There’s a video at the end of the post proving that the draw was correct. J 1961 it is... Not the year I wanted the most, nor the least. There’s also a strange coincidence happening, because just on Saturday I took out a framed photo I received a while ago (and kept it wrapped) and decided to hang it. Photo below:
LOL, right? J Destiny! This is a historical year because it marks the first time an actress (or any actor for that matter, I think) won an Oscar for acting in a foreign-language film. The race was wide open and Sophia managed a surprise win.
I have previously seen only 2 of the 5 films (Breakfast at Tiffany’s – of course! and Splendor in the Grass), but I am very interested in the other 3, for different reasons. I will watch all 5 films (again), count the screentime and choose my winner. I must confess I have no idea how this will go, I really don’t have any favourites; since I tend to prefer DRAMA, Loren might have a slight advantage, but I also favour Geraldine Page and I expect to enjoy The Hustler quite a lot, so we’ll see.
The 5 ladies that Oscar had chosen as nominees for 1961, in alphabetical order:
Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Piper Laurie as Sarah Packard, in The Hustler
Sophia Loren as Cesira, in Two Women/La Ciociara
Geraldine Page as Alma Winemiller, in Summer and Smoke
Natalie Wood as Wilma Dean Loomis, in Splendor in the Grass
Interesting to note none of them is playing a real life person, which is rare. The Hustler is the only film of the 5 to also be nominated for Best Picture. Let’s try to guess how they got nominated:
I imagine it was an easy nomination for Geraldine Page, because, for this role, she had won the Golden Globe for Actress in a Drama, the critics’ award from the National Board of Review and came 2nd with the New York Film Critics Circle. That’s strong support to get before reaching the nomination stage. This was the 2nd Oscar nomination for Geraldine and the first in Leading, having been previously nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Hondo (1953).
I’m not sure how much of a hit Breakfast at Tiffany’s was back in the day (in the meantime: a cultural phenomenon), but I’m quite sure Audrey Hepburn didn’t have a hard time getting this nomination. She entered the race with a nomination from the Golden Globes for Actress in Comedy; the film itself received a handful of Oscar nominations and I’m sure it was a success with the East Coast voters, considering its location and having Truman Capote behind it. This was Audrey’s 4th Oscar nomination (all in the Leading category, gathered in less than a decade), having previously won the Oscar for her first nomination, Roman Holiday (1953).
From here on it’s a tough call. I’d risk and say Natalie Wood had the next chance of getting nominated, having already received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. West Side Story being the Best Picture of 1961 worked both in favour and against this nomination, I think: it helped boost her popularity, but I’m sure there was also a bit of vote splitting happening, with WSS clearly more seen than Splendor. This was the 2nd Oscar nomination for Natalie and her first in Leading, having been previously nominated as Supporting for Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
I would dare and say Sophia Loren was only 4th (even though she ended up winning) because of one simple reason: the Academy doesn’t usually go for foreign language films. She had already made American films, and that worked in her favour, I’m sure. But Ciociara didn’t register with voters in any other categories, so they could’ve easily ignored the film altogether. What helped her, I’m sure, was a Best Actress win from the New York Film Critics Circle, and I also hear the performance is quite flashy. This was Sophia’s first Oscar nomination.
This leaves us with Piper Laurie. I hear she’s good in the film, but she was ignored by the Golden Globes, she had only done B-series films in the past and The Hustler, it seems, is all about Paul Newman. The overall success of the film was definitely crucial in her getting this nomination, which was her first.
...And she was lucky because there was serious competition. I’d like to point out who I think was the runner-up: Shirley MacLaine gives her best performance in an excellent drama called The Children’s Hour – for which she did get a Golden Globe nomination. She is SO good in it that this must’ve been a rather shocking omission. I think she was definitely 6th (also considering the film did get some Oscar love, including for Fay Bainter).
Other strong possibilities:
Leslie Caron, Fanny
Audrey Hepburn, The Children's Hour [in case she didn’t make it for Breakfast]
Claudia McNeil - A Raisin in the Sun
Maria Schell - The Mark
Vivien Leigh - The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone
Probably got a couple of votes:
Bette Davis - Pocketful of Miracles
Rosalind Russell - A Majority of One
Miyoshi Umeki - Flower Drum Song
Susan Hayward - Back Street
Natalie Wood - West Side Story
Carroll Baker - Bridge to the Sun
Sophia Loren - El Cid
Doris Day - Lover Come Back
Debbie Reynolds - The Pleasure of His Company
Debbie Reynolds - The Second Time Around
Lana Turner - Bachelor in Paradise
Hayley Mills - The Parent Trap
Let’s see how this goes!