BEST ACTRESS 1972
When I announced that I’ve made the draw from the 1970s,
asked me for a clue about what year it was. I said: it was a historical year
for the category. He said 1974 (I have no idea why); to me, it was an easy
clue: as you might know, 1972 is the first and ONLY time two African-American
actresses competed for Best Actress. As always with a draw, I am somewhere in
the middle on the excitement factor. This certainly is an unusual line-up: I
haven’t seen any of the drama actresses, but two black actresses and a Swedish
one, plus a loud cabaret performance and an unusual highly-criticized comedy
role – not Oscar’s regular line-up, for sure. I have only seen Cabaret and Travels with My Aunt, though none recently. I’m very excited about The Emigrants, which I’ll probably save
The 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen for 1972, in alphabetical order:
Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, in Cabaret
Diana Ross as Billie Holiday, in Lady Sings the Blues
Maggie Smith as Aunt Augusta Bertram, in Travels with My Aunt
Cicely Tyson as Rebecca Morgan, in Sounder
Liv Ullmann as Kristina, in The Emigrants
As usual, I’m gonna make a short analysis, trying to figure out how they got nominated. Liza Minnelli was probably the only lock for a nomination that year; she carries her film, Cabaret was a huge success both with the critics and the Academy and she had already won a Golden Globe for her performance; adding to it all: she was already an Oscar darling, being nominated 3 years before plus she was the daughter of their beloved Judy Garland, past nominee. From here on, I’m sure the voting was all over the place.
Liv Ullmann was already a well known actress, because of the films she had made with Ingmar Bergman starting with 1966’s Persona. Strangely enough, she got her first nomination for a Swedish film, but not under Ingmar Bergman’s direction. Even with her popularity in the States, it was still unusual for a foreign actress to get into Oscar’s line-up. On her side she had a Golden Globe win for this performance, and also from the New York Film Critics Circle; The Emigrants itself was surprisingly a Best Picture nominee. All these helped secure the nomination.
One would say that Cicely Tyson was a sure thing for the nomination; I’m sure she got plenty of votes, but let’s not forget that before 1972, only one African-American actress had received a nomination in this category, and that happened 18 (!) years prior. She went to Oscar night with a couple of wins on her side: from the National Board of Review & National Society of Film Critics, plus a Golden Globe nomination and her film too, Sounder, was a Best Picture nominee (however, with minimum chances of winning).
Miss Diana Ross had the celebrity factor on her side, and I suspect there was also a bit of deglam for the role, which always helps; plus, it’s a dramatized biopic of a well-known singer. Her Oscar nomination was supported by a Golden Globe nomination.
Maggie Smith, I’m sure we can all agree, was the shocker here; nobody seems to like Travels with My Aunt, though I remember it as a silly comedy. The role itself has a lot of aging in it, which probably helped. Still, they rarely go for comedies, less so for poorly reviewed ones; prior to the Oscar nomination, she had received a Golden Globe nomination for this role.
Liv Ullmann, Cicely Tyson and Diana Ross were first time nominees. This was the 2nd nomination for Liza Minnelli (her first one came for 1969’s The Sterile Cuckoo) and the 3rd for Maggie Smith (she had won Best Actress for her performance in 1969’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and she had previously been nominated in Supporting for Othello).
Let’s throw in some names of other actresses that competed for a nomination. Given this was 40 years ago, I wasn’t there to witness, but I’m quite sure my guesses are correct:
2 clear front-runners:
Joanne Woodward - The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (the obvious runner-up for a nomination and the snub is surprising)
Susannah York - Images (I’ve heard she’s quite something in this)
Carol Burnett - Pete'n'Tillie
Barbra Streisand - What's Up, Doc?
Janet Suzman - A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
Stéphane Audran - The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Anne Bancroft - Young Winston
Elizabeth Taylor - X, Y and Zee
Tuesday Weld - Play It As It Lays
Trish van Devere - One Is a Lonely Number
Goldie Hawn - Butterflies Are Free
Juliet Mills - Avanti!
Patty Duke - You'll Like My Mother
Here’s the video proof that 1972 was correctly drawn, in case you wanna waste some time :)