Friday, October 9, 2015

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1965

The Contenders:

Samantha Eggar: The Collector
Julie Christie: Darling (winner)
Elizabeth Hartman: A Patch of Blue
Simone Signoret: Ship of Fools
Julie Andrews: The Sound of Music

What’s Missing

When I look at 1965 and the Best Actress category, I see what I think is a clear winner and filler. That doesn’t happen that often, but in this case, all of my work comes in ranking 2-5, not in the top position. If we open up the field to non-English language performances, I still have a clear winner, but things potentially get more muddled below the top rank. I’d have liked a nomination for Catherine Deneuve for Repulsion, for instance, and were she nominated, she’d rank pretty high for me. It’s worth saying that I could see a nomination for Giulietta Masina for Juliet of the Spirits even if I wouldn’t go there. Julie Christie was already nominated for Darling, which would seem to preclude her nomination for Doctor Zhivago.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: I didn’t exactly pan A Patch of Blue when I reviewed it, but I didn’t love it, either. I can see some of the arguments made in the comments of that review, but the film fell flat for me and I didn’t get a lot out of it. Elizabeth Hartman’s nomination is the one that puzzles me the most. She plays a naïve who also happens to be blind, and I think that’s what earned her the nomination. I can see this role being done a lot better by a lot of actresses of the era. It feels like Hartman was nominated for the role, not for the performance.

4: I consider myself a fan of Simone Signoret, so I don’t like putting her in fourth place in anything. But that’s where she belongs in this race. I liked Ship of Fools well enough, but I have very little memory of her specifically in the film. Mostly, I remember Lee Marvin and Vivian Leigh. It’s hard to push for a performance that leaves that little behind. Simone Signoret was a wonderful actress, and I have no doubt that she was excellent in this. But I simply don’t remember her, and that’s pretty damning.

3: I hate The Sound of Music. I really, really hate every saccharine moment, every glurge-inducing guitar chord, every second of Austrian children traipsing around in fleur-de-lis lederhosen. But I can’t honestly say that Julie Andrews didn’t deserve a nomination here. On a strictly emotional level, I’d love for that to not be the case, but it is the case. Sure, the film makes my gorge rise, but it’s simply the truth that objectively, she deserved to be on the list. She just doesn’t deserve to be any higher than third.

2: Julie Christie won this Oscar, and I think it’s fair to suggest that she won not just for Darling but also for Doctor Zhivago in the same year. She had a good year, and that’s what won her the statue. I didn’t love Darling, but I do think that Christie’s performance in it is one of the best of the year. She does a lot with expression and gesture here, and conveys a great deal of emotion without seeming to do much. I know I’ll get at least one objection from putting such an unpleasant character this high on the list, but the performance is a masterful one.

My Choice

1: For me, the clear and obvious winner is Samantha Eggar in The Collector. Eggar is forced to carry more than half of the film. She’s one of only two real characters and she’s also the character who must elicit our sympathy and concern. She does this brilliantly, and often with just a change in facial expression. We are terrified for her through the whole of the running time. Some of that is the situation she is in, but most of that is a smart and affecting performance. She makes Miranda not just sympathetic, but smart, making her even easier to root for. Eggar sells the whole performance in the first act, and everything she does afterwards we buy into completely. She got robbed.

Final Analysis

14 comments:

  1. UGH, NO!!!!! This should have been Andrews Oscar...so much so!

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    1. I cannot properly express in words, facial expression, or interpretive dance the depths of my hatred for The Sound of Music.

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    2. I guess you do not like The Sound of Music. Neither do I.
      I will be back with a proper comment in a few years.

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    3. The Collector is not on the 1001 Movies list. However, I cannot stress this enough--watch it, even if you don't put up a review. Seriously.

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  2. Samantha Eggar is an terrific pick, though she wouldn't be mine. I'm in the same position with her as you are with Signoret as far as remembering her performance in The Collector. Eggar could be a strong actress and I remember being impressed with her at the time I saw the picture but she didn't stay with me. Perhaps it was my distaste for the film, it was extremely well made but it was an unsettling and unpleasant experience.

    Of the actual nominees I agree with putting Elizabeth Hartman last. I didn't like A Patch of Blue in the least but that isn't necessary to find a performance worthy, for instance I didn't care much for A Woman Under the Influence but I thought Gena Rowland's performance was one of the greatest I'd ever seen, but your right about the part getting the nomination not Hartman's work.

