Sunday, January 31, 2016

Supporting Actress: Jan's Out, Feb's In

We've reached the end of our first month of the yearlong Supporting Actress retrospective, honoring the 365 movies that have yielded nominations in that category's first 80 years. (This year's AMPAS voters, whatever their other foibles, at least complied with my schema and furnished nominees from five separate films, which keeps my math on track.) I hope you've had fun reading along, if you have been.  You can click the image to the left and visit the Calendar for more on each nominated movie, plus a few individual performance reviews.

So, who are your five favorite nominees from this early batch? And, separate question, what are your five favorites among the films? My own all-star team of performances from this batch probably entails Judith Anderson for Rebecca, Fay Bainter for Jezebel, Jane Darwell for The Grapes of Wrath, Agnes Moorehead for The Magnificent Ambersons, and Barbara O'Neil for All This, and Heaven Too, with apologies to close runner-up Patricia Collinge for The Little Foxes. If we're talking actual movies, my cream of the crop encompasses Dead End, Dodsworth, Gone with the Wind, The Magnificent Ambersons, and The Philadelphia Story, though it stings to leave out Grapes, Rebecca, and Stage Door, especially.

What are your thoughts, dear reader? And—one more question—are there supporting performances by women from 1936-1942 that you especially wish had appeared on Oscar's ballot?

Lastly, do consider following along with the Supporting Actress films for February, already posted. The beauty of this feature is that you can already see what film will be up for review on the site and on Twitter for any given day. I'd love to hear other voices on the same movies. I know you're out there, you opinionated queens. Four of February's performances are first-time viewings for me: Paulette Goddard in So Proudly We Hail (1943), Lucile Watson in Watch on the Rhine (1943), and two winners, Ethel Barrymore in None But the Lonely Heart (1944) and Anne Baxter in The Razor's Edge (1946). Beyond my curiosity about these four, I'm especially keen to revisit The Song of Bernadette (1943), which I saw once, ages ago. I wish I remembered Crossfire (1947) more clearly. Two famous films that I didn't love the first and only times I saw them, Mildred Pierce (1945) and Key Largo (1948), are also ripe for reassessment.  And somehow, we'll all get through the mid-40s fad for nominating ethnically inappropriate performances: Aline MacMahon's "Chinese" peasant in Dragon Seed (1944), though she at least applies a soft touch; Gale Sondergaard's member of the palace in Anna and the King of Siam (1946); and, easily worst of all, Flora Robson's blackface part in Saratoga Trunk (1945, but nominated in 1946). Jesus, keep me close to the cross.

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Blogger Murtada said...

Ruth Hussey is my favorite from this batch. Followed closely by Judith Anderson.

I couldn't stop thinking of Anderson while watching Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak this year. It's Mrs Danvers with sex!

9:51 AM, January 31, 2016  
Anonymous Laika said...

Anderson's Mrs. Danvers is forever my favorite, of this month and many to come, but I'm sad that the succulent delights of Astor in "The Great Lie" seem to have passed you all by somewhat. I haven't seen that movie in years, but I can still hear the cadence of her dismissing Davis with "Don't miss your little train, dear." Collinge is great, but Astor is cake, and I love cake.

February is Moorehead month for me (I'm pretending other months are ever anything else); I'm looking forward to everyone underrating her in "Johnny Belinda" all over again, and to me scratching my head over why she was nominated for her execution de jambon in "Mrs. Parkington" over her film-salvaging turn in "Since You Went Away".

Performances I'd most be curious to see you write up: Lansbury in 'Gaslight' (I have a sense that you're a Lansbury agnostic?) and Robson in 'Saratoga Trunk' (sorry, but how could I not want to read that!).

Also, I'd love to know what anyone/everyone thinks of Ethel Barrymore, in general and in these four upcoming performances - one of those actresses I can never quite get behind, even as I think I can see some of what made her so effective/popular in context.

11:07 AM, January 31, 2016  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

Ah! This is the kind of actressing extravaganza that makes me want to dive in headfirst. Thanks for filling the pool. I honestly don’t think of myself as contrarian and I love the Oscars. But very few of the actual ’36 to ’42 nominees would have made my personal ballot. Agreed, there was an embarrassment of supporting actress riches for the academy to process. But I wish more of my ladies had made the final five.

MARY ASTOR “Dodsworth”
ALMA KRUGER “These Three”
GAIL PATRICK “My Man Godfrey”
FAY BAINTER “Make Way for Tomorrow”
JANE BRYAN “Confession”
BEULAH BONDI “Of Human Hearts”
JUDY GARLAND “Love Finds Andy Hardy”
PAULETTE GODDARD “The Young in Heart”
DITA PARLO “La Grande Illusion”
HATTIE McDANIEL “Gone with the Wind”
LUCILE WATSON “Made for Each Other”
JANE DARWELL “The Grapes of Wrath”
FRIEDA INESCORT “Pride and Prejudice”
GAIL PATRICK “My Favorite Wife”
GALE SONDERGAARD “The Mark of Zorro’
SPRING BYINGTON “The Devil and Miss Jones”
ISOBEL ELSOM “Ladies in Retirement”
JOAN LESLIE “High Sierra”
ANNE BAXTER “The Magnificent Ambersons”
SUSAN HAYWARD “I Married a Witch”
DIANA LYNN “The Major and the Minor”
DAME MAY WHITTY “Mrs. Miniver”

1:10 PM, January 31, 2016  
Anonymous Dave S. said...

