Diana Wynyard: Cavalcade
May Robson: Lady for a Day
Katharine Hepburn: Morning Glory (winner)
I’m going to make at least a part of the conclusion of this Oscar post not a mystery. I don’t really like any of the three nominations that we got here. There are other possibilities that, while less “serious” in terms of the ultimate film, are so much better than the three nominations we got. We can start with Jeanette MacDonald in Love Me Tonight, which was surprisingly charming, and was so in no small part because of her solid comic timing. Joan Blondell had a good year in 1933 with both Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1933. I could say the exact same thing about Ruby Keeler. Even back in 1933, movies like King Kong didn’t get much Oscar love, which probably kept Fay Wray out of the running. It might be the themes of The Bitter Tea of General Yen that got Barbara Stanwyck overlooked. I have no such possible reason for the exclusion of Greta Garbo in Queen Christina.
Weeding through the Nominees
3. For whatever reason, 1933 was Cavalcade’s year. That’s the only reason I can think of that got a nomination for Diana Wynyard. Her role in Cavalcade seems to be standing in a posh room and talking about what is going on elsewhere in the world. It comes across as not merely staged, but as literally a stage production. It’s not improved by the fact that Wynyard is so stiff that she appears to have been starched. Perhaps it was necessary to nominate someone for an acting award for a movie that would win Best Picture. I don’t really know.
2. I’m not entirely sure how Kate Hepburn managed a nomination for Morning Glory, but I imagine in came from the third act when the movie gets quite a bit darker. Before this, Hepburn’s performance is a snapshot of what I tend to dislike about so many of her early roles. She’s so clearly swinging for the fences in everything she does, so she comes across as caricature. While she’s better at the end of the film because she’s reined in, I do not understand how she earned a nomination, let alone won an Oscar for this.
1. This makes May Robson the winner by process of elimination based on the nominations. Robson is fine in Lady for a Day, but there are some issues I have with the nomination. One is that there are huge chunks of the film without her in it. She’s clearly the central figure (the woman who is turned into a lady for a day), but in many parts, she’s secondary. A bigger issue for me is that the film blends both drama and comedy—except May Robson doesn’t. She takes no part in the comedy. It feels sometimes like she’s in a different movie.
If I could, I’d rewrite the entire slate of nominations here, but the only person I’d talk about winning would be Garbo. Oh, I’d be happy to discuss both Ruby Keeler and Joan Blondell. I’d be happy to smile and nod about Jeanette MacDonald and Fay Wray. I’d even be pleased to nominate my Golden Age of Hollywood girlfriend Barbara Stanwyck. But only Garbo really deserves to be talked about as Best Actress for 1933.