Sunday, November 13, 2011

Marie Dressler, in Min and Bill
approximately 45 minutes and 8 seconds
70.6% of the film

The film

Min, the owner of a dockside hotel, is forced to make difficult decisions about the future of Nancy, the young woman she took in as an infant.

You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.

Min and Bill has its fans, but it didn’t intrigue me that much; watching it from today’s perspective, it does look dated and it feels predictable more than not. Marjorie Rambeau is easily best in show, with a delicious supporting villain performance.

Marie Dressler as Min Divot

Not many people are talking about this performance nowadays, because I’m sure plenty of people from the movie world haven’t even seen it. I myself probably wouldn’t have rushed to it, had it not been 1931 the lucky year to be discussed next. It’s not that I had anything against, only that I suspected the film will be quite boring. What is interesting is that most, if not all, of those who have seen it and had expressed an opinion on Dressler’s performance seem to adore it.

Marie Dressler plays Min, a tough old lady who owns a cheap hotel near the docks. She saves all of her money dreaming of a nice house, while also keeping an eye on and protecting Nancy, a young woman she raised since she was a baby. But when Nancy’s real mother, a selfish alcoholic trouble-maker, comes to town, Min has to do everything she can to protect the future and the happiness of the girl.

The casting seems perfect and what I admired the most was Dressler’s intimidating presence throughout the film. She creates a great character that takes no nonsense, a strong woman with plenty of life experience, who doesn’t hesitate when she sets out to do something. Her one weakness is Nancy, though it’s not really a weakness: you can tell in fact Nancy is Min’s one pride & joy, even though she chooses not to share that with the girl.

Min keeps her tough mask on in front of Nancy, but Marie Dressler allows the audience to really notice how Min fells about the girl. It’s great that we get to see a human side of Min, though sometimes I wished the subtle wasn’t that obvious – that meaning that we could’ve noticed such feelings and nuances even with less acting & hints.

This is probably my biggest issue with the performance, that it sometimes looks a bit too expressive; sure, the movie industry had just come out of the silent era, but to me those face expressions were maybe too much, too theatrical at times. Also, I have to be honest: in her scenes with Marjorie Rambeau, I couldn’t take my eyes off Marjorie, and neither could the camera.

Marie Dressler gives a solid performance, and I could recognize the talent. You can see the changes in the character and she has the strong presence that any leading actress should have. However, the role is not the most challenging, and while I respect it a lot, I was never too excited about the performance. To me, it’s a strong ; and who knows… I have yet to see the other nominees, so this rating might actually bring her my win.


Fritz said...

I'm not too crazy about her...but I can say right now that the whole year is not very strong for me.

Mark Stainback said...

In July 2012 4th Line Theatre is presenting a play based on the life of Marie Dressler. I'm eager to share info on this and keep others updated.

4th Line Theatre is Canada's
premier outdoor theatre company now in our 21st season.

Please contact me at