    I'm certainly not as adverse to Sound of Music as you, I don't adore it but I find it enjoyable however the performance that always registered with me is Eleanor Parker's wry reading of the Baroness, and Maria is geared to Julie's strengths still I would have rather seen her score a nomination for The Americanization of Emily than either of the two she did receive them for.

    I loved Simone Signoret's work in Ship of Fools, La Condesa shares certain aspects with Alice Aisgell but she plays her beautifully and I was very moved by her. For the actresses in the running I wouldn't have minded seeing her win.

    I'm somewhat prejudiced because Julie Christie is my favorite living actress and I'm thankful she has at least one Oscar, though she should have more, and I think it's her radiance that makes a ruthless grabber like Diana Scott palatable, and there's no question Zhivago gave her an edge in the race, but I wouldn't have been upset if she hadn't won for this if other performances had been in the running. As it stands though she would still be my choice.

    Now as to who should have been competing, my ballot would be:
    Julie Christie-Darling
    Bette Davis-The Nanny
    Catherine Deneuve-Repulsion-Winner
    Lee Remick-Baby the Rain Must Fall
    Simone Signoret-Ship of Fools

    The Nanny is the last really strong theatrical role Davis had and she does wonders with it but it was marketed as a movie in the Baby Jane vein and that killed it both for award honors and with audiences once they found out it wasn't similar to that film. Lee Remick's delicate work as the desperately hopeful wife of a man who will always let her down is one of my favorites of that terribly under appreciated actress's performances.

    I more or less hated Repulsion but Catherine Deneuve's work in it blew everyone else out of the water this year. I don't find it hard to understand how she was ignored, what is basically a horror movie-even one directed by someone as respected as Polanski was at the time-would stand little chance of being acknowledged against more mainstream fare. In a way its somewhat surprising that Eggar, who would be my sixth place pick, made the grade in the super dark chiller that is The Collector.

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    1. Aside from Terrance Stamp, who is tremendous in The Collector, the entire movie (for me) turns on Samantha Eggar's reaction when she wakes up in her room/prison and slowly discovers the various amenities, like a closet filled with clothing that fits her. The slow revelation of exactly what has happened and the sort of person who has kidnapped her is one of my favorite moments of that year's films. The horror builds in stages, and she communicates this all with her face. It is an unpleasant film, but that ending is really something, particularly for the time in which the film was made.

      I should probably give Ship of Fools another watch. I remember liking the film more than I thought I would, but Signoret, who is normally someone I love watching, is a complete blank for me.

      I haven't seen The Nanny or Baby the Rain Must Fall so I can't comment on them. One of the things I like most about these weekly posts is hearing from other people about performances they would nominate--especially in cases like this when those performances are ones I don't know.

      I agree on Deneuve and Repulsion as well. I can't say I liked the movie a lot and it's not one I've been itching to revisit. But she is stellar in it, and she'd probably end up as my second pick in a broader field. Of any performance I know from this year, she's the one I'd want nominated, replacing Elizabeth Hartman.

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  3. Wow, for a relatively old year I haven't seen ANY of the nominees other than Sound of Music. It's a lean year for me in general. Two performances that might deserve mentions, if not nominations, were Claire Bloom in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Hana Brejchova in The Loves of a Blonde. Would highly recommend the latter movie if you haven't seen it.

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    1. For me, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is all about Richard Burton. I haven't seen The Loves of a Blonde, so I can't comment.

      And you should go find The Collector very soon.

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  4. I haven't seen the performances from your #1 or #5 so I can't comment on them. I can't remember much of Signoret from Ship of Fools, either. I hated Christie's character in Darling. Had she been nominated for Dr. Zhivago I might go with her. So by process of elimination I'd have to go with Julie Andrews.

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    1. Go find The Collector and watch it.

      I get the Julie Andrews love. I do think that Julie Christie's performance was a great one, even if the character is so repugnant.

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  5. Remember your dislike for The Sound of Music, I think Andrews is my winner right now. Agree Catherine Deneuve deserved a nomination for Repulsion, she carried that film ans would be my runner up. The Collector wasn't as memorable to me as it was to you, I should rewatch it!

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    1. I freely admit that The Collector is right in the wheelhouse of my sensibilities. It was more or less designed to be a film that I loved. Your mileage very much may vary.

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  6. Wait, so you don't like the Sound of Music? I'd have never guessed.

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    1. Were I prone to using emoticons or emoji, this would be the perfect place for one.

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