Jun 26, 2014

Actress Round-up: 1938

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5. FAY BAINTER AS HANNAH IN WHITE BANNERS photo ScreenShot2014-06-01at21428AM.jpg

Of all the nominees, Bainter's role is by far the most archetypical, and with that comes the challenge of really having to rise above the material to make the performance intriguing. But ultimately I didn't think she did anything special with her part. That's not to say that I felt she was bad, but there wasn't much of a wow factor in the performance for me.

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She's pure lowbrow fun in the first half of the film as the unrefined Eliza, and she makes the poor Cockney Eliza so silly and endearing. Once the second half comes along and it's time to be the sophisticated Eliza, Hiller becomes less naturally interesting and her seriousness sort of sucks the air out of the performance for me. All and all entertaining, if not a little inconsistent.

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Sullavan really takes ahold of her part and milks it for what it's worth. It's not the largest role and it could easily have been another clich├ęd performance, but the tenderness and fragile spirit Sullavan imbues into Pat provides the heart to Three Comrades and makes the film worth watching.

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Full of self-restrained vivaciousness, Davis is a force to be reckoned with in Jezebel and does a great job delivering much of what makes the character interesting--be it the cool cutting glances Julie shoots when she's displeased or the silky southern charm that permeates through her. It's not the most excellent performance I've seen from her, and there's a sizable distance between her and my victor, but it's an admirable effort nonetheless.

 photo ScreenShot2014-06-04at61405PM.pngShearer, in her last Oscar-nominated performance, goes out with a bang. In respects to her five prior nominations, everything about Marie Antoinette is big--the sets, the running-time, the hair, the costumes, and of course...the performance! She goes through a whole transformation, from idealistic teen to neglected wife and queen-in-waiting to heartbroken lover to dethroned royal...by the end of the film I was exhausted much like Marie herself. This is an excellent performance, as fun as it is formidable, and it's the best Shearer performance I've seen thus far.

IN CONCLUSION: Overall a solid year and a much better improvement over 1937. A peddler from Indiana, a Cockney flower girl, a fallen German aristocrat, a French queen, and a New Orleans southern belle--certainly a diverse little batch of characters! The biggest snubs of the year would have to be Katharine Hepburn for Holiday and Bringing Up Baby. Though it was highly unlikely that Hepburn would have gotten nominated anyways seeing as she was considered "box-office poison" and all, I enjoyed her in both films and would have no problems with her getting nominated for either, though I much prefer her eccentric and flighty Susan in Baby over her eccentric socialite in Holiday. Other than that...I got nothing!

WHAT'S NEXT: I just did the whole graduating college thing and have just begun the whole relax-and-be-as-lazy-as-possible-and-maybe-travel-a-little thing before I inevitably go and do the work-for-the-rest-of-my-life thing. I'm not so sure how frequent my posts will be beyond the next few months, but the major goal at hand is to be done with the 1930's sometime this summer. And I'll be shaking things up a bit (just a little!) in terms of the next batch of reviews.


  1. Nice ranking, good writing. Hope I'll get to compare some day.

    A-HA!! So u'll be skipping the 40s, I guess :P

    1. ahh thanks Alex, you're sweet! :) Writing isn't something that I particularly enjoy that much so I'm glad it's okay. Y'know, before I started blogging I thought that yours was amazing in design and structure, so you're definitely an influence. So always remember that!! Plus you're one of the pioneering Best Actress bloggers (not an old joke, I promise :P) and you have all my respect for that.

      aaaaand no..I'm still going to cover the 40's :D Just making a quick detour for the next month or so!

    2. That's kind of you to say. Clearly your writing is better than mine, you also have the advantage of the 1st language ;P

      I have no design talent and by looking at ur blog it's clearly more professional. But we both have a kind of minimalism that I appreciate. I don't like crowded. Too much text gets me tired :P

      I was just one of the first non-professionals. Nick over at NicksFlickPicks was already doing a much-admirable job.

      So you will go 40s.... That's great cause it's a pity to miss exactly 1940. At least 3 classics among them.

      Other than that, I'm envious you get to see Ninotchka (I had only seen clips of it as a teen), and I won't break my rule of seeing a Best Actress film before I get to it for the blog. :)

    3. NFP is definitely another inspiration. He planted the seed into my head for sure, though I would say that seeing you and a handful of other people devote their blogs to just Best Actress was the catalyst into my thinking that I could possibly do it as well!

      And I agree, 1940 is probably the first year that I'm truly excited about and I'll be on my A-game covering that one :P

      As for Ninotchka...I'm neither excited for it nor unexcited. I've already seen some of the big nominees (Davis, Leigh) so there's not much to be thrilled about.

    4. OK, then I'll just send this as food for thought. I think Love Affair is a beautiful beautiful film. :) there's a song moment in it, "Go on and sing, my heart"... I still have the song in my head. I hope you'll like it. :)

      [also, I tend to refer to GWTW as my favourite film ever. Favourite, not best. so... yeah. spectacular year. You make me want to take it next after 1989 in a no-draw choice :)) ]

  2. I think Norma isn't flawless in Marie Antoinette, but I do not understand why her performance didn't become a iconic one, it's so epic.

  3. This is an extremely well-written and well-informed blog. Even when I disagree with an opinion, you support it with details and accurate information. I completely agree with your views on Shearer performance in "Marie Antoinette". It's great to see others discovering her work as I did with the advent of VHS/DVDs.

    1. Thank you so much! I figure that if you're going to hate or love a performance you may as give explanation as to why that is. It's a simple concept, but I've read some really scrappy reviews, so I try my best to do otherwise. Glad you like what you see, I appreciate the compliment!