Lee Remick: Days of Wine and Roses
Katharine Hepburn: Long Day’s Journey into Night
Anne Bancroft: The Miracle Worker (winner)
Geraldine Page: Sweet Bird of Youth
Bette Davis: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Before I look at potential snubs, I want to say that this is a hell of a strong nomination class. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to say that any of these nominations could have won in another year, and no matter who gets placed where, I don’t dislike any of the nominations on the board. Now that I’ve said that, I don’t know that this list is truly complete without Corinne Marchand in Cleo from 5 to 7. Oscar does like nominating kids now and again, so I’d consider putting up Patricia Gozzi for Sundays and Cybele. Angela Lansbury was nominated (and probably should have won) for The Manchurian Candidate in a supporting role, so I can’t really list her here; I just love that performance. Janet Margolin (David and Lisa) and Leslie Caron (The L-Shaped Room) might get some love from some, although not me in this case. I’d be much more likely to bring in Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? if only to battle it out once more with Bette Davis. I do want to mention Candace Hilligoss in Carnival of Souls. She’d never get a nomination, but it’s such a bonkers performance and movie that I have to mention it.
Weeding through the Nominees
None. I genuinely believe that you could give this Oscar to any of the nominated performances.
5. So I want to be clear in saying that I don’t think Anne Bancroft didn’t deserve the Oscar for this performance; as I said above, I think all five of these performances could win in other years. It’s just that, while there are other movies I dislike more here, her performance has the biggest flaw. Her accent isn’t consistent and it drove me a little crazy. That’s not entirely her fault (and it’s not Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins bad), but it did get under my skin a little. Still, I can’t really fault her win. I don’t think there’s a bad choice in the group.
4. So why am I putting Kate Hepburn in fourth? That’s a fair question, since later performances of Hepburn are (my opinion) so much stronger than her earlier work. She’s good in Long Days Journey into Night, and she might be the best thing on the screen. Then again, I’m not entirely sure. She’s matched step for step and scene for scene by all three of her co-stars, and for an acting award, that’s always going to count against her a little. I’m necessarily being picky with these choices. People are getting dropped for small things.
3. Who gets cut next? Geraldine Page in Sweet Bird of Youth, and for kind of the same reason as Katherine Hepburn. She’s surrounded by one hell of a good cast, and while she is often the best thing on the screen, she isn’t always. That’s perhaps not fair, since she’s acting across from Paul Newman. Still, this is Page at nearly her best, playing a role that is real and raw and dirty. I loved this so much more than her work in Summer and Smoke the previous year that I was almost willing to give her the Oscar just based on improvement. But not quite.
2. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is the grand dame of the Psycho Biddy/Hagsploitation genre, and I love that about the film. While I think it could be argued that Joan Crawford could have been nominated, it’s Davis’s completely batshit crazy performance that sells the entire movie and is the most memorable part of the film. I’m a little shocked that such a gonzo performance was even nominated, but every now and then, Oscar gets a nomination class correct. I love this performance, but it’s not quite worth the win.
1. I’m giving this one to Lee Remick, which comes as a surprise, even to me. As much as I love Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses, it’s Remick who is the most tragic character and the one who sells the entire story. Hollywood has produced any number of gripping drug and alcohol stories, but this is one of the first ones to have a tragic ending. Remick’s Kirsten is absolutely heartbreaking, having all of the pain of the worst moments of The Lost Weekend with none of the ending uplift. It’s a brutal performance and she sells every inch of it. I could be persuaded to change my mind, but today, she’s my winner.