Deborah Kerr: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
Lana Turner: Peyton Place
Elizabeth Taylor: Raintree County
Joanne Woodward: The Three Faces of Eve (winner)
Anna Magnani: Wild is the Wind
This feels like a down year for this category, and in truth, my favorite movies from 1957 seem to be fairly male-centric. Films like The Bridge on the River Kwai and 12 Angry Men are virtually without women in them at all. It takes a little digging to find some performances I’d like to have here. Isuzu Yamada is speaking the wrong language and is probably in too small a role in Throne of Blood for a nomination. For Giulietta Masina, it would just be the language that’s a problem in Nights of Cabiria. Marlene Dietrich’s role in Witness for the Prosecution is a good one and I’m a little surprised that she’s not here. Lauren Bacall’s turn in Designing Woman may have just been too frivolous for the Academy. If I could add only a single person, it would be Patricia Neal for A Face in the Crowd. And before you tell me I forgot Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember, I didn’t.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. Deborah Kerr being here for Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is mind-boggling for two reasons. The first is that this movie, for good or ill, belongs not to Kerr but to Robert Mitchum. The second is that Deborah Kerr, if she was going to be nominated, probably should have been nominated for An Affair to Remember. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have nominated her for either role, but I especially would not have nominated her for this, where her only real function was to be as sanctimonious as possible.
4. I’m not sure I buy Elizabeth Taylor’s nomination, either. This one feels like it could potentially be category fraud. This is from a time when a nomination as a supporting actor was career suicide from a lead actor, though, which may explain why Taylor was nominated here despite being absent from the film for long periods. Taylor feels like she is trying to pick the bones of Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara. I don’t buy it. Taylor was a fine actress when she had good material. She didn’t here.
3. I don’t have a massive objection to Lana Turner’s nomination for Peyton Place, except to say that it gets kind of lost in the mix for me. Peyton Place had nine nominations, five of which were for acting performances. That being the case, picking out one is difficult for me, and probably is the reason that Lana Turner doesn’t move higher than third for me and also one of the determining factors in her not winning this Oscar. I might have felt differently in 1957, but Peyton Place--daring for its time—is pretty tame now.
2. I didn’t love Wild is the Wind, although I didn’t hate it. My biggest problem with it was that I found it boring and featured a far-too-flamboyant performance from Anthony Quinn. The exception to this opinion is the wonderful presence of Anna Magnani, an actress I love watching in almost anything. She is absolutely the only reason to watch this film, and anything good in the movie comes from her. She picks this slow, turgid story up and carries it on her back as far as she can. It’s impressive, since it makes something not worth watching actually worth watching.
1. I agree with Oscar’s pick fewer than three times in ten, but this is one of those rare cases. Joanne Woodward was a mere 27 when this film was made and it was just her third role, and yet she absolutely dominates the screen in a difficult triple role. It’s immediately obvious which of the three personalities she is inhabited by at all times, even when she’s not speaking. It’s fair to say that I think The Three Faces of Eve is a movie that is less than the sum of its parts. A big chunk of the reason why is because of just how good Woodward is in this role.