THE RED ANGEL", a look at the harrowing life of an army nurse in the 40's. It's finally available on DVD. It came out in '66 but not in Amewrica. Had it been eligible, she'd have knocked off one of my nominees, probably Aimee or Redgrave, as those are the (lovely) performances I love least. But, in the end, Taylor would still walk away with the prize.

1:39 AM, March 28, 2008  
Blogger Campaspe said...

So glad to read your plug for Seven Women, which I also liked a lot. I watched it with almost no expectations at all, because as you said its reputation was awful for a while. Good one to resurrect.

12:28 PM, April 01, 2008  

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