Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Verdict -- Best Supporting Actress 1942

#5. Susan Peters in Random Harvest: Susan Peters delivers a star making performance, receiving this nomination as a vote of confidence from the Academy for her future career. Unfortunately, we never did get to see if she had the staying power to become one of the greats so instead this feels like a sad nomination. Still, this is a perfectly lovely performance in a very underwritten, one dimensional role and Peters acts it with a youthful energy and innocence that is perfect for the character. She gets points for elevating herself beyond the role, and that final scene is a fantastic one but it's not enough to fully justify this nomination. Still good, just not quite on an Oscar nomination level.

#4. Gladys Cooper in Now, Voyager: As Bette Davis's stern mother Mrs. Vale, Gladys Cooper has a wonderful presence in her film. After only a brief scenes her cold-hearted mother figure leaves a nasty cloud hanging over the rest of the film and Davis' Charlotte in particularly. However, those hints of a truly heartless mother figure are never really explored in the film, and though Cooper fights valiantly to humanize Mrs. Vale, the film just doesn't seem quite as interested in her. It's a stock part done very, very well but remains unfortunately lifeless and one-note.

#3. Teresa Wright in Mrs. Miniver: It's very difficult to achieve the level of serenity and lovability Teresa Wright achieves in the role of Carol Beldon, a normal and good-hearted young woman. It's a performance grounded in reality and carefully modulated to avoid melodrama or theatricality. Wright plays Carol with such subtle grace and steadfast emotions that you fall in love with her right alongside the Miniver family. Carol is a very simple character, but it's through Wright's wonderfully simple performance that she becomes the emotional core of her film and a lovely presence on screen.

#2. Agnes Moorehead in The Magnificent Ambersons: Undoubtedly the most complex and confounding performance of this bunch, Moorehead is in a different league than her competitors in a lot of ways. She's got the most interesting director and film backing her, and delivers a performance of near-operatic levels but somehow makes it (mostly) work. Fanny's deep, deep dissatisfaction with her life is so potent in Moorehead's hands, and every minute of her screen time is spent pouring that dissatisfaction onto the screen. She leaves a strong impact and is so fascinating to watch as the shrill Aunt Fanny.

#1. May Whitty in Mrs. Miniver: Though Agnes Moorehead's performance is clearly much more ambitious, I have to go with Dame May Whitty on sheer emotional impact. At first this part seems like a completely cliched one, with Whitty doling out wisecracks wonderfully and being adorably cantankerous. But the genius comes when she flips the performance on it's head with a series of emotional moments that are tragically nostalgic and impactful. Whitty toys with the expectations placed on these types of Maggie Smith-type characters and rises high above them. Deserves an Oscar nomination just for making me cry at a damn flower contest.

The Year in Review: Though the scores don't add up to as high as some of my other banner years, I truly liked all five of these performances on different levels and really enjoyed doing this vintage year. Peters and Cooper both deliver admirable performances trapped by the limitations of their parts, and even Teresa Wright suffers a bit from the same affliction, in her case the slightly one-note role of Carol Beldon. It's clear to see why Wright won the Oscar, she's absolutely luminous, tragic, and winning in Mrs. Miniver, clearly an Oscar favorite. Whitty and Moorehead could not give more opposite performances, but both are great in different ways and worthy choices in this solid year for Best Supporting Actress. I always love seeing a field with no truly bad performances. Up next is a year from one of the three full decades in which I have only reviewed one year (60s, 70s, 00s), but don't expect it too soon since I'm sticking with the method of reviewing all nominees before posting even the intro post.

Worthy Non-Contenders:
Anne Baxter in The Magnificent Ambersons

Every Supporting Actress Nominee Ranked:
  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. Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Chicago" (2002)
  5. Linda Hunt in "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1983)
  6. Anna Paquin in "The Piano" (1993)
  7. Meryl Streep in "Adaptation." (2002)
  8. Cher in "Silkwood" (1983)
  9. Eileen Heckart in "The Bad Seed" (1956)
  10. Emma Thompson in "In the Name of the Father" (1993)
  11. Julianne Moore in "Boogie Nights" (1997) 
  12. Ellen Burstyn in "The Last Picture Show" (1971)
  13. Oprah Winfrey in "The Color Purple" (1985)
  14. May Whitty in "Mrs. Miniver" (1942)
  15. Patty McCormack in "The Bad Seed" (1956)
  16. Claire Trevor in "Dead End" (1937)
  17. Agnes Moorehead in "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942)
  18. May Whitty in "Night Must Fall" (1937)
  19. Margaret Avery in "The Color Purple" (1985)
  20. Mildred Dunnock in "Baby Doll" (1956)
  21. Julianne Moore in "The Hours" (2002)
  22. Kathy Bates in "About Schmidt" (2002)
  23. Angela Lansbury in "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)
  24. Ethel Waters in "Pinky" (1949)
  25. Amy Madigan in "Twice in a Lifetime" (1985)
  26. Meg Tilly in "Agnes of God" (1985)
  27. Teresa Wright in "Mrs. Miniver" (1942)
  28. Gloria Stuart in "Titanic" (1997)
  29. Alfre Woodard in "Cross Creek" (1983)
  30. Barbara Harris in "Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" (1971)
  31. Geraldine Page in "Hondo" (1953)
  32. Anne Shirley in "Stella Dallas" (1937)
  33. Amy Irving in "Yentl" (1983)
  34. Kim Basinger in "L.A. Confidential" (1997)
  35. Shirley Knight in "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1962)
  36. Cloris Leachman in "The Last Picture Show" (1971)
  37. Margaret Leighton in "The Go-Between" (1971)
  38. Rosie Perez in "Fearless" (1993)
  39. Mercedes McCambridge in "All the King's Men" (1949)
  40. Joan Cusack in "In & Out" (1997)
  41. Anjelica Huston in "Prizzi's Honor" (1985)
  42. Ann-Margret in "Carnal Knowledge" (1971)
  43. Gladys Cooper in "Now, Voyager" (1942)
  44. Donna Reed in "From Here to Eternity" (1953)
  45. Glenn Close in "The Big Chill" (1983)
  46. Susan Peters in "Random Harvest" (1942)
  47. Alice Brady in "In Old Chicago" (1937)
  48. Mary Badham in "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962) 
  49. Holly Hunter in "The Firm" (1993)
  50. Queen Latifah in "Chicago" (2002)
  51. Celeste Holm in "Come to the Stable" (1949)
  52. Ethel Barrymore in "Pinky" (1949)
  53. Minnie Driver in "Good Will Hunting" (1997)
  54. Thelma Ritter in "Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962) 
  55. Winona Ryder in "The Age of Innocence" (1993)
  56. Grace Kelly in "Mogambo" (1953)
  57. Mercedes McCambridge in "Giant" (1956)
  58. Marjorie Rambeau in "Torch Song" (1953) 
  59. Elsa Lanchester in "Come to the Stable" (1949)
  60. Andrea Leeds in  "Stage Door" (1937)

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