Friday, July 19, 2019

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Actress 1962

The Contenders:

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?

What’s Missing

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.

My Choice

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.

Final Analysis


  1. No love for Anna Karina for Vivre Sa Vie?

    I haven't seen the performances that were nominated as my choices are probably more left field.

    1. Anna Karina-Vivre Sa Vie
    2. Corrine Marchand-Cleo from 5 to 7
    3. Jeanne Moreau-Jules & Jim
    4. Monica Vitti-L'Eclisse
    5. Florence Delay-The Trial of Joan of Arc

    All European is what I've probably gone with.

    1. Karina is a miss on my part above. That does happen.

      For the record, I'm not a fan of Jules & Jim at all.

  2. As usual the Best Actress category is under-represented on the List. I have only seen Baby Jane. Those two women however could win in any year. Gonzo, yes, but isn't that great?

    1. It's vastly underrepresented in The Book. Of these, Days of Wine and Roses is worth tracking down. It's harrowing, but worth seeing.

  3. What a year for actresses! I would have gone for Bancroft in an extremely tight field. I'm picky about accents and don't remember hers bothering me. I think Patty Duke was also a lead actress but am glad she was put in supporting so she could win. Obviously, I love the Miracle Worker. Those Euro actresses are great but how to lose one of these iconic performances?

    1. I have Bancroft fifth and I can't fault your placement. All of these performances are as good as you're going to see from any year. Add in some of those European performances and this is a banner year for Oscar.

  4. A year like this really makes you wonder why the Academy can’t do this well every time out. These are five world class performances and even in the rockiest years you know there is work of this quality out there it just rarely all seems to make it into the running. Happily this time it was but conversely that makes it harder to say one is the most deserving to win!

    I love Gerry Page and she’s great in Sweet Bird and the performance and character are unlike anything else she did but in this race she’d place fifth. A very high fifth.

    My only real problem with Anne Bancroft winning is that hers is a dance with Patty Duke and one without the other would not be as impactful. So in a way the Academy did right in rewarding them both but Patty’s placement is category fraud, she’s a co-lead. And that cost Angela Lansbury her most richly deserved prize.

    Lee Remick is a revelation as the spiraling drunkard in the nihilistic Roses and I’m glad to see her as your winner. I wouldn’t have been sorry to see her take this, particularly since it was her only nomination-a clear oversight in itself but perhaps because I felt so depleted after watching the film my choice went elsewhere.

    Bette Davis’s performance is a gonzo kabuki theatre performance, mesmerizing and phenomenal but I think if it had been given by anyone else than Davis there would have been no nomination. I think there was a good chance that she could have won had Joan Crawford not worked so assiduously behind the scenes to cut her chances. And Crawford did get her moment in the spotlight when she accepted for Anne Bancroft who was doing a play in New York. She’d be my runner-up.

    My choice is Kate Hepburn's performance as the hapless drug addicted Mary Tyrone. It’s completely unlike any of her other work, she buries all those independent forceful qualities that are her usual playbook for this broken matriarch. Had she only won for one performance it should have been this one, though of her competitive wins I agree with her receiving it for The Lion in Winter-the others were undeserved gifts. I agree she was matched by all three men in the film-it a bleak acting powerhouse-but I can’t hold that against her when the level she’s meeting is this high. All three of the men shared the Best Actor prize at Cannes that year muddying the waters enough that none received nominations come Oscar time, a real injustice.

    A few others worth consideration beside from those you already mentioned I’d say are Eva Marie Saint in All Fall Down which contains another supporting performance by Angela Lansbury that would have rated a nod were she not already in the running for Manchurian Candidate. Also Anna Magnani in Mamma Roma, and no matter where she was actually placed Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker.

    I guess some would say Jeanne Moreau in Jules & Jim but as much as I like her I’ve never gotten the love for that film.

    But the five we have really couldn’t be bettered.

    1. This is such a good year all the way through for women. I'd love to see Corrine Marchand here, but where to fit her in? Who to eliminate?

      It says something that our lists are extremely different--your first is my fourth, my first is your third. We have one performance in the same place. And I can't really complain with how you rank them. I mean, I ranked them differently, but I can't tell you you're wrong.

      It's so frustrating that it should be like this every year in every category and it just...isn't.