Friday, June 13, 2008

Let Them Eat Birthday Cake!

Back in effect, y'all. I still have some spring-quarter papers and projects to assess and then my final grades to tabulate and submit, but this website is eager to spring back to life. I meant to get an early start one week ago, to commemorate Nathaniel's birthday—even though certain snakes in the grass have recently informed me that too many of my recent posts are all about Nathaniel. But, I just survived yet another apartment move, and though nothing (amazingly!) was broken or lost, my internet connection was scuttled until about 48 hours ago. So here, better late than never, is the latest addition to the Best Actress pages. Far be it from me to imply how old Nathaniel just turned, but let's just say that I have selected 1938 as a fitting year of tribute—and all the more fitting because we saw White Banners for the first time together in my Hartford apartment, we both love Bette Davis, and we both really love Norma Shearer, earning her sixth and final Best Actress nomination for Marie Antoinette.

Bette copped the Oscar, but to learn who wins my vote, you'll have to click here. The usual poll has already been supplied to determine who you think should have won from Oscar's list, but I'm playing it a bit coy about my own favorite performances from that year, which is also slowing down the other two polls. I rented a lot of 1938 movies in preparation for this Nathaniel-a-thon, and despite wind or rain or sleet or U-Haul or AT&T, I intend to finish out my viewing list... or at least get a little closer. So, tune back in for my own 1938 Dream Team, and some remarks about Luise Rainer, Irene Dunne, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn x 2, Margaret Sullavan Redux, Sally Eilers, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, and several other ladies who were bright lights in '38! (And it's never too late to wish Nathaniel a happy birthday!)

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Blogger Dame James said...

Yay, I'm glad your back with another installment. It feels like it's been forever since the last one.

I also think that Norma Shearer gave the best performance of that bunch(I haven't seen Hiller yet though). I find her a fascinating performer because in all of her best roles you can see the melodramatic theatrical tricks, but somehow it all comes together and works. I have no idea how she does it.

Lord knows I love Bette Davis, but Jezebel is one of her most awful performances. I don't know if it's just because I hate the film with a passion, but I really can't believe that she ever did something that atrocious (and then won an Oscar for it!). Oscar really should have waited until The Letter to give her a second one.

10:58 PM, June 13, 2008  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

See, I love Bette in Jezebel (though the true astonishment of the movie is Fay Bainter) but as per usual this write up has me desperate to watch all five performances back to back.

there's never enough time.

11:37 PM, June 13, 2008  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

No arguments about Shearer's prowess in MARIE ANTOINETTE - especially in those final scenes. The performance has never built up much steam among film writers. But, yeah, she was robbed at that year's Oscar ceremony. Then again, she didn't deserve the trophy she picked up some years earlier.
Glad to see you included Loretta Young's work in KENTUCKY among your favorites. It's one of those performances nobody ever talks about. Probably not even then. Spinning gold out of straw was a Young specialty. And only the public seemed to appreciate her. In droves.
I'm going way out on a limb here, but (seeing as you mentioned Jeanette Macdonald in SWEETHEARTS as one of your gourmet prospects), I've got to say that I was - am -and always will be a sucker for her work in the same year's GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST. Let others scoff at Jeanette's version of a frontier accent. I love it. And - for me - the picture's one of the ultmate operetta dreams. The witty SWEETHEARTS (co-written, I believe by Dorothy Parker) is awfully good too. But it's always been easier to defend. GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (on the rare occasions it's even mentioned outside of a MAC/EDDY fan club meeting) usually inspires a vaguely snide shrug - if that. So it needs me more.
If you want to see a charming '38 performance from Priscilla Lane I think COWBOY FROM BROOKLYN shows her to better advantage than the sudsy FOUR DAUGHTERS. Dick Powell's good in it too.
And speaking of charm, the largely forgotten Helen Parrish makes a lovely impression (as she often did) playing big sister to dishy juvenile delinquent Billy Halop in LITTLE TOUGH GUY. Trying to set him on the straight and narrow just as Sylvia Sidney had the year before in the infinitely more upscale DEAD END. Script and surroundings are definitely on the modest side. It's a Universal programmer. But Parrish and Halop do a lot to elevate the proceedings.

1:28 AM, June 14, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

I go on hols for a fortnight, and what do I find? Such treats! You found The Fall and really liked it! (I caught it again in NYC, and that sleepy mid-section dampened my joy just a little this time, but only to the tune of an A-. I was still SO moved, and wowed by the ambition and the ending and Catinca.)

My next shock: that great bathtub scene notwithstanding, Savage Grace? I'll give the movie meticulously arch, and I graded it a little too harshly I think, but yikes. Really? To me it was such an off-putting combination of giggly and reticent, but I'm wildly intrigued to hear your thoughts now. Maybe I'll give it another pass. Or maybe this is our Mysterious Skin moment in reverse. I'm really not too sure.

Meanwhile, I'm three episodes away from being able to post comparative grades for Battlestar Galactica (well, series one) and the first four seasons of my beloved The Wire.

And, as if you didn't know, my banner is flying for Kate in Holiday, all the way.

5:59 PM, June 17, 2008  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

tim, where are you keeping your grades these days. I didn't see SAVAGE GRACE at mainly movies.

i'm also curiuos about the A-. I want to see it again (julianne love, you know) but I didn't have that strong of a reaction.

9:33 PM, June 17, 2008  
Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

Apologies for the non-post-relatedness of this comment (I embarrassingly haven't seen any of these films or performances), but I am so pleased that you "upped" The Others to a B on a second viewing, Nick. I'd love to know what caught your eye this time around. I keep attempting to write a review to justify my A+, but the task seems so daunting.

Hopefully subsequent viewings will push it up into A territory for you. ;)

2:17 PM, June 19, 2008  
Blogger John T said...

I don't think that there's any beating Kate Hepburn for this year, but I agree with Nat-I'm now curious to see some of the nominees (I've only seen Bette of this slate).

In related Best Actress news, make sure and check your email Nick-I've sent you some excellent news!

11:17 AM, June 21, 2008  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

1938! The 30s year without a Garbo performance to call it's own!

Anyway; my vote out of the nominees would probably still go to Davis, with Shearer coming in close.

But of the year, it's Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby that is head and shoulders above everybody else.

6:40 PM, June 21, 2008  

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