Luise Rainer: The Great Ziegfeld (winner)
Carole Lombard: My Man Godfrey
Norma Shearer: Romeo and Juliet
Irene Dunne: Theodora Goes Wild
Gladys George: Valiant is the Word for Carrie
There are a lot of places we could go with Best Actress 1936 and a few places I’m happy I don’t have to go. Primarily, I’m both surprised and pleased that there was no nomination for Greta Garbo in Camille. I’m surprised because it seems like a role designed for a nomination, but it’s a role and a movie I hate despite how much I often like Garbo. I’m less surprised at a lack of nomination for Deanna Durbin in Three Smart Girls. It’s a nothing of a film, but Durbin was clearly the most popular entertainer of the day for a good reason. And, of course, there are some choices that would be fun, but would also never be picked. Leading the way there is Gloria Holden in Dracula’s Daughter. Sadly, it’s also true of Myrna Loy in After the Thin Man, which is a shame. Loy was a real talent, but this was much less a movie than The Thin Man. Oscar was almost certainly not willing to nominate an essentially silent movie in 1936, which leaves out Paulette Goddard in Modern Times, although I love that performance. Ruth Chatterton in Dodsworth would have been a very interesting choice, and I think I could make a case for Jean Arthur in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Given a chance to make one addition, it would be Jean Harlow in Libeled Lady.
Weeding through the Nominees
3. I’m probably punishing Carole Lombard for the role and the movie here as well. I know My Man Godfrey is popular and well-liked from this year, but it’s not a movie I love no matter how much I like William Powell in general. I like Carole Lombard in general, but I found her very annoying in this film. That’s never going to go well when it comes to any acting category. That a role I really don’t like and a performance I am ambivalent toward made it to third indicates how weak I think this category is for 1936.
1. My choice from the nominees is Irene Dunne in Theodora Goes Wild. This is another movie that is light on plot, and as a comedy from this era of Hollywood, it’s going to depend a great deal on screwball humor. The plot works, though, but much of it does because of the performance of Dunne, who works Theodora in several different directions to give her three dimensions. Of all of the nominated movies, it’s the one that is the most fun, And Dunne is having the most fun with the role. She’s fine as the winner of the nominees, but not overall. As much as I like her and enjoyed this role, Hollywood should have legitimately gone elsewere.