Monday, August 15, 2011

Final Conclusions - Best Actress 1945

I’ve started this line-up having seen only one of the films years ago, the very popular nowadays Mildred Pierce. While the other 4 proved quite ignorable or annoying pictures (3 of them scored less than a 5/10 from me), the performances were quite different and fun to discover. It’s easier to criticize than to write about the good stuff, so having to give just 2 stars to 3 of the performances was not as painful as it looks. None of them is truly awful, only that, as I coincidentally predicted, the year has Crawford & Bergman, and then there’s the rest…

My #1 was quite easy to choose, as it was the most complex performance and had the kind of drama I easily fall for, with tears & everything. #2 is also quite obvious, though unlike my winner, it holds the best until too far into the film. After that, the order seems almost randomly, though I clearly preferred #3 to the ones to follow.

Starting with this line-up, I’m also introducing a Best Acted Scene award, which this time goes to:

Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary’s – the very emotional scene where Sister Mary Benedict asks God to remove the bitterness from her heart, in a moment of pure honesty, humility and willingness to forgive.

Here is how I’ve appreciated and ranked the performances. If you want to go back and read more, just click on their names:

1. Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce

Few actresses gave such calculated performances like Joan Crawford did. And this is a great example: she’s very in-control, and you can see the experience: she knows where the camera is, when to show tears and so on. But beyond the technical flawlessness, there’s the humility she brings to the role, the easiness to win the audience’s sympathy and the ability to carry the film by herself without any serious acting competition.

the highlight: The introduction of the character, while contemplating suicide.

Above anything else, this is a playful and extremely smart performance. I’m sure she had fun doing it. Ingrid brings joy, optimism, she makes it look so light and charming, and it’s a pleasure to see her on screen. When all this is over, she takes it to a new level, in a 5-7 minute ending that is so dramatically rich and fantastically acted it almost won my heart. A bit of this also in the beginning would’ve made it unbeatable.

the highlight: Her final prayer.

3. Greer Garson, The Valley of Decision
There are some issues with the accent, and of course she’s too damn old to play this character, but Greer has a good understanding of who Mary is. She plays the role with impressive humbleness, which quickly wins the approval of the audience. In a couple of great scenes, she (and not the screenplay) lets us know a lot about class differences and struggles of that kind.

the highlight: Feeling guilty for making Paul fall in love with her, while she’s confessing to Mrs. Scott.

She’s at her best when she’s the bitchiest. But I’ll keep saying: this performance lacks courage, either as to take it as far as making her look crazy, or… well, true, she couldn’t have written her own screenplay. But what I saw was a half-cooked character, with almost no believability. She’s good in the quiet moments, especially of jealousy or cruelty, but otherwise I found it loud, undecided, forgettable.

the highlight: Her unusual honestly while talking to the doctor, both terrifying and funny.

Jennifer chooses to act amnesia as a combination of silly schoolgirl daydreaming and crazy looks of the Norma Desmond style. This doesn’t work. Sure, she has her good moments, I was quite impressed with the final revelation scene, but then she screws up again in the ending. It’s an inconsistent performance, with some bad acting choices, and she doesn’t rise above the awful screenplay.

the highlight: Remembering the night of the murder.

Time to play the guessing game of who got more votes. I don’t think it was an easy victory for Joan, considering the love for Ingrid – but the fact that Ingrid already had the gold man gave voters the edge to go for Joan. Ingrid was obvious 2nd. Gene Tierney was an easy 3rd because, except for Joan, she was the only Oscarless actress here, her film was box-office hit and people still remembered Laura. I doubt the next 2 got more than 5% together; let’s say Jennifer was 4th, because some seem to like her amnesia flick, and Greer 5th because I don’t think many had seen it.

To see other BEST ACTRESS years discussed so far, go to the column on the right.

What’s next: Gonna be talking the Emmy submissions for Actress in a Comedy / Drama, then some updated Oscar predictions, and after that going for another Best Actress field from the 1980s, chosen through a draw.


dinasztie said...

I kind of expected this. :)

joe burns said...

I thought Ingrid would win judging from your anaylasis before the ranking, but Joan is good, but I have a few doubts, I need a rewatch.

Fritz said...

Well, that was clear from the start. :-)