Jul 11, 2013

Ann Harding, Holiday

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It can't be easy to have your film and Oscar-nominated performance overshadowed by a more iconic remake where your role is taken over by Katharine Hepburn. Today, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone (outside of the old-school film enthusiast or the Best Actress fanatic) who actually knows who Ann Harding is. Whether or not Harding is better than Hepburn I cannot say, as I've yet to see the remake, but no matter what, she will forever be the lady who played the role of the quirky Linda Seton on film first.

 photo ScreenShot2013-06-26at20819AM-1.jpgThe film doesn't seem to give Harding the *star* treatment much like the remake does Hepburn. In fact, she kind of just slips into the film rather quietly for her entrance--instead I was focusing my attention on Mary Astor and the massive home the two characters live in. Perhaps that's what the filmmakers intended, or perhaps it's because Harding was never a grand *star* to begin with, but for a moment I was genuinely curious about why such an un-extraordinary role was nom'd for an Oscar and it isn't until the second act that Harding really grabs us all and takes over the film. Nevertheless, I thought she was incredibly charming in the first act, and the way she acted and delivered her lines seemed to feel like the role fit her like a glove. I've watched a clip of Hepburn in the remake and I found that crazy accent and voice of hers to be much more jarring compared to the more homely and subtle Harding. I also felt that Harding was much more natural as the weirdo of the family, and for most of the film I was quite taken by her.

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It isn't until the final act of the film that her performance gets a little choppy. Somewhere along the way Harding is given more and more ridiculous lines that just about no one can pull off. She does this strange thing where she says something and repeats it at the end of her line all the while staring up towards the ceiling. (i.e., "What's it to me? Oh, what's it to me?", "You're relieved aren't you, relieved!", "On a trip, on a big ride, oh what a ride!", "Then try to stop me someone, oh please, try and stop me!" And her inability to sell these lines (my favorite: "If he wants to come back to sell peanuts, oh how I will BELIEVE in those peanuts!") took me out of the performance--they're forced and stale, and it almost looks like she knows it through her expressions. It's a little painful to watch because these lines are supposed to exhilarate us, but they come off more hilarious than anything, which takes away from the conclusion's purpose. She's consistent, yes-- but her perf as a whole is a little like blueballs--lots of fun in the buildup...and then disappointment.

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