Really enjoying following this project. There's no hope of me playing along at this point, but I'm certainly queuing things for later.

I have tried and failed to watch "Key Largo" on at least three separate occasions, but can never seem to finish it. The pacing is just so sleepy.

1:45 PM, January 31, 2016  
Anonymous Peter said...

I wish you had done a write up of Moorehead's performance. She's just epic in that movie, unbelievable. A travesty that she didn't win though that 1942 isn't a bad as I remembered.

And how the hell did Maria Ouspenskaya become the one woman to get an Oscar nomination for Dodsworth. They overlooked Chatterton and Astor for her?!

And when you start 1943, one performance that wasn't nominated to would have been my winner Patricia Collinge for Shadow of a Doubt. If anything she's even finer than in The Little Foxes in a much less showy role. She brings so much to a somewhat marginal role (though I do think the script is pretty savy in it's use of her) and her little semi-speech near the end of the movie is heartbreaking.

1:53 PM, January 31, 2016  
Anonymous Peter said...

Oh and Frances Farmer for Come and Get It would have been my choice for the first Oscar in this category. She's weirdly intriguing in that still underrated movie.

I haven't seen O'Neill but my favs in 1936-1939 are identical to your line up (you are the first person I've ever read who actively raves about Bainter. Most write-ups don't even mention her) with Hattie taking that empty fifth slot. It's not a great performance but I think that scene on the staircase with Melanie is almost uniquely upsetting to watch. She's so upset that she actually trips over a few lines and it doesn't matter. The rest is pretty much solid character to work and I actually think I prefer her in an under seen Bette Davis movie, In This Our Life, where she actually gets to address racial issues in a way she never did in anything else. Still though, that one seen in Gone With the Wind is IMO the very definition of supporting actressing on the edges.

2:08 PM, January 31, 2016  
Blogger Fritz said...

How I love to read your thougts on these performances!!!

My favorite five nominees from that era are:

- Alice Brady, My Man Godfrey
- Judith Anderson, Rebecca
- Jane Darwell, The Grapes of Wrath
- Patricia Coolige, The Little Foxes
- Agnes Moorehead, The Magnificent Ambersons

My favorite movies:
- Gone with the Wind
- Rebecca
- The Philadelphia Story
- The Grapes of Wrath
- The Little Foxes

2:16 PM, January 31, 2016  
Anonymous David said...

This is such a joy, it really is. Your Judith Anderson piece is as full of deliciousness as the performance itself.

I will try, for February, to be more vigilant in actually seeing more of the films not already ventured through. Though broaching Saratoga Trunk may take some convincing. If I can ensure I catch anything new, I'll make it Duel in the Sun.

For January's performances, I'd have to list Anderson, Darwell and Moorehead as well, and then certainly add Ruth Hussey (everyone in that film is obviously delightful but she has such sharp-eyed insouciance) and perhaps Gladys Cooper.

I definitely have to echo Ken's call for Doris Nolan in '38, and I'm a Bringing Up Baby fanboy so need to add May Robson there too. Other than that, I can only stand here and yell 'MARY ASTOR' who not only deserved that Oscar, but was even better in (of course) The Maltese Falcon and The Palm Beach Story.

I'm very intrigued to see what you make of Barrymore '44; it's a distant memory now but I recall finding her the one bright spot in a very awkward film. The Spiral Staircase is a gem but I have less recall of her there. I didn't realise quite what a fixture she was for the '40s Oscars! Also would love a write-up of either (or both!) of the Mildred Pierce ladies, who I adore.

3:56 PM, January 31, 2016  
Anonymous Matt said...

My favorite five, in alphabetical order:

Sara Allgood, "How Green Was My Valley"
Judith Anderson, "Rebecca"
Patricia Collinge, "The Little Foxes"
Agnes Moorehead," The Magnificent Ambersons"
Marjorie Rambeau, "Primrose Path"

with May Whitty in "Night Must Fall" coming in for a close sixth.

I think Ethel Barrymore is tremendous in "None but the Lonely Heart." Anne Baxter begins smartly in "The Razor's Edge," but as the character falls apart, so does the performance. Paulette Goddard's fine in her nominated role, but "Watch on the Rhine" is pretty atrocious, and Lucile Watson can't save any of it.

Gale Sondergaard, however, surprised me with that her moving monologue in "Anna and the King of Siam," and Flora Robson is quite wonderful in "Saratoga Trunk," although what the moviemakers thought they were doing is way beyond me--that film is beyond bizarre.

2:08 AM, February 03, 2016  
Blogger Fritz said...

Just read your thoughts on Katina. I actually think she is pretty great but maybe it's time for a re-watch. For me she achieved the most important aspects of the part, being a believably tender companion and a tough leader. I also think that she is a very fascinating presence, making it believable that many men have loved her despite being ugly.

Anyway, I think I still would have given my vote to Gladys Cooper that year.

9:28 AM, February 04, 2016  
Blogger Fritz said...

I wasn't a big fan of Ethel Barrymore. In fact, she is one of my least favorite winners. Too stoic to really make a connection and too self-aware most of the time even if her final scene is very touching.

4:49 AM, February 07, 2016  
Blogger NATHANIEL R said...

Where is MARCH ?????????????

7:37 PM, March 14, 2016  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

It's been up, girl! I just didn't do a separate blog entry about it. Go to either the Jan or Feb calendar pages and click the March link. Or just go here:

7:40 PM, March 14, 2016  

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