Irene Dunne: The Awful Truth
Greta Garbo: Camille
Luise Rainer: The Good Earth (winner)
Janet Gaynor: A Star is Born
Barbara Stanwyck: Stella Dallas
I have to say, I think the Academy did pretty well this year. As I went through the films from 1937 that I’ve seen, I think most of the nominations I would put forth are the nomations that are already here. If I needed to add anyone, Katherine Hepburn for Stage Door is probably the add. That said, I like Ginger Rogers and Lucille Ball more. Still, that’s an addition I’d be fine with, and the closest thing to a snub I can find.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Putting Garbo at the bottom here says less about Greta Garbo than it does about the fairly repellent Camille. I had nothing good to say about this movie when I watched it and nothing good to say about it now. I don’t doubt that Garbo did everything she was asked to do by her director, but in this case, she was led astray. The character is annoying and I felt nothing when she met her fate at the end. I even like Garbo in most roles…just not this one.
4. While fifth place was easy, fourth place was a lot harder. Ultimately, I’m sticking Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth here more for the film than for her as well. It’s hard not to like Irene Dunne or her obvious chemistry with Cary Grant, but the film is complete fluff. These aren’t interesting characters or people worth spending time with. I like what Dunne did with a character who has (if I may refer to my review) the emotional depth of a saucer, but it’s not enough to move her above fourth place.
3: Had I been voting in 1938, I’d probably rank Janet Gaynor higher than third. I think she does a lot with her role in A Star is Born. The problem here is that I’m looking at this in 2015 having seen the remake with Judy Garland and realizing that Garland handled the part even better than Gaynor did. I have no complaints about her, save that I like the other two performances better. I think an argument could be made for her, but I’m not the person to do it. That’s what the comments are for.
2: Luise Rainer won this award, and I’m not completely convinced that she was the wrong pick. She doesn’t have a great deal of dialogue in The Good Earth; it’s much more Paul Muni’s movie in that respect. However, Rainer is the heart of the film, the emotional core of the story that we are told, and she handles this with a quiet dignity that stands out. She embodies the philosophy of her character perfectly, and it’s probably the best performance of her career. Again, it’s just not my favorite.