Friday, June 04, 2010

Final conclusions - Best Actress 1937

I keep saying this after almost every Best Actress year, but it couldn’t be truer for 1937! I came into this discussion having seen 4 of the 5 films, counting a lot on Luise Rainer as my favorite and being sure that I wasn’t gonna be a fan of Garbo and Irene Dunne. After watching the films again, revisiting, comparing, I came to a very different conclusion. Seeing a film a second time, and especially after a longer period of time, makes all the difference.

I didn’t expect this ranking. So that makes it even more fun. It’s true, I kind of expected the year to be a bit stronger, however it’s not. I didn’t go madly in love with any of the performances, but my number one was still pretty obvious. Then came #2 and #3, and it was almost a coin toss: different acting styles and different mistakes made by both actresses. #4 paled a bit by comparison and #5 surprisingly just didn’t have the consistent role.

Here is how I’ve appreciated them (just my opinion, no universal truth). If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

1. Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth
Irene Dunne gave another spin to screwball comedy, just when it was about to become a fading genre. Her natural charm and comedy timing create a very likeable character and it’s so easy to notice how much fun she’s having. She loves it! And I did too! Good writing always helps and to steal the show from Cary Grant is not an easy thing to do.

The highlight: Pretending to be Jerry’s sister in pure screwball comedy style.

2. Greta Garbo, Camille
Garbo talks! And smiles, and laughs and can be so charming and pretty! Her moments of relaxing and enjoying her diva status are done with master class. Even one big drama scene is handled with care and precision, but how about those mistakes. She should’ve toned down at times, or hesitate a bit, yet it’s hard to stop her theatrical garboness even when it puts the performance on the edge of too-damn-much.
The highlight: Her joyful spirit in the first opera scenes.

King Vidor should’ve helped her more. It’s a strange case of a performance, with Barbara delivering THE two best acting scenes of this nominees group, however failing drastically in other situations. The scene on the train and the last one in the rain are impeccably heartbreaking and acted silently to perfection. But oh, boy… those trashy scenes are overplayed and wrongfully over-calculated, creating almost a caricature Barbara herself isn’t buying.
The highlight: Accidentally finding out about the embarrassment she had caused her daughter.

4. Luise Rainer, The Good Earth
It’s the type of acting the film requires. It’s not a natural, relaxed acting, but even overplayed as it is, it strangely fits the mood of the film. Her face expressions are exaggerated, but faithful to the raw emotions of the simple woman the character is. A touch of humanity here and there, but the biggest disadvantage is that the performance seems so rigid in comparison to the other women we’re talking about. Difficult casting, anyways.
The highlight: Daydreaming of days when she’d be rich and impress those who kept her as a slave.

5. Janet Gaynor, A Star Is Born
Her lack of charisma or something else I can’t put the finger on stops the character from becoming that sweet girl we would relate to and root for. She does what the screenplay asks, but even so, the role could’ve been much more with better casting. She doesn’t have a bad scene, but even her best look fairly warm compared to the great talent of her co-star.
The highlight: The ending: seeing Norman’s prints on the sidewalk, Mrs. Norman Maine.

The Academy’s choice was surprising, giving Luise Rainer the first back-to-back acting wins in history. Had I lived in 1937, I would’ve surely bet on Garbo and she probably was the runner-up for the win, Stanwyck 3rd, Irene Dunne 4th and Janet Gaynor with the least chance of winning.

Other Best Actress years discussed so far:



Malcolm said...

I didn't expect to be quite high and Rainer to be low.

Well, this was one fairly interesting year for the actresses.

joe burns said...

I expected Garbo to come in second, but I didn't expect Barbara to come in third. But this seems like a weak year.

joe burns said...

And I think you meant ''Final Conclusions 1937" not 1980.

dinasztie said...

I completely agree with your winner, however I think Rainer was also amazing so it's not a totally undeserved win IMO.