Friday, January 15, 2016

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1967

The Contenders:

Faye Dunaway: Bonnie and Clyde
Anne Bancroft: The Graduate
Katharine Hepburn: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (winner)
Audrey Hepburn: Wait Until Dark
Edith Evans: The Whisperers

What’s Missing

There are plenty of excellent actress performances in 1967, and like many a year and set of nominations, what we have could use some pruning. Marina Vlady in Two or Three Things I Know about Her would have been an interesting choice, but Godard may simply have been too outré for the Academy in 1967. Catherine Deneuve’s performance in Belle de Jour is the biggest miss in my opinion. The other performances I’d like to mention here would have been much more likely as Supporting nominations: Angie Dickinson in Point Blank is the one that most quickly leaps to mind.

Weeding through the Nominees

5: For the second week in a row, I’m dumping the winner first. I have a great deal of love for the work and career of Katharine Hepburn, but not nearly as much for her work in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. This was hardly a gift nomination or even a gift win—she won the following year and again more than a decade later. It feels to me more that this was a win for the subject matter of the film than for Hepburn, though. She won because the film was daring for its time, but daring in a way Hollywood approved of.

4: I like Anne Bancroft, too. While I complained above that the Academy may have rewarded Hepburn’s role more than Hepburn, I’m about to do the reverse here. I’m penalizing Anne Bancroft more than I should because I really dislike The Graduate a lot. Am I penalizing the role more than the actor here? Almost certainly, and that might well seem hypocritical. Tough. I’m just a guy sitting in his living room at the moment, not the Academy. I’m allowed to have petty vengeance on a movie I don’t like.

3: Wait Until Dark is a film I genuinely like, and I like Audrey Hepburn in it. This is the sort of film that doesn’t typically draw a nomination, and so I appreciate the nomination even more. In this case, what keeps Audrey Hepburn from the top is my own personal question about my reaction to the film. How much of my reaction to this film comes from my buy-in to Hepburn’s character and how much of it comes from the fact that I really like Audrey Hepburn? That, and Alan Arkin is the real reason to see it.

2: I was unfamiliar with Edith Evans when I saw The Whisperers and I still don’t know that much about her career. This is a very dark and upsetting film, and most of where that comes from is Evans’s performance. It’s not a film I’d relish watching again any time soon but if I did watch it again, it would be for Evans. It’s not often that someone so completely takes over a role, and Edith Evans was the real deal here.

My Choices

1: I’m going with Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. As befits almost everything I’ve done for this particular year and this particular award, I may well be awarding the movie more than Dunaway. Still, it takes a special talent to play someone who is some completely willing to commit any crime she wants for nothing more than sport and excitement and still be someone we root for. The proof that Dunaway pulled this off is evidenced by the audience’s reaction to what happens at the end. I’m giving it to her.

Final Analysis


  1. Finding myself weirdly fascinated by Catherine Deneuve's ribcage.

  2. This year is loaded with worthy work but I don’t think most of it ended up in the running. My winner would also be Dunaway, she is so raw and vivid in B&C she makes Bonnie Parker compellingly dangerous despite the glamour treatment the script puts the pair though. But that is where I begin and end in agreement with the academy’s choices.

    I like and respect Kate Hepburn but this performance while perfectly respectable is nowhere near Oscar level. I think her win was a combo of subject matter and sentimentality, everyone knew she had nursed Spencer Tracy through his last day plus before this film she hadn’t worked in five years, the thinking was that she was wrapping up her career-so this was partial career acknowledgment. Who knew she’d come roaring back the next year with a truly deserving performance.

    Audrey Hepburn would be in my list of nominees but for Two for the Road. I think she’s terrific in Wait Until Dark, though I’ve always been a bit puzzled why Lee Remick-who played it on Broadway and was a big movie star at the time-didn’t recreate the role in the film, but Audrey’s work in TFTR is more complex.

    I like The Graduate much more than you and I think Anne Bancroft gives an Oscar winning performance, in Supporting Actress. She’s a large and fierce presence whenever she shows up but she disappears for large swatches of the film. The film is Benjamin’s story and everything that surrounds him props that up.

    I would take a great deal to get me to watch the grindingly sad The Whisperers again but if I did like you it would be for Edith Evans work. She’s haunting and so very different from her usual somewhat dotty, regal and imperious Grande Dame.

    Now for who should have been in the running. Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour absolutely deserved to be there but even though foreign language nominations were becoming more commonplace at that point it was still rare. I also thought Simone Signoret was marvelous in Games, far better than the picture the performance was in. One of my favorite performances of the year is Sandy Dennis in Up the Down Staircase. I think it’s the finest performance of her career, playing to her strengths while keeping her tendency towards twitchy excess to a minimum, I’m not a fan of her work in Virginia Woolf at all. I’m unfamiliar with Marina Vlady or her film.

    Faye would still be my winner but it could have been a stronger lineup.

    1. Dunaway would win for me regardless of lineup as well. I think I might agree with you on Bancroft's performance being more Supporting as well, but since I'm not a fan of the film, I'm not planning on revisiting it to confirm that notion. I think it's a film I saw too late in life to really appreciate it the way it should be appreciated.

      I haven't seen Games or Up the Down Staircase, although both are probably worth my time, no? I'm particularly interested in Games because I really like Simone Signoret.

      I think in my dream nomination list, Deneuve probably comes in second. It's a hell of a fine performance.

    2. Games is an okay film, not a lost gem or anything but entertaining. James Caan and Katharine Ross do good work in it but it's main value is Signoret's performance.

      Up the Down Staircase on the other hand is a very good film in addition to Sandy Dennis's excellent performance loaded with great character actors, Eileen Heckart, Jean Stapleton, Sorrell Booke etc., and strongly directed by Robert Mulligan. I actually got more out of it the second time I watched it.

    3. See, knowing that Games also has James Caan in it just makes me want to watch it more.

      I'm adding both to my "you should get to this" list.

  3. I haven't seen The Whisperers. Among the other four I'd jettison Bancroft both because I don't like the film and that I agree with the comment that said it was really a Supporting role anyway. I'd probably go with Audrey Hepburn for convincingly playing blind without cheating by wearing dark glasses over her eyes. It's tough to not focus on anything, especially when you are trying to interact and have done it by instinct your whole life.

    And I agree Deneuve definitely should have been nominated.

    On a separate note, are you going to start doing these posts more often? I remember you writing at one point that you were thinking you'd be done seeing the nominees by the end of 2017. Let's call it 100 more weeks of Oscar posts at this point. There are several hundred category/year combinations to write about what should have won, though.

    1. Man, you really like to jump the gun on my plans. I'll say that yes, eventually I'll up the frequency of the Oscar posts. However, once I'm reasonably done with my Oscar lists, I've got a few other potential lists that I can go through.

      Audrey Hepburn is someone I'm happy to see nominated, so I can't really disagree with wanting her to win.

  4. This is another of those years with plenty of good movies but only a few with women in prominent roles. Of those Belle de Jour sticks out as the one where Deneuve is the undisputable lead. As she is also outstanding in this role I would give the Oscar to her.
    Limited to the nominees I agree on placing Dunaway on the top spot.

    1. I wouldn't disagree terribly with Deneuve for the win. I'd still go with Dunaway, but Deneuve would absolutely get a nomination in my world.