Ingrid Bergman: Anastasia (winner)
Carroll Baker: Baby Doll
Nancy Kelly: The Bad Seed
Deborah Kerr: The King and I
Katharine Hepburn: The Rainmaker
For Best Actress, 1956 is the sort of year that doesn’t have a great deal of great actress performances in terms of what I have seen. I don’t love all of the nominees, but I also don’t have a lot of suggestions for replacements, at least in terms of performances that would legitimately be nominated. As much as I’d love to for science fiction to get love from the Academy, Dana Wynter was never going to get recognized for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I can say exactly the same thing about Anne Francis in Forbidden Planet. Lauren Bacall in Written on the Wind was a possibility, though. I’d also suggest Barbara Rush in Bigger than Life even though that film is all about James Mason.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I seem to put Kate Hepburn toward the bottom of the list pretty often, and for The Rainmaker, a lot of the fault isn’t hers. The biggest problem is that she is terribly miscast in a movie that isn’t really that good. Hepburn is supposed to be a plain-Jane 30-ish woman. She was a lot closer to 50 in this case and, say what you will, she’d never pass for plain. Beyond that, it’s just not that good of a movie. I’d much rather have anyone from the previous paragraph here, because they all deserve it more, especially Barbara Rush.
4. The problem that Deborah Kerr has with The King and I is that despite her wardrobe of massive dresses, she is almost invisible compared with the force of nature that is Yul Brynner. I give Kerr a great deal of credit for being able to move in dresses that are roughly the size of Conestoga wagons, and she definitely has some great moments in the film. But really, the fact that she is capable of wearing dresses that would comfortably sleep six, while impressive, is not a skill worthy of an Oscar win.
3. I like The Bad Seed quite a bit, and the nomination of Nancy Kelly is a bit of a pleasant surprise. I don’t dislike this nomination entirely, but it’s also one that I can’t quite get entirely behind. What she has in her favor is that she gets better as the film goes on. Based on the movies I know from this year, I don’t hate her nomination. But she was always going to be a longshot in the best of years. And really, the most memorable character in the movie is played by Patty McCormack, and there’s no getting around that.
2. Carroll Baker’s turn in Baby Doll is one of those rare instances where someone is rightfully nominated for a character I have real issues with. Baby Doll is a weird sort of Lolita character, both innocent and purely sexual, alluring and infuriating. Baker is great in the role, and it’s one that would be hard for anyone else to accomplish. In a slightly different universe, I’d give her the win. In fact, the only reason I don’t is that I think despite her being the title character, this is very much a showcase for Eli Wallach.
1. I can’t say that when I started watching Anastasia that I was completely sold on Ingrid Bergman’s performance. And then there comes a scene where she meets with her grandmother played by Helen Hayes, and I understood her nomination completely. It’s a magnificent performance. It could have easily been a scene that dropped into pure melodrama, and instead it is intense and dramatic, the sort of scene that demonstrates the power of two people at the height of their talent. It’s not often that I hand someone a statue for a single scene, but it’s definitely the case here.