What's Wrong with 1949?
Still, none of this is anything compared to the hash Oscar made of the two actressing categories. StinkyLulu's Smackdowners recently discovered what a tepid bunch the Supporting gals were, lazily culled from a total of three movies. Up in the lead category, Oscar anointed an inevitable winner, though I think the performance is considerably overrated even now, and surrounded her with no more than adequate turns by three big once-and-future stars, plus a typical bout of gracelessness from Jeanne Crain in the box-office hit Pinky. You can read all of my thoughts about each nomination here.
What I really need help determining, though, is whether Oscar could have done better with the yields of that yearor, better put, exactly how much better he could have done. De Havilland's still on my personal ballot because she's quite good in her best moments, but I'm more impressed by Barbara Bel Geddes' incongruous warmth and accessibility at the heart of the dark Max Ophuls thriller Caught (think Jessica Lange's Tootsie performance in the middle of a woman-in-peril film noir); by another Ophuls heroine, Joan Bennett in The Reckless Moment, doing her gruff take on the role that would later be Tilda Swinton's in The Deep End; and most of all by Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway, gamely replacing Judy Garland by the side of her legendary co-star Fred Astaire, and infusing very credible, very real emotion into the role of an ex-partner who left the dancing act in pursuit of more "serious actress" parts. She's funny, she's as smart and quick as she always was in these pictures, and unlike Harrison Ford in The Kingdom of the Crappy Skript, she proves that you really can return to an old well and put years of intervening maturity to good, rich, entertaining use.
My fifth nominee is Ann Sothern, the most charismatic and unpredictable of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Three Wives, but reader, I suspect there's gotta be more gold in them '49er hills. Please tell me where to find it. With Garland, in the musicalized Shop Around the Corner remake In the Good Old Summertime? With Joanne Dru or Virginia Mayo in the undisputed classics I named up top? With Bette Davis whining "What a dump!" in Beyond the Forest, or Jennifer Jones in high-prestige mode in Vincente Minnelli's Madame Bovary? With Valentina Cortese or with Gene Tierney, both giving Richard Conte trouble in Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway and Otto Preminger's Whirlpool, respectively? How about future winner Patricia Neal's one-two punch in The Fountainhead and the Best Actor-nominated The Hasty Heart, or never-nominated Maureen O'Hara in Nicholas Ray's mystery-thriller A Woman's Secret? Or Ingrid Bergman (pictured) headlining one of Hitchcock's first color pictures, Under Capricorn? These are your poll choices, and please vote, even if one just strikes your fancy, or even if you can't make a qualified choice in the other two races. I need inspiration. If your favorite isn't an option (Barbara Hale in The Window? Joan Crawford in Flamingo Road? June Allyson, for god's sake, in Little Women?), give her props in the comments. Help redeem this subpar year!