Friday, August 18, 2017

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1971

The Contenders:

Jane Fonda: Klute (winner)
Vanessa Redgrave: Mary, Queen of Scots
Julie Christie: McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Janet Suzman: Nicholas and Alexandra
Glenda Jackson: Sunday Bloody Sunday

What’s Missing

I can’t say this is a category I’m looking forward to addressing. I’m not overly thrilled by most of the nominations. First, I think Vanessa Redgrave should have been nominated for The Devils rather than Mary, Queen of Scots. At the same time, I’d have rather seen Glenda Jackson nominated for Mary, Queen of Scots. I found Wanda to be a lot less than I’d hoped and it was a bit too grindhouse-y for serious Oscar contention, but Barbara Loden might have deserved some recognition. I think I can make a case for Jennifer O’Neill in Summer of ‘42. I’d be tempted to toss in Liv Ullman and The Emigrants, but she got her nomination the following year. We can add Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me, and I think I can make a case for her in a lead role. Kids don’t get a lot of nominations, but Jenny Agutter in Walkabout probably could have. Finally, I’d add Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude

Weeding through the Nominees

5. Where to start? Well, we can start based on these nominations with Vanessa Redgrave and Mary, Queen of Scots. Had she been nominated for The Devils, she wouldn’t be in fifth place. My issue with her nomination here is that she can’t command the scenes she shares with Glenda Jackson, who absolutely dominates the film. So far, it’s my favorite of Jackson’s performances, and based on that, there’s no reason that Redgrave should be in the running for this award for this performance.

4. Janet Suzman is going next with Nicholas and Alexandra specifically because of the performance itself. I think it’s a good one, but I don’t think it’s a great one, and I can’t convince myself that it’s a great one. That Suzman was nominated doesn’t really surprise me, given the scope of the film and the other nominations it received. However, she shouldn’t be here over the many more deserving performances that were ignored. There were better options for Oscar, big, blustery epic notwithstanding.

3. Had Glenda Jackson been nominated for Mary, Queen of Scots, she would contend for me, but she wasn’t. Instead, she was nominated for Sunday Bloody Sunday where she is the third most interesting character behind those played by Peter Finch and Murray Head. Again, that’s a problem for me. Anyone who wants to seriously contend for a “Best ______” Oscar should be the most magnetic person on the screen in the film. Jackson isn’t in this film, but her turn as Queen Elizabeth in Mary, Queen of Scots shows that she had that in her.

2. So what do I say about Julie Christie in McCabe & Mrs. Miller? That she’s better in the role than the three actresses listed previously in their roles? Okay, I don’t have a problem saying that. The problem is that while I remember liking the movie well enough, I also don’t have a great deal of memory of the movie, and very little memory of Julie Christie herself in one of the two titular roles. That’s a problem. I should probably rewatch it, but what I really remember of the movie is that I wanted a shower when it was done, so maybe not.

1. Jane Fonda’s performance in Klute is the first of the five where I think I can make an argument for her being here. She might not make my final list of five for this category and year, but she might, and none of the previous would. Fonda was capable of turning in a good performance, and it’s entirely possible that she was given this Oscar for what is a very good performance and for her not winning a few years earlier for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? In that respect, I think Oscar gave the statue to the right nominated person, but they didn’t nominate too well.

My Choice

Honestly, I’d pick most of my suggestions from the first paragraph over the five we have. Gun to head, I think my list would run Glenda Jackson in Mary, Queen of Scots, Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude, Jennifer O’Neill in Summer of ‘42, and Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me, and either Fonda in Klute or Redgrave in The Devils. I think my winner might be Jennifer O’Neill, but I could be persuaded to pick either Jackson or Gordon. Any of those three would be a better choice than the five we got.

Final Analysis


  1. I agree with your choice of winner but not with your qualifier. To me Jane Fonda gave the absolutely best performance of the year, deep and incisive.

    I thought Glenda was excellent in Sunday but I wouldn't have minded seeing her up for Mary, Queen of Scots. I love Julie Christie but I didn't like McCabe & Mrs. Miller and wasn't that blown away by this particular performance of hers. I've yet to see The Devils, it seems nearly impossible to find but I've heard Vanessa Redgrave is extraordinary in it and I'm with you on her in Mary, Queen of Scots though I think it's more the fault of the character than her playing of her that she recedes when other performers are on screen. The same goes for Janet Suzman in Nicolas and Alexandra, but with that film the direction was also at fault setting much too glacial of a pace.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the suggestion of Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me but can't say I'm surprised she wasn't nominated for what I'm sure was seen as a genre film at the time. The only other name I'd put forth would be Tuesday Weld in A Safe Place. She's extraordinary but the film is a confused mess so even though she won critical acclaim for it at the time I can see how she also missed out on a nomination.

    1. I should probably rewatch Klute except that I don't remember thinking it was fantastic other than Fonda being the best part of it. I don't really object to her win at all, although I really think her best performance was in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?.

      Jessica Walter really does bring it, doesn't she?

    2. I'd agree that Horses is Jane's best performance but Klute is right up there next to it along with The China Syndrome, The Morning After and Barefoot in the Park.

      And yes Jessica Walter totally commits to that crazy dame.

  2. I'd have nominated Gordon and then voted for her!

    1. I'm okay with that. Part of me wonders how much of what I love comes from her and how much comes from the script, but she really is great.

  3. Yeah, I'm all about some Ruth Gordon this year. However, I have to admit being at a disadvantage since I haven't seen any of the other nominees.

    1. Klute is definitely worth seeing, as is McCabe & Mrs. Miller. I didn't love Mary, Queen of Scots, but it's my favorite Glenda Jackson performance so far--she's absolutely commanding.

      If you can find The Devils, I think you'd love it. Same for Play Misty for Me, although it's much easier to find.