November 15, 2013

Actress Round-up: 1932-1933

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As much as I absolutely hated her movie, my vitriol is aimed more towards its story and structure than it is towards its leading actress. Diana Wynyard at best is okay at what's required of her. There were times when I felt for Jane Marryot and times when I thought she was effective, such as when she weeps after her husband goes off to war. Further, she is believable through the makeup as her character ages. But at her worst, she is an awkward performer who hasn't been able to master the art of film acting, and her strange robotic mannerisms as well as her arsenal of blank, ignoramus stares (that are suppose to evoke drama and sympathy but fail) only give fuel to the catastrophe that is Cavalcade.

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Just like Paul Muni, May Robson is cited by Inside Oscar has having been narrowly defeated by Kate in the votes for Best Actress. And just like Leslie Howard, she was also the sentimental favorite for the win. I wouldn't have minded this win as much, because Robson is incredibly radiant in Lady for a Day. My only issue is that after a spectacular first act in which she dominates the story, her character is tossed onto the back burner and quickly forgotten. Once this happens, she's reduced to a supporting actress, only popping up here and there and delivering material that's written without the depth she had in the beginning of the film. It's a shame that Apple Annie in essence goes from a richly interesting character to a simple outline, but she's nonetheless a sight for sore eyes and enjoyable in a thoroughly charming film.

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Some lines plucked out of Inside Oscar: "Katharine Hepburn isn't a particularly popular choice around the film colony, yet she was chosen for first place regardless.", "The ladies were not too happy when Katharine Hepburn won for Morning Glory...Only those who had worked with her could testify her friendliness. To others, she seemed 'high-hat'." How fascinating then, that despite the perception of her being a little snobby and, as Louella Parsons wrote, "not very gracious", Kate still managed to pull out a win. Nowadays it's the norm to want an Oscar, and whether you receive one correlates in some respects to how hard you campaign for one. With the modern-day exception of say, Mo'Nique, can you imagine a scenario playing out today, in which a young newcomer contending for an Oscar skips out on the ceremony for a vacation in Europe and doesn't seem to be all that glad when she wins? The press and the people would have a field day! But like Mo'Nique, sometimes certain performances are undeniable. I'm by no means equating Hepburn's work here to that of Mo'Nique's, but her win and the subsequent backlash of sorts seems to support my belief that there's a charm to Hepburn in Morning Glory that's irresistible, that members of AMPAs back then could not deny. I find that not many people like her first win, but I think she's so dazzling, a lot like May Robson, though Morning Glory is all about Eva from beginning to end. Kate's a curious creature, and her appeal is more complicated than I can express in words, but maybe that's okay--maybe that's one of the reasons why Hepburn would continually be honored by the Academy for decades to come.

IN CONCLUSION: I wouldn't say that this year is as strong as the ratings I gave. To be completely honest, Hepburn's more of a low four than a solid four, and May Robson just barely got four--on a bad day, I may have given both ladies threes. Diana Wynyard's not even in the equation. One wonders why Hepburn didn't get a nomination for her stronger work in Little Women given that that film was more popular, nominated for Best Picture, and placed third in the votes for that category. And speaking of Best Picture, three of the year's ten contenders starred three former Best Actress winners--Helen Hayes in A Farewell to Arms, perennial favorite Norma Shearer in Smilin' Through, and Janet Gaynor in State Fair. Further, Mae West's She Done Him Wrong was a Best Picture nominee and a huge moneymaker at the box office. One wonders how close those ladies got to nominations, though I suppose I'd need to sit through all of them myself to decide whether or not they're worthy. Not sure I'm up to the challenge.

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