Shirley Booth: Come Back, Little Sheba
Julie Harris: The Member of the Wedding
Bette Davis: The Star
Joan Crawford: Sudden Fear
Susan Hayward: With a Song in My Heart
Can I just erase the entire slate of nominees and replace it with my own? I really want to. Looking at the five nominees, I’m entirely unimpressed and I can easily make an entirely new slate that is so much better. Even considering Grace Kelly as supporting in High Noon, I have a full slate of nominees I like better than the actual list (so yes, I’m giving up the ending here). Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful is worth discussing, as is Katharine Hepburn in Pat and Mike, even though I don’t like the film that much. I dislike Mary Kate in The Quiet Man, but I won’t take anything away from Maureen O’Hara’s performance. I’d have loved to have seen Jean Simmons mentioned for Angel Face. But really, the head scratcher for me is Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I genuinely disliked almost everything about The Member of the Wedding with the exception of the delightful Ethel Waters. I like Julie Harris just fine as an actress, and would happily argue for her for films like The Haunting. In The Member of the Wedding, I can’t get beyond the fact that she’s 27 playing 12. She’s so wildly miscast that I can’t honestly see anything other than the fact that she is so wildly miscast. I honestly don’t know how good her performance is because this shouldn’t be her role.
4. I like Susan Hayward, and I love when an actor plays violently against type. So why is bad girl portrayer Hayward in fourth place in the inspirational With a Song in My Heart? A big part of that is the movie, which is very drippy. A bigger part is that this is a case where Hayward was much better served staying in the sorts of roles that really worked for her. She’s the best part of the movie, but honestly, that’s not saying a great deal with this movie. This is not required viewing, and I’ll never sit down with it again. Hayward is good, even the best part of the film, but that's it.
3. I love me some Bette Davis, so I’m not a fan of putting her in third place, but that’s where The Star belongs in my opinion. The issue I have here is that The Star feels like little more than a rehashed version of Sunset Boulevard. This doesn’t make this a bad film, but it does mean that it all feels like I’ve been here before with it. And while Bette Davis was who she was, no one is going to outdo Gloria Swanson for that sort of role. Even Davis is going to be second-best in that competition.
2. I don’t have a great deal of memory of Come Back, Little Sheba, except for a couple of things. The first is that I didn’t really buy the age difference between Burt Lancaster and Shirley Booth. The second is that Shirley Booth, while desperately annoying through this film, was absolutely the best part of it. I can see how she would have won in this year—she’s a bit of a dark horse against Davis and Crawford, and that makes a good performance that much more attractive to a certain brand of voter. But she’s not where I would place my vote, even if I understand why she won.
1. Say what you will about Joan Crawford, but the woman could be compelling on the screen like almost no one else. When she’s the person who is being put in peril, be it physical or emotional, few people could be better. That’s exactly where we are with Sudden Fear. While the ending of this film ends up being far too much of a coincidence to really be bought, Crawford is great as the woman in danger who, rather than running about and fainting, decides to fight back. In an open field, she might barely earn a nomination from me, but given the five nominations, she’s where I’m putting my vote.
I’d pretty much take anyone in my list over the five nominees, but my heart belongs to Debbie Reynolds even as some of the rest of me belongs to Jean Simmons. What the hell was the Academy thinking this year?