Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Verdict -- Best Supporting Actress 1953

#5. Marjorie Rambeau in Torch Song: Such a waste of a nomination. In a film that's so overflowing with Joan Crawford's diva attitude, it's bizarre that such a wisp of a performance got the recognition. She's in the movie for such a brief amount of time, and doesn't do anything memorable with that time. Her mannerisms are off putting and   exaggerated, and she doesn't register on any level other than bad.

#4. Grace Kelly in Mogambo: The hardest performance for me to write about, because I just find myself completely ambivalent towards everything about Grace Kelly in Mogambo. I'll admit that she has a pretty thankless role and Clark Gable is terrible, but her inexperience doesn't help. She has moments good, bad, and in between that leads to an uneven performance. She's quite beautiful, though, and that is what I assume helped her get the nomination (along with the gossip columns).

#3. Donna Reed in From Here to Eternity: In the outstanding ensemble cast like of From Here to Eternity, Donna Reed comes off as the clear weak link. It's not that she's terrible, but rather that she is a little too average in a role that should have a lot more vivacity. She starts off strong with a clear eroticism, and descends into mediocrity, and finally ends up horribly awkward. It's tough to see an actress squander such a juicy role with a perfectly okay performance that could go much, much farther than she takes it. Not the worst winner, but perhaps one of the most disappointing in terms of potential.

#2. Geraldine Page in Hondo: The most grounded and natural performance of the bunch, Geraldine Page gives a warm and balanced performance as Angie Lowe. She's given a somewhat unbelievable romance and a ham of a romantic interest, but Page handles it all as best she could. Angie's interest in Hondo grows as each scenes goes by, which Page shows through a series of calculated lingering stares and smiles. It's those scenes where she is allowed to express her interest where Angie really shines in the film. Page's onscreen charisma and grace is on full display, and you can see where this actress could grow to be one of Oscar's favorites. Nothing extraordinary, but solid work.

#1. Thelma Ritter in Pickup on South Street: An easy winner in this weak year, Thelma Ritter's touching performance as Moe would be wonderful in any year. Her character is one that could easily fall into stereotype or gimmickry, but Thelma does an amazing job at creating a complete character that has real emotional moments and every scene is superbly calculated. Her final speech is one of the best scene I've seen in any movie, and sealed the deal for Thelma's win.

The Year in Review: The most agonizing year yet, only because so many of these performances just weren't that good. I apologize that the quality of this 'Verdict' isn't quite up to par, it's just that I haven't felt up to writing about these women for weeks now and just would like to move on. Geraldine and Thelma are proficient enough, but Grace and Marjorie really put a damper on this field. My next year is still to be determined, but I'm hoping that I'll be doing a more recent year to jolt this blog back to life.

All Supporting Actress Nominees Ranking:
  1. Patty Duke in "The Miracle Worker" (1962)
  2. Dorothy Malone in "Written on the Wind" (1956)
  3. Thelma Ritter in "Pickup on South Street" (1953)
  4. Linda Hunt in "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1983)
  5. Anna Paquin in "The Piano" (1993)
  6. Cher in "Silkwood" (1983)
  7. Eileen Heckart in "The Bad Seed" (1956)
  8. Emma Thompson in "In the Name of the Father" (1993)
  9. Patty McCormack in "The Bad Seed"(1956)
  10. Claire Trevor in "Dead End" (1937)
  11. May Whitty in "Night Must Fall" (1937)
  12. Mildred Dunnock in "Baby Doll"(1956)
  13. Angela Lansbury in "The Manchurian Candidate"(1962)
  14. Geraldine Page in "Hondo" (1953)
  15. Alfre Woodard in "Cross Creek" (1983)
  16. Anne Shirley in "Stella Dallas" (1937)
  17. Amy Irving in "Yentl"(1983)
  18. Shirley Knight in "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962)
  19. Rosie Perez in "Fearless" (1993)
  20. Donna Reed in "From Here to Eternity" (1953)
  21. Glenn Close in "The Big Chill"(1983)
  22. Alice Brady in "In Old Chicago" (1937)
  23. Mary Badham in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)
  24. Holly Hunter in "The Firm" (1993)
  25. Thelma Ritter in "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962)
  26. Winona Ryder in "The Age of Innocence" (1993)
  27. Grace Kelly in "Mogambo" (1953)
  28. Mercedes McCambridge in "Giant"(1956)
  29. Marjorie Rambeau in "Torch Song" (1953)
  30. Andrea Leeds in  "Stage Door"(1937)

Grace Kelly in Mogambo

Grace Kelly received her first Oscar nomination for her performance as Linda Nordley in John Ford's Mogambo. Of all the performances I've reviewed so far on this little endeavor of mine, Grace Kelly's in Mogambo is undoubtedly the one I've had the hardest time writing about. It's not really a statement on the quality of the performance (which was not great) or the film (which was melodramatic fun), but I can't really say what makes this performance so hard to judge. It's just an incredibly unremarkable performance that has so many awkward moments that mix with terrible acting and a few fleeting decent moments. Mogambo is essentially a love triangle between Kelly, Clark Gable, and Ava Gardner set in Africa that gives all three of them an opportunity to be lovestruck, melodramatic, and gaze deeply into someone else's eyes longingly. It's a pretty harmless film that is very old Hollywood.

Linda Nordley is perhaps the most boring character that I've had to review so far because what she essentially is a giant cliche: the reserved British woman who experiences a sexual awakening through the help of a 'wild' man. The worst aspect of the performance is Kelly's handling of the 'reserved' Linda when she first arrives at the African outpost. Her accent is absolutely dreadful, and her every move awkward and stilted. She's trying too hard to make Linda seem like an uptight shrew and instead makes her character unreal and stupid. I understand the whole purpose of her performance at this point was to be naive and transform through her 'love' with Gable, but it's just not effective because Kelly is so terrible.

It doesn't help that Clark Gable gives one of his worst performances, and is just terribly mean in this movie. To give Kelly some credit, she does manage to do a decent job at depicting the sexual tension that exists between her and Gable, particularly the first scene between them when Gable rescues her from the panther (no joke!). At the very, very least I felt a change in her character from the beginning to the end. Her performance was filled with histrionics and inexperienced acting to get to that point, but I sort of see potential in Kelly here. Her material really lets her down, as does her leading man, and it was near impossible for her to recover from that point.

This was a near-impossible evaluation for me to write, and I fully recognize this is far from my best review--Kelly just didn't inspire me to write anything meaningful about her and that's why it took me so long. The film is worth it even if just for the scene where Gable just violently throws Kelly to the ground in order to protect her from an oncoming gorilla (I couldn't find a good clip on YouTube) that made me die of laughter. 2/5 Thelmas.