Irene Dunne: I Remember Mama
Ingrid Bergman: Joan of Arc
Jane Wyman: Johnny Belinda (winner)
Olivia de Havilland: The Snake Pit
Barbara Stanwyck: Sorry, Wrong Number
With some earlier years, I don’t have a large enough stock of movies I have watched to make a lot of suggestions. It’s at times like these that I have to depend on the comments for some additional ideas. Many of the movies I like from 1948 have substantially male casts. Eileen Herlie, who was Queen Gertrude in Hamlet would be an interesting choice. Another interesting possibility is Moira Shearer from The Red Shoes. I might also think about Maureen O’Hara from Sitting Pretty, although that movie truly belongs to Clifton Webb.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I don’t dislike Ingrid Bergman, but I didn’t like Joan of Arc very much. Honestly, every screen depiction of St. Joan has faltered after Maria Falconetti’s turn in The Passion of Joan of Arc. Much of the film feels like it’s just going through the motions and doesn’t really have much of its heart into it. Bergman does her best with it, but it’s hard to make fat guys in priest robes yelling at her very compelling.
4. I could say much the same about Irene Dunne and I Remember Mama. This is an episodic tale that follows a year in the life of a family, moving from event to event, with everything more or less centered on the titular mama, played by Dunne. It’s a very sentimental film, and it very quickly and happily slides from sentimentality into almost pure glurge that is almost as viscous as molasses. Dunne does what she can with it, and it’s not her fault this is a gloopy mess, but gloopy mess it is.
3. The biggest problems with Johnny Belinda are not the fault of Jane Wyman, who puts in a much more than game effort here, playing a woman who can’t speak. That’s rather remarkable for the age, and Wyman does a great deal of emoting with her face and other expressions, and I won’t say that the nomination was a bad one. In fact, I fully understand why she won in 1948. She wouldn’t be my choice, but I think it’s a well-deserved nomination. And, I admit I’m probably penalizing her for the movie having some large plot problems.
2. Look, Barbara Stanwyck is in our list of nominations, so the only question is going to be how high I end up putting her. I’ve never been shy of my love for Stanwyck, and her role in Sorry, Wrong Number is exactly the sort of her roles that I love best. I’ll watch her in anything, but I especially love her when she’s a little bit (or more) unsavory, and that’s absolutely who she is here. This is a devilish film, and Stanwyck is at her best. She’s been as good as she is in this film, but I don’t know that she’s ever been a lot better.
1. Olivia de Havilland made some really interesting choices in her career, and I don’t know that any were more interesting than taking the lead role in The Snake Pit. Many of her role choices were of the sort that placed her in a very non-glamorous light (like The Heiress), and that’s clearly the case here. She is brilliant in the role, and it’s not an easy one. The biggest problem the film has—the too fast an unsatisfying conclusion—are absolutely not her fault. While Wyman’s win is understandable and Stanwyck could be argued for a win, de Havilland is my choice in a walk.