Greer Garson: Mrs. Miniver (winner)
Rosalind Russell: My Sister Eileen
Bette Davis: Now, Voyager
Teresa Wright: The Pride of the Yankees
Katharine Hepburn: Woman of the Year
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I don’t want to speak ill of Teresa Wright nor of The Pride of the Yankees, which is a fine film. This is a case, though, where the performance in questions feels very much like it should have been seen more as supporting. Wright is important to the film, and critical in key scenes, but this is so much Gary Cooper’s movie that it’s difficult to see anyone but him—he even upstages a back-to-his-playing-weight Babe Ruth. This was unfair to Teresa Wright, good as she is. This is the wrong category for her.
4. It’s unfair of me to judge Rosalind Russell by My Sister Eileen, but I’m not sure how I avoid that. This was not a movie I enjoyed watching, although none of that is Russell’s fault. For what it’s worth, she’s the best part of the film. The problem is that the film itself is reprehensible in its sexual politics. There’s a weird stalker-y vibe to the whole thing; it fairly reeks of sexual assault in almost every frame. Roz Russell deserved a better vehicle than this and she deserved a better role for a nomination.
3. 1942 was around the time Katherine Hepburn was starting to get interesting with a lot of her roles, but Woman of the Year wasn’t all the way there yet. Once again, it’s the gender politics that are the biggest issue here, and while the film isn’t as egregious as it could be (it’s almost progressive for 1942), it’s still something that has aged very, very poorly. It’s notable as (as far as I know) the first Tracy/Hepburn vehicle, but it’s not a performance that does anything for me more than just appreciating it for what it is.
2. It’s not at all a shock that Greer Garson won for Mrs. Miniver. This is one of those times when the country needed a particular movie to win—the recent entry of the U.S. into the war made this the film of the day, and Garson is stellar in the title role. It’s an important film, and an important role. While not true in terms of the privation actually suffered in Britain in the war (it was far worse in reality), it rings true emotionally, and that’s all Garson. Truthfully, I don’t dislike her win, and I’d be happy to give Garson the statue in a lot of years. There’s one thing that keeps her off the dais for me.
1. I’ve not been shy about the fact that I love Now, Voyager and that I love Bette Davis in it. It’s her best work in my opinion, and given the career that she had, that’s saying a hell of a lot. This could have so easily become drippy and maudlin and jumped head-first into melodrama. Instead, it’s nuanced and sweet and heartbreaking, and all of that comes directly from the strength of Davis in the role. Like I said above, I understand Greer Garson winning based on the timing, but in an objective sense, there’s no way anyone but Davis walks off with this statue.