Patricia Neal: Hud (winner)
Shirley MacLaine: Irma la Douce
Natalie Wood: Love with a Proper Stranger
Leslie Caron: the L-Shaped Room
Rachel Roberts: This Sporting Life
As is often the case, there are some interesting choices in terms of the nominations and a few others that I’m rather surprised didn’t make the cut. The biggest surprise is probably Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. It’s not a role I’m convinced deserved a nomination, but I am continually surprised that she didn’t get one. Far less likely would be Constance Towers in Shock Corridor, and she was much more supporting anyway. Non-English nominations were rare at this point, so Brigitte Bardot didn’t have much of a shot for Contempt. I think I could probably make a case for Lilia Skala in Lilies of the Field. The two big misses were misses because of genre. There’s no way if this was redone today that we’d be talking about Best Actress without including Julie Harris in The Haunting and Tippi Hedren in The Birds.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Shirley MacLaine was an engaging actress in the 1960, and while she certainly proved to be crazier than a shithouse rat in later years, she was adorably attractive at this point in her career as well. And that’s kind of the problem with this nomination. It feels like MacLaine was nominated because she is frequently in a green bra and panties set in this film. MacLaine earned five acting nominations in her career. Of all of them, this is the one I find the least deserved. With the performances left unnominated, I wouldn’t put her here at all.
4. I’ve never been a huge fan of Leslie Caron, which may well be why she’s in fourth here. That said, I rather like her in The L-Shaped Room in large part because she doesn’t have to be something that she could never be for me. So many of Caron’s roles require her to be sort of the ultimate in feminine charm, and she’s just not that. Here she’s a bit more real, and I appreciated that in her. The problem that I have is that I simply like the other nominees better. While it’s a Caron role I like, she wouldn’t make my list of nominations at all.
3. We get into tougher waters as we climb up here, and deciding who should be in third place was not an easy decision for me. In truth, I might be penalizing Natalie Wood here more for the film than I am for the role and the performance. She’s absolutely the best thing in Love with a Proper Stranger and she improves the performance of Steve McQueen, who feels a bit miscast in his role. Truthfully, I’d probably keep Wood’s performance as a nomination, but she’d never get above third place for me.
2. I genuinely try not to have too many posts where I have multiple possible winners but I can’t get away from it in this case. Patricia Neal, who ultimately won this Oscar, is simply too good to not consider her one of Oscar’s worthy choices. Neal stands up to Paul Newman in Hud, and when you consider that it’s one of Newman’s best and most powerful roles, that says a great deal. There’s a sense of tragedy about her, and while she ultimately wouldn’t be my choice, I won’t be the one to take away the Oscar that she clearly earned.
1. Ultimately, I’m handing this to Rachel Roberts for a truly masterful performance in This Sporting Life. Because she is forced to work against the bombast of Richard Harris’s fence-swinging turn, Roberts gives a performance that is much more internal by design. In a world where I can name my own slate of nominees, Julie Harris is vying for this award as well. I’d be happy with her and I’m okay with Patricia Neal, but if it came down to my vote, I’m giving this to the subtle and devastating work of Rachel Roberts.