Best Actress Birthday Party, Week 3
Born January 15January 21:
Click here for the full list of entries
Jan 16: Diana Wynyard (106; died 1964)
New Review: Gaslight (1940)
Diana's Best Work: Unquestionably, out of my very small sample, her take on the famously terrorized wife in the movie I just saw.
I've Also Seen: Her stiff, shaky, but nominated performance in Cavalcade (Best Pictures from the Outside In), which is not a great moment in Oscar history, especially since the transition from an Aug 1Jul 31 eligibility calendar to the much more sensible Jan 1Dec 31 window resulted in the 1932-33 ceremony inviting candidates from 17 months of top-flight movies. Best not to think about whom Wynyard bested on the way to her citation. Anyway, Wynyard was one of those actresses who made no bones about valuing the stage in every way above the screen, and only made 16 films in 25 years before her abrupt death at 56.
Where To Go Next: Diana has a tough task trying to elbow into a three-way Barrymore Act-a-Thon in Rasputin and the Empress. Speaking, though, of crowded rings, I gather from commenters that she makes a vivid impression as part of the large ensemble in her last film, the four-stranded Island in the Sun. (She's got the Blanchett part in the 1947 version of An Ideal Husband, but after my first two run-ins with Diana, I'm not convinced she'd import the subliminal slyness into that role that Cate so dexterously brought to it.)
Jan 20: Patricia Neal (86; died 2010)
New Review: The Fountainhead (1949)
Patricia's Best Work: Neal is one of those happy cases of a performer gleaning her Oscar for what is surely her best performance, as the aroused but worldly-wise Alma in Hud (my Favorite Films entry).
I've Also Seen: Extremely savvy and emotionally layered in A Face in the Crowd; sensual and moneyed in Breakfast at Tiffany's, like Nina Foch in An American in Paris; nominated for bearing up with a querulous husband, a war-scarred son, and whatever weighs on her own soul in The Subject Was Roses; and a miniature, late-in-life delight in Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune
Where To Go Next: I'm most curious to beat a path to the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Otherwise, beyond her two Reagan vehicles from the same year as The Fountainhead, especially the Oscar-nominated The Hasty Heart, I've heard some good thingsincluding from you guysabout The Breaking Point, Bright Leaf, Three Secrets, and the immediately pre-stroke Psyche 59. How Glenda Jackson ever found her way into starring in The Patricia Neal Story is fathomless to me but a mystery for another time.
Jan 21: Geena Davis (56)
New Review: The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Geena's Best Work: If all she'd ever shown us was dizzy, irked, fun-chasing, assaulted, recklessly emancipated Thelma in Thelma & Louise, she'd belong in the pantheon.
I've Also Seen: From a surprisingly not-enormous filmography, a goofy-sexy cameo in Tootsie, formidably intelligent and emotionally rich in The Fly; a good fit for Burton's whimsy in Beetlejuice; winning her Oscar as Anne Tyler's warmly offbeat dog-walker in The Accidental Tourist (my review), where she memorably puts paid to William Hurt's fickleness and unwitting condescension; and trying to resuscitate Irene Dunne in Speechless. Also, the episode of The Geena Davis Show where she teaches the kids The Hustle, and the one of Commander in Chief where she gets the gig.
Where To Go Next: As several commenters rightly pointed out, there is no excuse for me to have not seen A League of Their Own by now. Earth Girls Are Easy will probably come after that, but I can usually watch Davis in anything.
As always, propose your own favorites in the Comments, and respond to the reviews as they appear!