Susan Hayward: I’ll Cry Tomorrow
Eleanor Parker: Interrupted Melody
Jennifer Jones: Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
Anna Magnani: The Rose Tattoo (winner)
Katharine Hepburn: Summertime
1955 is an odd year for Best Actress. I recognize the names of all five of the actresses and I like four of them well enough, but I disliked all of these movies either somewhat or completely. My highest rating for any of these on Letterboxd is 2 ½ stars. That’s not going to bode well for a winner I can stand behind with anything like authority. My love of Natalie Wood makes me want to suggest her in Rebel Without a Cause even if I think that’s more of a supporting role. I like Jean Simmons well enough, so I thought of Guys and Dolls…but I hate Guys and Dolls and I especially hate her role in it. Jane Wyman was nominated the previous year for the syrupy and dumb Magnificent Obsession when she would have been much more appropriately nominated for All that Heaven Allows. I’d give Doris Day some consideration for Love Me or Leave Me. But my heart in 1955 will belong to both Vera Clouzot and especially the great Simone Signoret for Les Diaboliques.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I said above that I like four of the actresses. I have never been shy in my dislike of Jennifer Jones. Jones was a supremely beautiful woman and a supremely talentless actress. The woman had a plank for an acting coach. She’s never been compelling in a role for me. The minute she opens her mouth, I don’t care. Add in the fact that this is a whitewashed role and that she lacks any chemistry with William Holden, and I spent most of this film wondering when it would end and why it was so long. She doesn’t belong here, and I question whether or not she ever did.
4. The only reason Eleanor Parker isn’t in fifth place here is the fact that I genuinely think that Jennifer Jones was a terrible actress. Parker was not a terrible actress, but if you only had Interrupted Melody to go on, you wouldn’t know that. Parker plays this role as if she is a girl just finishing puberty. Everything is either the height of wonderfulness or the bottom pit of despair. This film is at its worst when she’s not on stage singing. Even the person it was based on was disappointed in it.
3. I like Kate Hepburn well enough, but I didn’t think a great deal of Summertime. The main reason for this is that it wasn’t really made for me. This is a film made primarily for lonely women wanting a little romantic fantasy (unmarried middle-aged woman getting romanced in Venice) and secondarily for people who were interested in the travelogue aspects of the film. I’m neither of those things, and so Summertime felt entirely flat to me. Hepburn is fine, but given the people left out, I’m still not nominating her.
2. Susan Hayward is an actress I like very much, and I like the fact that she often plays women on the more dangerous end of the social spectrum. In I’ll Cry Tomorrow, she seems to be dancing to the same tune that earned her a nomination for Smash-Up, The Story of a Woman roughly a decade earlier. I like Hayward, but of her nominated roles across her Oscar history, I think this is my least favorite. That she’s still managed to end up in second place for me says more than anything else I can think of for this year.
1. What this means is that based on the five nominations, I end up agreeing with the Academy in giving the Oscar to Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo. I do genuinely think that her performance is the best of the nominations, although I didn’t love the movie. She was very much the best part of a film that got more and more depressing and weirder and sadder as it went on. So, while I liked the film less and less as it went on, I found Anna Magnani to be worth watching. This isn’t much of an endorsement, and it’s not where I’d go in an open field.
In an open field, I’d probably keep Anna Magnani. I’d definitely want Doris Day here, though, and Jane Wyman as well, and both would likely rank higher for me. But really, my vote could only go to the great Simone Signoret, who was one of the greats of her generation regardless of the role. And in Les Diaboliques, she is wonderfully wicked. She’d be my winner, and I stand by this even though it might be argued that she’s more supporting than lead.